|Volume 22 Number 4 April 2020||
Ernest S. Underwood
How often have you either read this passage or heard it quoted? What did it mean, and what does it mean to you? How do you apply it? Some think that it means that if one will live a good life till he dies, then Heaven and the crown of life awaits. The Bible certainly teaches that if one obeys God in becoming a Christian, then lives a faithful life all the days of his life, then Heaven will certainly be his home. However, this is not the passage to quote in favor of this great fact.
Gene Burgett, in an article, pointed out that the key word in the passage is “death.” There was to be intensified suffering in the death addressed in the passage. Burgett then quoted Tacitus, a Roman Senator during the reign of Nero. Tacitus wrote:
They were put to death with exquisite cruelty, and to their sufferings Nero added mockery and derision. Some were covered with skins of wild beasts and left to be devoured by dogs; others were nailed to crosses; numbers of them were burned alive; many were covered with inflammable matter, were set on fire to serve as torches during the night.
With this knowledge, the exhortation to “be thou faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10) takes on a new meaning. If you and I had lived in Smyrna in the first century, would we have been among those who were “faithful unto death”? When was the last time we allowed something of minor importance to keep us from doing what we knew was right and should be done? Do we pass up opportunities to do something that we had both the ability and the responsibility to do?
T. Pierce Brown
There is an interesting expression in 1 Corinthians 7:14 that may need clarification. It says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother: else were your children unclean; but now they are holy.” The most basic thing we need to know is the meaning of “sanctified.” It simply means, “set apart.” It does not mean sinless or saved. The vessels of the tabernacle that were set apart for God’s use were holy or sanctified. The saints (Christians) at Corinth had been called and set apart for God’s use, but they committed many sins.
What is meant by the statement that the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife? It is not “by the wife” as if she were the agent by whom the sanctification took place, but “in the wife” because it is the marriage relationship of which he speaks. It is noteworthy that the words “sanctified” are perfect tense. That denotes the present state that results from a past action. Apparently, the past action to which he refers was the sanctification that took place when the couple married and still is in effect. He is simply saying that the wife who has an unbelieving husband does not need to put him away as she would if the relationship itself were wrong or unholy. Although he is an unbeliever, the marriage bond was and is still sacred, so the unbeliever is set apart in a sanctified relationship. In this context, it has nothing whatever to do with salvation from sin.
Paul goes on to say that if that were not true and they were simply living together in an unholy relationship, any children they might have would be considered unclean. Stated another way, if they were not really husband and wife, their children would be illegitimate. When he uses the word “unclean,” he does not mean that the child is a sinner. In the Old Testament, a person who touched the carcass of a hog or a camel would be unclean until the evening (Leviticus 11:24). Even a woman who bore a child would be unclean for seven days (Leviticus 12:2).
So, a child born of an unholy union does not reflect on the child’s relationship to God at all, nor should it cause us to castigate or make unkind remarks about the child. Therefore, Paul simply means that God recognizes and approves of the marriage relationship, even if one of the persons is an unbeliever, for if he did not, he would not approve of a child being born in that relationship. Yet, since the relationship is sacred or sanctified, the child born in such a relationship is legitimate.
There are many lessons we can gain from this verse, including the fact that marriage is sacred, even to an unbeliever. This is given as the reason for the previous verse, which indicates its permanency. It shows that unmarried persons should not bear children, but it does not suggest that children born in an unholy relationship are at fault.