4. The Role of a Woman as Wife in the Marriage Relationship

  1. Wives are the Cornerstone of Their Home: Notice in Eph 5:22-33, Col 3:18-19, and 1Pe 3:1-7 that the role of wives is mentioned before that of their husbands.  This wasn’t just because of the seeds of chivalry sown in the Christian gospel that elevated the role of women from chattel to fellow heirs with men of the grace of life, but because of the primary and essential importance of their role in the home.  As Christ is the all-important cornerstone of the household of God (Eph 2:19-22, cf. Pro 9:1), so are wives the all-important linchpin upon which is hinged the happiness of our homes.  “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” (Pro 14:1).  Notice then an important but often neglected truth about Christ as the central figure in creation between God and man, especially as seen in a marriage: not only is He an example to men as the head of His bride the Church, but He is also an example to women as the One who because of His submission to the Father (who is His Head) became the chief cornerstone of a holy and eternal temple made of living stones.  “Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also and he praises her…” (Pro 31:28).
  2. The Divine Order of Creation in Marriage: As noted in our study on the purpose of marriage, the male-female relationship of the marriage covenant teaches us about the very nature of God: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27).  As Christ “came out from” from the Father but is “one” with Him, and the Church issued forth from Christ having been born of His Spirit to be one with Him, so was woman taken out of man to be one with her husband (Gen 2:24)—not as a separate creation, but “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”, even as Christ is true God of true God, begotten and not made.  Thus, a husband and wife are “one” just as God is “one”, but they are not the same any more than the Father is the same as the Son, nor are their roles the same: Gen 2:18 says that woman was created by being taken out of man as a helper “meet” or suitable for her husband.  1Co 11:8-9 says that, “Man is not from woman, but woman from man; for indeed, man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake”.  This answers to the roles of the Father and Son in the Godhead: the Father is not from the Son, but the Son from the Father, nor does the Father exist for the Son, but the Son for the Father.  Consider too the importance of the wife’s role in the creative relationship with her husband, which answers to the Church’s role in its creative relationship with Christ and Christ’s role in His creative relationship with the Father.  Thus,..
  3. The Wife’s Role of Submission in Marriage is not a Lesser Role, but the Role of Christ.  Shall anyone then regard her role as in any way inferior or less important than that of a man?  Rather, we should consider how sinful such notions are, whether held by men in condescension of women, or by women who after the manner of the world suppose their role is less important than that of their husbands.  For how can one role be more important, or another inferior to the other, when both are essential?  See 1Co 12:12-26.  Do we deem Christ’s role in creation somehow less than that of the Father’s?  Should the Church deem its role in God’s eternal plan to be of less importance than Christ’s?  See Eph 1:18-23, 3:8-19.  How sinful must it be for anyone, whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, to deny the essential role of every person in God’s creation, including their own?
  4. The Importance and Breadth of a Wife’s Role in Marriage: Christ’s role with the Father in the creation of all things (how big and important is that?) and the Church’s role with Christ in bearing spiritual fruit (how big and important is that?) teach us about both the importance and the breadth of the wife’s role as a helpmate in her creative relationship to her husband.  The primary but by no means the only role of a Christian wife as a helper “meet” or suitable for her husband is in the home, especially as a caregiver for their children and household; Gen 2:18-24, Pro 31:13-31, 1Ti 5:9-10,14.  Christian wives are “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored” (Tit 2:4-5).  Anyone, whether man or woman, who supposes a wife’s role in the home is not as important as a man’s is deceived by the spirit of this age and in danger of being misled by that belief from God’s true eternal blessings.
  5. The Curse of Men’s and Women’s Sin Nature: Man was created as a tenant-farmer to cultivate the garden of Eden God had planted (Gen 2:8,15).  However, as a result of man’s fall into sin he was cursed in regard to the very thing for which he was created, so that now only by toil could he bear fruit because of the material and spiritual thorns and thistles that would grow up to curse what was intended to be a paradise (Gen 3:17-19).  In the same way as a result of her sin the woman was also cursed in regard to the very thing for which she was created: “I will greatly multiply your pain (the same word translated as toil in the man’s curse) and your pregnancy (or conception, being with child), in pain you shall bring forth children (now only by toil could she bear fruit); and your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16).  Before her fall into sin the woman’s greatest joy was to be found in being a helpmate to her husband under his headship and authority, especially in the bearing and raising of children, even as Christ’s greatest joy was found in His submission to the Father in the creation of all things and the redemption of our souls; see Joh 15:10-11, 17:13, Heb 12:2.  But after the fall she was cursed by her sin nature so that instead of finding joy in the traditional role for which she was created, now she would find much sorrow; instead of being content to be her husband’s helper, now she would desire to control him even as sin desired to control Cain (cf. Gen 4:7, same Hebrew word used only three times in Scripture)—with the result that even as Cain was told he must master sin, so too would man now rule over woman.  Thus what was intended to be the very best and happiest of working relationships would now be marred by the endless frictions created by the woman’s cursed nature of sin that would seek to usurp the headship and authority man has in the divine order, even as what was intended to be a perfect paradise in which man would work and bear fruit to God’s glory would now be marred by his cursed nature that would incline him to rebel against God’s commands and thus usurp the headship and authority of God over him.  It is of utmost importance for us to understand that true salvation for both men and women is being delivered from the curse of their fallen nature.  For a man this means finding contentment in the labor for which He was created to serve the Lord as a “tenant farmer” in His field, both materially here on earth and spiritually in the kingdom of God.  For a woman this means finding contentment as a help-mate to her husband and being able to say as the Church must to Christ, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me” (Song 7:10, same Hebrew word, third and last occurrence in Scripture).  It also means that because of her submission she will overcome her sorrows even as Christ did His to find an even greater joy; cf. Joh 16:20-22.
  6. In the Divine Order A Wife’s Role of Responsibility is to Her Husband: Thus in the Christian marriage relationship, the husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head of man and the Church (1Co 11:3, Eph 5:23), and God is the head of Christ.  As such, her role of responsibility is not directly to the Lord, but to her husband, whose responsibility is to the Lord.  This requires great faith on the part of a woman, but see Mat 8:5-10.  In the day of judgment, wives will be rewarded not for their submission and service as a helpmate to Christ apart from their husband, but for their submission and service as a helpmate to their husbands.  A wife’s service to the Lord is her service to her husband.
  7. In the Divine Order A Wife is Subject to Her Husband: As the Church is subject to Christ, a wife is to be subject to her husband in everything, as to the Lord Himself, for this is fitting in the Lord; Eph 5:22-24, Col 3:18.  As servants are submissive to their masters “with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable” (1Pe 2:18), “in this same way” wives are to be submissive to their own husbands “so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior”; 1Pe 3:1-2.  Her example for doing so is Christ who likewise submitted Himself to the headship of the Father, even suffering as a result, but in the end was glorified because of it; see 1Pe 2:19-23, 4:13-14; cf. Phil 2:5-11.  To avoid much potential suffering and heartache, it is for this reason that all care should be taken by a Christian woman to marry only a man who will love her as Christ loves the Church; see 1Co 7:39.
  8. Why Would a Woman Subject Herself to Suffering Under a Man?  It should cause not a little trepidation for a woman to consider marriage at all when it requires such full submission to a man who, unlike Christ, is fallen in sin.  This is again why it is critical that a Christian woman only consider marriage to a man whose fruit identifies him as a true follower of Christ.  For even a true man of God is beset by his sinful nature and can only imperfectly love her as Christ loves His Church.  Nevertheless, she will do well to remember Christ as her example, who “although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered”, and so was “made perfect” and glorified as a result (see Heb 5:8-9, 12:2, 1Pe 1:11,21, 4:13-14, 5:1,10).  She should also keep in mind that whereas her primary responsibility is to her husband for which she will give an account, his primary responsibility is to the Lord, for which he will be held to a much greater account.
  9. A Godly Wife’s Beauty is Her Humble, Quiet Spirit, Not Her Clothes or Jewelry: Rather than the humble, unpretentious nature with which she was originally created, the fallen nature of women now inclines her to draw attention to herself by worldly adornments.  On the other hand, an excellent wife is radiantly beautiful, but her adorning beauty is not the external trappings of gold or pearls or costly garments” (1Ti 2:9), but “the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1Pe 3:3-4).  The hallmark of a Christian wife’s beauty is her quietness and submission; see 1Co 14:34, 1Ti 2:11-12.  “For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord (!), and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear” (1Pe 3:5-6).
  10. A Godly Wife is Her Husband’s Most Precious Treasure: “An excellent wife, who can find?  For her worth is far above jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Pro 31:10-12).   “Happy is the husband of a good wife; the number of his days will be doubled.  A loyal wife brings joy to her husband, and he will complete his years in peace.  A good wife is a great blessing; she will be granted among the blessings of the man who fears the Lord.  Whether rich or poor, his heart is content, and at all times his face is cheerful…  A wife’s charm delights her husband, and her skill puts flesh on his bones.  A silent wife is a gift from the Lord, and nothing is so precious as her self-discipline.  A modest wife adds charm to charm, and no scales can weigh the value of her chastity.  Like the sun rising in the heights of the Lord, so is the beauty of a good wife in her well-ordered home.  Like the shining lamp on the holy lampstand (which is a type of Christ, the light of the world), so is a beautiful face on a stately figure…  A wife honoring her husband will seem wise to all, but if she dishonors him in her pride she will be known to all as ungodly.  Happy is the husband of a good wife; for the number of his years will be doubled.  (Sirach 26:1-4,13-17,26, NRS).

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One thought on “4. The Role of a Woman as Wife in the Marriage Relationship

  1. A Wife’s Beauty is Her Humble, Quiet Spirit, Not Her Clothes or Jewelry: Rather than the humble, unpretentious nature with which she was originally created, the fallen nature of women now inclines her to draw attention to herself by worldly adornments.

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