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How to Win Your Unbelieving Spouse

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
February 14, 2022 3:00 am

How to Win Your Unbelieving Spouse

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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February 14, 2022 3:00 am

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How, then, does a Christian wife relate to her unsaved husband in such a way as to fulfill her mission? And what's her mission? What's our mission? To win people to Christ. How is she to conduct herself to win that unsaved husband to Jesus Christ? Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Irreconcilable differences. That's a phrase commonly used by people filing for divorce. Well, when you're talking about the marriage between someone who rejects Christ and one who cherishes the Savior, that really is an irreconcilable difference apart from a work of God. So the question is, is being married to a non-believer a valid reason for divorce? John MacArthur answers that question today as he continues his study titled Restoring Marriage, a series that shows you how to be a faithful spouse and have a marriage that honors God. If you have your Bible nearby, turn to 1 Peter as John begins today's lesson. In 1 Peter chapter 3, verses 1 through 7, we have the subject how to win your unsaved spouse, how to lead your partner to Christ, how to witness or give testimony to your mate. This is a very instructive passage, a very important one, one that applies to all of us directly or indirectly because we are either married to an unsaved person or we know someone who is and have the opportunity to share these truths I trust with them. We are discussing this whole matter of living in the world in such a way as to reach the world for Jesus Christ. It is important that we maintain our testimony. Now the bottom line is this, that if we are going to have an exemplary testimony in the world, the hostile world, and if we're going to be used to win people to Christ, then our lives have to be characterized by a certain basic characteristic.

What is it? Would you notice verse 13, the first word, submit. Verse 18, servants be submissive.

Chapter 3 verse 1, wives be submissive. Now what Peter says is this, you're going to be caught up in a hostile world and that hostile world will manifest itself in all social relationships, of which there are three primary ones. The government, the workplace, and the family. Those are the three. Those are the three social environments in which we live.

Now this is a very basic and essential concept. If we are to have an impact in our culture, we must submit to the social order, to the social structure, and the social patterns that God has designed. We cannot be rebels. We cannot demand our rights. We cannot feel superior to social order.

Now let me review the problem for you just briefly. A person becomes a Christian. Immediately, because they are a child of God and because they now have a higher authority, namely the Lord Jesus Christ, and because they now have a higher standard of living, the Bible, and because they are now citizens of heaven, and because there's a sense in which they've been translated out of this world, they could easily feel, first of all, superior to their society.

As a result of that, they could be indifferent to the dictates of that society. They could say, look, I belong to God. I'm a Christian. I'm a citizen of heaven. I don't belong here.

I'm a stranger and an alien, as it says back in verse 11. And I'm really not interested in paying any attention to governmental laws. I'm not interested in coming under the authority of any employer, and I'm certainly not interested in listening to some unsaved spouse or deferring to them. I live on another plane. You could feel sovereign over the law, sovereign over your employer.

You could feel sovereign over your mate, and that is the very opposite of what you ought to feel. You see, we've only been left here for one reason, and that is an evangelistic purpose. We are here to make Christ known to this society. We are here to make Christ known in the workplace. We are here to make Christ known in the family.

Those are the three environments of our existence, and the principles of conduct are given here that can lead to the most effective Christian testimony. If we want to be effective in the society in which we live, if we want to be effective in the state, then we must submit, verse 13 says, to every human institution. In other words, we must show that we are not rebels. We are not problematic. We are not superior. We are not indifferent to society's order. We are submissive.

We are model citizens. In verse 18, we are to be model employees, submissive to our masters with all respect, whether they are good and gentle or whether they are unreasonable. And now we come to this third and smallest area of social responsibility, the family. And the question is, what does a wife do when she is married to an unsaved husband? What does a husband do when he is married to an unsaved wife?

Does he feel superior? Does he lord it over her? Does he treat her with indifference because she is not a citizen of the kingdom?

And what does she do? Does she reject his authority who is a non-Christian husband because she has another authority, Christ? Does she demand her rights, both physical and spiritual, because she has now been elevated? What is the proper responsibility of each partner when married to an unbeliever? Now please notice, these verses in chapter 3 are not a discourse on male and female status. They are not a discourse on Christian marriage. This is not even a discussion of Christian marriage. This is a discussion of a mixed marriage where you have a Christian partner and a non-Christian partner.

That's the whole context here. How does a Christian live in an un-Christian society? How does a Christian live in a non-Christian place of employment?

How does a Christian live with a non-Christian partner? That's the whole context of this passage. This is a very, very important matter. Now remember, we are to live a certain way in our society.

Why? So that people will observe our lives, says verse 12, and glorify God in the day of visitation. In other words, they'll be saved. We are also to be submissive to our masters or our employers, for this will find favor with God.

How? By making gospel truth real as people can see it through our lives. And the same is true in the family. Now we begin with wives. And Peter, I want you to understand, is not biased, but he gives six verses to wives and one verse to husbands.

Now somebody might say, that's a little out of balance. But it isn't. And there's a very important reason why. And that is because when a wife became a Christian, the potential for difficulty in the marriage was much greater than when a husband became a Christian. Because a husband was already in charge anyway. And in that society, if a husband became a Christian, the wife would dutifully accept that since she had no mind of her own.

At least that she was not allowed to have one. So the potential for conflict was greatly lessened. But when a woman who was viewed as a slave or an animal and not much more became a Christian independently of her husband, the potential for conflict and embarrassment and difficulty was much greater. And that is why Peter gives much more attention to that particular problem. Becoming a Christian can pose some serious problems today.

It posed some serious problems then. A woman becomes a Christian. And all of a sudden, she feels superior to her husband. She feels like now that she knows what the Bible teaches and belongs to God, she knows so much more than he does, how can he be the leader in the family? Not only that, she keeps meeting these wonderful men at church who are fine, outstanding Christians and she becomes envious of them and she becomes indifferent to her own husband and much more attracted to other men who love Christ because she sees in that the potential for such a wonderful life. This can lead to great serious problems. In the Greek culture in which Peter lived and the people of course to whom he wrote were scattered in the Greek world, for a woman to change her religion without her husband doing it was unthinkable.

Why? Because in Peter's day, women were treated like sheep and goats. Their opinion was considered irrelevant, immaterial and unwanted. There was a basic principle called patria potestas. And what it meant was that while single and living in her father's house, a woman was under her father's power. So the woman was thought of merely as one who served the needs of the male population. But all of a sudden, a woman let's say becomes a Christian. And she understands the principle of Galatians 3.28 which says in Christ there is neither male or female, we're all one in Christ. She realizes that in Christ she has reached a level of living that her unsaved husband knows nothing about. She is free in Christ.

She has a new Lord and a new master. And it would be easy for her to treat her husband with disdain, with indifference or even with rejection. If she's not careful, he can become very distasteful to her and even repulsive.

So it was important then to realize what life must have been for a woman who became a Christian independently of her husband. The abuse could escalate. It would be immensely embarrassing to the husband because no woman ever did that independently of her husband. So he would be very embarrassed among his peers. He would be very nonplussed about this mystical relationship she had with this Jesus Christ. For her to be bold enough and brave enough to do that could put her in a position where she would suffer abuse. In the early church there were a lot of secretive meetings and some are prone to think that they were secrets not only to hide from the government but to hide from the husbands because there were many women who gave their lives to Christ. So the reason that Peter directs these six verses at women is precisely because of this potentially difficult social problem. And again I say if a man came to Christ, well the woman tacitly and at least outwardly if not inwardly would affirm Christ. She really didn't have an opinion in that culture anyway so it wasn't of great consequence. He would still be in charge. He would still be the authority. So there wouldn't be quite the difficulty. But for a woman to come to Christ was extremely problematic.

So that's the issue. How then does a Christian wife relate to her unsaved husband in such a way as to fulfill her mission and what's her mission? What's our mission? To win people to Christ. How is she to conduct herself to win that unsaved husband to Jesus Christ? Let's look at the answer here in our text. Before we see what Peter tells her to do, let's see what Peter doesn't tell her to do, right?

Number one. He doesn't tell the Christian wife, please note this, to leave her husband. He doesn't tell her that. He doesn't say, well now that you're a Christian, get out of there and find yourself a Christian man. Find somebody who thinks like you do, who loves Christ like you do. Have a happy union with that person.

Shake that husband, get out. No, he doesn't say that. And it's a good thing he doesn't say it because it would be wrong. 1 Corinthians chapter 7, do you remember this? Verse 13, a woman who has an unbelieving husband and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away.

What does that word mean in the Greek? Let her not what? Divorce him. If you have an unsaved husband, don't divorce him. Paul says that's forbidden by God. In fact, the next verse, 1 Corinthians 7, 14 says the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife. In other words, the blessing of God will spill over on that man just because God is blessing you, he'll get the benefit. You see, a non-Christian man married to a Christian woman doesn't know how fortunate he is because she's a child of God and God is pouring out blessing on her because she is so blessed and she is so enriched, he benefits. It doesn't mean he gets salvation through that means. It simply means outwardly in this life, he is blessed. This is not inward sanctification but outward grace that spills over on him because of her. So, the unsaved husband may stay and if he wants to stay, it says that that believing wife should let him stay.

That's God's plan. You say, what if he wants to leave? Same text, 1 Corinthians 7, it says if the unbelieving one leaves, verse 15, let him leave. The brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases but God has called us to peace. If he wants out, you've got to let him go. You're not in bondage. That is, the bond is broken. For verse 16, for how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?

Or husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife? In other words, the point is this, if he wants to stay, let him stay. But if he wants out because he can't tolerate your Christian testimony, let him go. And then you say, well now wait a minute, I want him to stay so he'll get saved and Paul says, but look, you'll have nothing but war in the house and that is counterproductive and you don't really know whether he'll get saved anyway. So don't try to hold that thing together if it creates confusion and chaos.

That's the point. So Peter says basically the same thing by saying nothing. He doesn't tell the woman to leave. Don't rebel, don't leave. Stay and do all you can to win that husband.

But if that husband wants out and leaves you, you're not under bondage anymore, the marriage is broken. Don't fight tooth and nail to hold it together thinking you're going to lead him to Christ in an uncomfortable, chaotic, confused, warlike environment. That's not productive. Second thing he doesn't say. He doesn't tell her to preach at him. He doesn't tell her to argue with him. He doesn't tell her to harangue about the gospel. He doesn't tell her to put Bible verses on the bottom of his beer cans. He doesn't tell her to stick evangelistic tracts under the pillow in his bed. He doesn't tell her to badger him about the gospel. He doesn't tell her to call her pastor and have the pastor come to the house some night when she knows he's home alone loaded with all his guns. Peter doesn't tell her that.

He doesn't say glue Bible verses on the refrigerator. He doesn't say anything like that. Thirdly, he doesn't tell her she is now equal to the man so she should demand her rights.

He doesn't say that either. She is equal, of course, to any other believer spiritually, but she still has a marital role to fulfill. In Christ there is neither male nor female. They are one. But in marriage there is headship and there is submission. So you say, what does he tell her?

Well, let's find out. Verse 1. In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, that is, they're unsaved, they may be one without a word by the behavior of their wives. That's the basic point. He says if you want to win that husband to Christ, if you want to do all you can, and only God knows whether that will happen, but if you want to make the maximum impact on the life of an unsaved man, then be a submissive wife.

That's it. If you want to make a maximum impact on the society in which you live, then be a model submissive citizen. If you want to make the maximum impact in your job, then be a model submissive employee.

And if you want to make a maximum impact on your unsaved husband, be a model submissive wife. It's the same principle. Same principle. Three specific duties are outlined here.

Let's look at them very briefly. Number one, submission and its intention, and that is verse 1. In the same manner, he says, or it could be translated likewise, in the same manner as who? Verse 13, the same manner as citizens submitting. Verse 18, the same manner as employees submitting. Here it says, in the same manner or likewise you wives be submissive. Hupitasso means to be in subjection, to line up under.

It's used in military contexts. Realize that you have to take your place as subordinate to the leadership and the headship of your husband. This is God's design for marriage. Women are not inferior in character. They are not inferior in intelligence. They are not inferior in virtue. They are not inferior in spirituality. They are not inferior in giftedness.

They are not inferior in any way, period. They have been simply given a role that puts them in the place of submission to a headship which is residing in their husband. Please note this. Be submissive to your own husbands, and every time in the Bible such an injunction is made, always it says your own husband. Always the possessive pronoun is there, the intensive possessive pronoun.

Be submissive to your own husband, which speaks of the intimacy and the bonding of marriage. This is God's design. That's, of course, what 1 Corinthians 11 says. Christ, of course, is the head of man. God is the head of Christ.

The man is the head of the woman. That's what Paul wrote to Timothy. I permit not women to teach, nor to be in authority, not to take authority over men.

They are to learn in all subjection. 1 Timothy 2, 11 to 14. Now, the reason for this is so that, verse 1, even if any of them are disobedient to the word.

By the way, it's a first-class conditional in the Greek, which means it's a reality. It could be translated, since they are disobedient to the word, it assumes that that is the case. And the word here, I think, means the gospel, the word of reconciliation, the word of salvation. They are basically unregenerate, disobedient to the gospel.

The issue is, submit to them anyway. Just as you submit to government, just as you submit on the job, for the sake of their salvation. Look at the end of verse 1. In order that they may be one without a word by the behavior of their wives.

Now, please note this. He is not saying they will be saved without the word. He's not saying they'll be saved without the word.

Not at all. Because back in 1 Peter 1, do you remember what he said in verse 23? You have been born again, not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is through the living and abiding word of God. Salvation comes through the word. What he is saying here is, that they may be one without a word, not the word.

They can only be one with the word. But from the wife's viewpoint, it is more important what you are than what you say. That's the whole point. They are lost because they obey not the word, but they might be saved without a word.

What do you mean by that? Without conversation, without harassment from the wife, simply by the behavior of their wives. My, what a wonderful, wonderful insight. The lovely, gracious, gentle submission of a Christian woman to her unsaved husband is the strongest evangelistic tool she has. It's not what she says, it is what she is. The woman is to submit to her husband's leadership.

That is a God-designed principle. You've been listening to John MacArthur with a practical message on how to win your unbelieving spouse. It's part of his series here on Grace To You, titled Restoring Marriage.

Along with teaching on the radio, John also serves as Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. Now, John, certainly what you're talking about in this study is primarily for believers. It's to help Christian marriages honor God. But what about marriages between unbelievers? Can those unions please God in some way? No, there's no pleasing God at all in the life of an unbeliever. And it's true, look, there are unbelievers that have good marriages. There are believers that have struggling marriages. There are non-believers that seem to be romantically fulfilled and loyal and faithful.

And they have the best from a human viewpoint. But that has nothing to do with pleasing God. Because God is not pleased by those who reject his Son. Jesus said, you'll die in your sins because you believe not on me. So whatever else you do that's good, if you don't believe in Christ, you will die in your sins because nothing you do is going to amount to pleasing God in any way that would gain you his favor. We have to understand that salvation comes through Christ and Christ alone.

And only after you have been saved and transformed can you please God in any way. Let me remind you, while we're talking about this, of the book Divine Design. We've been mentioning for a while that this book is a full-length book on marriage from the Bible's perspective. And it's free to anyone contacting us for the first time. We love to make these kinds of first-time offers because we want to hear from folks that haven't contacted us before. So if you've never contacted this ministry, you just do it now. You can write or call or email or go to the website and order a copy of Divine Design. And if you're a first-timer, we will send it to you free of charge for everybody else. Of course, a nominal price for purchasing the book. And the chapters are things like marriage as it was meant to be, the case of authority and submission, the excellent wife, the man as leader, God's high call for women.

Just everything you need to know. Again, for those of you who've never contacted us, it's free. Right, and friend, whether you're preparing for marriage or you're a newlywed or you've been married for years, John's book called Divine Design will show you exactly what God intends your marriage to be. To get your copy of Divine Design, free if it's your first time contacting us, get in touch today. The number here, 800-55-GRACE and our website Divine Design looks at how your marriage can honor the Lord and be a continual source of joy. It answers questions like, what does God expect from husbands and wives?

How can I best serve my spouse and how can I raise my kids to follow the Lord? Again, Divine Design is our gift to you if you've never contacted us before. Just call our toll-free number, 800-55-GRACE, or go to the website And while you're at the website,, make sure to take advantage of the thousands of free resources that are available there. You can read our blog, you can download any of John's sermons, or read daily devotionals and much more.

To tap into all of those resources, go to Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for starting your week with Grace To You, and make sure you're here tomorrow when John wraps up his study on restoring marriage with a look at specific actions you can take to win an unbelieving spouse to Christ. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-05 02:52:33 / 2023-06-05 03:02:31 / 10

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