The Wife’s Role: If there is one aspect of marriage that is often turned upside-down in today’s culture, it’s the roles of husbands and wives. If there’s one issue that is usually part and parcel of marriage conflict, it’s the roles of husbands and wives. If there is one subject that is most often misunderstood, it’s this one.
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Marriage: Made in Heaven? “The Wife’s Role”
Over the last few weeks we’ve talked about the key components of marriage that God laid out in Genesis 2.24: leaving, cleaving, and weaving. Last week we focused on how to weave our lives into the one-flesh relationship God’s wants us to have.
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Wives are to submit to the leadership of their husbands, according to verse 24, “in everything.” There is one exception and we’ll talk about that in a minute, but the commandment is plain.
For many of you reading this, that statement is not a surprise. It’s “old news,” if you will. You’ve heard it taught many times and you’re seeking to live it out. You, probably, even accept it as a good thing.
But for our culture as a whole, “them’s fightin’ words”!
Besides hundreds of hours of counseling, my husband and I taught our church’s “Preparing for Marriage” course for many years. I’ve seen so many prospective wives start the class excited to be there, until this subject rolled around. The more outspoken ones challenged the idea.
If you’ve ever talked to a new Christian or an unbeliever about submission, you’ve likely heard many of the same arguments:
“I believe in mutual submission.”
“That was for a different culture.”
“This isn’t the first century!”
“Paul wrote that and he was not even married (or a woman hater)!”
“Men wrote that and were just trying to keep women down.”
“You can’t take the Bible literally.”
“We’re not going to have THAT kind of marriage!”
“We talk about everything and decide together.”
You can probably come up with a few more. Some just reject it out of hand without even trying to understand what the Bible says.
There is mutual submission (Eph. 5.21). All of us are prefer others as more important to ourselves (Phil. 2.3-4). We’re to die to our own selfish desires (Lk. 9.23-24). Husbands are to be willing to die for their wives, not just literally, but in how they live out the command to love their wives as Christ does the church (Eph. 5.25). Wives are to die to their selfish desires to have things their way. Even parents must learn to die to self as they choose to do things for the good of the family as a whole and their children, in particular.
But just as Ephesians 5.25 has a specific command to husbands (more about that in the weeks to come), verses 22-24 above have a specific command for wives.
Not the Word of Paul, the Word of God
Paul may have penned the book of Ephesians and other passages about marriage, but he was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3.16).
20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1.20-21).
And in 1 Timothy 2, he reminds us:
13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
Paul was referring to the Genesis account where God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him” (Gen. 2.18 NLT).
We were created to be companions to our husbands and to be their helpers. They were not created for us, but we were created for them. Paul was not writing to a particular culture, but referencing God’s order of creation and His purposes.
If you have any doubts about Paul love and admiration for women, you might do a little study of Paul’s epistles and see how many women he commended (Rom. 16.1-15). It’s a study for another post, but Paul was, in fact, a great elevator of women.
A Helper Comparable
We need to remember that God said it was not good that man should be alone. His creation of a helper was His solution to Adam’s deficiency.
The Hebrew term for helper is the word ‘ezer. This is not a negative term. In fact, God uses the same word to describe Himself in Psalm 115.9-11:
9 O Israel, trust the Lord!
He is your helper and your shield.
10 O priests, descendants of Aaron, trust the Lord!
He is your helper and your shield.
11 All you who fear the Lord, trust the Lord!
He is your helper and your shield (NLT).
The second key word in this verse is kenegdow. It is sometimes translated “comparable” or “suitable,” but better conveyed by the New Living Translation’s phrase, “just right.” It literally means “according to the opposite of him.” In other words, she was the right match.
Eve was not created above or below Adam. She was to complement him. She was “just right” for him. The man and the woman were both created in God’s image, each for a unique purpose.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1.27).
The Effects of the Fall
The fall changed everything.
Before the fall, when God created Eve …
“At last!” the man exclaimed.
“This one is bone from my bone,
and flesh from my flesh (Gen. 2.23a NLT)!
In today’s vernacular, he might have said, “Wow, where has she been all my life!”
After the fall …
The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it” (Gen. 3.12).
And lest we think it was just man who was affected, God said this when He pronounced the curse that would result …
Then he said to the woman,
“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you” (Gen. 3.16).
You will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you, or more accurately, he will rule over you harshly.
In other words, the woman would try to take control and the man would try to keep it … and the battle was on.
We women use what we’re good at to take control, often words (nagging, criticizing) and emotions (many a man has thrown up his hands because he’s tired of tears and bad moods (Prov. 21.9, 25.24).
Men respond by either withdrawing (sometimes with another woman, sometimes by becoming passive and uninvolved) or attacking (sometimes with their fists), or ruling with an iron hand.
I’m not justifying anything, but such is the curse of sin.
The good news is that when we surrender our lives to Christ He changes us (2 Cor. 5.17) and helps us become who He designed us to be.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him (Phil. 2.13 NLT).
“But my husband’s not a Christian!”
Some of you are saying, “That’s fine for you, but my husband’s not a Christian. Surely, God doesn’t expect me to submit to him!”
¹ In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2 by observing your pure and reverent lives (1 Pet. 3.1-2 NLT).
Notice that little phrase, “In the same way …” In the same way as what? We have to look back at the previous chapter.
13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good (1 Pet. 2.13-14).
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully (1 Pet. 2.18-19).
21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.
22 He never sinned,
nor ever deceived anyone.
23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
He left his case in the hands of God,
who always judges fairly (2 Pet. 2.22-23).
In the same way that we’re to submit to the governing authorities … in the same way that slaves were to submit to their masters (even if they were harsh) … in the same way that Jesus submitted to the cross … we’re to submit to our imperfect, even unbelieving husbands.
Look at verse 21 again, He is our example. So we’re to do what He did. We’re to refrain from retaliating or seeking revenge. The New King James says, “when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten.”
Instead, “He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.”
There is an exception. Look again at Ephesians 5.22, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”
And a couple of other verses:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord … (Eph. 6.1).
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5.29).
We’re to obey those who are in authority over us, unless we’re asked to sin. This is not about preference issues, this is about what is clearly commanded in Scripture.
What does submission look like?
What does submission look like? You might be surprised. God never intended for us to be doormats or under someone’s thumb. Next week I’ll flesh this out a little more.
If any of you have a story about how you learned to apply these principles and the results, I’d love to hear about it so I can include them in future posts. You can email me at email@example.com.
“Does God favor a gender?”
I’d like to leave you with this short video answer to the question, “Does God favor a gender?” by Ravi Zacharias.
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