Is an unbelieving spouse saved when or because their spouse believes in Christ?
Some people believe that a Christian wife can save an unbelieving husband just by being married to him. They read 1 Corinthians 7:14, see the word “sanctified” and believe that their marriage will save their spouse. But the answer is no. Their spouse is not saved because of marriage to a Christian. Here is the verse in the New American Standard Bible,
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. 1 Corinthians 7:14 (NASB)
So, is an unbelieving spouse saved when their spouse believes in Christ?
Meaning of 1 Corinthians 7:14
The answer to the question begins by noticing that the context of 1 Corinthians 7:14 does not teach that an unbelieving wife is saved if her husband believes in Christ. Nor is an unbelieving spouse saved on their wedding day by their believing spouse. This becomes clear when we read the verses that occur before and the verses that follow 1 Corinthians 7:14. Verses 12 and 13 clearly discuss an unbelieving spouse of a believer before verse 14 does. Then verses 15 and 16 continue discussing the unbelieving spouse.
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. 1 Corinthians 7:15 (NASB)
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 7:16 (NASB)
But notice that verse 15 still says the unbelieving spouse is still an unbeliever even after verse 14 says the believing spouse “sanctifies the unbelieving spouse. That is, the believing spouse did not cause the unbeliever to be saved as the result of a wedding ceremony or after being married for a while. When we arrive at verse 16, it is clear the believing wife did not automatically save her husband because it implies uncertainty when the verse says, “How do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?” That is, the unbelieving husband is still an unbelieving husband, but he might some day be saved.
The reverse situation is is also true. If the husband is a believer and the wife is not, a believing man cannot save an unbelieving woman by a marriage ceremony or by being married for a period of time. the Holy Spirit asks, “How do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” Note the uncertainty of the question. That is, maybe she will be saved and maybe she will not. The point is that a believing wife or a believing husband cannot and do not save their unbelieving spouse.
Only Jesus Christ Can Save.
Jesus and the apostles have told us that a person is only saved by faith in Jesus Christ and not by any other way. Salvation is by grace alone (Acts 15:11), through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) in Christ alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). That is, every person is saved by believing Jesus Christ died and was resurrected to forgive our sins. We are not saved by the faith of our mother, father, brother, sister, or spouse. We are not saved by being born into a family either. Romans 10:9-10 makes it clear that faith in Christ is personal,
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:9-10 (NASB)
The point is that a believing spouse cannot cause an unbeliever to become saved. The Greek word, hagiazo, translated as “sanctified” in 1 Corinthians 7:14 does not mean the unbelieving spouse is saved. A correct understanding of the verse is that the unbeliever will be able to share in the blessings that God gives to the believing spouse. The unbelieving spouse can experience the blessings God showers on the believing spouse, but that blessing does not include salvation. So, a wife is not saved because a husband is saved. A husband is not saved because a wife is saved. A person is saved from the guilt of his or her own personal sins (Romans 6:23) by personal faith in Jesus Christ. The short article Searching For God explains how a person is saved from the penalty of their sins.
Suggested Links:What is Lordship salvation? What does the Bible teach?
Searching for God — In Search of God — Go To Heaven
Do I have to believe Jesus is God to be saved?
Must we confess Jesus as Lord with our mouth to be saved?