By Bobby Witherington
Panama City, Florida 32405 n Ephesians 5:22-33 the apostle Paul likened the relationship that exists between Christ and the church to that which exists between the husband and the wife. And in this setting, in verse 31, the apostle said: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This, of course, does not mean that children should forget or neglect their parents. Other passages clearly teach that a person should always show honor and respect for his parents. However, the verse just cited does mean that when a person gets married, from that moment on, he must recognize a greater responsibility to his mate than to any other person on earth. Obviously, this includes a determined effort to make the marriage last until death. But a closely knit and firmly bonded family circle requires more than just a “come what may” determination to make it last.
On the one hand, for those not yet married, we suggest that if you are a Christian, and you marry a Christian, your chances for marital bliss and permanence are greatly enhanced. Surely a Christian needs the companionship of one who is of like precious faith. It has often been said that “families that pray together stay together.” However, a non-Christian is not on praying terms with God, and many non-Christian mates have been known to ridicule the faith of his or her companion and do all possible to destroy that person’s faith and faithfulness. Of course, if you happen to be a Christian who is married to a non-Christian, you are, according to 1 Corinthians 7:10, to abide with your mate. Through your good influence, according to 1 Peter 3:1, your mate may eventually be converted.
However, for Christians who plan to marry Christians, or for Christians who are married to Christians, we emphasize that marital success is not guaranteed. Being Christians does not automatically make you totally compatible. Each mate has to bend a little. Personal traits will have to be modified. True love must courageously and consistently battle against pride, self-will, selfishness, envy and jealousy. Of course, total Christ-likeness on the part of both mates would make for certain success, but not one of us is perfectly Christ-like! Yes, that includes you and me! This means that our mates, to put up with us, will have to learn patience and forgiveness. And it means that we, in order to make permanent and successful our marriage bond, will have to learn patience and forgiveness.
However, patience and forgiveness are easy, or difficult, depending upon whether or not each genuinely loves the other. In Colossians 3:14 love is called “the bond of perfection. ” In Ephesians 5:33 the husband is admonished to “so love his own wife as himself,” and the wife is told to “see that she respects her husband.” In Ephesians 5:25 the husband is told to love his wife “just as Christ also -loved the church and gave himself for it.” According to Titus 2:4 the aged women are to teach young women to “be sober” and “to love their husbands.” True love demands that one reciprocate every tender caress, cherish every gentle word, extend every kindness, and gently seek to cope with every weakness. By so doing marital happiness and success can be greatly enhanced, and in most cases, assured.
Obligations of Husbands
In 1 Peter 3:7 the apostle Peter wrote: “Likewise you husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”
In the six verses immediately prior to the Scripture just cited Peter set forth some obligations of the wife to the husband. In later studies we plan to enlarge upon some of the wife’s responsibilities. However, harmony and happiness between the husband and wife is a two-way street in which each has obligations. The verse just cited is just one among many which describes the husband’s duty to the wife.
In commenting upon this verse, we first observe that Peter said, “Likewise, you husbands, dwell with them.” He did not say “run off and leave them.” Actually the leaving that should take place in a marriage, according to Ephesians 5:31, is that which occurs when the parties of the marriage leave father and mother and become joined to each other.
Second, we observe that Peter admonished husbands to dwell with their wives “with understanding.” This includes understanding of her physical make-up. Physically she is designed to complement her husband and holds the power to require his love, which no other woman can do honorably. It includes knowledge of the fact that physically she is the “weaker vessel” and thus should not have hardships imposed on here which will break either her body or her spirit. This includes knowledge of her emotional make-up, and her nervous system which, along with her lunar biological cycle, are likely to make her nerves more delicate than his, and which is occasionally the cause of irritability. This includes the knowledge of his God-given role as “the head of the wife,” as Paul said in Ephesians 5:23, and his responsibility to provide the physical necessities of life.
Third, we observe that Peter declared that the husband should give “honor unto the wife.” The religion of Christ elevates woman to a place in society never enjoyed by heathen women, nor even the women of Israel. It lifts her to her husband’s side. She is to be honored as an equal heir with her husband of the grace of life.
And, fourth, we see why the husband must so treat his wife; it is that they might be “heirs together of the grace of life” and that their prayers may not be hindered. To be “heirs together of the grace of life,” the husband cannot leave his wife. Also inferred is that life bestows grace or favor upon husbands and wives who live together and conduct themselves as God ordained. And it also infers that husbands and wives will spend time in prayer, for how could prayers never prayed be hindered? However, how can a husband and wife pray a prayer of faith if they live in an atmosphere of doubt, contention, jealousy, harsh words, bickering, immorality, and vengeful acts?
Most husbands who complain of too little attention from their wives are guilty of not obeying these instructions given by Peter, an inspired apostle. Before we complain about our mate’s inattention and lack of appreciation we should first analyze ourselves to determine if we are falling short of our mate’s inattention and lack of appreciation we should first analyze ourselves to determine if we are falling short of our responsibilities.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 18, pp. 552-553
September 19, 1991