How can an unbeliever be saved by the faith of the marriage partner?


Apostle Paul says: “Through the believing husband the unbelieving wife is saved and through the believing wife the unbelieving husband is saved.” Would you, please, explain this passage?

Let us look at the whole passage dealing with this topic, to understand the context in which that statement was made by the Apostle Paul. The text is found in the first Epistle of Paul to Corinthians and it is written this:

But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:10-16)(NASB)

The church from Corinth was newly planted and was made up of Christians who have recently repented, that’s why Christian women were married with pagan men and vice versa, Christian men were married with unbelieving women. In this passage, the Apostle Paul tells these Christians to strive for nurturing their marriage, if the unbeliever accepts this thing.

Remaining in the marriage, the believer will always have the opportunity to communicate to the unbeliever the message of the Gospel of salvation and show it through his holy living. No one can be sanctified except through faith in Lord Jesus and through repentance. But no one can believe and can not repent until s/he hears and clearly understands the gospel message. There are still many marriages where husbands heard and understood the gospel message from his wife who believed and had repented the first, and vice versa. My wife heard the gospel from me, because I turned to God before her. Shortly after this, she also believed in Jesus, repented and was sanctified. In a way, God used me, as her husband, to her sanctification, as it is written in the Scripture.

The same truth applies to children. He who has believed in Jesus has to keep his family if the unbeliever accepts such as marriage, because in this way children will also be sanctified, having the possibility to live in a family where the gospel message will be presented and lived, so that they may also believe to be saved. This thing is much harder and more difficult when the unbeliever refuses to remain in marriage, or persecutes the Christian partner, influencing children badly and seeking to depart them from the faith in God at all costs.

Meanwhile, the passage ends with the rhetorical questions that Paul asks both Christians men and women who are married with unbelieving partners and he says to them:

For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:10-16)(NASB)

In this way, he wants to show that you can not be sure that living a lifetime of marriage with someone who is not a believer, s/he will surely repent and return to God. This is his personal decision.

Translated by Felicia Rotaru