Q. I have a friend who is a devout Christian, but worries that her husband may not be saved because he believes that there are other ways to salvation besides Jesus, like being a good person, etc. Is there any place in scripture that because a married couple are “one” the one saved automatically brings salvation to the other?
A. The verse you’re thinking of is 1 Cor. 7:14
“For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”
This does not mean that the believing spouse automatically saves the unbelieving one. It means that the believing spouse makes the marriage legitimate in God’s eyes for the sake of making the children legitimate offspring. Every person who attains the age of accountability is responsible for making his or her own choice to accept or reject the pardon Jesus purchased at the cross. No one can do this for anyone else.
One of the first models of this took place during the wilderness wanderings when the Lord introduced “bread from heaven” for feeding the people. During the night it would come down with the dew and remain in the ground like thin flakes of frost. The people were all told to gather enough for themselves. Some gathered more than they needed, but found out it was just enough. The same thing happened with those who gathered too little. They also had just enough. Everyone had to gather their own and everyone got just enough (Exodus 16:16-18).
Later Jesus called Himself the Bread from Heaven (John 6:35). Just like it was in the wilderness, everyone has to get Him for themselves. No one gets too much and no one gets too little. Everyone gets just what they need to be saved.
And speaking of believers who were married to an unbeliever, Paul said, ” If the unbeliever leaves, let him (or her) do so. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know husband whether you save your wife?” (1 Cor. 7:15-16). He couldn’t have said this if the believing spouse automatically saved the unbeliever .