Marriage and the Wife’s Role

Is the Bible’s idea of marriage roles really archaic or is it wisdom for today too? Going all the way back to the creation of the first man and woman, God created them equal in his image. Although man and woman are equal in value and purpose, God created them to fulfill unique roles.

We will begin by talking about women’s role in marriage because Peter begins with women (1 Peter 3:1-6). Men don’t tune out here because this is just as much for you. Now, the women Peter writes to are Christian, but their husbands are not. Likely they became Christians after they married. These women are living in marriages where faith and values clash. This doesn’t make for an easy marriage. So how is a woman to live with her husband in this kind of marriage?

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” – 1 Peter 3:1-6, ESV

A woman can influence her husband most effectively by her way-of-life (vs.1-2).

Women have tremendous influence in the home and with her husband. This does not mean that she can change either of them for no one can force change upon another person. But a woman who respects her husband, even if he doesn’t love God or show her at times, will have his ear and eyes and heart. Consider the character of the wife towards her husband for it can preach the good news.

The word the Bible gives for respect is submit. Some may confuse this by thinking that the wife has lesser or inferior role and that the husband has a higher or infallible role. Women can find themselves in two extremes when it comes to submission: putting up with abuse from her husband or demanding to rule over her husband. These are dangerous misunderstandings of roles and the teaching of the Bible.

A woman’s true beauty is internal, not external.

This does not mean a woman shouldn’t buy a new dress or put on make up or be in style. What it means is that those things are secondary. The primary area of beautification is the heart (vs.3-4). An inner beauty of gentleness and faith is precious in the eyes of God and man. True beauty comes from a woman being like Christ and obeying Christ.

Internal beauty is illustrated in the Scripture by Sarah, the wife of Abraham (vs.5-6; cf. Genesis 18; 21:7). Sarah and Abraham were in their golden years. They were without children, but God promised them an heir. What was humanly impossible with God the odds were possible. After a quick laugh she trusted God (cf. Hebrews 11:11). Sarah’s actions actually called her husband to submit to God too.

A wrong idea of roles can cause tension in marriage, but God intended roles for harmony. When a husband and wife understand their God-given roles they will see true joy and harmony in their marriage. Although there is an “i” in marriage, marriage is really about a mutual living within one’s roles to serve one another.


Questions for Reflection:

  • Why does “submission” stir up so much controversy today? How is submission distorted and perverted? What is the purpose of submission in marriage? What is the goal of a wife submitting to her husband?
  • How are foolish husbands “won” by their wife’s righteousness? What kinds of things are disrespectful for a wife to do? What kinds of things are respectful to do? How does respect make a relationship better?
  • What is the difference between internal and external adornment? What is a gentle and quiet spirit? How are these characteristics viewed as countercultural today? How does a woman’s character make her beautiful? How is submission more internal than external? Where do you spend your time more: on the internal or external?
  • How is the example of Sarah and Abraham good and fitting? What would have been frightening to Sarah? How is fear subdued by obeying God or heightened by disobedience? Who are some other godly women of the OT?

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