Married Believers Called to Peace and Salvation
“A brother or a sister is not in servitude under such circumstances, but God has called you to peace.”—1 Cor. 7:15.
1. Because it was not good for Adam to be by himself, what was marriage meant to be for man?
MARRIAGE, when first introduced to man, was meant to be a peaceable arrangement. It was meant to be for a man’s happiness and good, because the fatherly Creator of the first man, Adam, saw that it was not good for the man to continue by himself.
2. How did marriage start off favorably for Adam and Eve, and how could it have continued peacefully and happily?
2 Everything was designed to make marriage peaceful and harmonious. The one to whom the man was married was a feminine creature made in perfection to be a helper for man, as a complement of him. She was most intimately a part of him, for she was in reality bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, as the man himself said. Very importantly, the man and his wife were of the same religious faith; they were both children of Jehovah God, having communion with him and worshiping him. They had their heavenly Father’s blessing and were plainly told what they had to do together in their Paradise home. Their duties were not in conflict; they had a common purpose to fulfill according to God’s will, and this called for peaceful cooperation. They had the capacity to love each other; they just naturally loved each other. Above all, they must have loved their God and Father, although they could not see him. By loving obedience to God’s will, their marriage that had started off so favorably could have continued peacefully and happily.—Gen. 1:26 to 2:25.
3. The forbidding to marry shows a falling away from what, and how does the case of Christ’s apostles show whether the Bible forbids Christians of any rank to marry?
3 The Christian apostle Paul, a marriage authority for believers, wrote many important things about marriage. To the overseer or superintendent of a Christian congregation Paul wrote: “The inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, . . . forbidding to marry.” (1 Tim. 4:1-3) However, the Holy Scriptures themselves do not forbid marriage, even to the twelve foundations of the Christian congregation, the twelve apostles. After night-long prayer to God, Jesus chose his twelve apostles, and among them he included Simon, whom Jesus called Peter or Cephas. At that time Peter or Cephas was a married man, with a mother-in-law, whom Jesus healed of a bodily ailment. (Luke 6:12-16; John 1:42; Matt. 8:14, 15) In defending the right of an apostle to marry a sister in the faith, Paul wrote: “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? . . . My defense to those who examine me is as follows: We have authority to eat and drink, do we not? We have authority to lead about a sister as a wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas, do we not?” (1 Cor. 9:1-5) God’s Word says Yes.
4. How do Paul’s instructions to Timothy and Titus show whether so-called “bishops” and “deacons” and “priests” may get Scripturally married?
4 Paul wrote Timothy and Titus that those whom Christendom calls “bishops” and “deacons” and “priests” may get married. To quote Titus 1:5-7 from the Roman Catholic Douay Version Bible: “Thou shouldest . . . ordain priests in every city, as I also appointed thee: if any be without crime, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be without crime, as the steward of God.” Also 1 Timothy 3:2-4, 12 (Dy) reads: “It behoveth therefore a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife, . . . one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all chastity. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife: who rule well their children and their own houses.”
5. The expression “the husband of one wife” is taken by some Bible translators and commentators to mean what, and thus who might be debarred from holding office in a congregation?
5 Note the repeated qualification, “the husband of one wife.” Some Bible translators and commentators take this to mean “married only once,” not married more than once, so excluding remarried divorcees and remarried widowers. But the Jewish translator H. J. Schonfield renders 1 Timothy 3:12: “Let administrators [deacons] remain married to one wife, managing their children and their own households well.” And the Aramaic translator G. M. Lamsa renders the same verse: “Let the deacons be appointed from those who have not been polygamous, ruling their children and their own households well.” The Roman Catholic monsignor R. A. Knox renders the crucial expression as “faithful to one wife,” and makes the following footnote comment on this expression: “‘Faithful to one wife’ may mean, but does not necessarily mean, that in the discipline of the early Church a remarried widower was ineligible for the episcopate.”
6. Why was this qualification fitting in apostolic times?
6 Basically the Greek expression for “husband of one wife” means the husband of one living wife. In apostolic times polygamy was practiced among non-Christians, and even among the Hebrews or Jews (from among whom the first members of the Christian congregation were taken) there were notable cases of polygamy.
7. What notable examples of polygamy do we have in Israel and in Africa, and what standard of marriage is for Christians in the new covenant of God with his people?
7 No polygamous man could become a congregational supervisor or overseer, or a ministerial servant to such an overseer. No polygamous person could even become a Christian and as such a member of the dedicated, baptized Christian congregation. Under the Mosaic law covenant that God made with the Jews, polygamy was permitted but was strictly regulated in the pre-Christian nation of Israel. The most outstanding case of polygamy in all Israel’s history was that of King Solomon of Jerusalem. He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, but at last he suffered religious downfall for this. (1 Ki. 11:3) Solomon’s case of polygamous marriages has been surpassed by that of two chieftains in Africa this past century. The two, the chieftain of Loango (in what is now the Congo Republic) and the chieftain of Mutesa, in Uganda, had about 7,000 wives each. (New York Times Magazine, April 24, 1960, page 114) However, by means of Christ’s sacrificial death the Mosaic law covenant with Israel was abolished; and by means of Jesus Christ as Mediator, Jehovah God established a new covenant with the congregation of Christ’s followers. Under this new covenant no bigamy or polygamy is permitted in the dedicated, baptized Christian congregation. The paradisaic model of the first man and his one wife has been restored. In this, congregation overseers must be examples.
8. What would a polygamous man have to do in order to become a baptized member of the New World society?
8 How could a polygamous person become a dedicated, baptized Christian and then associate with the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses? By giving up all his marriage mates except one. Nonetheless, he might be obliged to make provision afterward for his released mates and his children by them; but he could no longer have sexual relations with them as wives or as concubines. He must recognize only one mate as his true wife and give her exclusively the marriage due.
9. To survive Armageddon into God’s new world, what must a polygamist do, and where are many believers meeting this test?
9 This puts quite a test upon a polygamist who enjoys the Bible message of the new world of righteousness in which God’s kingdom will allow only one-wife marriage on the Paradise earth. But the polygamist has to meet this test if he wants to survive God’s coming universal war of Armageddon and enter alive into the “new earth” under the “new heavens,” God’s kingdom by Christ. Such a test explains why Mohammedanism is reported making a greater spread in Africa than Christendom’s religion. Mohammedanism allows polygamy up to a certain extent; and therefore one of Christendom’s evangelists recently back from a preaching tour in Africa said: “For every three converts to Christianity there are seven to Islam.” (New York Times, March 30, 1960) However, even though it means giving up polygamy in numerous cases, many thousands of native Africans are becoming dedicated, baptized witnesses of Jehovah every year.
10. What expressed desire and instruction of Paul proves that remarriage was not forbidden to widowed Christians?
10 Now as to having one living marriage mate, it is plain that Christ and his apostles did not forbid remarriage by widowed Christians. Concerning the younger widows whose sexual impulses were asserting themselves, Paul said to overseer Timothy: “I desire the younger widows to marry, to bear children.” (1 Tim. 5:14) It was better to remarry than to fornicate during a seizure of passion. Accordingly, Paul further said: “Now I say to the single persons and the widows, it is well for them that they remain even as I am. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to be inflamed with passion.”—1 Cor. 7:8, 9.
11. Why would remarriage serve well for young widows, and why would a remarried widower not be unfit to be an overseer?
11 Marriage would thus prevent their being distracted from serving God efficiently; it would safeguard them from misconduct that furnished “inducement to the opposer to revile” the Christian congregation, to which the passionate widows belonged. What would be allowed to widows would justly be allowed to widowers. There is no immorality in this; for Paul explains: “While her husband is living, [a woman] would be styled an adulteress if she became another man’s. But if her husband dies, she is free from his law, so that she is not an adulteress if she becomes another man’s.” (Rom. 7:3) Hence, why would a remarried widower be unfit to be an overseer?
12. When Paul said to remain in the certain condition in which one was called, was he referring to staying single, or to what in general, and why?
12 The foregoing must be taken into account when we read Paul’s words: “In whatever condition each one was called, brothers, let him remain in it associated with God.” (1 Cor. 7:24) Paul did not mean that a person who is called when yet a single person or a widowed person must remain unmarried. Paul says it would be better for them as Christians to remain unmarried; but certain conditions or developments may make marriage advisable for them, for moral reasons. So Paul was really referring to certain unalterable conditions, stations or callings in which believers were when God called them to become Christ’s followers. If God himself ignored such unchangeable features about a believer, then the believer did not need to worry about staying in such a condition. If, by God’s choice, he began being a Christian in that condition, station or calling, then he could keep on being a Christian therein.
13. What specific stations, conditions or callings does Paul mention in 1 Corinthians 7:17-23?
13 To make that clear, Paul says: “Only, as Jehovah has given each one a portion, let each one so walk as God has called him. And thus I ordain in all the congregations. Was any man called circumcised [because of being a Jew, Samaritan, proselyte or an Egyptian]? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has any man been called in uncircumcision? Let him not get circumcised. Circumcision does not mean a thing, and uncircumcision means not a thing, but observance of God’s commandments does. In whatever state [or, calling] each one was called, let him remain in it. Were you called a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity. For anyone in the Lord that was called a slave is the Lord’s freedman: likewise he that was called a free man is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men.”—1 Cor. 7:17-23; marginal reading.
14. In 1 Corinthians 7:25-28, what did Paul say to those married and to those not yet married?
14 But, Paul, what about persons called when they are married or never yet married? “Now concerning virgins I have no command from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who had mercy shown him by the Lord to be faithful [and who would therefore be merciful and also faithful in giving his opinion]. Therefore I think this to be well in view of the necessity here with us, that it is well for a man to continue as he is [as regards marriage]. Are you bound to a wife? Stop seeking a release. Are you loosed from a wife? Stop seeking a wife. But even if you did marry, you would commit no sin. And if a virgin married, such one would commit no sin. However, those who do will have tribulation in their flesh.”—1 Cor. 7:25-28.
15. To what extent does marriage solve one’s problems?
15 There is no sin in marrying honorably, and there may be an avoiding of fornication by it. Yet there is ‘tribulation in the flesh’ connected with it “in view of the necessity here with us,” outside the Paradise of Eden. Marriage does not solve all one’s problems. While it solves one problem, it creates more at present.
16. As to the expression “in whatever condition each one was called,” why does or does not this refer to one’s unmarried state or to one’s living an immoral or unjust life?
16 A man can change his virgin or unmarried state without changing his condition, station or calling as a person circumcised or one uncircumcised, as a slave or a free man, but remaining in it. The calling by God is what determines whether one may remain in the station or calling in which he is at the time. Note that Paul says: “In whatever condition each one was called, brothers, let him remain in it associated with God.” (1 Cor. 7:24) He does not say, In whatever condition each one was when the truth or Kingdom news found him, let him remain in it. Otherwise, if the truth was first presented to one when a prostitute or an oppressive publican (tax collector) or living in consensual marriage or in common-law marriage, then the individual would be authorized to remain in that situation and at the same time profess true Christianity.
17. How did Paul explain Jesus’ words that tax collectors and harlots would go into God’s kingdom ahead of religious priests and elders?
17 It is true that Jesus told the chief priests and religious elders at Jerusalem: “The tax collectors and the harlots are going ahead of you into the kingdom of God.” But they did not go into the Kingdom as greedy, extortionate tax collectors or as harlots; for Paul says: “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom. And yet that is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean, but you have been sanctified, but you have been declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11) No, those harlots and tax collectors had to clean up first and dedicate themselves to God through Christ and then get baptized, before ever God would call them.
18. As indicated by Jesus’ words concerning John the Baptist, does God call harlots and tax collectors, and on what conditions today do the immoral have an opportunity to be called?
18 That is why Jesus added: “For John came to you in the path of righteousness, but you did not believe him. However, the tax collectors and the harlots believed him, and you although you saw this, did not feel regret afterwards so as to believe him.” (Matt. 21:31, 32) God does not call harlots and tax collectors and suchlike; but he has called those who formerly were such but did not remain such. So those today living in fornication, adultery, consensual marriage or common-law marriage must first discontinue such or must get legally married. Then they could make an acceptable dedication to God, be baptized and be called into his ministry.
19. As regards independence and headship, into what state does a woman marry?
19 By marriage one undertakes serious limitations and obligations. These responsibilities must be treated with dignity. When a woman marries, she marries into a state of independence of her parents but also marries into a state of subordination, this to her husband. She comes under a headship, that of her husband.
20. To be a Christian wife, what does a woman marrying have to recognize, as emphasized by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:3, 7-12?
20 This is something she should consider before marrying, rather than rebel against it after she is married. She should not try to ignore or be indifferent to headship. “I want you to know,” says the apostle Paul, “that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn, the head of a woman is the man; in turn, the head of the Christ is God.” And God has no head over him. This is why, on certain occasions, under certain situations, and when performing certain functions, a woman should have upon her head some sort of covering as a sign of being under authority by man. “For a man ought not to have his head veiled, as he is God’s image and glory; but the woman is man’s glory. For man is not out of woman [man being created first], but woman out of man; and, what is more, man was not created for the sake of the woman, but woman for the sake of the man. That is why the woman ought to have a sign of authority upon her head because of the angels. . . . the woman is out of the man.” (1 Cor. 11:3, 7-12) So, if a girl does not want the headship of a man other than her father, she should not get married. To be a Christian wife, she has to recognize husbandly headship.
21. Why do the Hebrew Scriptures refer to a wife as “beulah” and to a husband as “baal”?
21 According to the Bible, a wife is her husband’s property, particularly in the case where a bride price is paid for her. That is why a married woman is Scripturally called “beulah,” this word really meaning “owned” as a wife. The masculine form of this word is “baal,” which even today in modern Israel is the Hebrew word for “husband.” The title really means “owner, master, lord.”
22. What Scripture instances are given speaking of the husband as the owner and the wife as the owned woman?
22 Thus Deuteronomy 22:22 speaks of a “woman owned [beulah] by an owner [baal].” Proverbs 30:23 speaks of a “woman when she is taken possession of as a wife.” Exodus 21:3 speaks of the “owner [baal] of a wife.” To the ancient nation of Israel Jehovah said: “I myself have become the husbandly owner [baal] of you people.” (Jer. 3:14) To his symbolic “woman,” the mother of the promised Messianic Seed, Jehovah says: “You yourself will be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Owned as a Wife [Beulah]. For Jehovah will have taken delight in you, and your own land will be owned as a wife. For just as a; young man takes ownership [baal] of a virgin as his wife, your sons will take ownership [baal] of you as a wife.” (Isa. 62:4, 5) For this reason Boaz, David’s great-grandfather, said before witnesses in Bethlehem: “Ruth . . . I do buy for myself as a wife.”—Ruth 4:10; see also Exodus 20:17
23. Under what new law does a woman marrying come, as shown by Paul?
23 A woman marrying comes under a new law. What law, or whose law? The apostolic answer is this: “A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is alive; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law of her husband. . . . But if her husband dies, she is free from his law.” (Rom. 7:2, 3) In harmony with this arrangement the same apostolic authority commands: “Be in subjection to one another in fear of Christ. Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation, he being a savior of this body. In fact, as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything. . . . the wife should have deep respect for her husband.”—Eph. 5:21-24, 33.
24. Why does this rule of wifely subjection to a husband apply in spite of their being neither female nor male in the matter of union with Christ?
24 Wives should do this in fear of Christ. That theocratic rule applies alongside this marvelous truth: “All of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.” (Gal. 3:26-29) Their all being alike is with regard to the new developed personality: “Clothe yourselves with the new personality . . . where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, foreigner, Scythian, slave, freeman, but Christ is all things and in all.” Because this does not wipe out the marriage relationship and the correct adjustment of the wife to the husband, Paul later adds: “You wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as it is becoming in the Lord.”—Col. 3:10, 11, 18.
PROPER EXERCISE OF HEADSHIP
25. In view of a husband’s headship and law, how does a Christian woman marrying safeguard herself spiritually, and why so?
25 If a dedicated, baptized Christian woman is wise and theocratic and lines up with the apostle’s instruction to marry “only in the Lord,” then she safeguards her spiritual interests. She makes it easier for herself as a wife, because she is marrying a man “in union with the Lord,” a man who is under orders to maintain his husbandly ownership and exercise his headship and law according to the Christian “new personality.” He does have the ownership of her, but as a Christian he may not abuse or misuse this Christian property, as it also belongs to Christ who bought her with the price of his perfect human life. Because of this she is a fellow heir with her husband of the promise of everlasting life in God’s new world. So her husband would do gross wrong in preventing or hindering her from gaining that precious inheritance, crushing out her future eternal life, as it were.
26. Peter says to husbands to assign honor to wives as to what kind of vessel, and therefore what kind of consideration would a Christian husband give a wife?
26 Says the married apostle Peter (Cephas) to Christian men concerning their wives: “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with them according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one, since you are also heirs with them of the undeserved favor of life, in order for your prayers not to be hindered. Finally, all of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling, exercising brotherly love, tenderly affectionate, humble in mind.” (1 Pet. 3:7, 8) If a husband honors his wife as a physically weaker vessel because of being a feminine vessel, he will handle her with care and tenderness, that she may be of continuous valuable usefulness to him. He will not want to crack her or break her to pieces and destroy her precious helpfulness to him. He will try to preserve her life, not just her present life in this world but, more importantly, her inheritance of life in the future new world of righteousness. He will pray with her and for her.
27. In his exercise of household headship, how will a Christian husband deal with his wife since he is “God’s image and glory” and she is “man’s glory”?
27 The Christian husband will keep his wife like-minded with him in Bible knowledge and understanding and in practical wisdom. He will show her fellow feeling. While exercising the headship in the household, he will not become heady but keep “humble in mind.” As the man must not have his head veiled because “he is God’s image and glory,” he will be careful to exercise his headship as God does His, in a way to image God in this headship and to glorify God thus, toward his wife. As the “woman is man’s glory,” the husband will avoid reducing her to an inglorious state, where she will be no credit or glory to him, not reflecting what a fine, godly husband he is to her both at home and in the congregation. If he is a congregation overseer or a ministerial servant, he will specially want her to be a spiritual “glory” in reflection of him.
28, 29. (a) As respects his wife, how does a Christian endeavor to be a glory to the one who is his spiritual Head? (b) In Ephesians 5:25-33, how does Paul stimulate believers to treat wives in a way helpful to salvation?
28 “The head of every man is the Christ,” and the husband is fearful lest he ‘shame the one who is his head.’ (1 Cor. 11:3, 4) He will therefore endeavor to be a glory to the one who is his spiritual Head. As a husband he can do this by treating his wife, particularly his dedicated, baptized wife, in the same way in which Jesus Christ treats the congregation as his espoused virgin. The apostle Paul uses this comparison to stimulate believing men to treat their wives in a way that helps to salvation, saying:
29 “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it, that he might sanctify it, cleansing it with the bath of water by means of the word, that he might present the congregation to himself in its splendor, not having a spot or a wrinkle or any of such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish. In this way husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh, but he feeds and cherishes it, as the Christ also does the congregation, because we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh.’ This sacred secret is great. Now I am speaking with respect to Christ and the congregation. Nevertheless, also, let each one of you individually so love his wife as he does himself.”—Eph. 5:25-33.
BEARING AN UNEQUAL YOKE
30. How should a husband and a wife render the marriage due, and what did Paul by way of concession say to married believers in this regard?
30 Where the husband faithfully and loyally loves his wife in a Christian way and his wife, in turn, displays deep respect for her husband, it produces peace, harmony and happiness in the home. In a dignified, honorable, wholesome way they will lovingly render to each other the marriage due, as being one flesh. “Let the husband render to his wife her due; but let the wife also do likewise to her husband. The wife does not exercise authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, also, the husband does not exercise authority over his own body, but his wife does. Do not be depriving each other of it [the due], except by mutual consent for an appointed time, that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-regulation. However, I say this by way of concession, not in the way of an order.” (1 Cor. 7:3-6) Paul said that by way of concession because fornication was prevalent in that pagan world.
31. Instead of separating, what should married Christians strive to do, but during any agreed-to living apart how should each one conduct individual living?
31 Dedicated, baptized married couples should seriously strive to stick together, with one heart, one mind and one objective. “To the married people I give instructions,” continues Paul, “yet not I but the Lord, that a wife should not depart from her husband; but if she should actually depart, let her remain single or else make up again with her husband; and a husband should not leave his wife.” The departing wife, though she dwells apart, must remember this divine law: “A wife is bound during all the time her husband is alive. But if her husband should fall asleep in death, she is free to be married to whom she wants, only in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:10, 11, 39) Bound by her husband’s law, she will not feel free to carry on with the opposite sex as an unmarried woman might or does, thus endangering her moral cleanness. If her better judgment prevails, she will seek reasons and ways to make peace with her living husband and get back to him. She will be careful not to conduct herself in such a loose or immoral way during her separateness from him that he would be filled with disgust and not be eager, yes, yearning, to have her back again, with no grounds for reproaching her or being suspicious of her. The like rule applies, in turn, to the husband who leaves his wife without legal divorce.
32. What higher thing should separated Christian couples remember that they represent, and hence from what course should they refrain?
32 In this respect, both separated mates should remember that they represent something higher, grander and more important than their marriage union. This thing is the Christian congregation with which they are associated and in which they are obligated to be active ministers of God’s Word. Hence they ought to shrink back aghast from any course that would furnish basis for the mud of reproach and reviling to be slung at God’s honorable organization.
33, 34. (a) Where a couple are unequally yoked religiously, must the believer leave the unbeliever? (b) What must the believer remember as to the effect of his accepting the truth and dedicating himself?
33 However, what about where a couple are in an unequal yoke religiously, where one is a dedicated, baptized believer, an ordained minister of Jehovah God, and the other is an unbeliever toward the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses because of being an atheist or holding some other religious profession? Such religious inequality could ordinarily be expected to produce discord.
34 In the pursuit of peace, must the believer leave the unbeliever? Not necessarily. Neither is the believer automatically free to abandon the unbeliever. We must keep in mind that when one adopts the truth and becomes a believer by dedicating oneself to God and getting baptized, this does not annul or break the previous marriage bond. One’s believing and adopting the Kingdom truth may cause a division in the home, just as Jesus Christ foretold in Matthew 10:34-36. But that does not mean breaking up the marriage. Jesus is no marriage wrecker. The wise and optimistic way to handle an unequal yoke is set out for the believer by Paul:
35. What wise and optimistic way does Paul set out for handling the case of an unequal yoke?
35 “To the others [other married people] I say, yes, I, not the Lord: 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.
36. Because of the effect of the truth upon the marriage mate, what should the unbeliever rather want to do?
36 Except as regards his religion or belief, a dedicated, baptized worshiper of God should give his unbelieving wife no occasion for wanting to depart from him. Because of the bettering effect of her husband’s belief upon him, she should see all the more reason for being agreeable to dwelling with him the same as before he became an ordained minister of God. The parallel thing should be true in the case of a believing wife and her unbelieving husband.
37. How did Timothy’s mother Eunice show respect for her pagan husband, and yet how did she discharge her religious obligation to their son?
37 Take the case of the Jewish wife Eunice and her Greek pagan husband. They had a son named Timothy. In course of time, about A.D. 44, the apostle Paul and Barnabas preached in their city, and Eunice and her mother Lois believed and became Christians. Did Eunice now leave her Greek husband because he remained pagan? No; for he was still agreeable to dwelling with her. Eunice was submissive to him; and because he objected, she even had not had their son Timothy circumcised. Whether his father took Timothy to pagan temples of worship, it is not recorded. But Timothy’s mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois saw to it that he got the Biblical religious education, for they taught him themselves at home. Thus from infancy Timothy the half-Jew knew the holy writings that were able to make him wise for salvation through faith in the Messiah. (2 Tim. 3:14, 15; 1:5; Acts 14:4-18) This home religious education of Timothy prevailed over any pagan influence of his Greek father. So when Paul came to town the first time Timothy joined his Jewish mother and grandmother in becoming a Christian. Hence Paul could speak of Timothy as “a genuine child in the faith,” “a beloved child.”—1 Tim. 1:1, 2; 2 Tim. 1:1, 2.
38. What was the attitude of Eunice toward a missionary career for Timothy, and why was first then circumcision practiced upon Timothy?
38 On Paul’s return visit to the city, he found Timothy to be a “disciple . . . well reported on by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium.” Timothy’s mother Eunice, of course, was agreeable and his pagan father did not stand in the way of a missionary career for their son; and so Paul arranged to take Timothy along with him and Silas. In order to remove a stumbling block from before Jews in that neighborhood to whom they might preach, Paul circumcised Timothy, who was now a young man; “for one and all knew that his father was a Greek.” (Acts 16:1-3) Whether Eunice, his mother, ever won her pagan Greek husband over to Christianity by continuing to dwell with him as long as it was agreeable to him, we do not know. However, shortly before his martyrdom Paul wrote Timothy a last letter and spoke of the faith that dwelt in his mother Eunice.—2 Tim. 1:5.
39. To what particular Christian women is Eunice an example, and how does the believer treat the unbelieving mate as relatively sanctified and any children as holy?
39 So Eunice is an example to those dedicated Christian believers who are married to a pagan or a person of a different religious system. The choice of the unbelieving mate to keep on dwelling with a dedicated Christian witness of Jehovah offers a splendid opportunity to the believer, namely, to try in the closest neighborhood to “save” the marriage mate. The believer therefore has to take a positive course, namely, to treat the unbelieving mate as “sanctified in relation” to the believer. That means that the believer has to do everything to the unbelieving mate as if to the Lord himself. The Lord God is a sanctified Person. (Eph. 6:7; Col. 3:22-24) Also, any minor, dependent children to the marriage are now to be considered as “holy” and hence to be treated as clean. The believer will follow Eunice’s example and endeavor to give such “holy” children Bible instruction, that they may continue holy and possibly at last make a personal dedication of themselves to God through Christ. Not only their salvation but also that of the unbelieving marriage mate is at stake. So it is opportune to dwell with him.
40, 41. (a) In case the unbelieving mate is hard to please, what should be the believer’s course? (b) How does Peter counsel unequally yoked Christian wives in harmony with that principle?
40 Even if the marriage mate is opposed and hard to please, the believer should not feel obliged to depart. The believer should endure the persecution and opposition, just as he puts up with the persecution and opposition in the territory to which he preaches from house to house. By this course the salvation of the unbelieving mate is possible. This is the argument of the apostle Peter in writing to persecuted Christians. Peter says:
41 “Let house servants be in subjection to their owners with the full measure of fear, not only to the good and reasonable, but also to those difficult to please. . . . if, when you are doing good and you suffer, you endure it, this is a thing agreeable with God. In fact, to this course [of suffering unjustly] you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. . . . In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands [baals, Hebrew Bible], 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 [toward your husbands]. 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 [which outward adornment will not win husbands who are not yet obedient to God’s Word], but let [your adornment] 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. For so, too, formerly the holy women who were hoping in God used to adorn themselves, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, as Sarah used to obey Abraham, calling him ‘lord’. And you [wives] have become her children, provided you keep on doing good and not fearing any cause for terror [toward your husbands].”—1 Pet. 2:18 to 3:6.