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?

How to Respond to Civil Authorities

How do you talk about political leaders with your friends? On breaks do you bash your boss with other employees? Do you pick apart your pastor after the church service? Your answers may reveal that you have issues authority.

When it comes down to it, God created authority. It is part of his design. He himself is the ultimate authority and in charge of everyone and everything. All authority comes from God, established by God, and used by God for his purposes (vs. 13-15a; cf. Romans 13:1-7). God puts people in authority over us to help us to learn and grow. The way we respond to authority can have a good affect on those ruling over us (v.15b).

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” – 1 Peter 2:13-17, ESV

While we may not agree with our president, police, pastor, or parents, we have a obligation to submit to their authority and live as servants. Servants differ from slaves in that they are free and do what they do out of humility. When we buck against earthly authority we really also buck against God’s authority. We have a higher calling to live as servants of God under his authority (vs.16-18). When we humble ourselves to God we will also honor other authorities trusting God is working through them even if they are disrespectful, unlikable, abusive, unfair or ungodly.

Our obedience to earthly authority ought to reflect our obedience to Jesus. We do not seek to get away with as much as we can with Jesus—we seek to do all that He wants and commands—even when those commands run against the grain of our comfort or abilities. An important characteristic of a follower of Jesus is submission to authority. First, to God, then to others.


Questions for Reflection:

  • How is God the ultimate authority? How does this help us to think about other authorities, even evil ones?
  • What human authorities has God put in authority over you? What is your attitude towards them?
  • What is the place for government and civil authority in the story of God? What expectations do you have for governing authorities? How are God’s people to live with our civil authorities?
  • Why is it important to guard the way we talk to or about authorities? What does this teach to people around us when we can graciously disagree and humbly submit? How does submission silence ignorance and foolishness? What is the result of doing good and submitting to authorities? When is it okay to disobey authorities?
  • How does our response to authority reflect on our faith? (see 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Proverbs 21:1) How does Peter’s challenge to submit to authorities challenge you?
  • How is God the ultimate authority? How does this text show that God is over rulers, authorities, even emperors?
  • Why is the example of a servant a fitting example of submission? How is Jesus a great example of a servant? (see Mark 10:42-45; Phil. 2:5-11) How are servants free? What are Christians free from or free to? How are you expected to use your freedom? How does God want you to serve?

walking in obedience

What emotions stir up within you when you hear the words obedience, submission, and leadership? For many these words conger up anger, skepticism, disappointment, even rebellion. We live in a culture that bucks against authority, challenges leadership, and grumbles against submission.

Yet can you imagine a world without leadership? Homes without parents leading their children. Businesses without managers overseeing production. Nations without government protecting people. Churches without pastors caring for their flock. It may be delightful for a moment, but in the end it would be chaos.

On the flip-side, leadership can be a lonely responsibility because you have to do hard things, deal with difficult people, and lead by example. A leader has a great responsibility. Leadership is not a position with special perks and privileges. In the words of Scripture, a leader “watches over your soul.” (v.17a)

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.” – Hebrews 13:17-19, ESV

The shepherd terminology in this text is crucial to understanding leadership. The Bible often calls Christians sheep. Sheep are prone to wander. Jesus was known as the Great Shepherd knows all his sheep by name and brings them to himself (John 10:1-18). Jesus even cares to bring the one lost sheep home (Luke 15:1-7).

Pastors and leaders are essentially under-shepherds of the Great Shepherd. They, like Jesus, have the job of watching and protecting their flocks from harm. It is a job they will give an account to God (v.17b). So leaders submit to Jesus as Jesus submits to his Father. By obeying our leaders and submitting to them we are helping them to do their job with joy (v.17c). For a joyful follower makes a joyful leader.

The author of Hebrews gets personal. As a leader himself he asks prayer for a clear mind and honorable life (v.18). He feels the weight of his responsibility. He knows his weaknesses. He is is okay being vulnerable. He wishes he could be on the other end of the letter with the recipients, which shows his shepherd-heartedness (v.19).

It is wonderful when leaders seek the prayer of people they lead. Prayer is a huge ministry to leaders—entrusting them to God. This is the first step of walking in obedience.


Questions for Reflection:

  • Why are leaders often under a lot of scrutiny and criticism? Why is our culture so anti-authority or submission? What is your response to leadership?
  • Why are leaders necessary for the church? How can you encourage the spiritual leaders in your life? How can you pray for your leaders?
  • How is the term shepherd a fitting term for a leader? How is the term flock a fitting term for the church? How do shepherds watch over your soul?

extreme makeover: marriage edition

Most people have seen the show Extreme Makeover. On the reality show a family in desperate need of home renovation is surprised with the opportunity it receive the needed renovations. The show usually destroys the old home and rebuilds a new one. We love the show because in the end the family has a wonderful new home.

When it comes to our real homes—marriage. There are times when an extreme makeover is needed. For whatever reason the home has become rundown over time, bad habits, or weak foundation, and you do not have the resources or know-how to fix it. Building a solid marriage can be difficult. It takes hard work to build or renovate a marriage into God’s kind of marriage. The Church in Ephesians is compared to a: body [1:22, 23], building [2:20-22], and now a bride [5:31-32]. Let’s begin by looking at the foundations of a solid marriage through the roles of each partner within the marriage relationship.

The Role of the Wife [Ephesians 5:22-24]

The primary role of the wife is submission [v.22]. Submission sounds like a dirty word. Submission is a willingness to lovingly, joyfully, and freely follow authority. Submission is not an option, but a command to lovingly, joyfully and freely follow her husband as she would follow Christ.

Is submission for wives only? No. Submission is a concept for all believers [5:21]. Everyone is summoned to submit to some kind of authority. You submit to your spouses [Ephesians 5:22], parents [6:1-4], government [Romans 13:1], church [Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:5], and ultimately God. Submission is a spiritual matter because all submission is obedience to God’s authority. Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” [John 14:15]

Why is submission a difficult command for people to obey? It is an authority issue. Your natural reaction is buck against any authority that tells you how to live. It started when Satan rebelled against God’s authority and continued in the hearts of men from the Garden of Eden until now [Romans 3:10-18]. A lack of submission originates from a desire to be king of your domain rather than letting God be King of His domain.

Headship is the motivation for submission [v.23a]. In Ephesians, headship refers to Christ [1:22; 4:15], but here it is being implied on the husband. Headship has the biblical idea of ruler or leader. Without the headship of Christ over the church the building would not have a cornerstone, and without a cornerstone would crumble. Have you heard it said, “There are too many chiefs and no Indians?” This is a common phrase to say that there are too many people demanding control, but too few willing to follow another persons lead. In Genesis 3:16, woman is cursed with the desire to rule over their husbands [cf. 4:7]. Two chiefs in a marriage can become a two-headed monster. It is a monster that needs to be slain. The church submits to Christ because she knows the benefits of being united with Him. Likewise the wife submits to the headship of her husband.

Submission to authority, especially within marriage, sometimes becomes abused. Submission does not mean the wife becomes a slave or inferior to the husband [Proverbs 31:10-31]. The Bible never commands a husband to force his wife to submit; rather the wife is commanded to make herself submissive as her husband’s helper [cf. 1 Peter 3:1; Genesis 2:18]. Since Christ is the example of headship, the husband is to be as loving and life-giving in their marriage relationship as Christ is over the church. God created men and women equally within the image of God [Genesis 1:26-27; 2:23; Galatians 3:28], but He has given them distinct roles to fulfill that are for their good and God’s glory.

Christ is the model for submission [v.23b-24]. How can a wife submit to her husband? Simply by following the example of the church’s submission to Christ: speak the truth in love [cf. 4:15; 4:25; Proverbs 9:3], point him to Christ with your actions [1 Peter 3:1-6], extend the forgiveness of Christ when he sins, and affirm his leadership.

The Role of the Husband [Ephesians 5:25-30]

The husband’s primary role is a commitment to love his wife like Christ loves His church [v.25; cf. Genesis 2:19-20; 3:20]. He is to be a lover, leader [Matthew 20] and learner [1 Peter 3:7]. He loves her enough to lead her to walk with God as He models it himself for her. As the husband seeks to humbly serve God, it is reflected in the way he loves, leads, and learns to his wife.

Why is it important for a husband to follow the example of Christ? Christ was a servant leader [Matthew 20]. He came not to be served, but to serve. He was a king that gave Himself sacrificially for His Bride. It is not that the church deserves to be given His love, but His love is an expression of His grace. He did not give 50/50 waiting for the church to love Him back. He gave it all, 100%. Husbands do not hold back from loving sacrificially to your wife.

The Bible gives many words for love: The first word is erao, which is a physical or sexual love. Erao is where you get the word erotic. It is a pleasurable love to be saved for the marriage bed only. The second word is phileo, which is an emotional love. This is the love you share with a brother or close friend. Phileo will see objects as worthy of love. Peter used this word of Jesus [John 21:20ff]. The third word for love in the Bible is agapao, which is an intellectual and volitional love. Agapao is a committed, God-like love. Jesus used this word of Peter and God uses it toward sinful mankind [John 3:16].

In relationships, these words for love have a proper order. If you start with sexual love it will be almost impossible to have true committed love because the relationship is built on physicality rather than friendship and commitment. If you begin with committed and brotherly love, it will create the best atmosphere for sexual love and additional loves grow. A husband’s Christlike love has a sanctifying effect on marriage [vs.26-27].

Why is important for a husband to view his wife’s body as part of his own? [vs.28-30] No man treats his own body in an unloving way, therefore a husband who views his wife’s body as his own will treat his wife lovingly as well. A loving husband will protect and provide for his wife as his most prized possession. A husband protects and provides for his wife is with his time, careful ear, encouragement, and appreciation for her inner and outer beauty.

Reviewing the Biblical Basis for Marriage [Ephesians 5:31-33]

Marriage is a picture of oneness [v.31]. Oneness is the miracle of marriage—when two people become one flesh [cf. Genesis 2:24]. Oneness in marriage means your spouse becomes priority above my career, friends, sinful habits, and hobby’s.

Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church [v.32]. What does Paul mean by mystery? [cf.3:9] The symbol of marriage was hidden, but is now revealed. Why is marriage a mystery? Marriage is a picture of salvation through Christ’s sacrificial relationship with the church, which is made up of both Jew and Gentile. Marriage is a typology of marriage that shows the unity of Christ [Bridegroom] with His church [Bride]. This gives marriage a divine significance.

Marriage glorifies God when the husband and wife are fulfilling their roles [v.33]. The purpose of marriage is not my happiness, fulfillment, or love, although these can be fruits of a godly marriage. Marriage is bigger than just my spouse and me, but it is about a display of Christ-like love and obedience to the world.