Rocking the Roles-Part 3: Wives

by John Meador

In Rocking the Roles–Part 2 we discussed at length the husband's role in marriage. Now we ask, what is a wife's role in marriage? Ephesians 5:22 says, "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the churchas the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything."

The wife's role is to be the loving helper that supports her husband and family. Where do we get the word "helper?" From the very beginning: Genesis 2:20 says, " for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the manthen He took one of his ribsand the Lord God fashioned the rib into a woman, which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man 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.'"

So God's original design was that woman would be a loving and supporting helper to man's role. How does she do that? Ephesians 5 teaches us how a wife should respond to her husband's leadership. It tells us what she does to support him, what she does to be a helper, what she does to fulfill her role.

Let's clarify it. She responds to her husband's headship by being "subject." The word in Greek is hupotsso\, which means to arrange oneself under. Walk with me through these verses very carefully. Verse 18 talks about what it means to be filled with the Spirit of God. Verses 19-21 are direct impacts of being filled with the Spirit of God. Verse 21 says, "And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." Spirit-filled persons, men or women, are to be subject to those that God has put over them. They willingly arrange themselves under whomever God has put over them. That means men and women arrange themselves under the authority of government. We likewise arrange ourselves under spiritual leadership. As children we arrange ourselves under our mothers and fathers. The practical application for wives is they arrange themselves under their husbands, in the same way they arranged themselves under parents when they were younger, as to the Lord. This verb, hupotsso\, is always used in the middle voice. It means we are not forced to submit, but we willingly volunteer to be subject under all those in authority.

The woman is given the challenging role of self-restraint, of disciplining herself, in order to follow through in her commitment to God. In both verses 21 and 24 you find: "But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything." Wives respond to their husbands' headship by voluntarily coming under it.

Ladies, if I could give you three words that would help you they would be: LET HIM LEAD. Don't take the reins. Don't try to manipulate his leadership. Let him lead. There will be times when he fails, but let the man lead—because as you let the man lead, you find yourself in God's order. And as you find yourself in God's order, you find yourself in the middle of what God wants to do. And when we step out from under that, we remove ourselves from what God wants to do in the life of the husband and the life of the wife.

"You may well wonder if submission implies that you will make no decisions, offer no argument, participate in no discussions" writes Martha Montgomery. "Absolutely not! What kind of helper is this? It is not only your right but it is also your responsibility to function as a partner in this partnership. Every Christian husband should consult his wife as his close advisor. And yet, when your husband leads, you need to follow. That is submission."

What does she do to support her husband in his leadership role? Include the little things that symbolize his leadership—letting him open the door for you, for example. This basically says, "I affirm your leadership." The order you are asked to submit to, ladies, is God's order. Man often spoils it, but it is God's request, His order.

First Corinthians 11 deals with the distinction between men and women, in marriage, culture, and the church. In Verse 3 Paul says, "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man" In the same way that you are called to be subject to your husbands, your husbands are called to be subject to God. God will hold him accountable. Husbands are to listen to God and be answerable to Him.

Look at the last phrase in 11:3: "and God is the head of Christ." Now think with me: Is Christ in any way unequal to God the Father? Absolutely not. They are co-equal, they are co-eternal, and they are co-existent. In fact, they are one: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Christ is equal in quality to the Father but willingly submitted to Him to carry out the design for making salvation available to all.

As Christ is the example for every man, He is the example for every wife as well. And just as Christ willingly submitted to God the Father, the wife is to allow the husband to be head, even though they are equal in the eyes of God. That is following God's pattern.

When we make something, we make it according to a pattern. When you make a dress, ladies, you make it according to the pattern that is laid out. And if you deviate from that pattern, it does not come out right. Part of what has happened in our culture is simply that we have deviated from the pattern God has given us, and as we deviate from it, we miss the blessing.

So why are we to submit? Because it is God's order—not man's. The woman is to respond with submission because God has divinely and sovereignly ordered that it be so. It is best.

Verse 24 tells us how a wife is to submit to her husband: "as the church is subject to Christ." The only way to submit to Christ is to know who He is, study His Word, get to know His heart through prayer, and listen when He speaks. Wives, the only way that you can possibly submit to your husband is to know him and hear him and to listen to him and be willing to ask the questions that are required to know his heart. There is no way you can really follow his heart or respond to his leadership unless you hear him and understand him.

You ask, "What if my husband doesn't lead very well? Or doesn't lead at all?" The Apostle Peter answers these questions: "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a wordas they observe your chaste and respectful behavior" (1 Pet. 3:1-2).

Then he adds: "And let not your adornment be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses. But let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God." Then the apostle puts this in historical context: "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. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear" (vv. 5-6).

So, How does a spiritual woman respond? One way, Peter says, would be to respond to him with pure motives without manipulation: "As they observe your chaste and respectful behavior" (v. 2). If the wife is trying to get her way, trying to get him to do what she wants him to do, he will grow resentful. He will not move forward with leadership. It is important the wife have pure motives, free from manipulation.

Ask yourself, as you respond to his leadership or lack of it, am I motivated by wanting Christ exalted and wanting my husband built up in the Lord? Am I doing it right or am I simply trying to get my way?

Paul summarizes Ephesians 5 in verse 33: "Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband." "Respect" is a key issue. What God is doing here is speaking to the core need of each individual. To the same degree that a wife desires to hear, "I love you," the husband needs and desires to hear, "I respect you, I admire you, I am grateful for you."

Time and time again I have heard distraught husbands saying, "I get respect everywhere but at home." Now maybe he didn't deserve that respect, but Scripture does not say, "Respect him only if he deserves it." It says that if he is disobedient to the Word, the wife should respond with chaste and respectful behavior. Ladies, it is a need your husband has, just like it is a need that you have to hear, "I love you." So learn to respect him, not ridicule him, especially in public or with others.    

Solomon, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote in Proverbs 21:9: "It is better to live in the corner of a roof, than in a house shared with a contentious woman." And again in verse 19, "It is better to live in a desert land, than with a contentious and vexing woman."

I remember a man sharing with me about his marriage. After relating that his wife talks all the time about how he falls short as a husband, he said, "I would rather sit in a chair and give her a baseball bat and let her hit me than to have to listen to those words all the time." He is just saying what Proverbs says.

Now ladies, the desire of your heart is not to drive your husband away but to help him change to be a better husband. But you cannot change him with your words. What does Scripture say women are to do? The Word says that the holy women "hoped in God" (1 Pet. 3:5).

One of the greatest lessons learned in my marriage was when my wife and I were vying for leadership. We were having a disagreement and apparently I wasn't doing the right thing and she wanted to correct me. But I remember she caught herself in mid-sentence and just walked calmly into the bedroom. I let her go; I wasn't sure what to do and wasn't sure what happened. Peeking in the door a little later, I saw she was on her knees at the bed. I thought, "Oh, great, now she is telling God, and I will have to change." That is exactly what she was doing. And that is when I began to come under conviction—when God began to spea­k to me by that chaste, respectful behavior. She won without a word because her hope was in God.

I have now been married almost 26 years and I can tell you, words do not change a person—man or woman. Actions, the right actions, change them. And the right response to a disobedient husband is to pray and hope in God.

In baseball coaching of little boys, a time comes when the boy has to stand up to the plate and let another little boy throw a baseball toward him. And some of those 10- and 11-year-old boys can throw as high as 70 m.p.h. And so you have got to convince your little boy that he is not going to die. It is hard to do that when those pitches are pretty wild sometimes. He could get hit. But the coach has to say, "We are counting on you. Stand in that batter's box. It might hurt sometimes, but when that pitch comes across, don't back away. Take your swing." Part of growing up is being willing to stand in the batter's box and take the pitch.

Sometimes, wives, you just have to say that to your husbands: "It's up to you, Big Boy. Get up to the plate and don't back away. It might hurt. It might be hard. You might be sore, afraid, but you stand up to that plate because we are counting on you. I am praying for you. I am letting you lead."

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