Spousal Roles

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. … Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:22, 25).

- Ephesians 5:22–33

We conclude our study of Christian marriage today by looking at the roles God has given to men and women within the context of marriage. Each spouse has specific duties that he or she must fulfill if the marriage is to be glorifying to God.

Today’s passage is one of the several places in the Bible where these roles are outlined. In Ephesians 5:22–24 we read that wives are to submit to their husbands as they submit to Christ. Since Christ is the head of the church, the husband is the head of his household.

That men are invested with a special leadership role within the context of the family does not in any way mean that women are somehow inferior to men. Our doctrine of the Trinity tells us that subordination and equality go together hand-in-hand. The Son of God is equal in dignity to the Father but nevertheless is in submission to Him (John 1:1; 5:19). Similarly, the wife is equal in dignity to her husband though she is called to submit to his leadership.

Such submission is not an excuse for tyranny. The task that Scripture gives to the husband is to love his wife (Eph. 5:25–28) just as Christ loves the church. He must be willing to lay his life on the line for her. He must cherish her so much that he works to help her grow even more beautiful just as Christ works to present His bride to the Father without spot or blemish (v. 27).

Loving her this much means that he will never forbid her to do anything that God commands or command her to do anything that God forbids. It also means that he will remember that she is a person and not to be run roughshod over when decisions are made. He will respect her opinion and work to compromise when necessary. Nevertheless, the two will not agree at times and in these cases the wife is called to submit insofar as she does not sin by doing so.

Let us note when one spouse fulfills his role, the other will find it less difficult to fulfill hers. The husband will more easily love the wife who respects him and the wife will more easily submit to the husband who loves her as Christ does. Let us therefore fulfill our roles so that our spouses will fulfill theirs.

Coram Deo

This passage lays heavy responsibilities on both spouses. Wives are called to submit to their husbands even though there will be times when he will not act as respectfully as he should. Husbands must love their wives even when they are not as lovable as they could be. Take some time today to reflect upon your obedience to this command. Wives, do something to show respect for your husband, and husbands, do something that shows your wife that you love her.

Passages for Further Study

Gen. 2:24
Prov. 31:10–31
1 Cor. 7:1–5; 11:3
Col 3:18–19

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