Published by SpeakToMeToday.com
Copyright 2017 by Billy and Rebekah Prewitt
All rights reserved. The use of short quotations or occasional page copying for personal or group study is permitted and encouraged. Other permissions will likely be granted upon request.
Unless noted, all Scripture references are taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version.
Please discover these other titles by Billy and Rebekah Prewitt:
You Can Be a Happy Wife by Rebekah Prewitt
Evidence for Speaking in Tongues: Fanning the Flames of Revival by Billy Prewitt
Eternal Security: What if John Calvin Was Wrong? by Billy Prewitt
The Baptism in the Holy Spirit by Billy Prewitt
Help! I Am a Teacher! by Billy Prewitt
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In June of 1998, with over eight thousand delegates in attendance to its 141st convention, one of the nation’s greatest protestant denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention, stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the evangelical world. They were even regarded as being “Out of step with American society and American Protestants.”1
During this convention, the denomination voted by a show of hands to alter its statement of beliefs, the Baptist Faith and Message. Now, article 18 of the beliefs states,
The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to his people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.2
This statement of the wife’s submission, spurred heated opposition from even some of the convention’s own prominent members. One of those was Robert Parham, executive director of the independent Baptist Center for Ethics in Nashville, Tennessee. “They hope to make June Cleaver the biblical model for motherhood, despite numerous biblical references to women who worked outside the home,’ said Mr. Parham, who did not attend the convention.”3 Laurie, on the other hand, made quite an insightful remark: “The statement was declared outrageous by many people, most of whom never bothered to read the entire statement.”4
The issue of the wife submitting to the husband is not only relevant in our time but has been the subject of much fiery debate over the past decades. The feminist movement has sought to redefine the role of women from its patriarchal position. Birgitta Linner writes, “In the traditional system, men are the providers of the family’s needs, and are thus superior; women are economically dependent on – and supplemental to – men. While such a system may be efficient within a family, it carries negative consequences for society.”5 Harriet Taylor, another supporter of women’s liberation, the wife of John Stuart Mill, “wrote an article which influenced England and other countries to promote the liberty and rights of women in 1851. Her Enfranchisement of Women was the germ for Mill’s famous work, The Subjection of Women, in 1869.”6 Mill’s work, not surprisingly, rendered much disparaging comments from those opposed to the women’s movement. “Reviewers of the day used such words as ‘strange,’ ‘ignoble,’ ‘mischievous,’ and ‘indecent’ to describe their reactions. The exception, as you might expect, was the women’s suffrage movement.”7
While the idea of a woman submitting to her husband has made quite a stir in recent times, the Originator of the idea did not recant His words. The Scriptures teach that the God of all creation clearly designed for the woman to be in subjection to her husband. The Apostle Paul declares, “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” (Ephesians 5:22-24 KJV).
Laurie writes, “If ever there were a concept relating to women that was unpopular today, it would be this one.”8 Sproul agrees,
This is undoubtedly one of the most unpopular verses in the Bible. It has been the target of almost unlimited criticism in our day. For penning these words, the apostle Paul has been called a male chauvinist, a misogynist, and an anti-feminist. The verse is not popular with many people who are militant for the cause of women’s liberation.9
Laurie explains, “Many people would say the ideas found in Ephesians 5 are outdated and archaic in our now-liberated society. Yes, they are old-fashioned to some, but to others, they are cutting-edge. More importantly, they work, quite simply because they are true. They are God’s order for a wife.”10 Mary Mohler, a homemaker from Kentucky who helped to write the 18th Article of the Baptist Faith and Message “said that the term ‘submit’ might not be popular, ‘but it is a biblically correct word and that’s what counts. I submit to the leadership of my husband in our home, not because it is commanded from Al Mohler, but because it is a command from almighty God to me as a Christian woman.”11 Poston says, “When a woman submits to her husband, she is actually submitting to the Lord. It is an act of worship and love for her Savior, not as one of a weakened slave.”12
Defining the proper role of the wife has unquestionably incited many heated quarrels that have caused much unrest. Married women and especially women of the Christian faith wrestle with understanding their role as a wife specifically in the areas of leaving and cleaving, submitting to their husbands’ headship, knowing what it means to be the helpmeet, understanding what behaviors are expected of them, and figuring out where they can fit in as it relates to the Church. All of these areas, however, are clearly outlined in Scripture with guiding principles that delineate the proper role and behavior of women in marriage. Unfortunately, the actual role and behavior of women has diverged significantly from the pattern outlined in Scripture. In an effort to help rectify this problem, the Christian counselor can impart wise counsel in order to help wives understand and implement the Scriptural pattern.
1. Austin Cline, “Southern Baptists and the Role of Women,” http://atheism.about.com/od/baptistssouthernbaptists/a/baptistwomen_3.htm (accessed August 10, 2011).
2. The Baptist Faith and Message, “XVIII. The Family,” http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp (accessed August 23, 2011).
3. Gustav Niebuhr, “‘Submit’ to Her Husband,” http://www.nytimes.com/1998/06/10/us/southern-baptists-declare-wife-should-submit-to-her-husband.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm (accessed August 8, 2011).
4. Greg Laurie, Handling Difficult Questions: Family Matters (Riverside, CA: Harvest, 2005), 1.
5. Birgitta Linner, “What Does Equality Between the Sexes Imply?” in The Women’s Movement: Social and Psychological Perspectives, ed. Helen Wortis, and Clara Rabinowitz (New York, NY: AMS Press, Inc., 1972), 52-53.
6. Ardis O. Higgins, Windows on Women (North Hollywood, CA: Halls of Ivy Press, 1975), 89.
7. . Susan Brownmiller, Introduction to On The Subjection of Women, by John Stuart Mill (Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1971), 6.
8. Laurie, 2
9. R. C. Sproul, The Intimate Marriage: A Practical Guide to Building a Great Marriage (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003), 42.
10. Laurie, 2.
11. Cline, “Southern Baptists and the Role of Women.”
12. Shelley Poston, “Is a Wife’s Submission to Her Husband Like Slavery?” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, http://carm.org/more-stuff/about-carm/shelley-poston (accessed August 9, 2011).
Chapter 1: Leave and Cleave
Most couples don’t think they’ve failed to leave, yet if they could see what is trailing behind them as they walk out the church, they’d see “apron strings” still tied to a man and a woman.
When a wife genuinely desires to submit to her husband some very deliberate actions must take place. One of these important actions is for the wife to relinquish her former ties. Some might want to argue that it is only the husband’s responsibility to leave and cleave but upon a careful examination of the Scriptures it is clear that the command is also for the woman. Relinquishing ties can sometimes prove to be very difficult for the wife especially since these ties can include long-time best friends and, of course, her own parents and siblings. Nonetheless, relinquishing these ties is an action that the wife must take.
The other action that the wife must take is of equal importance to the success of her marriage. She must cleave to her husband. In Matthew 19, Jesus told the Pharisees, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?”2 Cleaving requires an unwavering commitment; one that is often not exemplified in the world. If a woman wishes to have a healthy marriage, she must not only leave her past ties, but she must cleave to her present husband in spite of the uncertainties that awaits her.
Relinquishing Parental Ties
Sproul remarks, “Leaving parents means first of all a geographical departure.”3 This is exactly what the Levite’s wife in Scripture failed to do. She had no problems going back to live with her parents in Bethlehem-Judah. According to the book of Judges
there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehem-judah. And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father’s house to Bethlehem-judah, and was there four whole months. And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again having his servant with him, and a couple of asses: and she brought him into her father’s house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him (Judges 19:1-3).
In the same passage, the Scriptures continue to say that this wife’s father tried to detain her husband for at least five days, and even then still did not want the man and his wife to leave his house. The husband, however, finally decided to take charge and leave his father-in-law’s house taking his wife with him.
Sproul remarks, “Living with in-laws provokes a multitude of unnecessary tensions and sets up potential conflicts of interest.”4 Had the Levite’s wife completely surrendered herself to her husband’s care, she would not have gone back to join herself again to her family and put her husband in this kind of position. Apparently, she did not realize that her place and legal right was no longer with her parents but with her husband.
When a wife chooses to still attach herself to her family after marriage, she can cause ruinous hurts and schisms between her and her spouse. Sproul suggests, “When the husband wants his wife to do one thing and her mother wants her to do another, the wife has to choose one over the other. No matter what she decides, somebody gets hurt.”5
In a sad and recent example, a man named David shared his own painful and personal experience that resulted because his wife refused to leave and cleave. He writes,
My wife is the one in our relationship who refuses to “leave” her parents and cleave to me. She is from Arkansas (4 hours away), but moved to Louisiana to be with me when we got married. She has told me she has regretted that move every day of the 7+ years we’ve been married. She also told me when we got married that she would go “wherever I went.” She has also angrily said she wishes she had never made that comment. She clings to her family too much in my opinion. She always sides with her family over me, her husband.
It hurts very much and we have been to counseling. On three separate occasions, she has been told that she needs to distance herself from her family. This only angers her and she now refuses to go to counseling. This has been ongoing for 7+ years and her father, who is also a pastor, has told me that she will never be happy until I move her home.
I love my wife and desperately want my marriage to work, but I cannot continue on like this forever. This was not God’s design for marriage. Any suggestions would be helpful and appreciated.6
Most women who read David’s aching story might think that David has an awful wife, not realizing that they themselves might be exhibiting the same kind of behaviors in their own marriages. Leaving parents and siblings, is not a matter to be taken lightly. Brock points out, “The leave and cleave (cling) principle was so important God repeated it in three separate eras of biblical history. Moses first recorded it as part of the creation story, Jesus reiterated it in the Gospels, and Paul emphasized it again in his circular letter to the first century churches.”7 Swindoll advises, “Don’t marry until you are ready to leave.”8 This is not always easy for the wife to hear. Albeit, The King James Version renders, “Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house” (Psalm 45:10). The Contemporary Version puts it this way, “Bride of the king, listen carefully to me. Forget your own people and your father’s family.” Wives would do well if they were to understand that this was not a suggestion but a command.
The wife is a representative of the Church of Jesus Christ and symbolizes the bride of Christ. Therefore, the bride must be in subjection if she one day is going to reign with her king. Falwell asserts, “The bride must break all her relationships, separating herself forever from all that she has known since birth, and cling only to her husband, the king. At the Rapture of the Church we, as the bride of Christ, will leave behind all that we have known since birth and shall go to be with the Groom, the Lord Jesus, and live in His kingdom for ever and ever.”9
Relinquishing Friendship Ties
In addition to holding on to parents, most wives are also trying to hold on to former friends. Some feel that if they do not hold on to their friendships they will loose their identity. Psychotherapist, Lillian Rubin expresses this view when she claims that “the friendships we form separate from the couple, then, reminds us of our own identity, enabling us to retain the ‘I’ without getting lost in the ‘we.’”10 Wright, on the other hand, says, “The person whose identity is found through others often ends up with relationships that are addictive.”11 Even though, relinquishing these ties is not an area that is dealt with in most marriage counseling books, it does play a very critical part in submitting to one’s spouse. Unfortunately, some women can find this difficult to do.
One woman who has been married for ten year advises,
Don’t leave your single friends out of your new married life. You’ll be the one who loses out in the end. After the rush of being a newlywed wears off, you won’t always want to be around your husband, and you’ll want to go do fun things with just your girlfriends. Other married friends might be hard to drag out, especially once they’ve got kids. And your single friends are the ones you’ll want to turn to!12
This kind of advice not only contradicts with the principles taught in Scripture but also with the vows pledged at the altar: “Forsaking all others as long as we both shall live.”
According to the Word in the Life Study Bible,
In our day, guarantees and promises often mean nothing. Frequently the bold claims of advertisers and salespeople are more sizzle than steak. Likewise, a company’s grandiose commitments about servicing the customer can suddenly vanish after one has taken home the product. And for some, marriage vows are little more than a formality, easily discarded when a more tempting prospect comes along. Yet while many people may live by the motto that “contracts were made to be broken,” God takes a different view when it comes to the commitments we make. He expects people to fulfill their vows and promises, especially the ones made before Him (Deut. 23:21–23). As the Law pointed out, there is no sin in not making promises in the first place (23:22). But once we commit ourselves, we need to follow through. Otherwise we sin against God Himself.13
Just as the bride of Christ has to forsake the things of this world to truly follow Christ, so it is with the wife who symbolizes the Church. She must also forsake all others and subject herself to her husband. She no longer has the freedom to run around with her former friends like she did before.
Brian, a listener to Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s radio program was faced with this exact situation. He writes, “When the issue of friends comes up, it’s usually that she’s allowed to go out almost at will, with little regard for what I might have planned. . . . She says she feels like I should trust her and allow her freedom.”14 In another example, Dr. Smith shares, of a counseling session she had with a couple who struggled over the same issue. Before Ruth got married, she would spend two Saturdays out of the month with her best friend Eileen. After she got married, however, she wanted to continue the same practice. Her husband said ‘I thought it was a single-girl thing. I assumed the lunches would stop. I figured you’d hang out with me.’ Ruth on the other hand replied ‘No way. I don’t know what made you think that.’”15 In response, Meyer argues, “Love requires a sacrifice of a certain amount of personal freedom. If you promise to love someone, you will no longer be able to only please yourself. You will no longer be able to watch just what you want to watch on television, or go just where you want to go.”16
Letting go of former friends can sometimes prove to be very difficult for a wife especially if they have been her friends for a long time. Wright suggests, “Letting go of someone you love takes time and work. You need to recognize that the one you loved is no longer part of your life, and you need to grieve over the person as though he or she died.”17
The question might be asked, “Does this mean I have to give up all my friends once I get married?” The answer can be put this way: if the husband represents Christ and the wife represents the Church then the Church has some very specific responsibilities. Jesus said,
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26-33).
Relinquishing Emotional Ties
Fully disconnecting from her family and friends can be hard for a wife. Sometimes severing from family or friends by distance is not as hard as severing by emotions. Brock explains, “Leaving involves maturing to the place that one can leave the family of origin not only geographically, but emotionally. It means the freedom to establish a home and family without depending on parents to sustain it.”18 Henry insists,
She must renounce all others. Here is the law of her espousals: “Forget thy own people and thy father’s house, according to the law of marriage. Retain not the affection thou hast had for them, nor covet to return to them again; banish all such remembrance (not only of thy people that were dear to thee, but of thy father’s house that were dearer) as may incline thee to look back, as Lot’s wife to Sodom.19
Swindoll affirms, “There must be a severance. . . . The kind of marriage God originally planned requires that both bride and groom break dependent ties with original parents or guardians. That ensures that the marriage relationship begins with no competing emotions.”20
The wife has to hate all she has. Henry explains,
Every good man loves his relations; and yet, if he be a disciple of Christ, he must comparatively hate them, must love them less than Christ, as Leah is said to be hated when Rachel was better loved. Not that their persons must be in any degree hated, but our comfort and satisfaction in them must be lost and swallowed up in our love to Christ.21
Falwell confirms, “This command must be interpreted in a comparative manner. Christ meant that one must place Him above all other relationships. To be Christ’s disciple, He must be Lord. If He is not Lord of all, He may not be Lord at all!”22 So it is with wives and their friendships, their comfort and satisfaction must be lost and swallowed up in their husbands. They must sufficiently count the cost before they build the tower (their marriage). How much does it cost to have a husband? What will I have to sacrifice in order to surrender myself in marriage? Am I willing to leave my family and friends for one man? The wife who soberly pursues her marriage realizing that there are some serious costs involved will have no problems committing herself to her husband and their new life together.
Commit to Her Husband
I believe in marriage and the marriage contract, and I couldn’t live any other way. I believe in standing up and committing yourself before God, the law, and your family and friends to another person and a way of life. Anything less is playing house. I’ve always wanted to belong to somebody and to love someone who belonged to me. I always wanted someone to take care of me, someone I could take care of.
––Nancy Reagan, Nancy, 198023
In our modern world, many might use the word commitment to indicate what the Bible would term as cleave. Cleave, according to Strong’s, is defined as follows: “to join one’s self to closely.” 24 Regardless of the choice of words, the idea carries the same meaning. When a woman commits herself at the altar to her husband, she is joining herself to her husband. Howbeit, in a culture where women’s independence has become so important and dependence is often frowned upon, commitment can seem like an antiquated term.
Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world’s largest church, has said that commitment “is a word to many and a reality to a few.”25 Commenting on the absence of commitment Smith declares, “The irrefutable evidence is the divorce rate, which was around 50 percent for decades.”26 Balswick and Balswick claim, “Not only is the divorce rate higher in the United States than in any other country of the world, it is also higher than at any other time in history.”27 Tischler remarks, “With their greater economic independence, many women can now consider divorce as an option.”28 Psychologists say, “That emancipation proclamation is being heard by more spouses than ever before in the United States. Forget ‘until death do us part.’”29
In spite of this trend, Christian wives must be careful not to allow the patterns of this world’s movements to entice them. The moment a woman chooses to become a wife, she needs to commit or entrust herself to her husband regardless of how she feels. This means she is not going to have one foot in and one foot out. She is making up her mind to be with him and only him. Smith suggests, “There are too many people divorced today because they were unable to join their spouses in the present and engage fully in the task of building the future. They are bound by the page of self-stories that reads THE END before the marriage has even begun.” She recommends, “Make a commitment to start your marriage on page one.”30 The writer’s mother once made a comment that the reason she has stayed with her husband all these years was because she made a commitment to him. This simply put is an act of submission. A wife’s commitment to her husband is the bedrock for submission to really be effective.
A woman who wholeheartedly shines as an example of demonstrating such a commitment is found in Genesis. When Abraham sought a wife for his son, Isaac, he sent his servant back to his country, which was quite a distance, to secure a wife for his son. When the servant found Rebekah, her family did not want her to leave them so quickly, but Rebekah was not so inclined. She made a very deliberate and courageous decision. The Scriptures record,
Then he brought out jewels set in solid gold and silver for Rebekah, and lovely clothing; and he gave many valuable presents to her mother and brother. Then they had supper, and the servant and the men with him stayed there overnight. But early the next morning he said, “Send me back to my master!” “But we want Rebekah here at least another ten days or so!” her mother and brother exclaimed. “Then she can go.” But he pleaded, “Don’t hinder my return; the Lord has made my mission successful, and I want to report back to my master.” “Well,” they said, “we’ll call the girl and ask her what she thinks.” So they called Rebekah. “Are you willing to go with this man?” they asked her. And she replied, “Yes, I will go” (Genesis 24:53-58 TLB).
Rebekah’s willingness to submit herself for the rest of her life to a man she had never met probably would not go over very well in the western part of the world. Henry observes,
Rebekah consented, not only to go, but to go immediately. . . . Rebekah behaved herself very becomingly, when she met Isaac: understanding who he was, she alighted off her camel (v. 64), and took a veil, and covered herself (v. 65), in token of humility, modesty, and subjection. She did not reproach Isaac for not coming himself to fetch her, or, at least, to meet her a day’s journey or two, did not complain of the tediousness of her journey, or the difficulty of leaving her relations, to come into a strange place; but, having seen Providence going before her in the affair, she accommodates herself with cheerfulness to her new relation. Those that by faith are espoused to Christ, and would be presented as chaste virgins to him, must, in conformity to his example, humble themselves, as Rebekah, who alighted when she saw Isaac on foot, and must put themselves into subjection to him who is their head (Eph. 5:24), as Rebekah, signifying it by the veil she put on, 1 Co. 11:10.31
When Rebekah left her family to commit herself in marriage to Isaac, she had no assurance that she would have a happy life. Instead, she was handing over control of her life unreservedly.
In a recent article of the Ladies’ Home Journal, the question was posed to one thousand American women “What does it take for a woman to feel happy and fulfilled?” As one might expect, commitment was not on the top or even at the bottom of the list. Rather, Berland, who conducted the poll, cites, “A woman’s primary sense of fulfillment comes from being independent and having a sense of control over her own life.”32 This kind of behavior, however, is not what Jesus expected of His disciples. When Jesus called Peter to follow Him, Peter left all behind not having any idea what his future would hold with this man, Jesus. So it must be with wives. Wives must commit themselves to their husband without any reserves.
I hear the word commitment a great deal these days. When an invitation is given after a message, the question is asked, “Do you want to commit your life to Christ?” What do they mean by that? Well, let me tell you what John means by full commitment. It is to love Christ. And if you love Christ, you are going to keep His Word—you can’t help it. You want to please the person you love. You don’t want to offend; you want to please. This is the reason I send a dozen American Beauty roses to my wife occasionally. You see, the question is not “Are you committed to Christ?” The question is, “Do you love Christ?33
The Counselor’s Perspective
What practical steps can be taken that will help a wife transition into her new life with her husband? In her book, Lies at the Altar, Dr. Robin Smith shares some practical suggestions that are clearly against what the Scripture teaches concerning leaving and cleaving. She suggests that couples need to set their marriage table. This means that the wife and her husband need to get together and make a list of all the people, parents, friends, colleagues, and even pets that are significant to them, whether dead or alive. They then need to make individual tables and separately set their own table of by placing sort of like name cards around the table of where they would seat each person next to them. Once both partners, have set their own table, they need to honestly discuss the reasons why they placed that person there and how their tables differ from each other. Next, the wife and the husband need to set one table together. Drawing one gigantic rectangular shape table, they then need to place themselves at the center of the table. Over the course of a couple of weeks, they need to conjunctly place the names around their marriage table until they are both satisfied with the results.34 This system of inclusion by Smith is in direct opposition to the Scriptural design for a marriage.
Dennis Rainey, on the other hand, has a different approach. In his series, Becoming One: God’s Blueprints for Marriage, Rainey runs several tests. He believes that there are three areas in which a person can run tests to see if they have left their past behind. The first area deals with the person’s emotions. He suggests asking several questions. “Have you left your parents’ emotional control of your life? Are you still looking to them for support, for encouragement, and for their approval?” The second area involves financial dependence. Is the person looking to their parents for financial support, hoping they will bail them out? He claims that parents can sometimes try to control and manipulate their children by helping them financially. He asks, “Do they have a track record of using other things in your life to control you, manipulate you, or seek power over you? If they have, I wouldn’t accept money.” The third and final area that Rainey discusses is the area of decision-making. This area can include spiritual matters as well as getting advice from your parents. Rainey admonishes that a wife or husband can ask their parents opinion but they do not need to allow their parents opinion be the final decision. Instead, the couple needs to make the final decision. This can be better summarized in the leave and cleave test below.
Another suggestion by Rainey is for a couple to prepare their parents for their departure. He says in the days leading up to their wedding the wife and husband need to spend some time with their parents and discuss with them the decision they are about to make in committing themselves to another person. He advises,
They can begin to spend time with their parents and let them know that although they’re leaving them to establish this new union, they still are going to be their son or daughter, and they want a relationship. But they can send signals to the parents to let them know that their allegiance is switching, that they’re going to be committed to this new person that they are making a covenant with in the marriage ceremony.
In addition, Rainey encourages that couples can take a few minutes in their wedding ceremony to honor their parents and thank them for all that they have done. This will help to establish closure with the parents.
What about a couple who is already married, what can they do to help solidify the process of leaving and cleaving? Rainey shares an example of a couple, Dan and Rebecca, who wrote a tribute to honor their parents at a formal ceremony. Dan’s parents were very controlling and expected Dan to attend all the family’s functions while Rebecca had to miss hers. To help Dan’s parents come to grips with his decision to cleave to Rebecca, Dan and Rebecca went to a local trophy store and had a plaque engraved with words of affirmation. Dan used this as an opportunity to help close ties with his parents.
Rainey concludes, “I believe virtually every marital problem can be traced to a failure to leave, a failure to cleave, or a failure to really cultivate that oneness of flesh. If we really understand these blueprints in the Book of Genesis, it will help us, as a couple, have our marriage set in the right direction.”35 Wives could also apply these same principles in breaking off friendship ties.
The reason counselors like Rainey have even suggested an approach like this indicates that leaving and cleaving is not always easy. Nevertheless, wives need to make the decision that they are going to leave their past ties and cleave to their husbands regardless of how difficult it may be for one simple reason: the Lord told them to do so, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”
The Leave and Cleave Test
1. Have you left your parents’ emotional control of your life?
2. Are you still looking to them for support?
3. Are you still looking to them for encouragement?
4. Are you still looking to them for their approval?
1. Have you left your parents financially?
2. Are you hoping that they will bail you out when you are in financial trouble?
3. Do your parents have a track record of using other things in your life to control you, manipulate you, or seek power over you?
1. Are you looking to your parents for spiritual guidance?
2. Are you looking to your parents for advice?
3. Do you share the weight of your decisions with your spouse?
4. Do you and your spouse make the final decision?
1. Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine, “Leaving Your Parents to Cleave to Your Spouse,” Marriage Missions International, http://www.marriagemissions.com/leaving-your-parentsx-to-cleave-to-your-spouse/ (accessed November 9, 2011).
2. Unless noted, all Scripture is taken from the King James Version.
3. R. C. Sproul, The Intimate Marriage: A Practical Guide to Building a Great Marriage (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003), 82.
6. David, comment on “Leaving Your Parents to Cleave to Your Spouse,” Marriage Missions International Blog, comment posted July 13, 2011, http://www.marriagemissions.com/leaving-your-parentsx-to-cleave-to-your-spouse/ (accessed November 9, 2011).
7. Raymond T. Brock, Parenting the Elementary Child (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1995), 49.
8. Charles R. Swindoll, Home Improvement: The Dangers of a Disintegrating Family, HIP 3-A (audiocassette), Anaheim, CA: Insight For Living, 1996.
9. Jerry Falwell, Edward Hindson, and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), Ps 45:10.
10. Lillian B. Rubin, Just Friends: The Role of Friendship in Our Lives (New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1985), 134.
11. H. Norman Wright, Questions Women Ask in Private (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1993), 59.
12. Yadin Kaufmann and Lori Banov Kaufmann and Jamie Allen, How to Survive Your Marriage (Atlanta, GA: Hundred of Heads Books, Inc., 2005), 49.
13. Thomas Nelson, Inc., Word in Life study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), Dt. 23:21-3.
14. Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004), 174.
15. Robin L. Smith, Lies at the Altar: The Truth About Great Marriages (New York, NY: Hyperion, 2006), 79.
16. Joyce Meyer, Help Me I’m Married (Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, 2000), 184.
17. Wright, 138.
18. Brock, 49.
19. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, electronic ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), Ps 45:10.
20. Charles R. Swindoll, Getting Through the Tough Stuff: It’s Always Something (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2004), 80-1.
21. Henry, Lk 14:26-35.
22. Falwell, Hindson, and Kroll, eds., Lk 14:26.
23. Gorton Carrruth and Eugene Ehrlich, American Quotations (Avenel, NJ: Wings Books, 1992), 373.
24. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1995), 4347.
25. Paul Yonggi Cho. Solving Life’s Problems (Plainfield, NJ: Bridge Logos International, 1980), 74.
26. Smith, 147.
27. Jack O. Balswick and Judith K. Balswick, The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contemporary Home (1991; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1994), 260.
28. Henry L. Tischler, Introduction to Sociology (Toronto, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2004), 313.
29. Denise Foley and Eileen Nechas, eds., Women’s Encyclopedia of Health & Emotional Healing: Top Women Doctors Share Their Unique Self-Help Advice on Your Body, Your Feelings and Your Life (Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1993), 146.
30. Smith, 66.
31. Henry, Gn 24:54-61.
32. Michael J. Berland, “What Does it Take for a Woman to Feel Happy and Fulfilled?” Ladies’ Home Journal, July 2011, 88.
33. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 1 Jn 2:6.
34. Smith, 81-3.
35. Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine, “Leaving Your Parents to Cleave to Your Spouse.”
Chapter 2: Headship
Wives often find themselves submitting to an employer, a minister, parents, and even an older brother or male colleague without throwing up much of a quarrel. When it comes to submitting themselves to the headship of their husbands, however, they often repudiate the idea. Nevertheless, the Apostle Paul uses the term “submit.” He writes, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). Therefore, regardless of how a wife may feel about her husband, the apostle has given her a clear directive. This directive to submit, however, does not have to be arduous to the wife if she has a proper understanding of what it means to submit to the headship of her husband.
The Greek word that is translated as “submit” is “hupŏtasso” Hupŏtasso means to subordinate.1 According to Stedman it “literally means ‘to stand under,’ to take a position under the leadership of your husbands.”2 Falwell notes, “The word submit is an old military figure to line up under and means to subject yourselves in line in a specialized way.”3 When wives come into the covenant of marriage, they are coming under subordination to their husbands. Criswell explains,
When a woman chooses to marry, she accepts the responsibility of voluntarily ‘lining up under’ her own husband, not because the husband is superior ontologically, intellectually, physically, or spiritually but because he is given by God the assignment for headship. This is the same way every believer is to submit himself to Jesus Christ, ‘lining up under’ His lordship, even as Jesus subjected Himself to the Father.4
The Apostle Paul writes, “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” (Ephesians 5:23). He also declares in his first letter to the Corinthians, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). It seems to be apparent that Paul is presenting levels of subordination and in this presentation the husband is specifically over the wife.
According to Falwell, “The head of the woman is the man. This constitutes the fundamental order in the race in the sense that the head of Christ is God. It is important here to note that the concept of headship does not connote qualitative or essential difference. It connotes a functional subordination.”5 This kind of functional subordination is not unusual.
Today, even in the world of business, many organizations implement this kind functional design. To illustrate how an organization is set up, companies will often use what is called an organization chart. The organization chart is “the reporting structure and division of labor in an organization.”6 In this hierarchy design, the chief executive officer (CEO) “is the primary strategic manager of the firm and has authority over everyone else.”7 It is this kind of similar design that the Scripture is speaking of in 1 Corinthians 11:3, when it describes the headship of man in relation to God.
In this hierarchy, the man is the head of the woman, Christ is the head of man, and God is the head of Christ. This hierarchal and functional design is the order that the wife needs to submit herself under. The Scripture clearly shows a chain of command of who submits to whom. From the business world perspective, Hellriegel and Slocum cites, “The chain of command refers to the hierarchical arrangement of authority and responsibility. They flow in a clear, unbroken vertical line from the highest executive to the lowest employee.”8 Even though the chain of command is clearly stated in Scripture, this type of hierarchy position, as it relates to the home, has often been viciously challenged.
Egalitarian View as Opposed to Male Headship
Many people have argued in various ways for the egalitarian view, that both the husband and the wife should equally submit to each other and have equal authority. Balswick and Balswick claims,
Until very recent times, authority in marriage has exclusively meant male headship. Christians and non-Christians alike have adhered to the idea that the husband is to be the head of the home, whereas the wife is expected to submit to her husband. Now, however, there are both an emphasis on mutual submission and a focus on the servanthood role of the husband, who is directed to love, serve, and submit to his wife just as Christ gave his life for the church.9
The people who hold this view of mutual submission also believe that the hierarchy design should be abolished. Instead, they would rather a bi-lateral design where the husband and wife are both in equal authority and God is their head.
Wendy Francisco, the wife of the popular singer and song writer, Don Francisco claims,
We believe in equality of men and women in both marriage and ministry. Widespread misunderstandings and mistranslations resulting in gender hierarchy are damaging to people, marriages, and to the Body at large. . . . Gender hierarchy in both marriage and ministry is a form of spiritual abuse. . . . We’ll look at Ephesians 5, to highlight how Scripture is mistranslated and incorrectly taught when it comes to this subject. It’s AMAZING to discover what this passage really says! . . . Ephesians is not a letter written to Western marriages! It is a letter written to Christians who were living in a culture where marriage was a type of slavery. . . . Paul was not intending to set up gender hierarchy in marriage in these passages any more than he was endorsing slavery by encouraging slaves to submit to their masters. He was simply referring to the slavery and male headship that was already a part of their secular culture. If you really want to understand the truths in this passage, it is crucial to take into account the extreme cultural situation that Paul was addressing. Women were on a level with children, perhaps lower. They had no rights and no voice. Look at middle eastern cultures and women today to get an idea of what Paul was dealing with.10
Reverend Pat Campbell disagrees. He argues,
This is refuted by Paul’s appeal to the creation order of God as the basis for husband-wife relationship (Ephesians 5:31, Genesis 2:24). When Paul writes in I Corinthians that the man is the head of the woman, he also refers to the creation order as the basis for this position (I Corinthians 11:7-10). Those who appeal to slavery as evidence that headship of men and submission of wives is culturally determined and not a permanent principle fail to read the text carefully and theologically. If the text from Ephesians 5:22 to 6:9 is all culturally determined and not a pattern for today, the implication follows that children are no longer expected to obey and honor their parents. This would not only be disastrous to the family, it is certainly not what God intended.11
R. C. Sproul agrees with Campbell’s view. He states,
When Paul calls the woman to be in subjection to her husband, he roots his argument in creation. He does not appeal to the status of women in the first-century world. He does not seek to perpetuate a concept of the inferiority of women found in the distorted cultures of ancient Greece or Rome. He is dealing with the role of woman as it is established in creation, maintained in the Old Covenant, and reaffirmed in the New Covenant. To see Paul merely echoing his culture at this point is to do violence to the text and gross insult to the apostle.12
Those who argue for mutual submission often refer to Ephesians 5:21 “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” and Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” to support their view. Even well meaning Christians seem to be grappling with the issue of who should submit to whom and drawing upon the conclusion of Ephesians 5:21 for their basis of mutual submission. As an example, Balswick and Balswick suggest, “The wife should submit to the husband, who in turn is to submit to God. This chain-of-command view, popular in many conservative Christian circles, often fails to focus on the New Testament teaching of mutual loving, serving, and forgiving. Ephesians 5:21, is crucial in this connection. It sets the foundation for the verses that follow.”13
Eggerichs does not agree. He argues, “The idea behind mutual submission in this sense is that the wife does not owe submission of any unique kind to her husband. But if this is true, it is hard to explain Ephesisans 5:22, where wives are clearly told to ‘submit to your husbands as to the Lord.’”14 Balswick and Balswick continue, however, by explaining, “The democratic-exchange model, which has emerged in recent years, is based less on the notion of ascribed power than on the assumptions that power resides in the family unit as a whole. The notion that power resides in one individual on the basis of his position is rejected.”15
Barbara Collins agrees with Balswick and Balswick. She states, “Submission between husbands and wives is to be mutual, the same that was given to all Christians in v. 21. As Susan Hyatt writes in her book, In The Spirit We’re Equal, ‘unilateral obedience and subjugation of the wife to the husband is not a biblical doctrine.’”16 She continues, “Man and woman are equals and complement one another. They are equal in person as well as in position and are equally responsible.”17 Sproul, however, calls this a myth. He argues, “No one has a 50-50 marriage, and no one ever will. A 50-50 marriage does not exist, because it can’t exist. . . . In reality, a marriage of equal distribution of authority is a marriage without leadership. Fifty-fifty authority in the final analysis means no authority.”18
Collins, further argues,
God never intended for the man to be superior to the woman and rule over her when He created them, nor did He intend it in the new creation. (Galatians 3:28). Because man and woman were created equal, woman is not inferior to man. God created male and female as one. Nowhere in the creation account do we see man ruling over woman, and woman functioning as one created to serve her husband. Both were given dominion over fish, birds, and every living creature, but neither was given rulership over the other.19
Campbell, however, declares, “Some claim that Galatians 3:28 cancels out the role relationship of headship and submission. A close examination of this text in its context reveals that the apostle Paul is not dealing with role relationships of men and women, but justification by faith which makes all believers one (spiritually) in Christ giving them equal access to God.”20
According to Eggerichs, Ephesians 5:21 is not primarily dealing with husbands and wives but is dealing with the saints at large.21 Only twelve verses within the entire book of Ephesians deals with husbands and wives specifically and those are Ephesians 5:22-33. The argument to use these verses to support mutual submission is distorted and an attempt of the devil to redirect the husband and wife from functioning the way God intends.
The objective of Ephesians 5:23 and 1 Corinthians 11:3 is to establish order in the home just like an organization. In a functional organizational design there are not two CEO’s but one. He or she sets the pace for the direction of the organization. Paul is not trying to show that the hierarchy is done away with but rather he is showing the order in which one should function.
Another argument raised to help support the egalitarian position involves the meaning of the word “head” as presented in Ephesians 5:23 and 1 Corinthians 11:3. Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen, professors at Bethel Thelogical Seminary, claims that the word “head” in the Scriptures does not mean head or superior rank but that it means “source.” Therefore, when one does not understand this true or proper meaning male dominance is propagated.22 According to Strong’s, however, the word “head” is translated from the Greek word Kephalē whichmeans head and not source.
Campbell, however, strongly disagrees with the Mickelsen’s point of view. He contends,
If we apply the definition of “source” to kephale in I Corinthians 11:3 it would read, “Now I want you to realize that the source of every man is Christ, and the source of the woman is man, and the source of Christ is God.” This is what the Mickelsens believe. They write, “This strongly suggests that Paul was using ‘head’ in verse 3 with the Greek meaning of ‘source, origin, base, or derivation.’ Man was the ‘source or beginning’ of woman in the sense that woman was made from the side of Adam. Christ was the one through whom all creation came, as Paul states in I Corinthians 8:6b, ‘Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.’ God is the source of Christ, as taught in John 8:42, ‘I proceed and came forth from God.’” That suggested use of “source” implies Jesus had an origin or beginning. This denies the eternality of Christ and mirrors the ancient Arian heresy. Orthodox Christianity has been uncompromising in its commitment that Christ was not created by God, but that He has existed from all eternity.23
Another argument opposing the view of male headship is “that the command reflects our fall into sin, and the redemption in Christ restores man and woman to the pre-fall model of egalitarianism with no headship/submission order.”24 Collins asserts,
To yield to the husband as head of the home does not mean subordination. Women today are not living out the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, and husbands do not have rule over their wives. Not only have we been redeemed from the power, penalty, and presence of sin but also from the consequences as well, enabling us to be restored to the perfect equality of man and woman found in original creation. God wants to restore man and woman to their pre-Fall condition where they served God as co-regents of the universe. 25
If wives do not have to live under the rule of husbands because they have been redeemed from the power, penalty, presence, and consequences of sin, then why does Paul, who was around after Christ came, teach Timothy that bishops and deacons need to rule their houses well? In addition, while a person may be forgiven of God for their sins, consequences still remain for their sins. Furthermore, in the creation account if there was ever such an equality between man and woman as Collins purports then the questions might be asked why did God only command Adam to not eat of tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Why did He not tell Eve this as well or wait until they were both present? There seems to be many questions that remain unanswered in this view.
Campbell, cleverly points out,
One need only examine Ephesians 5:22-33, I Corinthians 11:1-16, and I Timothy 2:11-15 to see that Paul appeals to the situation before the fall, not after it. Sin has distorted the proper relationship between the husband and wife, and only redemption and the Spirit-filled life can restore God’s proper design for this relationship (Ephesians 5:17-6:1-4). The husband who is redeemed and filled with God’s Spirit is able to love his wife as Christ loves the church, and the wife is able to graciously submit to the leadership of her husband. Redemption in Christ removes the oppressive elements of this structure, not the structure itself, and brings it into proper harmony. The Holy Spirit is the resource by which we accomplish this.26
The moment wives conclude that they are to be equal with their husbands in authority, they immediately put themselves in a position as the devil. The Prophet Isaiah records,
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also (emphasis added) upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit (14:12-15).
It was the devil’s pride and desires to be equal to God that brought his downfall. The Proverbs record, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (16:18). If the devil can try to challenge God’s authority, then it is not surprising that male headship in the home faces opposition.
Nobody likes to submit to authority. Sproul cites, however, that
all of us are called to positions of authority and positions of subordination—submission to authority. . . . All authority is under Christ. When we disobey lesser authorities, we are guilty of disobeying Christ. You cannot serve the King and honor his authority by rebelling against his appointed governors. To say you honor the kingdom of Christ while you disobey his authority structure is to be guilty of hypocrisy by also cosmic treason.27
Headship and Inferiority
Wives must take heart not to become discouraged by the opposition to male headship. Sproul suggests that one of the reasons some women like Francisco and Collins argue over male headship is because they feel a sense of loss concerning dignity. Sproul states, “They’ve fallen into the trap of thinking the only way of restoring their dignity is by removing men from their position of authority and claiming that prerogative for themselves. . . . When a good principle or institution is abused, some will always seek to destroy the principle or institution—throwing out the baby with the bath water.”28 Wives, however, must be careful not to allow this way of thinking to skew the subjection that God has called them to.
When God said to the woman, “And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16), He was clearly letting her know who was in charge. This did not mean that she was to dread the headship of the husband but fall under it so that she could be obedient to Christ. This was the order He put into place. God’s design was for the woman to come under the male headship in the Old Testament as well as in the New. When a woman is born she is under the headship of her father, once she chooses to marry she comes out from under that headship and goes under the headship of her husband. It is observable that God clearly designed for women to be protected under these headships, not oppressed, or suppressed, as some would like to propose.
Patterson makes an interesting observation. She says before God ever created the tabernacle or temple or any hint of government of any kind, God created something that was closer to His heart and that institution is the home. In the home, He gave the man the leadership role and a role of divine hierarchy. This was not an oppressive tyranny but that of a servant-leader.29
Some wives may also be concerned that their husbands’ headship indicates inferiority. They must understand, however, that that they are not less of a person because they have to submit to their husband’s headship. They were not any less of a person when they were under their father’s headship and neither are they any less of a person under their husbands’ headship. Patterson asserts, “We are equal before God. We stand on the same level ground before Him. We are equal in our personhood, in being, in worth, but from Genesis, the time of creation, we were given a different role assignment. . . . He had a plan and He gave us each a role to play in that plan. It has nothing to do with gifts or intelligence. It has to do with what God says.”30
The apostle Paul drew a clear parallel between Jesus’ willing submission to his Father and a wife’s willing submission to her husband (1 Corinthians 11:3). So if you wonder how two persons who are truly equal can have a relationship where one is head and the other submits, you need look no further than the doctrine of the Trinity. God Himself is the pattern for such relationship.31
Stamps concludes, “Just as Christ is not inferior or second-class because the Father is His head, so the woman is not a second-class person because man is her head. Furthermore, in the kingdom of God leadership never implies being ‘greater.’ Servanthood and obedience are the keys to greatness in the kingdom (Mat 20:25-28; Phil 2:5-9).”32
The Counselor’s Perspective
The biblical design for headship is the only design that God has given to wives. Deviating from this design will only cause schisms as observed in this chapter. For that reason, counselors have tried to help wives understand this design by offering some sobering thoughts.
In his book, The Love She Most Desires: Love & Respect: The Respect He Desperately Needs, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs shares some practical insights that will help wives understand and appreciate their husbands in the role God has called them to play. One practical tip that he offers is that husbands cannot be the leader God has called them to be if wives are doing everything. This is an area that many wives need to work on. A practical step they can take would be to defer certain responsibilities to their husbands. Husbands must have an opportunity to grow in their headship.
Eggerichs also suggests that wives must respect their husbands’ desire to serve and lead the family. Wives, for instance, must learn to disagree with them in private so as to not disrespect their authority in front of others. In addition, they must be careful to never attack their husbands’ right to lead. A good way that wives can demonstrate respect and appreciation of their husbands’ authority is for them to make a deliberate action to verbalize to their husbands how grateful they are for his strength and having them to lean on. Praising them for things they do right, such as making good decisions, while being gracious to them when their decisions are not so good. A very simple method Eggerich teaches wives is to send a “respect card” to their husbands. He suggests,
Suppose you are a wife who trusts her husband. He may not be perfect as the head of the family, but you are quite willing to allow him to live that role as you submit to his leadership. How can you apply what I’ve been saying? Can you show him respect in his role as the head and the leader? One of the simplest methods that I suggest for wives is to send their husbands what I call a “respect card.” According to my research, men seldom keep love cards their wives send them with all the little hearts, Xs, and Os. But I will guarantee you he will keep a card you send him that says, “I was thinking about you the other day, that you would die for me. That is an overwhelming thought to me.” Sign it, “With all my respect, the one who still admires you.” Your husband will keep that card forever.33
In order for wives to really grow in their appreciation and respect of their husbands’ headship role, they must also come to the realization that headship comes with a serious responsibility for their husbands. For this reason, if wives really want to demonstrate their love toward their husbands and their Lord, they must make every effort to ensure that their husbands do not have to work harder than is necessary. By submitting to the Scriptural dictates, wives will help to succor a more harmonious and fulfilling lives for themselves. The writer of Hebrews puts it best. He says, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
1. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1995), 5293.
2. Ray C. Stedman, “The Christian and Moral Conditions: What Every Wife Should Know,” Ray Stedman
Ministries, http://www.raystedman.org/thematic-studies/christian-living/what-every-wife-should-know (accessed August 9,
3. Jerry Falwell, Edward Hindson, and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary, electronic ed.
(Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), Eph 5:22.
4. W. A. Criswell, Believer’s Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 1 Tm 2:13.
5. Falwell, Hindson, and Kroll, eds., 1 Cor 11:3.
6. Thomas S. Bateman and Scott A. Snell, Management: The New Competitive Landscape, 6th ed. (New York, NY:
McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2004), 244.
7. Ibid., 17.
8. Don Hellriegel and John W. Slocum, Jr., Organizational Behavior, 11 ed. (Mason, OH: Thomson South-
Western, 2007), 398.
9. Jack O. Balswick and Judith K. Balswick, The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contemporary Home
(1991; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1994), 86.
10. Wendy Francisco, “Women in Marriage and Ministry,” God’s Word to Women,
http://www.godswordtowomen.org/wendyfrancisco.htm (accessed September 2, 2011).
11. Pat Campbell, “Husband, Wives, Headship, and Submission,” Southern Baptist Convention,
http://www.baptist2baptist.net/b2barticle.asp?ID=235 (accessed August 10, 2011).
12. R. C. Sproul, The Intimate Marriage: A Practical Guide to Building a Great Marriage (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R
Publishing, 2003), 42-3.
13. Balswick and Balswick, 86-7.
14. Emerson Eggerichs, The Love She Most Desires: Love & Respect: The Respect He Desperately Needs
(Brentwood, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2004), 217-8.
15. Balswick and Balswick, 236.
16. Barbara Collins, “What’s the Real Truth About Submission?” God’s Word to Women,
http://www.godswordtowomen.org/winter2001.htm (accessed September 2, 2011).
18. Sproul, 46-7.
19. Collins, “What’s the Real Truth About Submission?”
20. Campbell, “Husband, Wives, Headship, and Submission.”
21. Eggerichs, 217.
22. Berkeley Mickelsen and Alvera Mickelsen, “The Head of the Epistles,” God’s Word to Women,
http://godswordtowomen.org/head.htm (accessed Septermber 2, 2011).
23. Campbell, “Husband, Wives, Headship, and Submission.”
25. Collins, “What’s the Real Truth About Submission?”
26. Campbell, “Husband, Wives, Headship, and Submission.”
27. Sproul, 41.
28. Ibid., 46.
29. Dorothy Patterson, “The Women’s Role in Marriage,” Focus on the Family, Windows Media Player audio file,
28:30, http://www.dorothypatterson.info/messages.cfm (accessed September 2, 2011).
31. John Macarthur, Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible, and What He Wants to
Do with You (Nashville,TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 8.
32. Donald C. Stamps and John Wesley Adams, eds., KJV Life in the Spirit Study Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan, 2003), 1 Cor 11:3.
33. Eggerichs, 211-225.
Chapter 3: Help Meet
The very first indication of what a wife’s role should be was given by the very Creator, Himself. Genesis 2:18 records, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet (emphasis added) for him.” Here one can deduce that before the wife was ever physically formed, she was already designed in the mind of God to be a helper to her husband. “As such she was to share his responsibility and cooperate with him in fulfilling God’s purpose for his life and the life of their family,”1 says, Stamps. Falwell elaborates,
Man needs a wife who is a help. If man is to achieve his objectives in life, he needs the help of his mate in every way. Her position is further defined by the expression, “like him,” literally, “as agreeing to him or his counterpart.” She is the kind of help man needs, agreeing with him mentally, physically, spiritually; but she is not an inferior being.2
Mathews claims, “In the case of the biblical model, the ‘helper’ is an indispensable ‘partner’ required to achieve the divine commission. ‘Helper,’ as we have seen from its Old Testament usage, means the woman will play an integral part, in this case, in human survival and success. What the man lacks, the woman accomplishes.”3
The role of the wife as a helper has been clearly seen in the past. This is evident by the many laborious tasks women have helped their husbands accomplish. For instance, in the past
most New England families lived in homes consisting of only one or two rooms, with an outside wash house and dairy. Wives were responsible for keeping these spaces clean, for cooking meals, washing and mending clothes, spinning wool, churning butter, making bread, preserving foods, taking care of the children, and passing on all these skills to their daughters. They also taught them to make soap, wax, candles, and brooms. Most wives planted vegetable gardens, fed the hens and pigs, and milked the cows.4
While all these tasks may have been very painstaking for the wife, they were, nonetheless, very helpful to the husband. Wives, however, are certainly not limited to menial and laborious tasks. The term helpmeet can encompass a wide range of miscellaneous helps. Every husband has various needs and those needs can change with time, but in addition to those needs, there are three very basic and specific areas in which the wife, and only the wife, was created to help. Those include his need for companionship, procreation, and sexual pleasure.
Wives should be very instrumental to their husbands in all kinds of various tasks. Fein and Schneider notes, “If you are like most married women, you buy the groceries, you cook, you clip coupons and wait for sales to buy winter coats, you do the laundry and vacuuming, you make the beds, you call the baby-sitter, you make the restaurant reservations, and you call the travel agent to plan vacations.”5
These are some of the miscellaneous tasks which seem to fall under the duties and responsibilities ascribed to the role of the wife in Proverbs 31. Omartian explains,
The perfect woman, according to the Bible, is a hard worker. This woman creates, manages, and provides. She buys and sells property (a real estate agent). She plants a vineyard (a gardener?). She makes clothing (a seamstress?). And she sells it (a retailer?). She is a woman of strength, energy, and vision, who works into the night and knows that what she has to offer is good. In the midst of it all, she takes care of her family, gives to the poor, and makes her husband proud. He is blessed by the excellence of all she does (Proverbs 31). . . . Frankly, I’m exhausted just reading about it.6
While many wives might feel like they cannot measure up to this ideal image, the image presented in these verses was not intended to make the wife feel overwhelmed. Instead, they seem to illustrate the idea that wives are not bound to tasks just limited to the home as so many in the feminist movement have tried to convey. According to the Word in Life Study Bible,
It is worth noting that this woman pursues what are sometimes thought of as traditional female jobs, such as making clothes (31:13, 19), as well as nontraditional work, such as real estate investment, farming, and merchandising (31:16, 18). Furthermore, her energies are directed not only toward providing for her family and household (31:11, 14–15, 27), but also toward meeting the needs of people in the community (31:20).7
Falwell affirms, “Her activities apparently extend beyond those normally associated with the housewife.”8 The Bible has many examples of wives that assisted their husbands outside of traditional housewife roles. For example, the Scriptures indicate that Priscilla assisted her husband Aquila in making tents and in the ministry, and Sapphira assisted her husband Ananias with sales.
Wives are a helpmeet as indicated in Genesis 2:18. If they were never created, men would have quite a bit of work to do. For instance, when a man goes out to work and comes back home, he would have to do laundry, cook, clean the house, pay the bills, wash the dishes, and host of other things. It would be difficult for him to be able to do all the necessary things and still work a full time job. This is why it is essential for the wife to assist him with the duties he needs help with.
Henry cites, “She manages his affairs so that he is always before-hand, has such plenty of his own that he is in no temptation to prey upon his neighbours.”9 Falwell adds, “She so enhances the performance of her husband that he is well known in the gates. Free from domestic squabbling, he is able to contribute to public life.”10 A wife is a great asset to her husband. Pastor Swindoll says of his marriage, “My marriage has taught me that I am neither all-sufficient nor self-sufficient. I need a wife. I need her support, insight, discernment, counsel, love, presence, and efficiency.”11 Men simply were given a gift in a wife. Proverbs 18:22 records, “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.”
A wonderful example of an understanding wife is presented in 1 Samuel chapter 25. Abigail, the wife of Nabal, was one who went beyond the care of normal housework. The Scripture records, “She was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb” (1 Samuel 25:3). Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary describes,
Abigail’s husband, Nabal, was an ill-tempered, drunken man. When David was hiding from the jealous King Saul, he asked Nabal for food for himself and his men. Nabal blatantly refused. Angered, David threatened to plunder Nabal’s possessions and kill Nabal himself. Abigail, in her wisdom, gathered enough food for David’s men, rode out to meet David, and bowed before him to show her respect. By agreeing with David that Nabal had acted with great disrespect, she stemmed David’s anger. To Abigail’s credit, she did not leave her godless husband.12
According to Criswell,
The strange story of Abigail and Nabal was included not only to explain the marriage of Abigail and David, but also to demonstrate God’s intervention in behalf of the faithful wife of a vexing husband. Though some have interpreted Abigail’s actions to be rebellious, that is not the perspective of the text. Realizing that Nabal had not only refused David’s request but also had taunted him (vv. 10, 11), Abigail acted out of love for her husband as well as out of concern for the multitude of lives involved. Moreover, she provided the necessities requested by David and pleaded for leniency toward Nabal (v. 26), though she did provide a fair assessment of his character in verbalizing her defense (v. 25; “Nabal” means “fool”). Abigail even offered to accept vicariously the guilt of Nabal (v. 24).13
Abigail placed herself in a very dangerous and humbling position. She was willing to do whatever was necessary to protect her family. Her faithfulness to go above and beyond to protect a foolish husband exemplifies her as a wife of great worth.
The duties of a wife may at times seem overwhelming, but the wife was never intended to carry the burden alone but was created to be a helpmeet. She cannot be a helpmeet, if there is no one to help. Elisabeth Elliot reminds the wife that “she was meant to be a helper. So far as I can see, this is not in the least demeaning—for her or for any of us who follow the Master. It is a privilege and a vocation.”14 The Apostle Paul writes, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;” (Ephesians 4:1-2).
Most books that deal with marriage and family will often give very specific areas in which a wife can be a help to her husband such as the miscellaneous helps listed above. None of these, however, is what the Scriptures point to as being the primary help. The first area that the Scripture refers to as a major help is the area of companionship. Genesis 2:18 records, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone.” Sproul insightfully observes, “Throughout the narrative of creation, we hear the refrain of God’s benediction—God creates and then says, ‘That’s good!’ But finally the malediction comes as God observes something that is not good. The first negative judgment we find in Holy Writ is a judgment on loneliness.”15 Allen declares, “Loneliness is a painful emotion in which we feel isolated and cut off from significant relationships with others.”16 To cure this need in a husband’s life, God made him a wife.
Some in the past have argued, however, that man did not need a woman to fulfill the need for companionship. This was especially true in the early years of Christianity and the onset of asceticism. The idea was propagated that women had very little function in a marriage other than for the purpose of procreation. Augustine, for instance, believed that two men were far better suited for companionship than was a man and woman.
Morley, on the other hand, surveyed quite a number of men for his book, What Husbands Wish Their Wives Knew About Men, and found that two major themes emerged. One was companionship and the other, support. He writes, “As a young soldier in the army, I remember the ache of being alone. Buddy talk can only go so far. I had no one to make plans with, no one to share a dream with. After the military I attended the university, but found myself alone all over again. Every man reaches a point at which he craves someone with whom to share his life.”17
Even though God had recognized that it was not good for Adam to be alone in verse 18, Adam did not recognize that he had a need for companionship. Therefore, God brought the animals before Adam so that he could name them. It has been said that through this experiment of naming the animals, Adam recognized his need for a counterpart like all the animals he named. Allen says of Adam, “It did not take him long to realize that in the animal kingdom they all possessed a mate.”18 The Scriptures record, “And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:20). The wonderful Creator, not only had recognized the need man would have, but was already prepared to supply that need even when man did not know he had such a need. God could have at any point in time made Adam a male best friend or given him a dog to follow him around, but instead the Lord God skillfully formed a woman to be that helpmeet and help meet the need of her husband’s loneliness.
Just as God recognized this need in Adam’s life, the patriarch, Abraham, also recognized this need in Isaac’s life. He also prepared for his son’s need to be met. Abraham told his servant, “Thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac” (Genesis 24:4). When Abraham’s servant told Isaac of all the things that were done, it is said that he was comforted. Genesis 24:67 declares, “And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” Rebekah played a very important role in Isaac’s life by submitting herself to meet his need of loneliness.
Morley pens, “More than anything else your husband needs and wants a lifelong partner and companion. He hungers to share with you the dreams, the sorrows, the joys. What husbands are saying is, ‘I like me best when I’m with you.’”19 Swindoll says of his wife, Cynthia, “She is not my crutch. . . but she is my God-given companion, ever aware of my moods and my needs. She hears my secrets and keeps them well. She knows my faults and forgives them often. She feels my failures and apprehensions and encourages me through them.”20 Spurgeon concludes that the husband shall say to his wife,
‘I shall in thee most happy be. In thee, my choice, I do rejoice. In thee I find content of mind. God’s appointment is my contentment.’ In her company he finds his earthly heaven; she is the light of his home, the comfort of his soul, and (for this world) the soul of his comfort. Whatever fortune may send him, he is rich so long as she lives. His rib is the best bone in his body.21
The next area of basic importance that a wife helps to meet is the area of procreation. Genesis 1:28 records, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” Falwell writes, “These three commands involve procreation, the union of man and woman to populate the earth.”22 Criswell notes, “One does not lose value as a person by humbly assuming the role of helper. The woman was to be a help to the man . . . in the divinely assigned process of procreation, in order to assure the continuation of the race.”23 In order for man to be able to accomplish such a task, he has to have help.
Throughout Scripture, there are examples given of wives whose greatest desire was to produce children for their husbands. According to Genesis chapter 29 and 30, Rachel and Leah wrestled with each other to see who could bear the most children for their husband Jacob. According to the Scriptures, Rachel could not bear any children for Jacob but Leah, her sister, could. Leah immediately started having children, and Rachel became very jealous of her. So, Rachel concocted a plan to bear children to Jacob through her maid Bilhah, who did indeed bear two children. Leah, however, began to despise Rachel for giving Jacob her maid and soon found herself giving Jacob Zilpah, her maid, to bear additional children to Jacob. The two sisters even went as far as to barter for right to have Jacob for the night.
Rachel tried to do everything she knew how to do in order to become pregnant. She became so desperate that she traded with Leah a night with Jacob if Leah would give her the mandrakes her son found in a field. According to the King James Study Bible mandrakes was an herb considered to be and aphrodisiac. The “peoples of the ancient Near East attributed sensual desire to this plant and thought it would aid conception.”24 In spite of Rachel’s trading, Leah got pregnant again and bare more children for Jacob. Finally, after Leah had nine children, seven by her and two by her maid then God opened up Rachel’s womb and she was able to bear Jacob a couple of sons.
The desire for wives to give their husband children was very serious. Yalom remarks, “Throughout the ancient world, the primary obligation of a wife was to produce offspring.”25 Other wives in Scripture like, Hannah, Elisabeth, and Sarah were all very eager to help meet this need. Macarthur declares, “From the time she became Abraham’s wife, Sarah desired one thing above all others, and that was to have children.”26
These women like Sarah, all shared the same concern, which was to bring forth fruit from their wombs. After all, they were created for this purpose and if the wife is symbolic of the Church then she should resemble the Church, which also exists, interestingly enough, to help bring forth fruit for God’s glory. Paul writes, “That ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Romans 7:4). Jesus was also clear on the matter when He stated, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16). When a wife sees herself in relationship to the Church, she will easily understand her usefulness in procreation because the Church of Christ is also called to reproduce.
Companionship and procreation are not the only areas of life that a wife helps to meet. The Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary states, “Although the primary reason for intercourse was procreation, God created mankind with a capacity to enjoy sex.”27 Another area in which a wife helps her husband is in the area of sexual pleasure.
Pleasing her husband in the area of sexuality, however, is not the wife’s greatest role in the marriage, as some may want to purport. There seems to be a trend that has circulated that claims that sex is the husband’s greatest need. This idea has even crept into the church world and is being taught by Christian counselors and authors. The reality of this trend is clearly seen in the popular book His Needs, Her Needs, by Williard F. Harley Jr. According to Harley, men tend to prioritize sexual fulfillment as their number one need.28 This idea, however, is not supported in Scripture.
The problem with this is that what has been publicized as man’s greatest “need,” is probably really a great “want.” Word in Life Study Bible records, “As humans we are not just a bundle of physical urges that have to be satisfied.”29 The prophets of old record, “All you think about is sex, under those green trees,” “You are no better than animals, and you always want sex,” “You couldn’t get enough sex, so you chased after Assyrians and slept with them” (Isaiah 57:5; Jeremiah 5:8; Ezekiel 16:24 CEV).
When this particular area of desire is elevated above the others as man’s greatest need, idolatry can immediately set in. Paul writes, “So God let them go ahead into every sort of sex sin, and do whatever they wanted to—yes, vile and sinful things with each other’s bodies. Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. So they prayed to the things God made, but wouldn’t obey the blessed God who made these things” (Romans 1:24-25 LB).
Even though there are some husbands who may want sex more than some wives, this is not always the case. The Scriptures never seem to indicate that this desire is higher in general for the man than for the woman. Both men and women seem to have this equal desire. Nelson’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts points out, “Sex was to be enjoyed by the wife as well as the husband. . . . In the Song of Solomon, the woman is portrayed as very aggressive, kissing her husband and leading him into the bed chamber. She expresses her love for him over and over, and she urges him to enjoy their physical relationship.”30 “Her love for him is like a raging flame and is as strong as death,”31 adds Falwell. In fact, according to Fein and Schneider, “Some women want more sex than their husbands and don’t know what to do about this problem.”32
The Apostle Paul mentions the wife’s sexual fulfillment before mentioning the husbands in his instructions in 1 Corinthians. He explains, “The husband should not deprive his wife of sexual intimacy, which is her right as a married woman, nor should the wife deprive her husband. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband also gives authority over his body to his wife. So do not deprive each other of sexual relations” (1 Corinthians 7:3-5 NLT). Sproul remarks, “In very few places does the Bible speak of human rights. Normally the Bible is more concerned about teaching us our obligations. But here is one of those places where a right is mentioned—the right of the husband and the wife to each other’s bodies.”33
Even though the Scriptures speak of mutual fulfillment for both the husband and the wife, oddly enough, many throughout history have argued that sexual pleasure was not good at all. Yalom reports,
Early patristic thinkers, most notably Tertullian, Saint Jerome, and Saint Augustine, argued that the Fall, initiated by Eve, had conferred a moral taint on all carnal union, even that within marriage. . . . Augustine justified coitus according to the rationale of the three goods of marriage: procreation, social stability, and the safeguard it provided against fornication. He declared that married couples should engage in sex only to beget children, and should scrupulously avoid copulating merely for pleasure. Saint Jerome went even further. He considered sex, even in marriage, as intrinsically evil. He rejected sexual pleasure as filthy, loathsome, degrading, and ultimately corrupting.34
Sproul refutes these ideas. He asserts,
Because the biblical sex ethic is stated so strictly and the penalties are so severe, many people have come to the erroneous conclusion that God regards sex as intrinsically evil. Throughout the history of the church, some thinkers have expounded the notion that sex within marriage is merely tolerated by God for the sake of procreation. But this radically distorts the biblical view of sex. Indeed, God gives strong prohibitions concerning sex outside marriage, but those prohibitions do not apply within the context of marriage. Sex is not regarded as being evil in itself. . . . God creates physical things and calls them good. It was God who invented sex, and he did not denounce it as an intrinsic evil or a necessary evil.
The Apostle Paul was careful to point out that sexual pleasure should only be avoided in the case of fasting and prayer and not for any other reason than these. He writes, “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency” (1 Corinthians 7:5).
Both the Proverbs and the Song of Solomon speak of sexual pleasure between married persons. According to the King James Study Bible, the entire book of Song of Solomon can be viewed as “a collection of love songs or poems that is designed to extol human love.”35 Sproul comments,
Here we have a high use of imagery in the celebration of the physical beauty of the bride. Even her breasts are mentioned as part of that beauty. Even if the song were to be interpreted allegorically, we would still have to face the erotic character of the images employed. It is hard to imagine that the Holy Spirit would sanctify such images if they carried an intrinsically negative or evil connotation.36
Proverbs even more explicitly speaks of sexual pleasure. Proverbs 5:18-19 declares, “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.” “This verse shows that the sexual relationship in marriage exists for pleasure as well as procreation,”37 notes The King James Study Bible.
A modern conservative stance concerning the appropriateness of sexual pleasure is clearly stated by G. Raymond Carlson, former General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God. He holds,
Human sexuality is a good and important part of God’s creation. He created man and woman as sexual beings, not only with the capacity to reproduce, but also with the capacity and desire to enjoy each other sexually, a quality distinctive to mankind. Sexual love has fallen into abuse in the world. Lust, not love, has become the portrayal of marriage. But when sexual love is enjoyed within the bounds of marriage, God is honored—He made it that way.38
With all this being said about sexual pleasure, it is important to come back to the following realization: even though wives may have an equal desire for sexual pleasure, and it is an act that the Scripture does not condemn within marriage, wives must remember that they were skillfully designed with the intent to help meet this desire in their husband’s life.
The Counselor’s Perspective
As wives learn what it is to be a help meet, they may wonder what they can do to help their husbands particularly in specific areas of struggle. H. Norman Wright, in his book Questions Women Ask in Private, offers a few practical ideas to help wives minister in areas in which their husbands might need.
One of these critical areas has to do with a husband who is unmotivated spiritually. Many men may not have had good spiritual role models growing up and, therefore, do not know how to lead their own wife and family. A critical action the wife can take in helping her husband in his spiritual growth is to first pray for him. Second, she can encourage her church leadership to start a men’s enhancement program to equip men to be spiritual leaders. Third, she can acquire testimony books and other tools and resources that will provoke her husband to consider his own spiritual position. Wright also suggests that perhaps wives can read with their husbands his book, Quiet Times for Couples (a daily devotional) a few minutes a day.
Another area that some husbands have difficulty with involves being responsible. If for example, the husband has a habit of forgetting important dates, the wife can help her husband by marking these dates boldly on the calendar and informing him of their upcoming occurrence. In addition, a wife must let their husband know how important these dates are to her and ask him to develop a plan that will help him to remember these dates in the future. “If he says, ‘I just forget. I need you to remind me,’ don’t buy this line. I am sure he remembers some dates that are important to him. Say, ‘No, I am not going to remind you, but I will work with you to develop the plan you are going to follow in order to remember.’”39
Being a helpmeet is no easy task, but God has purposed that wives should be this to their husband. For this reason, the same God will also give wives the strength they need to help them accomplish any task He has called them to do. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Similarly, a wife can do all things through Christ which strengthens her.
1. Donald C. Stamps and John Wesley Adams, eds., KJV Life in the Spirit Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan, 2003), Gn 2:18.
2. Jerry Falwell, Edward Hindson, and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary, electronic ed.
(Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), Gn 2:18.
3. Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A of The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and
Theological Exposition of the Holy Scriptures, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1996), 214.
4. Marilyn Yalom, A History of the Wife (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), 137.
5. Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, The Rules for Marriage: Time-tested Secrets for Making Your Marriage Work
(New York, NY: Warner Books, 2001), 134.
6. Stormie Omartian, The Power of a Praying Husband (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2001), 185.
7. Thomas Nelson, Inc., Word in Life study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), Prv 31:10.
8. Falwell, Hindson, and Kroll, eds., Prv 31:10.
9. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, electronic ed., (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson
Publishers, 1997), Prv 31:16.
10. Falwell, Hindson, and Kroll, eds., Prv 31:10.
11. Charles Swindoll, “Anniversaries” in Insights (Plano, TX: Insight for Living, 2006).
12. Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison, eds., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary: An
Authoritative One-Volume Reference Work on the Bible with Full Color Illustrations, electronic rev. ed. (Nashville, TN:
Thomas Nelson, 1995), s.v. “Abigail.”
13. W. A. Criswell, Believer’s Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 1 Sm 25:18.
14. Elisabeth Elliot, “The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter,” Elisabeth Elliot,
http://www.elisabethelliot.org/newsletters.html (accessed September 2, 2011).
15. R. C. Sproul, The Intimate Marriage: A Practical Guide to Building a Great Marriage (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R
Publishing, 2003), 43.
16. Gib Allen, God’s Design for Marriage: The Purpose of Marriage, (audiocassette), Altamonte Springs, FL:
Calvary Chapel of Orlando, 2001.
17. Patrick M. Morley, What Husbands Wish Their Wives Knew About Men (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
Publishing House, 1998), 119-120.
18. Allen, “God’s Design for Marriage.”
19. Morley, 120.
20. Swindoll, “Anniversaries.”
21. C. H. Spurgeon, John Ploughman’s Talks (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1993), 126.
22. Falwell, Hindson, and Kroll, eds., Gn 1:28.
23. Criswell, Gn 2:18.
24. Thomas Nelson, Inc., King James Version Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997),
25. Yalom, xiii.
26. John Macarthur, Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible, and What He Wants to
Do with You (Nashville,TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 28.
27. Youngblood, Bruce, and Harrison, eds., s.v. “sex.”
28. Willard F. Harley, Jr., His Needs, Her Needs (Grand Rapids, MI: Flemming H. Revell, 1986), 176.
29. Word in Life study Bible, Gn 34:2.
30. J. I. Packer, Merrill C. Tenney and William White, Jr., Nelson’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts
(Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), s.v. “Women and Womanhood.”
31. Falwell, Hindson, and Kroll, eds., Sg 8:6.
32. Fein and Schneider, 118.
33. Sproul, 122.
34. Yalom, 15.
35. Falwell, Hindson, and Kroll, eds., Sg 1:1.
36. Sproul, 120.
37. The King James Version Study Bible, Prv 5:19.
38. G. Raymond Carlson, “Christian Marriage,” Pentecostal Evangel, August 8, 1993, 5.
39. H. Norman Wright, Questions Women Ask in Private (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1993), 175.
Chapter 4:What Does the Bible Teach About How a Wife Should Behave?
An unknown person once said, “I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”1 Once a woman becomes a wife, she has a once in a lifetime opportunity to be the best wife she can possibly be and leave an example that other women can follow. To help wives accomplish this task, the Lord Jesus has given some very specific directives, as penned by the apostles, Paul and Peter. Some of these directives include being chaste, dressing well, and being loving and obedient to their own husbands (see table 1).
The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 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 2:3-5).
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 (1 Peter 3:2-6).
Chaste – hagnos – Inwardly pure – Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:2
Adorn – kosmeo – To decorate or beautify – 1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3
Love – philandros – Tender affection – Titus 2:4
Love – agape – Christian love – 1 Corinthians 13:4
Obedient – hupotasso – Being in subjection – Titus 2:5
Slanderers – diabolos – An accuser – 1 Timothy 3:11, Titus 2:3
Keepers at home – oikouros – Working at home – Titus 2:5
Sources: Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1995); W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson 1997).
Why would both apostles tell wives to be chaste? After all, they are not single women. It would only seem fitting to apply this directive to an unmarried woman, but why married women? Clearly the apostles knew there was a need as is demonstrated in the words of the Scottish-born reformer Frances Wright who lived during the 1800’s. Wright “fought for female equality and ‘free love,’ the freedom of all, unmarried and married, to enjoy sexual partners who were not their spouses.”2 It is unimaginable that someone would think that way. Nonetheless, this kind of behavior was not only permissible in Wright’s mind but was also permissible in the mind of some women even as far back as 1900 B.C.
The Scriptures record that Potiphar had a wife who had longing eyes for her husband’s employee, Joseph. Someone has penned, “Being married is a lot like going out to dinner. You’re satisfied with what you wanted until you see what the other guy has.”3 According to the Contemporary English Version of the Bible, “Joseph was well-built and handsome, and Potiphar’s wife soon noticed him. She asked him to make love to her, but he refused” (Genesis 39:6-8). The New Living Translation puts it this way, “She kept putting pressure on him day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible.” It is a shame that the only thing for which Potiphar’s wife was able to go down in history was to make a mark as an unchaste wife. She, unfortunately, is not the only example.
Even in our modern world wives are committing unspeakable acts against their marriages. Foley and Nechas tell of a 42-year-old teacher, for instance, that confesses she fell in love with her married coworker because her husband was not very affectionate and spontaneous. After having sexual relations with her coworker, the relationship ended, however, she never disclosed the affair to her husband. That left her carrying around some serious guilt that troubled her.4
When both apostles wrote that wives should be chaste, it was an obviously necessary directive that they were giving. Even though they are married, wives still face sexual temptations. According to psychologists, “Probably most women who have an affair are looking for something that they are unable to get from their husbands.”5 Norman Wright, Christian counselor and author, suggests, “We will be in situations where we have friendships with those of the opposite sex. We are to heed the teaching of Scripture, accept our sexuality, remove ourselves from romantic settings with others and continually feed, nurture and maintain a need-fulfilling marriage.”6
Wives who fail to adhere to the principles taught in Scriptures about their chastity will inevitably be deceived into thinking that the grass is greener on the other side and flirt with their sexuality in a manner that will cause them to be impure. To avoid this, wives must live a chaste life and commit themselves wholly to their husbands. This will spare them a mountain of pain that is so often associated with unchaste behavior, as illustrated above by the 42-year-old teacher.
Wives must remember that they represent the Church, and just as the Church is called to live a life of chastity, so are they called to live a life of chastity. Paul writes, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2). The Believer’s Study Bible warns,
Paul views himself as a father who lovingly and caringly seeks to nurture and mature his virgin daughter (the Corinthians) so as to someday present her, pure and undefiled, to a husband (Christ). By implication, as one reads between the lines, Paul views the false teachers as deceptive suitors who would violate his daughter and rob her of her precious virginity and purity through their proclamations of “another Jesus,” a “different spirit,” and a “different gospel.” Doctrinal purity and discernment is deemed crucial. Paul’s image is a powerful statement of his great love and concern for the Corinthian church.7
He had espoused them to one husband, that is, converted them to Christianity (and the conversion of a soul is its marriage to the Lord Jesus); and he was desirous to present them as a chaste virgin—pure, and spotless, and faithful, not having their minds corrupted with false doctrines by false teachers, as Eve was beguiled by the subtlety of the serpent. This godly jealousy in the apostle was a mixture of love and fear; and faithful ministers cannot but be afraid and concerned for their people, lest they should lose that which they have received, and turn from what they have embraced, especially when deceivers have gone abroad, or have crept in among them.8
When wives are led astray by their own lusts to follow after other men whom they have not been espoused to, then they can be likened unto a church that goes after strange doctrine and embrace false teachings. Wives, therefore, must be careful to ensure that they are faithful to the man that they married. Failure in this area will result in corruption.
“Women’s dress is the barometer of any civilization. When women’s dress is modest it tells something about the nation as a whole . . . Women’s dress is the key to a nation’s morals.”
There has been a gradual but persistent decline in the standards of modesty for women for over 150 years. One woman, who sought to challenge the standards of her day was Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-1894). In 1851, Bloomer tried to reform women’s dress.10 In a letter to Charlotee A. Joy, dated June 3,1857, Bloomer wrote, “The costume of woman should be suited to her wants and necessities. It should conduce at once to her health, comfort, and usefulness; and, while it should not fail also to conduce to her personal adornment, it should make that end of secondary importance.”11
While many might agree with Bloomer, women today are not often dressing with intentions only to be healthy and comfortable. Rather, the styles and fashions of our modern world have degraded to spaghetti straps, low neck t-shirts, boy cut shorts, and even skimpy bikini’s. Dale Rogers, a once famous motion picture star, became disgusted with provocative dress after she became a Christian. She writes, “Some of us have outdone Jezebel.”12
Modern women, however, are not the only ones that have been guilty of dressing in a perverse manner. The prophet Isaiah tells that the women of Judah also dressed in vile and promiscuous ways. He notes,
Next he will judge the haughty Jewish women, who mince along, noses in the air, tinkling bracelets on their ankles, with wanton eyes that rove among the crowds to catch the glances of the men. The Lord will send a plague of scabs to ornament their heads! He will expose their nakedness for all to see. No longer shall they tinkle with self-assurance as they walk. For the Lord will strip away their artful beauty and their ornaments, their necklaces and bracelets and veils of shimmering gauze. Gone shall be their scarves and ankle chains, headbands, earrings, and perfumes; their rings, jewels, party clothes, negligees, capes, ornate combs, and purses; their mirrors, lovely lingerie, beautiful dresses, and veils. Instead of smelling of sweet perfume, they’ll stink; for sashes they’ll use ropes; their well-set hair will all fall out; they’ll wear sacks instead of robes (Isaiah 3:16-24 TLB).
Stamps comments, “In the midst of spiritual, moral and political decline, the women of Judah were characterized by their devotion to all kinds of things related to fashion and external appearance rather than to inward holiness and love for God.”13 The apostles, both Paul and Peter, were very clear on the matter. They both taught that women need to dress modestly. Paul declares, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array” (1 Timothy 2:9). Unfortunately, this teaching is often being blatantly ignored.
Mary Mohler, the wife of seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., and the Director of the Seminary Wives Institute at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is very active in teaching women to dress modestly. She teaches that Christian women should never ever wear certain clothes. She says of her daughter,
Am I saying that never, ever, not even once can she wear a halter top, tube top, cropped top, mini skirt, skin tight shirts, anything that shows cleavage or midriff, hip-hugger jeans and shirts that don’t meet, that she can’t even go into an Abercrombie store, that she can’t keep Clinique in business when she is 14, and that her Sunday clothes are going to be different from her other clothes? Yes, that is exactly what I am saying.14
Secular women, however, disagree with Mohler’s stance and teach that women should be wearing outfits that are flattering. Fein and Schneider suggest, “Try to wear clothes that flatter your figure.” They told their audience, “wear short skirts and get weekly manicures.”15 Mohler says that the world’s attitude is “if you’ve got it, flaunt it; leave as little to the imagination as possible and as for modesty, get real, this is the 21st century.”16
Unfortunately immodest apparel is not just a prevailing attitude in the world, today many Christian women are following suit and modeling the world inside the churches. Stamps explains,
The fashion industry designs some clothing deliberately to accentuate the body sensually and sexually. It is a sad commentary on the church that ignores the Biblical standard for modest dress and embraces the fashion fads of the world even though they are sensually designed. In a day of sexual permissiveness, the church should act and dress differently from a corrupt society that throws aside and ridicules the Spirit’s desire for modesty, purity and godly restraint.17
Mohler declares, “A few churches are even using a written dress code for members only. If a church has a dress code, what does that tell you? It tells you that there are problems related to people coming to worship who are dressed inappropriately.”18 In 2007, Barna published a book by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper, a believer and an atheist respectively, who visited churches across the country and documented their experience. At one of the best-known churches in the country they observed “a heavily made-up blonde with formfitting clothing—the worship leader—was absorbing the spotlight.”19 Rogers remarks, “What’s in the mind of our ‘modern daughter of Eve’? . . . Women will be smart if they do not unveil their ‘heavenly’ charms. A woman is far more alluring when her curves are covered,”20
According to the King James Version Study Bible,
The female has a divinely implanted desire to have a good appearance, and Paul is not discouraging this. Rather, he is speaking against extravagant and ostentatious dress. Women are neither to dress immodestly, so as to exploit their feminine charm, hindering their brethren from worship; nor are they to overdo their dress, provoking their Christian sisters to jealousy.21
In these last few verses twenty articles of women’s wear are mentioned by name. There certainly is nothing wrong with a woman dressing in style—if the style is not immodest. I feel that all of us should look the best we can with what we have, even though some of us don’t have too much to work with. God is not condemning the women of Israel for dressing in the style of their day. He is talking about the inner life. They were haughty and brazen. Real adornment is beneath the skin, not from the skin outward.22
If you arrive at church and your perfume arrived five minutes before you, there is a problem. If you arrive at church dressed in such a way that you have spent more time and effort preparing your clothing, hair and make-up than you have preparing your heart for corporate worship of the one true and living God, there is a problem. But, if you arrive at church dressed like you are ready to slop the pigs on a farm, there is a problem. If you arrive at church dressed in such a way that by the end of the service the people around you, by no fault of their own, now know the color of your underwear and they have watched you do a shimmy dance as you try to get your too-short, too-tight skirt to go under you, there is a big problem.23
Stamps admonishes, “It is the will of God that Christian women dress modestly and discreetly, i.e., properly covering rather than sensually exposing the body. Modesty involves dressing in such a way as not to draw attention to the body or to cross the boundaries of proper reserve.”24
In addition to clothing, the question has often been asked, “What about makeup and jewelry?” After all both Paul and Peter stated that women should not plait their hair and wear gold. Mohler answers this by saying, “Notice that these texts do not say that women cannot wear braided hair or gold jewelry. They say that their adornment should not merely be external. Those who try to force the former interpretation have to say that it also teaches women cannot wear dresses either.”25 Rogers claims, “I know—there are some perfectly sincere Christians who think it is somehow sinful for a woman to wear make-up and jewelry. That’s their opinion, and I respect it. If I thought it were a sin to wear make-up or jewelry, or to ‘rat’ my hair, then for me to do it would be wrong, and my heart would tell me so.”26
The real issue, however, concerning a woman’s adornment does not have to do with her mere outward attire of clothes and jewelry but with her inward adornment as hinted earlier. The Apostle Peter said of a woman’s “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,” (1 Peter 3:3-4). The King James Bible Commentary cites,
Whose adorning means to refer to the beauty or attractiveness which these husbands will see in their wives. The sense is, “Make sure your primary beauty is found in your heart and not merely in your clothes and jewelry. These verses should not be twisted to condemn the use of cosmetics or jewelry; they merely emphasize that, as far as God is concerned, it is more important to have a meek and quiet spirit.27
I am often asked whether I feel Christian women should wear makeup. I would say yes, . . . and plenty of it. “Adorn the doctrine of God”—in other words, if you are sound in the faith, you should be wearing the appropriate cosmetics. I would like to see more of the lipstick of a kind tongue. Speaking kindly is a mighty fine lipstick. And then the face powder of sincerity and reality. My, there are all kinds of cosmetics that you should use today as a Christian.28
It is important for women to observe that they have been called to adorn or decorate themselves with things that are not corruptible; such as a meek and quiet spirit which is of great value to God rather than perishable things such as jewelry and clothing. Rogers explains, “I believe the chief adornment of the Christian woman is the adornment of the Spirit of God glowing on her face and in her eyes.”29 Morley follows that up by saying, “If I took all the beautiful women I’ve ever known and grouped them by decades, the loveliest is in the last half of her ‘seventies’ decade. Her radiant countenance is legendary around the church. Where does this beauty come from? Knowing her, it is clear that her beauty is the outward expression of the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.”30 Proverbs 31:25 says of the virtuous woman, “Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.” This indicates that what she is putting on is not something external but eternal, something that will have lasting value. While a woman has a responsibility to dress outwardly appropriate, her desire must be to also dress the inward parts that are still exposed.
Love Their Husbands
Another area that wives have been instructed in is the area of love. According to Paul wives must be taught to love their husbands. He tells Titus “that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands” (2:4). One would assume that love would come naturally, but the very fact that Paul even mentions it probably indicates that it is not so natural and needs to be addressed. Adams notes, “Love does not come naturally, it must be learned.”31
Eggerichs, however, seems to disagree with this position. He teaches that “wives do not need a lot of coaching on being loving. It is something God built into them, and they do it naturally.”32 Prewitt, on the other hand, illustrates in figure 5 that “the key to healthy relationships is love.” Yet he says that “love is often a very poorly understood subject.”33
Adams claims that love has been distorted by Hollywood, television screens and even musical records.34 Prewitt states,
If you were to interview several people, you would find that people often define love as an emotion or a feeling. They will say that love is the feeling that you have toward friends and family members. If the subject is narrowed to the area of romance, then they will tell you it is a deep feeling of connection with the other person. If both of these scenarios are examined, it will be obvious that defining love as a feeling is very inadequate.35
In contrast to Adams and Prewitt, H. L. Mencken wrote in his first series of Prejudices, “To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia.”36 In Erich Segal’s, Love Story, he contends, “Love means not ever having to say you’re sorry.”37 In reference to views like these Prewitt declares, “If love is defined poorly or inaccurately, then it isn’t any wonder that there is confusion.”38
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul defines love as “patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (NLT). Adams says, “Traditionally, counselors have found 1 Corinthians 13 the clearest explication of what the responsible relationship of one to another called love is like.”39 Stamps notes, “This section describes love as an activity and a behavior, not just as an inner feeling or motivation.”40 McGee affirms, “This love is an act of the will.”41 “Love is more of a verb than a noun. It has more to do with acting than with feeling. The call to love is not so much a call to a certain state of feelings as it is to a quality of action,”42 notes Sproul.
One of the best ways for wives to understand how to love their husbands is for them to examine 1 Corinthians 13. This passage has come to be known as the love chapter. Once a wife has the right understanding and the proper definition of love as outlined in this chapter, her next step is to apply these principles in her relationship to her husband. This is not always easy. The Word in Life Study Bible asserts,
Love is tough work—First Corinthians 13 has been called the Love Chapter because of its powerful description of love. However, in reading this passage, keep in mind that it’s easy to talk about love; it’s much harder to do the tough work of living it. Love as God intended it is more than just passion, romantic feelings, or sentimental expressions. It involves commitment, sacrifice, and service—the kind of things that benefit both the giver and the receiver.43
A good biblical example of a wife who acted in love toward her husband was Abigail the wife of Nabal, as discussed in chapter 3. Abigail loved her husband, in spite of his poor and embarrassing behavior. Cho writes, “We must accept others as they are, and learn to love them. We must be committed to those we develop relationships with, committed to meet their needs and to bring out the best in them. And that commitment must have an element of sacrifice. That commitment must have a measure of love.”44 The writer came across a poem several years ago that really exemplifies this act of love to one’s spouse. The unknown poet writes,
I AM STANDING FOR THE HEALING OF MY MARRIAGE! . . . I will not give up, give in, give out or give over ‘til that healing takes place. I made a vow, I said the words, I gave the pledge, I gave a ring, I took a ring, I gave myself, I trusted GOD, and said the words, and meant the words . . . in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in good times and in bad…so I am standing NOW, and will not sit down, let down, slow down, calm down, fall down, look down or be down ‘til the breakdown is torn down!
I refuse to put my eyes on outward circumstances, or listen to prophets of doom, or buy into what is trendy, worldly, popular, convenient, easy, quick, thrifty, or advantageous . . . nor will I seek to lower God’s standard, twist God’s will, rewrite God’s word, violate God’s covenant, or accept what God hates, namely divorce!
In a world of filth, I will stay pure; surrounded by lies I will speak the truth; where hopelessness abounds, I will hope in God; where revenge is easier, I will bless instead of curse; and where the odds are stacked against me, I will trust in God’s faithfulness.
I am a STANDER, and I will not acquiesce, compromise, quarrel or quit . . . I have made the choice, set my face, entered the race, believed the Word, and trusted God for all the outcome.
I will allow neither the reaction of my spouse, nor the urging of my friends, nor the advice of my loved ones, nor economic hardship, nor the prompting of the devil to make me let up, slow up, blow up, or give up ‘til my marriage is healed.
Wives who take on this kind of attitude and love their husbands with this kind of commitment demonstrate that love is more than a feeling. It is, rather, a deliberate action. “Love cements relationships between God and man and man and man. While love attracts, fear repels. When love gives, lust grabs. What love builds, hatred destroys. With love communication flourishes; with resentment it withers. Love is the ultimate answer to all the problems of living with which the Christian counselor deals. Love, therefore, is the goal,”45 concludes Adams.
Obedient to Her Husband
When love is present in any relationship, obedience can be exercised very smoothly. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary cites, “Love is like oil to the wheels of obedience.”46 The subject of obedience, however, is not always a popular one. Yalom observes,
Many still marry using the wedding service of the 1522 Church of England Prayer Book (whose roots go back in Latin, French, and English to the Middle Ages). The vows taken by the spouses still sound uncommonly beautiful: “I take thee to be my wedded wife (or husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.” Originally, the wife also promised “to obey,” but for some time now, those words have been omitted.47
There are even some Christian authors and counselors who promote that a wife does not need to obey her husband. Wright, for example, argues, “Obedience is not to be confused with submission. Although some of the traditional wedding vows have the word ‘obey’ in them, the word is not found in Scripture. Obey is used in reference to slaves and children, not wives.”48 The apostles Paul and Peter beg to differ. Paul teaches that wives must learn to be “Obedient to their own husbands” (Titus 2:5). Peter records, “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” (1 Peter 3:6).
Strong’s notes that obedience and submission are not distinctive but one in the same. The Greek word hupŏtassō, is used for both the words obedient and submit. Also, in the same passage of Titus 2:9, Paul uses the same Greek word hupŏtassō, to refer to servants that he used for the wife in verse 5.49 There is absolutely no distinction of the words obedience and submission. The Scriptures are very clear that the wife must obey her husband. Too often, however, people try to shy away from this teaching.
Joshua’s House declares,
People try to dance around the simple fact that submission means being obedient, that a wife has to be obedient to her husband like a servant to his master, like a child to the parents, like Christ to the Father. Gen 3:16 states already that the man is to rule over the woman – why? Because it was the woman who was deceived, and who took the lead in what resulted in them being thrown out of the garden of Eden, while it was the man who let her do that. The curse says that in order to overcome man’s sinful nature, husbands have to take the lead, while wives have to follow them. The New Testament repeats this plenty of times. Both parties seem to have a lot of difficulties with this these days though, and try to argue their way out of it by saying that submission is merely an attitude and doesn’t actually mean that the wife has to obey her husband practically. The two main Greek words used for “submission” and “obedience” are used synonymously, and do not denote different attitudes.50
In spite of the fact that many wives might choose to leave out the word “obey” in their marriage vows, they are still called to be obedient to their husbands, whether they say the word or not. The wife’s obedience, however, does not mean that she should follow her husband if he leads her into sin. Sproul asks the question, “May the wife ever disobey her husband?” He answers, “The biblical answer to that is clear. There are times when the wife not only may disobey but must disobey. The husband is not the only authority in the wife’s life. She is also responsible to the authority of God and the authority of the state.”51 He shares an example, “If a husband orders his wife to murder, steal, or commit adultery, it is the moral obligation of the wife to disobey him.”52
A good biblical example is found in Acts 5. According to Acts 5, Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, sold a piece of property and agreed to lie to Peter about the amount for which it was sold. When Ananias was questioned concerning the matter he fell dead. Several hours later Sapphira came and Peter asked her the price of the sale. She also lied to the apostle and fell dead just as her husband had. It is important for the wives to observe in this story that the wife, Sapphira, had an option. God could have killed her as well when He killed her husband, but instead she was given a clear opportunity to speak up and tell the truth. She also had an option to disobey her husband if he had suggested lying about the total amount. She could have chosen not to agree with her husband in his lie. Perhaps, her life would have been spared. F. F. Bruce comments, “She had thus an opportunity to tell the truth, but when she brazened it out and repeated her husband’s falsehood, Peter had no doubt that she would share her husband’s fate.”53 This is a tragic example of a wife who because of her refusal to disobey her husband displeased God and it cost her her very life. Sproul advises, “A wife must disobey her husband when her husband commands her to do something God forbids or forbids her from doing something God commands.”54
There are some wives who take this too far and feel that they can go above their husbands head and straight to being obedient to God thus, bypassing their husbands. This thought process, however, is destructive and incorrect. The wife has to ensure that she follows the plumb line God lays by her, and in this case, her husband and align herself with his demands. Sproul suggests, “There are times when the wife may disobey, but she must be careful to ensure that disobedience is done in order to obey God. It is easy to develop a false spirituality, distorting the commands of God in such a way as to provide a spiritual subterfuge that covers the real desire to disobey her husband.”55 If wives ever get to the point where they think that obedience to their husband is not necessary, they must remember that even the Lord Jesus Christ had to learn obedience. Hebrews 5:8 describes, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Therefore, if Jesus, Himself had to learn obedience to the Father, what make wives feel that they are exempt from this calling?
Wives Should Not Be Slanderers
When God gave to men ten measures of speech, they say the women ran away with nine, and in some cases I am afraid the saying is true. A dirty, slatternly, gossiping wife is enough to drive her husband mad; and if he goes to the public house on occasion, she is the cause of it. It is doleful living where the wife, instead of reverencing her husband, is always wrangling and railing at him. It must be a good thing when such women are hoarse, and it is a pity that they have not so many blisters on their tongues as they have teeth in their jaws. God save us all from wives who are angels in the streets, saints in the church, and devils at home.56
Spurgeon’s candid words, although somewhat crass, depict the awfulness of the woman who slanders. According to Strong’s the term “slander” is defined as “, dee-ab´-ol-os;— false accuser, devil.”57 It is quite interesting that the term slander is synonymous with the devil. From the beginning, the devil slandered us before God as well as God before us. The devil craftily fixed his words in such a subtle way that one could easily be misguided into thinking he was not slandering God’s words. The devil said to Eve, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” The words God actually said, however, were “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.” The devil cleverly twisted God’s words to cast doubt in the woman’s mind. In this twisting, the devil falsely accused God.
In a similar way, many wives have been guilty of doing the same thing. Potiphar’s wife, after realizing that Joseph did not want to commit adultery with her, falsely accused him of trying to rape her. This evil report caused Potiphar to throw Joseph into prison. Genesis 39:11-19 records,
One day, Joseph went to Potiphar’s house to do his work, and none of the other servants were there. Potiphar’s wife grabbed hold of his coat and said, “Make love to me!” Joseph ran out of the house, leaving her hanging onto his coat. When this happened, she called in her servants and said, “Look! This Hebrew has come just to make fools of us. He tried to rape me, but I screamed for help. And when he heard me scream, he ran out of the house, leaving his coat with me.” Potiphar’s wife kept Joseph’s coat until her husband came home. . . . Potiphar became very angry and threw Joseph in the same prison where the king’s prisoners were kept (CEV).
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines slander as “malicious talk intended to damage or destroy another person.”58 Therefore, Paul warns wives against it. He exhorts, “Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things” (1 Timothy 3:11). In his letter to Titus, he uses the words “false accusers,” (2:3) which conveys the same meaning.
This is quite scary because the devil is the one who has been called the accuser of the brethren. Revelation 12:10 declares, “For the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” For Paul to tell women not to be slanderers or false accusers, it would imply that if a woman participates in this activity she would be called a slanderer or false accuser which is synonymous of the devil. When Spurgeon writes that wives who slander are devil’s at home is not a far off statement. Those who may think that this is still not a very big sin should look at the ninth commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
Slandering one’s neighbor can be quite damaging not only to that person but to the one spreading the slander as well. The Proverbs record, “He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool” (10:18). The Psalmist wrote, “Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue. What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper” (120:2-4). The King James Bible Commentary writes,
The psalmist addresses those who slander him and says, “What punishment will God inflict upon you for speaking falsely of me?” He then conjectures what that punishment may be. Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper. God has reserved the sharpest arrows of the mighty for them and the most torturous coals of punishment. It is not without significance that all liars “. . . shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone . . .” (Rev 21:8).59
Keepers at Home
An area that most wives seem to dismiss is the area of being “keepers at home” (Titus 2:5). Today most wives find it necessary to work outside the home while others just enjoy going off to work and building a career for personal accomplishment. Foley and Nechas note, “Women who work do so because they either want to or have to—and sometimes both.”60 The Apostle Paul, however, instructs Titus that the older women need to teach the younger women to be keepers at home.
Secular thinkers argue in opposition to this Scriptural teaching. Friedan argues, “Women do not need courses in ‘marriage and the family’ to marry and raise families; they do not need courses in home-making to make houses. But they must study science –to discover in science; study the thought of the past—to create new thought; study society—to pioneer in society.”61 This train of thought, however, runs in opposition to the Apostle Paul’s directives.
Does this mean that a wife should not go off to work or wherever else she might desire? McGee shares, “‘Keepers at home’ means they are to be workers at home. I may get in trouble here, but I must say this: A wife’s first responsibility is in her home. The home is not a playpen; it is a serious responsibility to be a wife and to care for children in the home. It is not something to be taken lightly.”62
A woman being a keeper at home, however, is not a popular idea. Due to the heightened awareness of the feminist movement, many women find this to be too restrictive. In spite of this opposition McGee shares,
I am confident that Paul would never have approved of the women’s lib movement. I will stick my neck out even further and say that I am opposed to it—I think it’s wrong. I believe that a woman wants to be treated like a woman and not like a man. I was in a large business establishment recently where there were fifty stenographers, and from what I heard they were really promoting women’s lib in that office. I agree that women should be promoted according to their ability and paid according to their ability, but I noticed when we came to get on the elevator the ladies felt like they should get on first. I let them do that because I was taught to do so. If these women really want equality in every way, they should not be working just in offices, but they should also take work as ditchdiggers. However, I am convinced that that is not really what they want. My friend, the biggest and most important business in the world is the making of a home.63
Betty Friedan disagrees with McGee. In her popular book, The Feminine Mystique, Friedan significantly challenged the woman’s role and promoted the idea that women needed to listen to that voice within them which says, “I want something more than my husband and my children and my home.”64 She speaks concerning herself, “I could not go home again, to the life of my mother and the women of our town, bound to home, bridge, shopping, children, husband, charity, clothes. But now the time had come to make my own future.”65
The King James Bible Commentary claims, “Being a good homekeeper is not demeaning. There is no higher calling. Every man knows the transforming power in the home of a lovely, godly wife. Her power is felt in a much greater institute than a bank or political office when she influences the home and children for God.”66 Spurgeon writes, “Wives should feel that home is their place and their kingdom, the happiness of which depends mostly upon them.”67
With the shift, however, of women migrating into the marketplace the admonition of wives keeping at home has greatly been glazed over. Yalom says, “Between the 1960s and the 1980s, the growing number of wives working outside the home began to alter the fabric of American marriage.”68 While the American marriage might not be the only marriages affected, the fact remains that women not being at home has caused added stress to the home. Psycologists note, “Studies show that no matter how prestigious and lucrative their careers, women still do the bulk of the housework and parenting, a situation that may spawn the most bickering in dual-earner homes.”69
In addition to added stress, women will be faced with difficult decisions. Psychologists claim,
There will be times when your career will take precedence over your relationship, but not in a way to mortally wound it. There may come a time, for instance, when you have to choose between staying home with a sick husband who is longing to be nurtured and going to work because a project is due. You may have to decide to go with your career demands, knowing it won’t jeopardize the relationship, although it might hurt your spouse at the moment.70
If a woman is a keeper at home, she will not face these kind of situations. This is illustrated by contrasting the modern woman to the women in biblical Israel. The women back then were very different from the modern women of today. Packer, Tenney, and White, Jr. explains, “A young woman didn’t even think about a career outside the home. Her mother trained her to keep house and to raise children. She was expected to be a helper to her husband and to give him many children.”71
Occasionally, the Scriptures will give examples of women who worked outside the home and some might use these examples to support that stance. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that these women were not building careers for themselves; instead, they were tending to the daily chores of their homes. Packer, Tenney, and White Jr. points out,
The main food in the Jewish diet was bread. In fact, the Hebrew word for bread (lehem) was a synonym for food. One of the jobs that the wife and mother had, then, was to grind grain into flour. This involved several steps. She obviously had none of the electrical gadgets that are available today, so all of this work had to be done by hand. She used thorns, stubble, or even animal dung to fuel the oven. The children usually had the job of finding the fuel; but if they were not old enough to leave the house, the woman had to find the fuel herself. . . . In addition, the wife was expected to help bring in the harvest (Ruth 2:23). She prepared some crops like olives and grapes for storage. So her daily routine had to be flexible enough to include these other jobs.72
Furthermore, it is fitting to highlight that certain women who indeed worked jobs (like Ruth) were women who may have been widows or single and needed to support themselves. The ideal situation, however, would be as Paul tells Timothy. “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (1 Timothy 5:14).
A wife would do well to make her home her dwelling where she keeps herself so ever employed. By doing thus she will relinquish herself from the unnecessary stress that will come with building a career. In his “Song” of 1877, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned, “Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest; Home-keeping hearts are happiest, for those that wander they know not where are full of trouble and full of care; to stay at home is best.”73
The Counselor’s Perspective
What steps can wives take that will help them to exhibit behaviors that are becoming? Cynthia Heald shares some practical information that wives can implement immediately. In an effort to help women be chaste, she suggests that women must acknowledge the stumbling blocks that are in the path to purity. A good way for wives to do this is to look up specific verses in the Bible which help identify such obstacles. She suggests passages like Mark 7:15, 20-23, Ephesians 6:12, and James 1:13-16. Once the obstacles are acknowledged, wives must look up verses that will help them learn how to reject sin. Romans 6:11-14, Colossians 3:15, and 1 John 3:7-9 are suggested as helpful.
Heald also suggests that women need to identify specific convictions. She recommends that women write down specific convictions as it relates to their relationships with men, convictions about their dress, convictions about their speech, and convictions concerning their activities. Once these things are identified, Heald advises women to seek out someone they can call or go to for special prayer when faced with these temptations. These steps will help the woman take an active part in guarding against potential sins.
Another tip Heald shares regards obedience. She admonishes women that obedience is for their good. She says they can obey with God’s power, and that their obedience is for their own growth. She makes the assignment that women should study various Bible passages like Matthew 21:28-32 and Luke 6:46-49 and write a paragraph summarizing Jesus teachings on the subject of obedience.74 From Heald’s perspective, the best way for wives to develop themselves in various behaviors is to examine the specific texts in Scripture that relate to each subject.
The Apostle Paul states clearly that the ultimate goal for his directives is to help wives become holy in order that the word of God be not blasphemed. He declares, “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, . . . that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:3-5). Henry continues,
Failures in such relative duties would be greatly to the reproach of Christianity. . . . The word of God and the gospel of Christ are pure, excellent, and glorious, in themselves; and their excellency should be expressed and shown in the lives and conduct of their professors, especially in relative duties; failures here being disgrace.75
1. Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, American Quotations (Avenel, NJ: Wing Books, 1992), 147.
2. Joseph R. Conlin, The American Past: A Survey of American History, vol. 1, 6th ed. (Orlando, FL: Harcourt
College Publishers, 2001), 295.
3. Denise Foley and Eileen Nechas, eds., Women’s Encyclopedia of Health & Emotional Healing: Top Women
Doctors Share Their Unique Self-Help Advice on Your Body, Your Feelings and Your Life (Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press,
4. Foley and Nechas, 240.
5. Ibid., 239.
6. H. Norman Wright, Questions Women Ask in Private (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1993), 192.
7. W. A. Criswell, Believer’s Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 2 Cor 11:2.
8. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, electronic ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson
Publishers, 1997), 2 Cor 11:1-4.
9. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), Is 3:24.
10. Conlin, 341.
11. Carruth and Ehrlich, 193.
12. Dale Evans Rogers, Time Out Ladies (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966), 82.
13. Donald C. Stamps and John Wesley Adams, eds., KJV Life in the Spirit Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan, 2003), Is 3:16-26.
14. Mary K. Mohler, “Modeling Modesty,” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,
http://www.albertmohler.com/documents/modelingmodesty.pdf (accessed October 6, 2011).
15. Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, The Rules for Marriage: Time-tested Secrets for Making Your Marriage Work
(New York, NY: Warner Books, 2001), 13-14.
16. Mohler, “Modeling Modesty.”
17. Stamps and Adams, eds., 1 Tm 2:9.
18. Mohler, “Modeling Modesty.”
19. Jim Henderson and Matt Casper, Jim & Casper Go to Church: Frank Conversation about Faith, Churches, and
Well-Meaning Christians (Carol Stream, IL:Tyndale House, 2007),122.
20. Rogers, 83.
21. Thomas Nelson, Inc., King James Version Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 1
22. McGee, Is 3:18-24.
23. Mohler, “Modeling Modesty.”
24. Stamps and Adams, eds., 1 Tm 2:9.
25. Mohler, “Modeling Modesty.”
26. Rogers, 81.
27. Jerry Falwell, Edward Hindson, and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary, electronic ed.
(Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 1 Pt 3:3-4.
28. McGee, Ti 2:10.
29. Rogers, 81.
30. Patrick M. Morley, What Husbands Wish Their Wives Knew About Men (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
Publishing House, 1998), 175.
31. Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI;
Ministry Resources Library, 1973), 153.
32. Emerson Eggerichs, The Love She Most Desires: Love and Respect: The Respect He Desperately Needs
(Brentwood, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2004), 183.
33. Billy Prewitt, “Social Personal Skill Building,” 8.
34. Adams, 151.
35. Prewitt, 10.
36. Carruth and Ehrlich, 364.
37. Ibid., 365.
38. Prewitt, 10.
39. Adams, 153.
40. Stamps and Adams, eds., 1 Cor 13:4-7.
41. McGee, 1 Cor 13:3.
42. R. C. Sproul, The Intimate Marriage: A Practical Guide to Building a Great Marriage (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R
Publishing, 2003), 53.
43. Thomas Nelson, Inc., Word in Life study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 1 Cor 13:1.
44. Paul Yonggi Cho, SolvingLife’s Problems (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1980), 76.
45. Adams, 141.
46. Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison, eds., Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary: An
authoritative one-volume reference work on the Bible with full color illustrations, electronic rev. ed. (Nashville, TN:
Thomas Nelson, 1995), s.v. “Love.”
47. Marilyn Yalom, A History of the Wife (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), XVIII.
48. Wright, 216.
49. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1995), 5293.
. “On Submission Part I,” Joshua’s House, http://www.joshuahshouse.com/christian-wife-submission-meansobedience.
html (accessed October 11, 2011).
51. Sproul, 50-1.
52. Ibid., 51.
53. F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, rev. ed., The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. F. F.
Bruce (1988; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), 107.
54. Sproul, 51.
56. C. H. Spurgeon, John Ploughman’s Talks (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1993), 96-7.
57. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, 1228.
58. Youngblood, Bruce, and Harrison, eds., s.v. “Slander.”
59. Falwell, Hindson, and Kroll, eds., Ps 120:3.
60. Foley and Nechas, 86.
61. Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997), 368.
62. McGee, Ti 2:5.
64. Friedan, 32.
65. Ibid., 69.
66. Falwell, Hindson, and Kroll, eds., Ti 2:5.
67. Spurgeon, 96.
68. Yalom, 380.
69. Foley and Nechas, 152.
70. Ibid., 153.
71. J. I. Packer, Merrill C. Tenney and William White, Jr., Nelson’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts
(Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), s.v. “Women and Womanhood.”
73. Carruth and Ehrlich, 279.
74. Cynthia Heald, Becoming a Woman of Excellence: A Bible Study by Cynthia Heald (Colorado Springs, CO:
NavPress, 1986), 87-96.
75. Henry, Ti 2:1.
Chapter 5: Wives in Ministry
Over the years, there has been a significant shift of the role of women. At one time, women were treated as mere possessions and worked primarily in the home. Over the course of time, however, and the propagation of the women’s movement, women have made noticeable strides. They are taking leadership positions in the world of business, the world of government, and even the military. There pursuits, though, have not just ended there. Today women are also occupying leadership positions in the Church. The title of “pastor” that was once held by the husband is now being ascribed to the wife as well. From gigantic billboards to church websites, female pastors are being featured. Some wives even have their own churches, where they are the senior pastor and their husbands are just part of the congregation. According to Slick, “Many Christian churches have adopted the ‘politically correct’ social standard and have allowed women pastors and elders in the church.”1
This issue has certainly raised no small stir. Allison shares, “The reaction to this relatively new phenomenon ranges from bitter outrage to hearty endorsement.”2 The number of people that oppose the idea seems to equal the number that support it. Some think it is perfectly fine for women to assume leadership roles in the church while others argue that this behavior conflicts with Scripture.
Joyce Meyer, for instance, a very prominent speaker and teacher, shares that her husband “Dave doesn’t preach and I’m gifted to do so.”3 This way of thinking, however, has prompted people like Slick to argue, “Those who state that they are called by God because of the great job they are doing and the gifting they have received are basing their theology upon experience and not scripture.”4 With such a touchy subject, it is imperative that wives examine the Scriptures to decipher their proper role as it relates to the Church.
According to 1 Timothy 2:11-13, the Apostle Paul teaches, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” Criswell comments,
A careful study of the Scriptures as a whole indicates further significance to this very straightforward statement. The apostle Paul shows an unequaled esteem for and appreciation of the home. Throughout his epistles Paul is careful to present a thorough and consistent pattern for relationships within the home. In forbidding women to hold teaching/ruling positions, Paul is further protecting God-assigned lines of authority within the home. The Greek word , translated “man,” may also be translated “husband.” A wife, then, is not to instruct or rule over her husband.5
By the way, this is not some bigoted rule; some relic of the past when men dragged women around by the hair. This is God’s design and order in the church. It has nothing to do with the value of men over women or men being superior to women, for the gospel has made us equal heirs to the inheritance of Christ. This has to do with the order and function of the home and the church. In the same way men are held accountable as the leader of the household (Ephesians 5:23), they are to be the teaching leaders and authority in the church (1 Timothy 3:4-5).6
Zinas J. Bicket, former president of the Berean University of the Assemblies of God, claims, however, that
the apostle Paul spoke to a church and a culture that needed specific guidance and correction, just as we today need to hear from God a word for our generation—a word which resonates harmoniously with all of the inspired Word. One could wish we had direct teaching from Jesus on the subject, or that Paul could articulate for our generation as he articulated and applied eternal principles for his generation. Our task would be so much easier. But since we have neither of those guides to direct us, we must assume that God, in His great wisdom, desires us to work at applying those eternal principles to our generation, and to do it in a spirit of love, understanding, and patience with each other.7
For Bicket to make such a statement depicts how far away some churches have come from trusting God’s timeless Word. Deducing the Scriptures to fit the climate of Paul’s time and boldly claiming that Jesus did not give any direct teaching on this subject insinuates that 2 Timothy 3:16, (“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”) is no longer relevant. It also indicates that the writings of Paul are not direct teachings from Jesus. For an Assemblies of God leader to make such a statement is quite frightening. The Scriptures must not be reduced to just a book that dealt with past culture but a book of the words of Life for our present time as well. Fryar says of the Scriptures, “Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true and its decisions are immutable.”8
Patterson, on the contrary, argues, “Paul does not leave his readers to conjecture that the directive to women not to teach men or to exercise authority over men is for the first century alone. The theological origin for this directive in worship is again the creation order.”9 The Psalmist declares,
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. . . . That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Psalm 12:6-7; 78:6-7).
The book of 1 Timothy is not the only book that admonishes women to be silent in the churches. In 1 Corinthians 14:34-36, Paul cites what manner of behavior women need to have in respect to the churches. He exhorts, “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.” In that same passage Paul asks the questions, “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?” In other words, women came out from man as was stated by Adam in Genesis 2:23, “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, the woman who came out from man could not teach the man, whom the word of God came to. It was Adam that God commanded not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not the woman.
It would seem that in both the accounts of 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, Paul points his readers back to the creation order to establish where the position of women lies, as pointed out by Patterson earlier. Slick cites, “In creation, God made Adam first and then Eve to be his helper. This is the order of creation. . . . Being a pastor or an elder is to be in the place of authority. Therefore, within the church, for a woman to be a pastor or elder, she would be in authority of men in the church which contradicts what Paul says in 1 Tim. 2:11-14.”10 This teaching, nonetheless, has not been readily received.
In spite of the Scriptural stance, many women have assumed leadership roles in the Church and are doing so without any shame. Julie Pennigton-Russell, for example, stirred up quite a bit of controversy when she assumed the role of senior pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. The fact that Pennigton-Russell was a woman caused many Baptists there to be outraged at her for taking on such a role. Regardless of the outrage, in 2007 Pennigton-Russell assumed another Baptist pulpit, Decatur’s First Baptist Church, in Georgia where she is presently serving as the lead pastor.11 She claims, “The call to minister is given by God to the whole church. Some are called to be leaders in this ministry, yes, but all are called by God to be ministers.”12
Recently, the writer moved to the North Florida area and unknowingly visited a church in Lake City, where the senior pastor was a woman. The pastor’s husband played the guitar and sang on the praise team and she did the preaching. When the writer asked her the question, “What made you decide to become a pastor?” The lady was quite dogmatic that she did not decide to be a pastor. She said that this was what God called her to do.
McGee shares his own example,
When I was a pastor in Nashville, Tennessee, a tent was put up across the street from my church. The Baptist preacher in town was a good friend of mine and together we went over to meet the husband and wife team who were going to hold meetings. The wife did the preaching, and the husband did all the leg work. We watched him putting up the tent and setting out the benches and all that sort of thing. He also led the singing. That’s all right if you like it that way, but I don’t. However, the Baptist preacher and I gave the meetings all the support we could, because they had good meetings and she did preach the gospel. This is an example of the fact that God has used some of these groups who have women preachers in a definite way; but I think, frankly, that He has used them in spite of, not because of, the position of women among them.13
Nowadays there seems to be no shortage of women pastors. According to Witham, “The last three decades, which have been some of the most active in history regarding women’s ordination, illustrate also the inevitable ebbs and tides, and even cycles, that the women’s cause in Christian ministry tends to undergo. Overall . . . the tide has been toward more acceptance of female leadership from the pulpit or at the church executive’s desk.”14
A very prominent denomination that helps to promote women in the pulpits is the Assemblies of God. As recently as August of 2010, the Assemblies of God General Presbytery notes, “We conclude that we cannot find convincing evidence that the ministry of women is restricted according to some sacred or immutable principle.”15 To prove their point the Assemblies cited passages that spoke of women like Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Phoebe who all held principle roles. They continue, “Since the earliest days of our Fellowship, spiritual gifting has been evident in the ministries of many outstanding women who pioneered and directed a wide spectrum of ministries. It was not uncommon for a married woman to minister in partnership with her husband.”16
The Baptists, on the other hand, share an opposing viewpoint. Part of Article 6 of the Baptist Faith and Message reads, “Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”17
Slick agrees with the Baptists stance. He writes,
Women are not to be pastors and elders. Many may not like that answer, but it is, I believe, an accurate representation of the biblical standard. . . . In the Old Testament in over 700 mentions of priests, every single one was a male. There is not one instance of a female priest. This is significant because priests were ordained by God to hold a very important office of ministering the sacrifices. This was not the job of women.18
Witherington, on the other hand, contends, “There is no need for a separate order of priests in the NT because Christ’s sacrifice made obsolete the entire OT sacerdotal system of priests, temples and sacrifices. The only priesthoods we hear about in the NT are: 1) the priesthood of all believers, which of course includes women, and 2) the heavenly high priesthood of Christ (see Hebrews).”19
Another point of contention deals with women who are missionaries that preach abroad. Witherington says some people say,
Women can’t be Christian ministers because specific passages in the NT prohibit it. Here, especially for very conservative Protestants is the nub of the matter. It is believed that 1 Cor. 14.33b-36 and 1 Tim. 2.8-15 prohibit women from teaching and preaching in the church. I will not bring up the hypocrisy of some of these arguments that make nice distinctions like— “its o.k. for women to teach or lead a Bible study in the home, but not in the church building.” (this word just in– there were no church buildings in the NT era, they met in homes!), or even worse “its o.k. for women to teach and preach on the mission field where it’s necessary, but not here in America where it isn’t.” Again the logic here is completely bogus and not based on anything in Scripture at all.20
Slick points out,
Scripture establishes the norm. As Christians we apply what we learn from the word to the situations at hand. So, what about the situation where a woman missionary has converted a group of people, say in the jungle somewhere, and she has established a church? In that church, she is then functioning as a pastor and teacher having authority over men in the church. Should she not do this? First of all, she should not be out there alone. She should be with her husband or, at the very least, under the oversight of a church body in the presence of other women and men. Missionary work is not a lone endeavor to be handled by single women. Second, if in some highly unusual set of circumstances there is a woman in a lone situation, it is far more important that the word of God be preached and the gospel of salvation go forth to the lost than not. Whether it be male or female, let the gospel be spoken. However, I would say that as soon as there is/are males mature enough to handle eldership, that she should then establish the proper order of the church as revealed in scripture and thereby, show her submission to it.21
This sharp contrast of views concerning women in church leadership is no small issue. Davey comments, “I fully believe that in the next five to ten years, evangelical churches in America will be divided, or at least identified, by this one issue. There will be churches that will allow women to preach and teach men or mixed audiences of men and women and churches that will not.”22 Davey continues and makes an insightful observation. He says the church in Thyatira in Revelation allowed a woman, Jezebel, to teach the assembly, which in return brought God’s condemnation because of her wicked teachings.
Notice in Revelation 2:20 again, . . . [she] calls herself a prophetess . . . In other words, she claims, and perhaps even believes, she is speaking on behalf of God, when she is actually speaking the lie of Satan. She is not representing the word of God! And every convert she makes; every person who comes to her in church and says, “You’re so insightful. You’re so right about this. I’m having the time of my life now that I’ve loosened up!” only further deceives her into believing she is right, while in reality she is being driven further away from the truth.23
While some female pastors might not be teaching their congregations to sin in the way Jezebel did, the fact that God uses a female name and that of “Jezebel” to illustrate His point illustrates the awkwardness and reverse order of how things may have changed.
Where does this leave wives? What roles should they then play in the Church? After all, Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla, Phoebe and a lot of other women held notable positions in the Bible. Meyer claims,
Whether we look at Miriam, Deborah, Esther, and Ruth in the Old Testament—or Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, or Priscilla in the New Testament, we easily see that God has always used women in ministry. When He needed someone to save the Jews from the destruction that wicked Haman had planned for them, He called Esther. If God is against using women, why didn’t He call a man for the job?24
While it may be true that some women held very notable positions in the Bible, it is important to recognize that in none of these examples were they filling the office of bishop or Overseer. Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah were all prophetesses. Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines prophet as “a person who spoke for God and who communicated God’s message courageously to God’s Chosen People—the nation of Israel. . . . Prophets received their call or appointment directly from God.”25 A bishop, on the other hand, is defined as “an overseer. A man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian or superintendent. The superintendent, elder, or overseer of a Christian church.”26 Women must be careful to not allow the prominent positions some women held in the Bible, or at any other time in history, to justify their right to be in the office of bishop.
The Scriptures are clear on who should be the leader in the Church. Paul exhorts in 1 Timothy 3:1-7,
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
In each case, the one who is an elder, deacon, bishop, or overseer is instructed to be male. He is the husband of one wife, responsible, able to “exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). We see no command for the overseers to be women. . . . Why is it that it is the men who are singled out as the overseers? It is because of the created order of God that Paul references (Gen. 1-2; 1 Tim. 2:12-14). This is not merely a social custom that fell away with ancient Israel.27
What Can Women Do?
In what regard then can women be used in the Church if they cannot have the office of a bishop? It is observable throughout Scripture that women ministered in the body of Christ by teaching, doing good works, prophesying, praying, etc. Priscilla, for example, assisted her husband, Aquila, by teaching Apollos (Acts 18:26). The Apostle Paul wrote to Titus and told him that women “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” (Titus 2:4-5). Patterson declares, “Paul does not prohibit Christian women from teaching. Women taught children (2 Tim 1:5; 3:15; Prov 1:8); they instructed other women (Titus 2:3-4); and on occasion they shared understandings with men on a personal level (Acts 18:26).”28
Women Can Do Good Works
In addition to teaching, women can do good works. Dorcas, for example, had such a reputation. Acts 9:36 records, “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.” Another woman, the Shunammite in the Old Testament, helped to ensure that the prophet Elisha had a guest room available to him when he passed through town. 2 Kings 4:8-10 records,
And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.
Women Can Pray and Prophesy
Women also are allowed to pray and prophesy. Anna, a prophetess dwelt continually in the temple of the Lord and prayed. Luke writes, “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, . . . And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:36-37). If the Lord had a problem with women praying in public setting, He would not have inspired Paul to write 1 Corinthians chapter eleven, where he describes the manner in which women ought to pray when the church met together: “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven” (1 Corinthians 11:5). Henry remarks, “Though she might not preach even by inspiration (because teaching is the business of a superior), yet she might pray or utter hymns by inspiration, even in the public assembly. She did not show any affectation of superiority over the man by such acts of public worship. It is plain the apostle does not in this place prohibit the thing, but reprehend the manner of doing it.”29
In addition to praying women can also prophesy. For instance, Philip’s four daughters prophesied to a group of believers (Acts 21:9). It might be noteworthy to point out that Philip’s daughters prophesied to what appears to be an audience of men. If this was a behavior that women should not do, surely the apostle would have addressed the matter. After all, he was present when this occurred.
One might question why women were allowed to prophesy to men when they were told that they could not teach them. Keep in mind that by definition of prophecy they were divinely given a message from God. When a person prophesies they are only speaking what God has put in their mouths to speak. They are neither trying to prove what they say, nor expound on what they said. They are not even attempting to evaluate it. Their only job is to communicate what they have been given. Stamps notes, “Concerning prophecy as a spiritual manifestation: Prophesy is a special gift that enables a believer to bring a word or revelation directly from God under the impulse of the Holy Spirit. It is not the delivery of a previously prepared sermon.”30
For a women to prophesy in an audience of mixed gender is not inappropriate because she is not usurping the authority over the man. When she does seek to challenge the authority over the man, however, it can be disastrous for her. Moses sister, Miriam for example, even though a prophetess, experienced the heavy hand of God when she sought to challenge Moses’ authority. God dealt severely with her. According to the Scriptures,
Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it. . . . And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed. And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous (Numbers 12:1-10).
Keeping the Right Balance
In a matter of such heated debate, keeping the proper balance is vital. Some wives are so concerned about their calling and how they can be used of God and operate in their gifting that they fail to obey their first calling. God’s first calling for them is submitting to their husbands in everything. Lim writes, “A woman has a primary responsibility to her husband and family.”31
Aimee Semple McPherson, however, did not agree. She believed her “calling” came before her family. Blumhofer cites, “Restless in the confines of her marriage and home, McPherson rediscovered her call to preach. In 1915, she left her husband, taking her children to her father’s home in Ingersoll, Ontario. . . . That year she gradually entered the world of itinerant evangelism.”32
Another woman, Maria Woodworth-Etter, during the 1800’s, procured an audience for her calling in spite of her husband’s opinion and the opinion of her church. “After her marriage, she resolved to enter evangelistic ministry. Precluded from public preaching among the Disciples, and discouraged by her husband, she found in a local Quaker meeting the support she needed.”33
Several years ago, when Joyce Meyer started off in the ministry, she said the pastor of their church approached her and her husband. He looked straight at her husband, Dave, and told him that he needed to lead the Bible study in their home not his wife. So they decided to give it a try. She states, “Dave tried to preach and I tried to shut up, and both efforts were equally hard.” As a result of that difficulty, Dave encouraged her to do the preaching. Meyer records, “He finally got to the point with me where he said, ‘Go for it.’” Instead of helping her husband in this area, Meyer acted on what she thought was her calling.34
Wives who take upon themselves the role of the authority figure in the Church are refusing to submit to the headship of their husbands and to the headship of the Church. Patterson concludes,
The real issue is not what women can or cannot do in the church but how they respond to the authority of the Bible. Nothing in Scripture suggests that godly women assumed positions of authority over men in the home or in the church. This fact is consistently illustrated by biblical history from beginning to end. In both Old and New Testaments male leadership is overwhelmingly the pattern—whether priests, kings, prophets, judges, or the inspired authors of Scripture. Women indeed share the gospel and do nurturing in the faith, performing a myriad of kingdom tasks—all within biblical boundaries and in harmony with the creation order.35
Slick asks, “But doesn’t this teaching belittle women?” He answers,
No, male leadership does not belittle women. Jesus was given his authority by God the Father (Matt. 28:18). He was sent by God (John 6:38). He said the Father was greater than He (John 14:28). Did this belittle Jesus? Of course not. Women are of great value in the church and need to be used more and more according to the gifts given them. Does the wife’s submission to the husband mean that she is less than the husband, less important, or belittled? Again, not at all. Not having a place of leadership in the church does not mean a woman is less of a person, less important to God, or inferior. All are equal before God whether it be Jew, Gentile, free, slave, male, or female. But in the church, God has set up an order the same way he set one up in the family. The chain of command is Jesus, the man, the wife, and the children.36
The Counselor’s Perspective
The controversy of whether or not women should be in the pulpits will probably go on for generations. Having a proper handling on the subject is critical. Patterson recommends five practical things that wives can do about this issue. She suggests that women should first observe Scripture because Scripture interprets Scripture. Second, women need to study each side of the position for themselves. Two organizations she recommends are the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which represents the traditional position, and the Christian for Biblical Equality organization, which promotes the egalitarian side of the issue. Both of these organizations, according to Patterson, will help to furnish materials that will shed light on their respective stance. Third, she advises that women need to not accept any scholar’s interpretation of the issue without first seeing their documentation. Fourth, she says, “Consult classic commentaries that have stood the test of time.” Finally, she encourages women to get involved by requiring a fair representation of the issue from Christian journals, periodicals, and even their own denomination.37
Hopefully wives will examine the Scriptures to find out where they fit into the picture and be obedient to the order God has put in place. All believers are called to live a peaceable and quiet life (1 Timothy 2:2). The more controversy Christian women draw to the body of Christ over this issue the less the body of Christ can lead a quiet and peaceable life. The apostle was careful to say that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
1. Matthew Slick, “Should Women Be Pastors and Elders?” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry,
http://carm.org/should-women-be-pastors-and-elders (accessed October 16, 2011).
2. Brian Allison, “Why Women Should Not be Pastors,” Biblical Viewpoint Publication,
http://www.bibleword.com/wwsnbp.htm (accessed October 16, 2011).
3. Joyce Meyer, Help Me I’m Married (Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, 2000), 223.
4. Slick, “Should Women Be Pastors and Elders?”
5. W. A. Criswell, Believer’s Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 1 Tm 2:12.
6. Stephen Davey, “Judging Jezebel,” OnePlace.com, http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/wisdom-for-theheart/
download-buy/free-transcripts/transcript-for-judging-jezebel.html (accessed September 9, 2011).
7. Zinas J. Bickett, “Dealing with Questions on the Role of Women in Ministry,” The General Council of the
Assemblies of God, http://ag.org/wim/roleofwim/0306_wim_questions.cfm (accessed October 16, 2011).
8. L. A. Fryar, The Bible (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Evangelical Tract Distributors), T5J 2G9.
9. Dorothy Patterson, “Should Women Serve as Pastors?” Center for Theological Research,
http://www.baptisttheology.org/documents/ShouldWomenServeasPastors.pdf (accessed October 16, 2011).
10. Slick, “Should Women Be Pastors and Elders?”
11. Bruce T. Gourley, “Julie Pennington-Russell and Dorothy Patterson,” The Baptist Studies Bulletin,
http://www.centerforbaptiststudies.org/bulletin/2007/august.htm (accessed September 2, 2011).
12. Julie Pennigton-Russell, First Baptist Church Decatur, GA, http://fbcdecatur.com/index.php?id=167 (accessed
October 16, 2011).
13. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 1 Tm 2:9.
14. Larry A.Witham, Who Shall Lead Them? The Future of Ministry in America (New York, NY: Oxford
University Press, 2005), 42.
15. “The Role of Women in Ministry As Described in Holy Scripture,”
http://www.agncn.org/documents/PP_The_Role_of_Women_in_Ministry.pdf (accessed October 16, 2011).
17. The Baptist Faith and Message, “VI. The Church,” Southern Baptist Convention,
http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp (accessed August 23, 2011).
18. Slick, “Should Women Be Pastors and Elders?”
19. Ben Witherington, “Why Arguments Against Women in Ministry Aren’t Biblical,”
October 16, 2011).
21. Slick, “Should Women Be Pastors and Elders?”
22. Davey, “Judging Jezebel.”
24. Joyce Meyer, The Confident Woman: Start Today Living Boldly and Without Fear (New York, NY: Warner
Faith, 2006), 30.
25. Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, and R.K. Harrison, eds., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary: An
Authoritative One-Volume Reference Work on the Bible with Full Color Illustrations, electronic rev. ed. (Nashville, TN:
Thomas Nelson, 1995), s.v. “prophet.”
26. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1995), 1985.
27. Slick, “Should Women Be Pastors and Elders?”
28. Patterson, “Should Women Serve as Pastors?”
29. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, electronic ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson
Publishers, 1997), 1 Cor 11:5.
30. Donald C. Stamps and John Wesley Adams, eds., KJV Life in the Spirit Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan, 2003), 1803.
31. David Lim, Spiritual Gifts: A Fresh Look (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1991), 178.
32. Edith L. Blumhofer, The Assemblies of God: A Chapter in the Story of American Pentecostalism (Springfield,
MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1989), 1:250.
33. Ibid., 1:34.
34. Joyce Meyer, Help Me I’m Married, 222.
35. Patterson, “Should Women Serve as Pastors?”
36. Slick, “Should Women Be Pastors and Elders?”
37. Patterson, “Should Women Serve as Pastors?”
The role of wives is not an easy subject to tackle. Nonetheless, the Scriptures clearly present guiding principles that help to delineate the proper role and behavior of the wife. Regrettably, many wives still wrestle with their role. Some simply do not want to leave and cleave, others find it difficult to come under the headship of their husbands—as observed by those who hold the egalitarian view, while others still fancy themselves in behaving in improper ways. In an effort to help wives understand and implement the Scriptural pattern, the Christian counselor offers practical techniques in helping wives to fulfill their role.
There are so many Christian wives who, even though they are Christians, struggle with their role. Sometimes the reason can be as simple as just not knowing what that role is. They just were not educated enough in this area. The writer has learned that education in this area can prove to be an invaluable tool in helping wives become more prepared for their role. As one person has said, today a person needs a specialized degree if they want to become a doctor, a specialized degree if they want to become a nurse, a specialized degree if they want to fly a plane, etc., but when it comes to being a wife or a husband no training is provided. Learning what the Scripture teaches about the role of the wife can help wives perform what is expected of them. Sproul notes, “In marriage we hear the pathetic statement, ‘I feel like a failure as a wife,’ or ‘I feel like a failure as a husband,’ because people have no idea of what is expected of them and how well they are performing up to those expectations. Thus it is important for a man and a woman to know what is expected of them in marriage.”1
Wives who take the time to educate themselves, whether through self-study or through someone else or even a combination of both will improve their understanding of what is necessary for their role. The information brought to light in this paper has helped to do just that, educate wives of their role. Education is valuable, but proper application of what is learned is when the education becomes effective. For instance, forsaking one’s parents requires a clear decisive action and not just an educational understanding. Even though adjusting to that decision is not always easy, it is quite necessary. In dealing with her own parents, the writer has found that unless there is an emotional severance, it does not matter how far she relocates geographically, her emotional ties must be loosed. Therefore, it is good for wives to put into practice the lessons taught in Scripture. Learning about their role is simply not enough. They must exercise themselves in that knowledge. Jesus sums up this process of learning and doing best when “He said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:28). The key word here is “blessed.” Wives will be blessed if they act the part they have been called to act.
Although exhausting, studying the role of the wife is extremely beneficial. If wives truly accept and perform their role as outlined in Scripture they will live a much happier and peaceable life. For instance, wives who put into practice the leaving and cleaving principle will shield themselves from dealing with unnecessary problems associated with their parents being too involved in their and their husbands’ lives. This will alleviate stress that is so often a result of being pulled in two opposite directions.
Further, wives can relax knowing that they do not have to carry additional responsibilities such as leading the family, a task that God has clearly called their husbands’ to do. Instead, they can take refuge in the protection God has given to them. Many wives are plainly not aware of how loving God really is to them. He provides a covering for them and shields them from walking into unnecessary troubles through the guidance of their husbands. If wives would stop and think for a moment how privileged they really are that they have husbands to go to for advice or just comfort while they (the husbands) do not have such a person to always go to for himself, they would treasure that gift of a husband.
Besides this, wives who accept their role as outlined in Scripture will be happier just knowing that whatever task they help their husbands with not only benefits their husbands and families but also demonstrates an act of obedience to God. They will be happier knowing that they are behaving in ways that do not hurt God but are exactly in line with what He expects. After all, He was careful to declare, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Wives will feel more comforted knowing that while they are submitting to their husbands they are also submitting unto the Lord and knowing that they are pleasing the Lord will cause wives to have a greater peace.
Women who oppose the Scriptural pattern outlined for wives are often motivated by their own insecurities and selfishness. Moreover, they will often resist the Scriptural pattern because they do not want to humble themselves and submit to what God has called them to be. As a result, pride sets in and hinders them from living a more meaningful, peaceful, and productful life in Christ. Such persons, who rebel against the will of God for their life, will constantly find themselves, time and time again, exerting more energy refuting what is right in hopes of sanctioning their own behavior. When this happens, they are often stressed out, angry, full of bitterness, full of strife and a host of other issues that aid in producing an unstable life.
Those wives who struggle with submitting to the role God has called them to play can begin by repenting for falling short in this area. They can bring a prayer to God by simply asking the Lord Jesus to help them be who He has called them to be. For example, wives can pray a prayer like this:
Dear Lord Jesus,
I come before you today and I am struggling with my role as a wife. I know now what I am supposed to do and how I should behave but I have a hard time submitting to what You have asked me to do. Will You help me to embrace my role and not resist your will for my life. I repent of trying to do it my way and following secular views on this subject. Please forgive me for not obeying Your Word. I also repent of not being obedient to my husband and not being loving to him the way You intended. Teach me Lord how to love my husband in the way that would bring You honor. I know I can do all things through You Who strengthenth me. I entrust myself in Your care. I ask all of this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
In addition to praying a prayer like this, the writer recommends that wives get additional resources that will motivate them to behave properly in their role. For example, listening to a good sermon on the topic can be inspiring and encouraging. An example would be a sermon preached by Rand Humel entitled, “Being the Right Parent Means Being the Right Partner.” This sermon probes the heart and offers some vital spiritual principles that are useful for wives growth. There are many resources and materials available from quality Christian leaders on this subject from which the wife can choose.
Once a Christian woman begins to understand her role as a wife, she will be capable of helping other women. In addition, her knowledge could even prove an opportunity to bring light to women that are not believers. Wives who are not Christians and who do not have the Scriptures to guide them can be helped greatly by Christian wives. For instance, there are many ungodly wives in the marketplace everyday. Christian wives can start by modeling behaviors that might provoke growth in these ungodly wives.
A person does not have to be a Christian in order to apply biblical principles to their lives. When God gave the principles for wives in the Scripture, it was not limited to only those who go to Church. Rather, these are universal principles that God expects of every wife, not just Christians. For that reason, it is important that godly wives take up positions of teaching women these principles. An example can be as simple as starting a women’s Bible study class, at their place of employment. This might help draw in other women who are not exposed to the teachings of the Bible. Even though they are not Christians, they can still learn these precious principles. God certainly did not limit the role of the wife to a specific race, culture, or religion. When the Lord set out the design of how wives ought to be, He added no qualifiers. All wives are called to submission.
The question might be asked, however, “Does this mean that wives have to give up their personal dreams, and ambitions?” The writer suggests that wives examine these desires in light of Scripture. She suggests that wives make a list of everything they want to do. Once they have done this, they then need to ask themselves are these personal desires and ambitions something that they are willing to part with and lay aside. For instance, if the wife desires to have a career but her career conflicts with her husband’s desire will she be willing to part with that career. Perhaps it might be something as innocent as deciding to spend time with her family every Christmas against the wishes of her husband. Will she be willing to deny her own desires in an effort to please the Lord. Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” If wives are going to follow Jesus they must be willing to deny their own plans and ambitions, and what better opportunity to exercise such behavior than to demonstrate this in the midst of their everyday decisions and plans.
It is crucial that wives consider their role seriously and not light heartedly. God took the time to ensure that wives knew their purpose by recording it in Scripture. To dismiss what He has said as old fashion, out dated, or even oppressive, as so many have done, insults the Creator. In Genesis God knew what would be the best place for wives, and He still knows what would be the best place for wives in 2012. It is the writer’s hope that wives will be obedient to their calling and not strive any longer to figure out who they are and what they are suppose to do. It is all very clearly pointed out in Scripture. If they will just submit themselves to do what God prescribes for them to do, they will be most blessed.
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Defining the proper role of the wife has unquestionably incited many heated quarrels that have caused much unrest. Married women and especially women of the Christian faith wrestle with understanding their role as a wife. For example: What does it mean to leave and cleave? Is the Bible out-dated as it relates to submission? What is a helpmeet, and is it really necessary? Are there any set rules for how a wife should behave? How is a wife supposed to fit in the Church? Even though all of these questions are clearly outlined in Scripture with guiding principles that delineate the proper role and behavior of women in marriage, the actual role and behavior of women has diverged significantly from the pattern outlined in Scripture. In an effort to help rectify this problem, Rebekah Prewitt contrasts various world views with the Scripture. One by one, you will see how the answers of the so called experts come into conflict with God's Word and undermine the principles that Christians hold most dear. This book is a research based study of the wife's role with a Scriptural answer. It dives into the heated arguments of the past and present from well known philosophers, women's liberals, conservatives, and biblical scholars. The data compiled from this academic research will enlighten readers as they explore the discrepancy and divergence from the Biblical patterns of Scripture to the solutions presented.