Marriage is, with the exception of baptism, the most important step a brother or sister in Christ can ever take. It is an unbreakable bond, a holy covenant which is blessed by our heavenly Father Himself. In this vile, changing, illogical world, where marriage is treated with scant regard by so many, the duty of every brother and sister in Christ is to uphold the crucial principles of the Truth within married life, to show that we are seeking first the Kingdom of God by the way we deal with our fellow believers and, especially, our spouses.

In this article we will seek to examine some of the key areas where a believer’s love for the Truth can be demonstrated within a faithful marriage, and some of the challenges for any brother or sister—married or single—in these last days.

Being Equally Yoked

2 Corinthians 6:14 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

The picture is of two animals working together. If one is substantially different from the other in terms of size or strength, they would be unable to plough correctly. Clearly we are not being told that every married brother or sister should be a clone of his or her spouse; rather Paul is teaching that despite our differences, if the Truth is in our hearts, and is the basis of our marriage, we will be able to walk together successfully.

The picture of animals ploughing is an appropriate one.

Hosea 10:12 “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.”

The fallow ground represents our minds; we must seek to plough, cleansing from our hearts carnal, worldly thoughts, “the sin which doth so easily beset us”, and plant the seeds of the Truth, that they might grow and influence our lives. In any faithful marriage, this simple Bible truth should be seen at work. Two children of God can and must walk together in unity, helping, caring for and encouraging each other towards His kingdom. Two beasts, yoked together and yet pulling in different directions would be unlikely to reach the end desired by either creature. Here is an exhortation we do well to heed, how ever long we have been married.

Forgiveness

Of all the characteristics of the Father that could have been expounded when Moses was in His presence in the Mount, it was His forgiveness that was emphasised time and again:

Exodus 34:6–7 “And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin …”

This is not only a demonstration of the merciful nature of our God (given at a time when His people were truly in need of such mercy—see chapter 32), but a challenge to every believer. Do we manifest our God in this way? There are surely few better opportunities for us to do so than within a faithful marriage. There are bound to be minor disagreements as we walk the narrow way that leads to life; it is not whether these matters arise, or even how often they arise, but how we respond to such issues that will demonstrate the spiritual state of the marriage. The challenge for us all is to forgive and try to forget, as our God has done for us.

The unspeakable mercy of our Father is something we can too readily fail to appreciate. Four times in Psalm 103 we are given a demonstration of this: four separate issues, four “matters immeasurable by man” are used to portray His forgiveness. Could we also use such terminology to describe our own relationships with, and forgiveness of our brethren and sisters, and our spouses?

  • Verse 11 “… as the heaven is high above the earth”
  • Verse 12 “As far as the east is from the west”
  • Verse 13 “Like as a father pitieth his children”
  • Verse 17 “from everlasting to everlasting”.

Good and Bad Influences

‘Peer pressure’ is something many in the world  speak of, especially in relation to those at school  or college. Yet the pressure exerted by our peers—  those of a similar rank or standing to us—certainly  does not cease once we leave full time education.  Within the Truth we can influence others for good  or bad. Wives and husbands can have an immense  effect upon each other: a good influence regarding  attendance at the meeting, our care for brethren and  sisters, supporting preaching activities and teaching  the young can readily rub off. Regrettably, because  of the nature that we bear, apathy, or even outright  rebellion can also be infectious.

One of the greatest tragedies in the whole of the  Word of life describes a man who failed to cope with  the pressure exerted by his peers. Few kings were  more faithful—certainly none were wiser—than  Solomon. He reigned over a glorious, obedient,  wealthy, peaceful kingdom. He was blessed by God,  highly regarded by his servants and even respected  by rulers of the surrounding gentile nations. Yet he  fell away, through one reason alone:

1 Kings 11: 1, 4 “But king Solomon loved many  strange women, together with the daughter of  Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites,  Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites…  For it came to pass, when Solomon was old,  that his wives turned away his heart after other  gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.

The wrong choice of a wife (or wives) resulted in this great king being swayed from unflinching, faithful obedience to the very worst kinds of error. What a challenge for those considering marriage, and what a warning for any who would contemplate marriage to one not of the Truth. Nehemiah was certainly aware of the enormity of this tragedy, citing the failings of Solomon to the men of his day who had taken wives from the nations around them.

Nehemiah 13:26 “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.”

Others were swayed by their partners. Ahab was the worst king ever to reign in Israel (1 Kings 16:30); yet even he may not have been turned out of the way without his wife influencing matters, for she was the true ‘power’ behind the throne.

1Kings 21:25 “But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.”

Ahab “sold himself”. The chapter in question describes the faithfulness of Naboth who would NOT sell his vineyard, although he could have named his price. Using the terminology of our day, we might say that Naboth owned the most valuable piece of real estate in the land. Yet he would not sell: a wonderful example of one who was “steadfast, immovable”.

The degree of Ahab’s sinfulness was as a direct result of his evil, scheming, gentile wife, who “stirred him up”; literally this means “to prick, stimulate or seduce” (Strong’s). Here, then, is a challenge for every one of us: do we stir up— provoke—influence our spouses to do good works (Heb 10:24)? Do we encourage by our actions and words? Do we help each other even with the most menial tasks in the Truth? Or do we allow the things of this world to creep into our own lives, affecting our spouses as we do so?

Respect

How important it is that a faithful marriage be based upon the things of the Truth, with each spouse giving the other due love, care and respect. This is the issue outlined by the apostle Peter:

I Peter 3:1,7 “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands… Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Clearly there is an immense challenge for the brother in verse 1, and the sister in verse 7. The brother should be the kind of husband his wife can respect and obey, without compromising the standards of the Truth. The sister must be the kind of wife her husband can honour and love. In between these two verses Peter speaks of one of the most faithful marriages in the history of the world, enjoyed by one of the most important couples, Abraham and Sarah:

1 Peter 3:6 “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”

Sarah called her husband her lord. As is well known, these things were never spoken audibly. Peter records the thoughts of Sarah (Gen 18:12). It is a wonderful example for sisters today, yet also a challenge for brethren!

The danger, perhaps, in considering a couple such as this, is to concentrate on Abraham alone, of whom we know so much. Yet leaving Ur, with all its luxuries, would have been no minor issue for Sarah. Indeed, it is likely that she had more to leave behind, as some of Abraham’s family came with him (Terah, Lot); Sarah’s immediate family, as far as we know, remained behind. In due course, the doubts in her mind regarding the promise and her laughter at the notion of her bearing a son to her lord were replaced by tears of joy following the birth of Isaac. Yet in remembering the faith of Abraham, it is so easy to forget the faith of Sarah:

Hebrews 11:11 “Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.”

Sarah didn’t receive strength to conceive seed ‘because she had a faithful husband’! She was blessed because of HER faith. She changed her mind (her initial doubts had been replaced by an acceptance that what the angel had promised, her God was able to perform), and the Father enabled her to conceive. This reminds us of the hope we all share: we seek to change our minds, and one day, by grace, our bodies will be changed, for “we shall be like him”

A Type of the Master and His Bride

Surely the greatest challenge for any faithful couple is recorded in Ephesians 5. The faithful brother is called upon to represent the Lord Jesus, and the faithful sister the ecclesia.

Three times in the verses preceding the section regarding marriage (verses 22–33), the apostle Paul speaks of walking correctly:

Verse 2 “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us …”

Verse 8 “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light”

Verse 15 “See then that ye walk circumspectly [lit exactly], not as fools, but as wise.”

It is not without significance that immediately after this three-fold instruction to walk together, Paul speaks of marriage. Here is one area of our life in the Truth where we must walk in love alongside our spouses, guided by the light of the Word, and circumspectly.

The love a husband should have for his wife is then compared with two other ‘models’: he should love his wife as Christ loved the ecclesia (verse 25), and as he loves himself (verse 28).

How much does a man love himself? In-built in every one of us is a self defence mechanism: when we touch something sharp or hot we do not need to think about the next step; we are designed to care for ourselves. This is the challenge for every brother: to love, protect and sacrifice self for his wife, as the Master did for his bride.

What did Christ give for his bride? We might ask the question, what did he NOT give? He gave his all, “for the joy that was set before him”, denying himself from day to day, wrestling with the sinful nature he bore, eventually conquering it, giving himself for us (verse 2). Here is the Divine model that every brother should seek to emulate.

How great are the benefits of marriage “in the Lord”, and yet how great are the challenges and pressures. How we long and pray for the time when the trials of this life will be no more, when the Master will be here and his faithful bride will be gathered together unto him. Clearly the duty of every member—brother or sister—young or old—married or single—is to seek to uphold the high standards required of us, that we might be united in love with our heavenly bridegroom when he comes again:

Revelation 19:9 “And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.