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
The above is one of those verses that can seem cryptic. In his sermon yesterday, my pastor brought this verse up and it dovetailed nicely with what I had already been mulling for today’s post. So, what does it mean? Dr. MacArthur explains it well in his New Testament commentary: “One Christian in a home graces the entire home. God’s indwelling that believer and all the blessing and graces that flow into the believer’s life from heaven will spill over to enrich all who are near” (p.166 The MacArthur New Testament Commentary 1 Corinthians).
My pastor gave the example of children who grow up in the church and in a home with believing parents, but have not experienced true conversion themselves. They are influenced and benefited by their parents faith and the Christian lifestyle that comes with it. Then, they go off to college and the benefit begins to fade, and the true nature of the child is revealed as they drift away from righteousness and pursue worldliness. I could relate to this, because it is exactly what happened to me.
I have written before about the fact that I grew up in a Christian home but did not come to saving faith until I was well into adulthood. In fact, I had been married nearly 10 years and had two elementary school aged kids. Growing up, I benefited from my parent’s regenerated lives, experiencing the blessings that spilled over from them. I had a well developed sense of right and wrong. I had been conditioned to righteousness from their example and those of the people in our church. I was kept from many sins and evils because of their protection and standards. I would have even said at the time that those standards were my own; I intellectually agreed with what they believed. But as I grew into a young adult and went off to college, the truth regarding my status as an unsaved individual, which had always been the case, became more and more apparent. My real beliefs began to dominate my life, and as my pastor said yesterday, the benefits of being in a home with true believers began to fade.
Because of His great mercy, my story didn’t continue on that trajectory forever, as He gifted me repentance, belief, and faith at the age of 30. However, this is why I write and warn about false conversion so frequently on this blog. I was that person. I know from first hand experience how one can grow up agreeing with the right things, living a life that looks Christian, because they are benefiting from a true believer’s life and influence, only later to be revealed as not having been a genuine Christian at all. That is why I exhort so strenuously that people, especially in the U.S., a country that’s culture has historically benefited from the believing segment of the population, examine themselves to see that they are truly in the faith.
And I will continue to do so. It is desperately needed in this day and age when the church has allowed the world to define terms like loving and kind. The current mentality is that we need to affirm any and every person who claims to be a Christian, no matter how superficial that proclamation is or how little evidence of a regenerated heart there seems to be. I cannot say it too many times: it is not loving to automatically accept at face value, and affirm, an individuals profession of faith without any evidence of a changed life. Many profess Christ, but they do not posses Him.
Yes, yes, I know the objections already. Of course people mature and experience sanctification at different rates. I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage, or cause any new or weak believers to lose heart. That is not what I am advocating. What I am saying is that there is a misguided eagerness to enthusiastically affirm any and all professions of faith, without exercising discernment, church discipline, and discipleship. We have enough people liberally giving the thumbs up. We need more folks that watch, wait, exhort, admonish and disciple said professors, because the church is packed with people who believe themselves to be saved, and are not. The professing church is the largest and most difficult mission field today.
I’ve heard it taught that the word translated ‘narrow gate’ is best understood by what we commonly know as a turnstile. Have you ever been to an airport or subway station and had to pass through a turnstile? Only one person can pass through at a time. You can’t take anything with you, just yourself. That is how salvation works. The way is narrow: Jesus. And the way is individual. You cannot ride on the coattails of a believing parent, grandparent, or spouse. Just because God is gracious in allowing you to benefit from His grace and blessing poured into that believer’s life, does not mean that you will be saved. You must have your own faith. You must come to the savior yourself. You must, on your own, trust that Jesus is who He said He was, relying on His death in your stead, to cover your sins. May today be the day of your salvation.
Soli Deo Gloria!