Questions From Readers
● 1 Corinthians 7:14 (AV) says that the unbelieving mate is sanctified by the believing mate, and also the children of that union. The Watchtower has shown that such children may be preserved through Armageddon because of the family merit coming from the believing parent. Does such family merit also mean the unbelieving mate will be spared at Armageddon, or just how is such mate benefited?—L. R., Idaho.
Marriage is a divine institution, being established by God. He has set down certain rules relative to wifely and husbandly duties, and the believing mate will be especially diligent to treat the marriage as sacred by living up to the divine requirements. The believer diligently does this as unto the Lord God, whom he is dedicated to serve. When one of the marriage partners dedicates himself to God, then the other one, being of one flesh with the dedicated one, is affected, as his partner deals with him from a new standpoint. Paul was writing Christians whom God had sanctified as members of Christ’s body. (1 Cor. 6:11; 12:27, NW) The sanctified one is certainly a benefit to the other one, for it will mean a special opportunity for him to learn of God and Christ and possibly come into a sanctified condition himself. Till he does, he is “sanctified in relation to” his partner.—NW.
It is like the time of Sodom just before it was destroyed. Special consideration was opened up for the two heathen men who had married Lot’s daughters. They stood to gain preservation because of their marriage to righteously disposed women. But they scoffed at the warning. (Gen. 19:14) They perished. The merit that gave them special opportunity was rejected by them; it did not effect their preservation in the face of their refusal to heed God’s warning. So it will be now in the case of an unbelieving mate. He has special advantages, but if these are rejected he will die at Armageddon. He is grown and responsible for himself, not like the unresponsible children that are counted holy because of the sanctified parent that has taught them the truth to the extent of their mental capacities.
So the believing mate can only be diligent to live up to all the marriage obligations, witness to the mate if he will listen, live a clean Christian life that by action and good conduct will recommend the truth, and teach the children the truth. The apostle Peter argued for this course when he told the following to believing women married to men “not obedient to the word”, or not in the truth: “In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect. And do not let your adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments, but let it be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.”—1 Pet. 3:1-4, NW.
We get a clearer picture of the point Paul was making at 1 Corinthians 7:14 if we have the setting before us: “If any brother has an unbelieving wife, and yet she is agreeable to dwelling with him, let him not leave her; and a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and yet he is agreeable to dwelling with her, let her not leave her husband. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in relation to his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in relation to the brother; otherwise, your children would really be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbelieving one proceeds to depart, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not in servitude under such circumstances, but God has called you to peace. For, wife, how do you know but that you will save your husband? Or, husband, how do you know but that you will save your wife?”—1 Cor. 7:12-16, NW.
The marriage relationship between the two is valid in God’s sight, and the unbelieving one is not to be cast off as unfit to associate with. The believer is not living in spiritual adultery. The marriage vows hold and the close relationship and marital oneness bring special opportunity to the unbeliever, and the believing one should tactfully take advantage of this opportunity. The believing one will not divorce the unbeliever on the ground of his unbelief, for such is not Scriptural ground for divorce. If the unbeliever wants to leave the faithful believer because of faithfulness to God, then let the unbeliever go. It is his decision. But if he will remain, the believing one will not break up the marriage, but will take advantage of opportunities leading to the full and direct sanctification of the unbeliever. Merely being married to a believer does not automatically result in the unbeliever’s salvation. That it is not settled but is a matter of question, dependent upon the unbeliever’s conversion, is shown by Paul’s queries: “Wife, how do you know but that you will save your husband? Or, husband, how do you know but that you will save your wife?” The unbeliever may or may not be saved, but the believer can and should work for the unbelieving mate’s salvation as long as it remains an unsettled question.
● To what extent must a wife be subject to her husband? For example, one sister has her house cluttered with plants, and the husband says if she were properly subject to him she would get rid of them. Another wife invites someone to dinner without consulting the husband, and he objects because he knows nothing of it. Again, a wife corrects her husband at a study, and he objects to her procedure. The Jewish women must have felt very inferior under the dictates of the Talmud. Must we sisters in the truth now feel the same way?—M. M., British Columbia, Canada.
The full meaning of a married woman’s “subjection” to her husband is something that a married woman who is dutiful would have to experience rather than for us to explain it in all its scope. You mention the “dictates of the Talmud”, and that is what we have tried to avoid compiling for married women or for married men by specifying in great detail what they may or should do or not do under this and that circumstance. To our mind the first two examples you raise in your question are good illustrations of how endless it would be to try to compile rules for all circumstances, and shows how we would involve ourselves in rather childish and petty bickerings that should involve no difficulty for married persons in the truth and who are guided by divine principles, rather than wanting a specific definition of their “exact rights”. As for a wife correcting her husband at a meeting, this has been specifically answered in the May 1, 1949, Watchtower, particularly in paragraph 27. Good counsel for both husbands and wives is found at Ephesians 5:21-33, 1 Timothy 2:9-15, and 1 Peter 3:1-12.
The expression of subjection is something the wife has to work out for herself, having in mind what the apostle Paul says at Ephesians 5 that she should manifest, namely, “deep respect for her husband.” In apostolic writings women of old times are commended for displaying deep respect for their husband because of his theocratic position. Sometimes some expression of subjection may be distasteful to a wife because of the humiliation involved, but if she nonetheless subjects herself, not to please herself and not to please just her husband, but doing it as to the Lord Jesus whose bride she pictures, then she can swallow the humiliation better and know a reasonable reason for it and it becomes a virtue to her, as 1 Peter 3 states.
Wifely subjection, where it hurts, is a thing that a wife brings upon herself by saying, “I do.” This is part of the “tribulation in their flesh” that Paul warned marrying couples they would expose themselves to. (1 Cor. 7:28, NW) The apostles say we are to be subject, if slaves, to cantankerous masters as well as to agreeable masters, all for the sake of the recommendation of the truth to our masters as well as to outside observers. The apostles like to link this with child obedience and wife obedience, as Paul did in his letter to the Ephesians, dealing consecutively with wifely subjection, child subjection and slave subjection. (Eph. 5:21–6:9) But in this connection Paul also counseled husbands, showing them that they should guard against being overbearing or unloving toward their wife, but treat her as their own flesh. So wifely obedience is something wives must work out for themselves, but in accord with divine principles and in love.