The Role of the Wife in the Marriage

The biblical definition of the roles of husband and wife has been rejected as outdated and archaic in today’s “liberated and enlightened” society.

In the name of equality, we have blurred the lines and removed the wonderful distinction between man and woman. We have offered substitutes for the family, from unmarried couples living together to homosexuals trying to adopt children. We have dissolved our marriages and broken apart our families at a record rate, reassuring ourselves with how resilient our children are, and how they will bounce back. After all, our society tells us that all that matters is your personal happiness and fulfillment. It does not matter how your actions affect others—as long as you are true to yourself.

But we haven’t found that elusive happiness we have been seeking outside of God’s order. This new view of marriage has not been successful. Our children have not bounced back as we hoped.

The question we must answer is this: Are we going to let secular culture dictate how we view marriage, or will we follow God’s design?

Far too many people, even in the church, have bought into today’s selfish, narcissistic mind-set. Such thinking will only bring personal and marital misery. We need to return to God’s blueprint for the family. It is time that we start thinking and acting biblically, even if it means going against the grain of much of today’s popular thinking. In understanding God’s design for the wife in the Christian marriage, it is important that we understand the internal struggle that makes following God’s principles so difficult—a struggle that dates back to the Garden of Eden.

The Source of Struggle: A Woman’s Desire for Headship

After the fall of Adam and Eve, God told Eve, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16b).

In essence, God was saying, Things will be different now, Eve. You are going to have a bend in your nature, as will Adam, that is a direct result of the curse of sin. That bend, in a word, is selfishness.

As mentioned before, the word for “desire” in this verse means “to compel, impel, urge, or seek control over.” God was telling Eve she would have a sinful and selfish desire to seek control over Adam, to usurp the place of man’s headship. When God told Eve that Adam would rule over her, He meant that man would seek to dominate and control the woman.

With the fall and its curse came the distortion of woman’s proper submissiveness and man’s proper authority. As a result, women have a sinful inclination to usurp man’s authority, and men have a sinful inclination put women under their feet. This was not part of God’s original design for man and woman.

The Secret of Success: God’s Blueprint for a Successful Marriage

God’s step-by-step plan for a successful marriage is given in Ephesians 5:18–33.

  1. Be filled with God’s Spirit. The first step in following God’s design for married couples is to be filled by the Spirit. To attempt to do what God is telling you to do without the Holy Spirit’s help is impossible. The calling of God is the enabling of God.
  2. Before a word is said about wives submitting to their husbands, both spouses are commanded to “submit to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). The word used for submit means “to get in order under something.” In a military sense, it means to rank beneath, to rank under.
  3. Wives must submit to the husband’s loving leadership. Though Paul starts out with ladies first, in the roles and responsibilities of the marriage partners, it is clear that the wife’s submissiveness can and will be a response to the husband’s godly and loving leadership.

A husband is not to treat his wife as a servant or a child, but as an equal for whom God has given him the responsibility to care and provide for, to love and to protect.

We are all submitting at some point. Wives are called to submit to the loving leadership for their husbands, and husbands are to bow to the needs of their wives. The issue is not superiority or inferiority. It is about sacrifice. It is about your mate. Most importantly, it is about obedience to God!

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