1 Corinthians 7:14 – Corporate Holiness

Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 08 Mar 2009


10. Now to those who have been married, I exhort – not I but rather the Lord –

            a wife not to be separated from a husband.

                        11. But if she has already been separated,

                                    let her remain unmarried

                                    or be reconciled to her husband.

            Also a husband is not to dismiss a wife.

12. And to the rest I say – I not the Lord –

            if any brother has an unbelieving wife and she is pleased to make a home with him,

                        let him not dismiss her.

            13. And if any wife has an unbelieving husband and he is pleased to make a home with her,

                        let her not dismiss her husband.

                                    14. For the unbelieving husband has been made holy by his wife

                                    and the unbelieving wife has been made holy by the brother

                                                (otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy).

Introduction – Blessing and judgment on families corporately

·         Story of Noah and his family’s salvation (Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, then God saved his wife and children.)

·         250 men of the households of Dathan and Abiram swallowed up in an earthquake and killed by the judgment of God after an act of rebellion by the heads of households. (Numbers 16, 26:11)


The title of this sermon is “Corporate Holiness,” the idea that God not only defines relationships with persons as individuals, He also defines relationships with people as corporate bodies – nations, and particularly, families.


To the modern-day person influenced by the American philosophy of rugged individualism, 1 Corinthians 7:14 comes as a bit of a shock. It says that if you are a “believer” in Jesus and your husband or wife is not a believer in Jesus, your spouse is nevertheless called “holy” by God because you are a believer, and your children are holy too!

Definition of Holiness

The word “holy” is key here. Your unbelieving spouse and your children are “holy.” What does it mean to be holy?

FIRST, let’s clear up what this does NOT MEAN:

1.      NOT “saved” or “justified” (what Baptists and Penetcostals accuse Reformed Churches of)

o       Saved and Justified are totally different words in Greek and English. This is an important distinction; you can be holy but not saved; set apart, but not righteous.

o       For example, things which were devoted to destruction were called “holy,” because they were treated differently than ordinary things. Leviticus 27:28  “… every thing devoted to destruction is most holy unto Jehovah.”

o       Interestingly, in Numbers 16, after Korah, Dathan, and Abirah tried to wrongfully use incense-burners in opposition to God and Moses, the incense-burners were in a strange situation: They had been dedicated as holy to God, but they had been used to blaspheme God. They couldn’t be put to common use again because they were holy to the Lord, but they couldn’t be used for regular worship again, because they had been used against God; What to do? God commanded that they be hammered out and used as a bronze plating for the altar as a warning to every man in Israel when they came to offer their sacrifices before the Lord.
So it’s possible to be set apart as holy, but not saved.

o       Your faithful presence in your home does not guarantee that your spouse and children will be saved and go to heaven, what it does guarantee is that they will be treated differently from the rest of the world by God. More on this later…

2.      NOT “legitimate” (interpretation of Roman Catholics & Baptists) speaking of marriage and children

o       Problem: It doesn’t say their marriage is holy, it says that the husband is made holy by the wife. The individual man is the subject of the passive verb “is sanctified” followed by the individual wife.

o       Secondly, the word “holy” and “pure” is a totally different word and concept from the word “lawful” or “legitimate.” A literal reading of this verse tells us that the spouse and children as individual persons are made holy by virtue of the believer’s presence!

If “holy” does not mean legitimate or saved, what does it mean?

·         The concept of holiness in the N.T. is rooted in the O.T. use of the word, so we must start with the Old Testament to define the word “holy.” The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament is one of the best tools to understand the meaning of words in their Old Testament context, short of using a concordance to look up every verse where a word is used. Here’s a summary of the entry on qadosh, the Hebrew word for holy: “belonging to the sphere of the sacred… The ethical connotations of the concepts of holiness find their basis in the proscriptions against diffusing the realms of the sacred and profane… That which is holy is not only distinct from the profane, but in opposition to it as well. God, therefore, hates and punishes sin… While the realm of the holy was conceptually distinct from the world with its imperfections, it could nevertheless operate within the world as long as its integrity was strictly maintained… Inherent within the redemptive work of God is the promise of the ultimate manifestation of God’s holiness in the glorification of His people… God is intrinsically holy and He calls His people to be holy… Their call to holiness was based on the fact that they had become God’s possession by  virtue of His separating them from the nations.”

·         Arndt & Gingrich, in their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature define this word holy (hagios), “the quality possessed by things and persons that could approach a divinity… dedicated to God…” They go on to note the following things that are called “holy” throughout the Greek Bible: God, Christ, and the Spirit, heaven, angels, the city of Jerusalem, the temple, sacrifices, the ground by the burning bush, the Mount of Transfiguration, God’s covenant, the Bible, God’s commands, the church, the calling of God, our faith in God, the priesthood of believers and the people of God, Israel, the wives of the patriarchs, the O.T. Prophets, John the Baptiser, the Apostles, and Christians (1Cor 1:2 – “to the saints in Colossae” = church).

·         Holiness is relationship-oriented, and in the Bible is defined by ones relationship with God. You are either inside His sphere, chosen out of the world and allowed to come close, or you are outside of a relationship with God, not set apart from the rest of the world, and not allowed to approach God. Holiness is about whether you receive any special treatment from God or not.

·         What special treatment does holiness give you? Two things stand out in scripture: Someone who is holy receives an inheritance and they receive fellowship with others who are holy:

o       Eph. 5:5 “For this ye know surely, that no fornicator or unclean person or covetous man who is an idolater has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

o       Acts 20:32 “And now I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified.”

o       2 Cor. 6:17 “‘Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘And touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you…’”

o       Heb. 2:11 “For both the One who is Holy and the ones being made holy are all of one: on account of which He is not ashamed to call them brothers…”

o       Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, the classic Scottish Presbyterian commentators, summarize these two points in this way: 

§         In terms of relational fellowship: “else . . . children unclean” – that is, beyond the hallowed pale of God's people: in contrast to "holy," that is, all that is within the consecrated limits. The phraseology accords with that of the Jews, who regarded the heathen as "unclean," and all of the elect nation as "holy," that is, partakers of the holy covenant. Children were included in the covenant, as God made it not only with Abraham, but with his "seed after" him (Gen. 17:7). So the faith of one Christian parent gives to the children a near relationship to the Church, just as if both parents were Christians (Romans 11:16  “…if the root is holy, so are the branches…”)

§         In terms of inheritance: “a child may be made heir of an estate: it is his, though incapable at the time of using or comprehending its advantage… he will hereafter understand his claim, and be capable of employing his wealth: he will then, moreover, become responsible for the use he makes of it.” An inheritance can be rejected, just as Esau sold his birthright for a pot of lentil stew.

·         We baptize our children because these promises and this inheritance is theirs by right, and the Bible teaches us we have a reasonable expectation that they will obtain the inheritance by faith, but we acknowledge that our children need to believe those promises themselves and want to receive that inheritance. That is why parents take the vow at the baptism of their child to look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for [the child’s] salvation, as you do for your own… and promise to set before him a godly example… pray with and for (him)… teach (him) the doctrines of our holy faith…, and strive by all the means of God’s appointment to bring (him) up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

The main command: Do not get divorced (vs 10-11)

·         The context of this statement in 1 Cor. 7:14 is God’s word concerning divorce.

·         This concept of corporate holiness is given as a reason NOT to get a divorce.

·         Paul says that believers should not divorce from their non-Christian spouse BECAUSE the Christian’s presence in the home has the effect of making everyone in the family holy.

·         To apply the definition of holiness, this means that everyone in the family is within the sphere of the sacred. A line has been drawn by the marriage vow that puts everyone in the family inside the circle of those who have connections to God. They have a special status of relationship with God.

o       Jesus said that the angels of little children are “in heaven always beholding the face of the father” (Matt 18:10). Here are children with special privileges of getting their prayers answered. Jesus did not say “all children” but “these children” – the children of His followers who were gathered around Him! Heb 1:14 informs us that angels are “ministering spirits sent to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation.” Non-christians who have no promise of inheriting salvation don’t get guardian angels and special attention to prayer, but the children of Jesus’ followers do!

o       Jesus said, “Let the LITTLE children come to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” and then He blessed them (Matt 19:14). Does God promise blessings for the wicked? Note, Jesus did not say, “Wait until they are old enough to see whether they will express faith in me or not, and the ones who come to me in faith, I will bless.” No, Jesus assumes that the children of His followers were already in the kingdom of heaven, saying that the kingdom of heaven is composed of little children.

Why is this Important? Uncleanness and Lack of Holiness

·         The phrase, “the unbeliever is made holy” imply that adults who do not believe in Jesus are de facto unholy, out of relationship with God, and destined for hell.

·         In addition, the phrase, “and otherwise your children would be unclean” explicitly states that without the presence of a believing mother or father, a child is naturally unclean, out of relationship with God, and also destined for hell.

o       Yes, I’m saying that babies who die in infancy are not automatically saved.

o       They are imputed with the original sin of Adam (“sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all adults” – Rom. 5:12)

o       Babies are “conceived in sin” and “go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” wrote David in Psalm 51:5 and 58:3

o        John 3:3 makes it clear that no one [not even a baby] who has not been “born again by the Spirit” can go to heaven. There is no class of children who don’t need to be saved.

·         What puts out of relationship with God? Sin – any want of conformity to God’s nature, any act done in rebellion against Him or without regard to Him, every violation of His law, everything that we have done not as an act of worship to Him.

o       Isa 64:6  “For we have all become as one who is unclean… and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

o       Lam 1:8  “Jerusalem has grievously sinned; therefore she has become like an unclean thing”

·         Since every human being since Adam has sinned, all of humanity is hopelessly out of relationship with God, unholy, and headed for eternal judgment.

·         Our only hope is that holiness can be communicated to us from outside ourselves so that we can be brought into right relationship with God.

The Communicability of Holiness

Thanks be to God, He has made a way to communicate holiness to us sinful people!

·         In Ex. 29:37, God declared that “the altar shall be most holy; whatever touches the altar shall be holy.” (cf. Mat 23:19) Why is the altar MOST holy? Because it was the connecting point between God and man; it was the spot where unholy men became holy! “The wages of sin is death,” so each sinner had to pay the price of death in order to be made right with God. That’s why living animals were killed on that altar and people became holy!

·         But even that altar was a symbol of something greater. Heb 9:13-14 “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling them that have been defiled, sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? … 10:9 we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Halleluiah!

·         The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was the ultimate communication of holiness, but there are other ways in which holiness is additionally communicated to people:

o       Feeding on God’s Word: John 17:14ff. “Sanctify them in the truth: Your word is truth.” (cf. Eph. 5:26)

o       Faith in Jesus: Act 26:18 “…they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

o       Fellowship with believers – particularly through family ties:

§         The family members of priests got to eat holy food that no other non-priest could eat: Lev. 10:14  “The breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the offering you may eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you; for they have been given as your due and your sons' due out of the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the sons of Israel…  22:10-13  No layman, however, is to eat the holy gift; a sojourner with the priest or a hired man shall not eat of the holy gift.  11 But if a priest buys a slave as his property with his money, that one may eat of it, and those who are born in his house may eat of his food. 12 If a priest's daughter is married to a layman, she shall not eat of the offering of the gifts. 13 But if a priest's daughter becomes a widow or divorced, and has no child and returns to her father's house as in her youth, she shall eat of her father's food; but no layman shall eat of it.” Household members, including children and slaves got what was holy because the man of the house was holy. (Corporate holiness)

§         Deut 4:37 “because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their seed (descendents) after them, and brought you out with His presence” Because God loved Abraham, God kept His presence close to the people of Israel who were descended from Abraham. As much as the Israelites rebelled against God, and as many of them perished for their rebellion, God nevertheless, out of love, kept drawing the circle to include them rather than exclude them from connection to Him.

§         1 Cor. 7:14  “the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother” The “brother” is the Christian.

·         You can’t unite Christ with a prostitute using your body (1 Cor 6:15) - you can’t connect unholiness to God,

·         but you can connect God to an unbelieving spouse through your body!

§         Jamieson, Fausset and Brown: “Those inseparably connected with the people of God are hallowed thereby, so that the latter may retain the connection without impairing their own sanctity; nay, rather imparting to the former externally some degree of their own hallowed character, and so preparing the way for the unbeliever becoming at last sanctified inwardly by faith.”

Raising the Stakes

·         Does this mean that people who don’t believe in Jesus will be saved? No.

·         But it does mean that you, as a 3rd party raise the stakes spiritually for others in your family.

·         In gambling games, everybody puts money down on the table, and then you play the game. Whoever wins the game gets all the money. The more money is put down, the more you stand to receive if you win and the more you stand to be deprived of if you lose.

·         In this case, your presence in your family raises the spiritual stakes of those in your family. Without them doing anything different, they stand to gain more if they believe and to lose more if they do not believe in Jesus.



1)      Hope in God even when there are bad influences in your family.

a.       Calvin wrote: “Marriage is sacred and pure… the piety of one [spouse] has more effect in sanctifying marriage than the impiety of the other in polluting it… [Do] not worry about contagion!”

b.      Hold fast in the faith. God can use you as a connecting point between Him and others in your family. Your children can receive incalculable blessings by being raised by a Christian parent in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There is hope!

2)      Bring covenant blessings into your family:

a.       I mentioned this point of application a few weeks ago in terms of “peace” – v.15, “reconciliation” – v.11, and the “holiness” of God – v.14 unto salvation (v.16). I’d like to build on it with points from this sermon:

b.      Genesis 18:18-19  “I have known/chosen [Abraham], to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Jehovah, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him… [namely] that he will surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him.”

c.       The Word of God – Read it yourself to set the example. Read it to your children; and Teach them to read it!  2 Timothy 3:16-17  Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.  That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.

d.      The example of your faith – Pray for what you need, trust God in the context of your home. Hebrews 11:7  By faith Noah, being warned of God concerning things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; through which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

e.       Fellowship with other believers – Community is a basic human craving. Bring your family into the community of true believers rather than withdrawing within your own home or, on the opposite extreme, ignoring community-building and letting your children nform their own associations in their foolishness. My Dad brought me into the community of his friends by taking me to Saturday morning men’s prayer breakfasts, holding Bible studies in his home, and connected me with his friends when I needed music lessons, employment, and ministry opportunities. To this day, my ideal of prayer is Frank Morse, my ideal of witnessing is Howard Borland, and my ideal of teaching is Bob Welch – all friends of my Dad.

Hope in God, Bring the covenant blessings of Feeding on the Word, Faith, and Fellowship, and…

3)      Baptize your children to acknowledge their holiness before the Lord.

a.       Baptism does not make them holy, but rather, like circumcision, it was a recognition of the holiness the child already had by the choice of God in being a descendent of one of His people.

b.      Considering the continuity of the eternal covenant and the assumptions of the Jews of Jesus’ day, it would take an explicit command from God to stop administering the initiatory sign of the covenant to infants, but God never tells people to wait before giving the sign of baptism to children.

c.       The Bible records at least five occasions where everybody in an entire house was baptized along with the head of the household: Cornelius (Acts 10), Stephanus (I Cor 1:16), Lydia (Acts 16:15), Crispus (Acts 18:8, I Cor. 1:14), and the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:31-33) “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, you and your house… and he was baptized – he and all who belonged to him immediately

d.      This was normal practice in the time of the early church.

                                                              i.      The Jewish Mishna teachings show that in Jesus’ time, the Jews baptized converts to Judaism in addition to circumcising them, and if they had children, the children were baptized with them.

                                                            ii.       Irenaeus in the late 100’s A.D. wrote that Jesus “came to save through means of Himself all who through Him are born again unto God, infants, and little children, and boys, and youths, and old men.”

                                                          iii.      Tertullian’s writings from the late second century imply that infant baptism was a normal practice in the church.

                                                          iv.      Origen, in the early third century speaks of infant baptism as a “tradition of the apostles.”

                                                            v.      And the council of Carthage in A.D. 253 also takes infant baptism for granted, the only controversy being whether an infant could be baptized before the eighth day!

Order of Worship




Isa 42:5-6 NASB

Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it, "I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations,


Psalter 132a (Accompanied by String Ensemble)






Psalm 103:6-13 NASB

The LORD performs righteous deeds And judgments for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel. The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.




I will call upon the Lord (Guitar accompaniment)

OT Text

Deuteronomy 31:7-13

NT Text

Lector: Marcos/Micah? Acts 2:14-39


Great is Thy Faithfulness (Accompanied by Daniel and Carl)


1 Corinthians 7:14 - Corporate Holiness, Vows, Baptism


Baptism Prayer: Mr. Gensch? / Prayer of Supplication: Chip


I Am Jesus' Little Lamb (Keyboard accompaniment)


1Cor 11:23-28 NASB

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.


Walk with Me, Lord (a cappella)


Psalm 103:3-5,17

May the Lord out God pardons all your iniquities, heal all your diseases; redeem your life from the pit, crown you with lovingkindness and compassion; satisfy your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle…, and may the lovingkindness of the LORD rest forever upon you who fear Him, And His righteousness upon your children's children!


Gloria Patri (with piano accompaniment)