Husbands and Wives – Roles for Christian Couples
A Biblical Study
I have prepared this study with the hope that husbands and wives will understand and accept the role that God has set forth for each of them in His Word. The very fact that there are Biblical instructions for men and women to follow reveals that the family has been under attack from the beginning of time. Do you desire to have a family that knows the peace and joy of God? Three steps are outlined to achieve this goal in your home. Please begin in prayer and study carefully.
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7 AV)
God shares with us in His Word how He created the heavens and the earth in six days. Each day His majesty was manifested and His delight made known in that it was good. On the sixth day of creation, God’s most unique work took place. He formed man out of the dust of the ground and then did a most wonderful thing, He breathed into him the breath of life. Man was given that which no other creature or creation has – a spirit. Man is body, soul, and spirit and is able to relate to God personally.
God had created everything to follow after an order which He set forth. At the end of the fifth day He commanded that the creation should multiply after their kind. During the days of creation, God viewed His work and saw that it was good. This is mentioned five times as God created and evaluated His work.
The one exception came after man was created. God said that a man alone was not good.
“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” (Genesis 2:18 AV)
Man could worship God, rule creation, and work but he could not multiply and grow, filling the earth with mankind. Man needed a being to help him meet God’s will for life. All creatures were viewed but no creatures were suitable. No match could be found for the man among the creation because the man was unique in the creation. Remember that he has that which no other creature has, a spirit. The man needed to realize this so that he would not look for another, knowing that there is no other. God then created a help for the man, taken from the man.
“And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:21-25 AV)
God had made the man with a need that He chose not to meet Himself. He created the woman, taken from the man to complete the man. Notice two important truths from God that will help us to have the right understanding of roles in the man/woman – husband/wife relationship.
First it should be noted that the creation of the woman is often referred to as a “helpmate” instead of reading the Scripture properly as a “help meet for him.” The word means a “helper” and is translated as a help that is suitable for him. The woman was not created as a lower form of man but as an equal help to man.
Second, notice that a leader/follower relationship was definitely established at this time and is not a result of the fall. Even in a perfect environment order is needed and is set forth by God.
“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.” (1 Corinthians 11:8 AV)
“For Adam was first formed, then Eve.”
(1 Timothy 2:13 AV)
A difference in accountability reveals a difference in position or roles. Men and women both need to understand that God has set forth different roles for them from the very beginning and holds them accountable for fulfilling those roles in life. Adam needed a helper to accomplish God’s will. God provided that helper – Eve. The woman was created to complete the man, to bring him from “not good” to “very good”.
Three topics need to be studied as we look at the complications that arose in the relationship between man and woman and their relationship with God.
First we need to examine Adam and Eve’s disobedience. We need to understand the responsibility that was given to each of them. In Genesis chapter 2 man is shown to have been created first, placed in the garden, and given the commandments of God. These commands were fairly simple. He was to work in the garden of Eden, eat of the fruit of his work, and not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Being created first and given these responsibilities, it would fall to him to lead his helper in the right way, making sure that she knew the commandments of God. It is interesting to see that Satan attacked the woman, she being the one which had the second hand information and being responsible both to God and to the man.
“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3:1-6 AV)
Satan began his attack on the Word of God, subtly bringing the command into question. He asked a very simple question dealing with the truth. He questioned the righteousness of God in keeping her and Adam, using plural pronouns to include Adam but not mentioning him by name in order to bring her into the leadership position, from having that which is good for them. Eve was deceived into taking and eating the fruit. She saw that it did exactly what was claimed for it, and she offered it to her husband, Adam. Adam made a choice at this point that has had the most serious consequence of all time. He willingly yielded to his wife’s leadership and in that moment, turned from serving God to serving Satan. Up to this time, Adam had been the prince of this earth. “…and let them have dominion…over all the earth…”. He had now yielded his
title to Satan who will dominate the earth until God finally judges him.
Adam chose to follow Eve and was so accused by God as we shall see in the judgment.
Second among the complications was the judgment of the participants by God.
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:15-21 AV)
God cursed the serpent for his conspiracy in Satan’s plan. Following this judgment, God turned to the woman and pronounced her judgment. She had rebelled against God and against Adam. God’s sentence was threefold. She would have multiplied sorrow: her emotions would be fragile. She would have multiplied pain through childbirth. She would have continual conflict in her family. Her desire would be to rule over her husband and his responsibility would be to have the mastery over her desire and rule her. The sin of Adam and Eve would be illustrated in every marriage relationship until the Lord’s return.
God’s judgment upon Adam was twofold. He would have conflict with his wife and would be in conflict with the earth. The days of peace and harmony were ended and the roles in the relationship were stated clearly.
Third, the injunctions from God are stated clearly throughout His Word to teach and to remind men and women of their roles. The husband as leader/ruler and the wife as follower/helper.
The roles of the man and woman are to be distinct.
“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5 AV)
The roles of the man and woman are to manifest authority by the man and submission by the woman.
“If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth. If a woman also vow a vow unto the LORD, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth; And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand. But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the LORD shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her. And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul; And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the LORD shall forgive her.” (Numbers 30:2-8 AV)
The role of the wife is of submission to the leadership of her husband, helping him to accomplish God’s will in life.
This submission is not to be performed unwillingly but cheerfully and with joy. The fruit of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s lives is seen in this performance of roles as commanded by God.
The role of the husband in leadership also is to be accepted and carried out willingly to the praise and glory of God.
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated
his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:18-33 AV)
It has been often argued that these verses are given in a certain historical and cultural context and are not applicable to men and women today. A careful study of the following verses will show that God has given these instructions to all men and women in all ages following the fall.
The instructions to the members of the churches in Colosse are the same as those in Ephesus.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” (Colossians 3:16-19 AV)
Peter speaks to the men and women of the New Testament and refers them to the example set in the Old Testament account of Abraham and his wife, Sarah.
“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 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. 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.”(1 Peter 3:1-7 AV)
Paul speaks to an issue that came up in the church in Corinth. The women in the church were taking part in the leadership ministry. The husbands were enjoined to take the leadership and teach their wives in an orderly manner. The women were instructed to submit to this leadership.
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 AV)
It is noted then that complications have entered into the relationship between men and women. The conflicts are not limited to a certain culture or time. These complications can only be resolved by knowing, understanding, and obeying the Word of God. The roles of men and women have been clearly established by God. Rebellion by both or either against these roles will bring continual conflict in the marriage. The man and the woman will be in conflict with one another but more importantly, they will be in conflict with God – the only One able to resolve the problem in the right way.
God has set forth in His Word that He will rule the husband. A wife-ruled husband is not a right husband. It is his responsibility to turn the family to God and obedience to His Word. The responsibility falls on the husband. There are too many relationships in which the wife “allows” the husband to rule. This is not rule and it is not submission. Both must determine to fulfill their roles in life.
Husbands are seldom the ones to bring marriage problems into the counseling room. They would rather suffer in silence, considering themselves the great martyrs of marriage. After all, they are the ones that asked for it!
Wives, on the other hand, often speak out about the husbands lack of love for her or the family. The common complaint from the wife goes something like this: “I work hard all day long taking care of the children and keeping the house in good order. I make sure that my husband has his meals and that he has a comfortable home. When he does come home from work, he does not appreciate a thing that I have done. He just wants to sit and read the paper or watch the television. He expects me just to keep on working, serving the dinner, playing with the children, and let him rest until bedtime. And at bedtime…he has rested all evening and he expects me to be passionate! When I ask him to help with the children or clear the table after dinner, he says that “he has worked hard all day and needs some time”. Don’t I need some time? He obviously does not think so! I have been talking to preschoolers all day and I would like to have a nice conversation with him, but he says that he has been talking all
day, just leave him alone for a while. I am beginning to feel like leaving him alone!” As you read this, do not feel like your confidence has been betrayed. This is where many relationships are.
The husband will then be forced to speak and he will say something like this: “All she ever does is nag. I work hard all day and she does not appreciate what I go through. When I come home I am tired and just want some time to unwind, but do I get it? No! It starts as soon as I sit down and open the paper. “Can you get the dishes out? Can you help with the children? Can you help the children with their schoolwork? Can you help clean up the hall, your parents are coming over? And if I do help, it does not do any good, because she just finds something else for me to help with when the first thing is finished. If I start helping, I will never get any rest so I just sit there and she nags”
The problem is that the roles of husband and wife have been neglected. The couple should not be surprised by this conflict, after all, God warned about it when He spoke to Eve. The solution to the conflict is simple, involving three steps.
One: You (both the husband and wife) must submit to God. This submission must be willingly and with a cheerful heart. You may contend that you cannot understand why you have to submit, it is not you that has the problem. Know that every person is commanded to submit to the will of God and will be judged accordingly. God loves mankind and has given Himself that men and women may be saved. The Lord Jesus Christ shed His blood, dying on the cross to pay the price of sin in His own body. Every man and woman should thank God for His love and be thankful to God for salvation. If you have a thankful heart, rejoicing in the Lord, it will not be difficult to submit to Him.
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Colossians 3:17 AV)
Two: You must know God’s will. The Scriptures have been written out in this study to show God’s requirements of men and women. You should go over these Scriptures again and continue to study them in context to understand their meaning.
Premarital counseling is recommended to help the couple discuss their expectations of one another. The counselor can teach the principles set forth in the Bible and encourage the couple to adjust their attitudes and expectations.
If premarital counseling did not cover these areas, or if there was no counseling at all, the husband and wife still can turn their marriage into the blessing it was intended to be by knowing and obeying God’s Word.
Husbands, this is your responsibility. You are to lead the family into having a right relationship with God and with one another. You should study the life of Jesus and pattern your life after His.
Jesus came to minister, spending and giving His life for others.
“For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 AV)
Paul wrote of the Lord’s example of submission in his letter to the church at Philippi
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8 AV)
Do you see the point? You are trying to keep your life for yourself instead of giving your life for your wife. Your wife should not want you to die for her, she wants you to live for her. She is there to help you live that life unto the glory of God.
Your role is to be separated unto your wife. Remember that she is you wife and not your mother! She did not take a marriage vow to be responsible for you, she is to care for you and to help you.
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24 AV)
You are to hold your wife up in respect.
“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.” (1 Peter 3:7 AV)
You are to love and romance your wives.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” (Ephesians 5:25 AV)
“Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:3-4 AV)
You are to teach and discipline your children, not shirking this duty and leaving it to the wife. You, not your wife, not the educational system, not the government, are accountable to God for bringing up your children. Your wife is to help you, but you are the leader!
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 AV)
Men, determine to take the leadership in the home. Lead your family into the saving relationship with Jesus Christ and then lead them in life according to God’s Word. See to it that your wife has those things that are necessary to be the right kind of help to you.
Ladies, your role, or what is commonly called your career, (your chosen life’s occupation or work) is your husband. You are his helper, working together to achieve the will of God. If you have not been taught how to help your husband, then seek help from a woman that lives a life dedicated to God and His will.
“That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” (Titus 2:4-5 AV)
There is no shame in not knowing how to efficiently care for a husband, a home, or children, but it is a shame to stay in that condition. Get prepared to do the best that you can, serving the Lord in helping the husband. Make a list of the equipment that you need and discuss the value of it with your husband.
The husband and wife together should decide if the wife will concentrate all of her time with the work of the house or if she will also work from or outside of the home. Paul was invited to stay with a family in Corinth where the husband and wife were both involved in the work of making tents. The decision on this kind of arrangement must be made by the husband and wife together by seeking God’s will through prayer and study of His Word.
“After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.” (Acts 18:1-3 AV)
Three: You must obey God’s Will according to His Word.
Once you understand your role as a husband or a wife, you will be inclined to fulfill it because you desire to do the will of God.
Begin each day with prayer. This is the best time to have personal devotions. Pray and read the Bible. Spend some time meditating on what the Scripture is teaching and how it will apply to the day ahead. If you do not know how to get started, ask your pastor for a guide to reading through the Scriptures in one year. Read the Scriptures designated for each day and consider what God is saying. You may rather use a daily devotional book which presents a passage of Scripture and then a lesson to be applied in your life. Whatever you choose to do, get started and be faithful.
Develop a personal testimony of your faith in Jesus Christ through witnessing to those you have contact with, diligence in your work, and love and care for your family.
Family devotions are a good way to end each day. A time of Bible reading or lesson and prayer along with a time of thankfulness to the Lord for the day.
Obedience to One to whom you are devoted is not an unpleasant task, but is a delight. Begin now by asking God for His forgiveness for sins of the past and His guidance for the future. Ask your spouse for forgiveness and share with them your decision to fulfill the role that God has given you.
Tell your pastor of your decision and seek Biblical counsel and prayer as the need arises.
“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalms 37:4-5 AV)