Wise Guidance for Married Couples

“Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord. Husbands, continue loving your wives.”​—Ephesians 5:22, 25.

1. What is the correct view of marriage?

JESUS said that marriage is the yoking together by God of a man and a woman to be “one flesh.” (Matthew 19:5, 6) It involves two people with differing personalities learning to develop common interests and working together toward common goals. Marriage is a lifelong commitment, not a casual agreement that can be lightly abandoned. In many countries, divorce is not difficult to obtain, but in the eyes of a Christian, the marriage relationship is sacred. It is ended only for a very serious reason.​—Matthew 19:9.

2. (a) What help is available to married couples? (b) Why is it important to strive to make a success of marriage?

2 One marriage counselor said: “A good marriage is a process of continual change as it reflects new issues, deals with problems that arise, and uses the resources available at each stage of life.” For Christian spouses, those resources include wise counsel from the Bible, support from fellow Christians, and a close, prayerful relationship with Jehovah. A successful marriage endures, and over the years, it brings happiness and  contentment to husband and wife. More important, it brings honor to Jehovah God, the Originator of marriage.​—Genesis 2:18, 21-24; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

Imitate Jesus and His Congregation

3. (a) Summarize Paul’s counsel to married couples. (b) What fine example did Jesus set?

3 Two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul gave wise counsel to Christian couples when he wrote: “As the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.” (Ephesians 5:24, 25) What fine comparisons are expressed here! Christian wives who keep in humble submission to their husbands imitate the congregation in recognizing and observing the headship principle. Believing husbands who continue to love their wives, whether in favorable or in trying times, demonstrate that they closely follow Christ’s example of loving the congregation and caring for it.

4. How can husbands follow Jesus’ example?

4 Christian husbands are the heads of their families, but they too have a head, Jesus. (1 Corinthians 11:3) Hence, as Jesus cared for his congregation, so husbands lovingly care for their families in a spiritual and physical way, even if that takes personal sacrifice. They put the welfare of their families ahead of their own desires and preferences. Jesus said: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) That principle applies with special force in marriage. Paul showed this when he said: “Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. . . . No man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it.” (Ephesians 5:28, 29) A man should feed and cherish his wife with the same diligence that he feeds and cherishes himself.

5. How can wives imitate the Christian congregation?

5 Godly wives look to the Christian congregation as a model. When Jesus was on earth, his followers gladly abandoned their previous pursuits and followed him. After his death, they continued subject to him, and over the past nearly 2,000 years, the true Christian congregation has remained subject to Jesus and followed his leadership in all things. Christian wives similarly do not disdain their husbands or seek to downplay the Scriptural arrangement of headship in marriage. Instead, they support and are submissive to their husbands, cooperate with them, and thus encourage them. When both husband and wife act in such a loving way, their marriage will succeed and both will find joy in the relationship.

 Continue Dwelling With Them

6. What counsel did Peter give to husbands, and why is it important?

6 The apostle Peter also had counsel for married couples, and his words to husbands were especially pointed. He said: “Continue dwelling in like manner with [your wives] 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.” (1 Peter 3:7) The seriousness of Peter’s counsel is seen in the final words of that verse. If a husband fails to honor his wife, his relationship with Jehovah will be affected. His prayers will be hindered.

7. How should a husband honor his wife?

7 How, then, can husbands assign honor to their wives? To honor one’s wife means to treat her lovingly, with respect and dignity. Such kindly treatment of a wife would have seemed novel to many. A Greek scholar writes: “Under Roman law a woman had no rights. In law she remained for ever a child. . . . She was entirely subject to her husband, and completely at his mercy.” What a contrast to Christian teachings! The Christian husband honored his wife. His dealings with her were governed by Christian principles, not by personal whim. Moreover, he was considerate of her “according to knowledge,” taking into account that she was a weaker vessel.

“A Weaker Vessel” in What Way?

8, 9. In what ways are women equal to men?

8 In saying that the woman is “a weaker vessel,” Peter did not mean that women are weaker than men intellectually or spiritually. True, many Christian men have privileges in the congregation that women do not expect to have, and in the family women are subject to their husbands. (1 Corinthians 14:35; 1 Timothy 2:12) Nevertheless, the same faith, endurance, and high moral standards  are required of all, men and women. And as Peter said, both husband and wife are “heirs . . . of the undeserved favor of life.” As far as salvation is concerned, they have equal standing before Jehovah God. (Galatians 3:28) Peter was writing to anointed Christians of the first century. Hence, his words reminded Christian husbands that as “joint heirs with Christ,” they and their wives had the same heavenly hope. (Romans 8:17) One day, both would serve as priests and kings in God’s heavenly Kingdom!​—Revelation 5:10.

9 Anointed Christian wives were in no way inferior to their anointed Christian husbands. And in principle, the same is true of those with an earthly hope. Both men and women of the “great crowd” wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. Both men and women share “day and night” in the worldwide shout of praise to Jehovah. (Revelation 7:9, 10, 14, 15) Both men and women look forward to enjoying “the glorious freedom of the children of God,” when they will delight in “the real life.” (Romans 8:21; 1 Timothy 6:19) Whether of the anointed or of the other sheep, all Christians serve Jehovah together as “one flock” under “one shepherd.” (John 10:16) What a compelling reason for a Christian husband and wife to show due honor to each other!

10. In what sense are women ‘weaker vessels’?

10 In what way, then, are women ‘weaker vessels’? Perhaps Peter was referring to the fact that, on average, women are smaller and have less physical strength than men. In addition, in our imperfect state, the wonderful privilege of bearing children exacts a physical toll. Women of childbearing age may be subject to physical discomforts on a regular basis. They certainly need special care and consideration when experiencing such discomforts or enduring the exhausting trials of being pregnant and giving birth. A husband who assigns honor to his wife, recognizing the support that she needs, will contribute greatly to the success of the marriage.

In a Religiously Divided Household

11. In what sense can a marriage succeed even if husband and wife are of different religions?

11 What, though, if marriage mates have different religious views because one of them accepted Christian truth some time after they got married and the other did not? Can such a marriage succeed? The experience of many says yes. A husband and wife with different religious views can still have a successful marriage in the sense that it can be enduring and bring happiness to both. Besides, the marriage  is still valid in Jehovah’s eyes; they are still “one flesh.” Therefore, Christian spouses are counseled to stay with the unbelieving partner if that partner is agreeable. If there are children, they benefit from the faithfulness of the Christian parent.​—1 Corinthians 7:12-14.

12, 13. Following Peter’s counsel, how can Christian wives help unbelieving husbands?

12 Peter addresses kindly words of counsel to Christian women living in religiously divided households. His words can also be applied in principle by Christian husbands in the same situation. Peter writes: “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.”​—1 Peter 3:1, 2.

13 If a wife can tactfully explain her faith to her husband, that is fine. What, though, if he does not want to listen? That is his choice. Still, all is not lost, since Christian conduct also gives a powerful witness. Many husbands who at first were not interested in or who were even opposed to the faith of their wives became “rightly disposed for everlasting life” after seeing the fine conduct of their wives. (Acts 13:48) Even if a husband does not accept Christian truth, he may still be favorably impressed by the conduct of his wife, with good results for the marriage. One husband whose wife is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses admitted that he could never live up to their high standards. Still, he called himself “the happy husband of a charming wife” and warmly praised his wife and her fellow Witnesses in a letter to a newspaper.

14. How can husbands help unbelieving wives?

14 Christian husbands who have applied the principles of Peter’s words have likewise won their wives over by their conduct. Unbelieving wives have seen their husbands gain a sense of responsibility, ceasing to waste money on smoking, drinking, and gambling and no longer using abusive language. Some of those mates have met other members of the Christian congregation. They were impressed with the loving Christian brotherhood, and what they observed among the brothers drew them to Jehovah.​—John 13:34, 35.

“The Secret Person of the Heart”

15, 16. What kind of conduct by a Christian wife might win over an unbelieving husband?

15 What kind of conduct might win over a husband? Really, it is conduct that is naturally cultivated by Christian women. Peter says: “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. 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 have become her children, provided you keep on doing good and not fearing any cause for terror.”​—1 Peter 3:3-6.

16 Peter counsels a Christian woman not to rely on external appearances. Instead, let her husband discern the effect of Bible teachings on her inner person. Let him witness the new personality in operation. Perhaps he will contrast it with the old personality that his wife used to have. (Ephesians 4:22-24) He will surely find her “quiet and mild spirit” refreshing and attractive. Not only is such a spirit pleasing to a husband but it is “of great value in the eyes of God.”​—Colossians 3:12.

17. How is Sarah a fine example for Christian wives?

17 Sarah is pointed to as a model, and she is a worthy example for Christian wives  whether their husbands are believers or not. Sarah unquestionably viewed Abraham as her head. Even in her heart, she called him her “lord.” (Genesis 18:12) Yet, that did not diminish her. She was clearly a spiritually strong woman with her own firm faith in Jehovah. Indeed, she is part of the “great cloud of witnesses” whose example of faith should move us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 11:11; 12:1) It is not demeaning for a Christian wife to be like Sarah.

18. What principles should be borne in mind in a divided household?

18 In a religiously divided household, the husband is still the head. If he is the believer, he will be considerate of his wife’s beliefs while not compromising his own faith. If the wife is the believer, she too will not compromise her faith. (Acts 5:29) Still, she will not challenge her husband’s headship. She will honor his position and remain under “the law of her husband.”​—Romans 7:2.

The Bible’s Wise Guidance

19. What are some pressures that strain marriage bonds, but how can such pressures be resisted?

19 Today, many things can strain the marriage bond. Some men fail to assume their responsibilities. Some women refuse to accept the headship of their husbands. In some marriages, one spouse is abused by the other. For Christians, economic stresses, human imperfection, and the spirit of the world with its immorality and distorted sense of values can test loyalties. Still, Christian men and women who follow Bible principles, whatever their situation, receive Jehovah’s blessing. Even if only one partner in a marriage applies Bible principles, things are better than if neither did. Moreover, Jehovah loves and supports his servants who remain faithful to their marriage vows even in difficult situations. He does not forget their loyalty.​—Psalm 18:25; Hebrews 6:10; 1 Peter 3:12.

20. What counsel does Peter have for all Christians?

20 After counseling married men and women, the apostle Peter concluded with warm words of encouragement. He said: “Finally, all of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling, having brotherly affection, tenderly compassionate, humble in mind, not paying back injury for injury or reviling for reviling, but, to the contrary, bestowing a blessing, because you were called to this course, so that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8, 9) Wise counsel indeed for all, especially for married couples!

Do You Recall?

• How do Christian husbands imitate Jesus?

• How do Christian wives imitate the congregation?

• In what way can husbands honor their wives?

• What is the best course for a Christian wife whose husband is not a believer?

[Study Questions]

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A Christian husband loves and cares for his wife

A Christian wife respects and honors her husband

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Unlike Roman law, Christian teachings required a husband to honor his wife

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Both men and women of the “great crowd” look forward to everlasting life in Paradise

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Sarah viewed Abraham as her lord