In this sermon, Pastor Joe Babij overviews the Bible’s teaching when it comes to the roles of man and woman in marriage. After introducing where the roles for husband and wife come from, Pastor Babij looks more specifically at the characteristics of the husband as the loving leader and the wife as the respectful, submissive helper.
Let me have a word of prayer, Lord thank you so much that you bring us here together week after week. Lord, you give us your Word and tell us what really is true when we live in a world that they seem to enjoy things that are not true and even reinterpret things, so people don’t really know what is true. We thank you that you shoot from the hip to us, and you give us your Word, you tell us like it is, and we thank you for that Lord. I pray that as we think of the Word of God today and what we’re going to be looking at in the Word of God, continue to give wisdom to your Church about the roles of men and women so that wouldn’t get messed up in people’s heads. I pray Lord that we would keep that clear, and we know, Lord, that as we do that then that’s when blessings come when we do things God’s way. I pray this today for all of us in Christ’s name, Amen.
You can go into any bookstore and pick up a large amount of information on how-to-do-it books, and now many YouTube how-to-do-it tutorials. How to get rich, how to fix your sink, how to make it in business, how to tune up your car, how to grow things, how to lose and gain weight, how to dress for success, and the list is endless. I know I’ve used it, and I know you’ve used it. But you do not find many helpful how-to-do’s on how to mother and how to be a father and how to really know how to love your wife or respect and love your husband. See, these are basically ignored or riddled with very bad information. At a marriage seminar, a speaker asked a question to a young college girl, and the question was: what kind of man would you like to marry? The college girl says: I’d like to marry someone who can sing, dance, have fun, and stay at home at night. The speaker responded to her, saying: you don’t want a husband; you want a television set or a big screen tv. That response is telling because it shows that when it comes to marriage, and what it is all about, people are ill-informed. If we as Americans are willing to put a supreme court justice on the highest court in our land who cannot or will not define what a woman is, we as a country are truly in trouble. Yet when we come to the Bible, we get all the information we need, not only to define what a marriage is, but the roles of men and women within a marriage.
There’s no confusion in the Word of God concerning men and women because the Bible lays down key principles concerning relationship laws that people have studied in depth and have gleaned seven principles for male and female relationships. I am going to just throw those out to you very quickly—the key relationship principles that are really in the scripture, and when lived out they can be a very secure blessing to those who follow God’s blueprint. The first one is that men and women equally bear the image of God and are equally saved in Christ, speaking of Christian women. If you notice in Genesis 1:26-27 it says,
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
So, that’s clear in scripture that men and women are equal bearing the image of God and equally saved in Christ to those who are believers. The second principle is this, although equal as image-bearers men and women are not the same. Would you agree with that? That’s pretty clear, at least here. It’s not clear everywhere. They differ at least in three ways. Antinomically, that means they have different anatomy, different structures in their parts, that’s clear. Also, they are different physiologically. That means that their body parts function differently. Women can get pregnant and bear children– our congregation has successfully proven that to be true when we have a baby born almost every month, and sometimes two. Of course, there’s the third difference, and it’s the difference in their God-appointed roles. As it says in Genesis 2:18,
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
The Word of God begins to lay out for us that a man is to be a leader and a woman is to be the helper and who submits to the man.
A third principle is that equality does not mean sameness of roles or interchangeability of roles. Of course, we go to the New Testament and Paul is drawing from the book of Genesis when he says in Ephesians 5:22-24, very well-known chapter and read at most weddings, it says,
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
In other words, these are set rules. These are said that when we mess with the order, it brings confusion and trouble.
A fourth relationship principle is the concept of an equal submitting to an equal, like a wife submitting to her husband is based on the relationship between the Father and the Son within the trinity—that’s where is comes from. These principles come out of the relationship the Father has with the Son, where the Father presents Himself as the leader in the role, and Christ presents Himself as the one who submits to the Head, which is the Father as He, in His humanity, does the work on earth.
A fifth principle is that Adam was created first and then Eve. 1 Timothy 2:12-13 tells us that God is the architect and the designer, and the order of creation was intentional, deliberately designed by God to establish who was to lead and follow. 1 Timothy 2:12-13 says,
But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.
Another passage of scripture in 1 Corinthians 11:8- say,
For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.
These statements are all over the scripture concerning how God made things. When we follow how God made things then we find that we gain blessing from that. That leads me to a sixth principle and it’s that Eve was made by God to be a helper. She was created from man for the man and then led to the man. That comes from Genesis 2:22-23, where it says,
The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now the bone of bones, and the flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Like we read in Genesis 2:18, it says I will make a helper, someone who will come alongside, a completer to the man. That leads me to the seventh principle which is that Adam was given the leadership role, which includes responsibility, initiative, and gracious authority. God lays those principles out in scripture for us to follow and to establish our families on those principles. What happened though? In the fall of man these role relationship principles were compromised by sin. When sin entered the world, it did something to the roles of husbands and wives. It corrupted them. Romans 5:12 says,
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
What did sin do to the relationships? It ruined the harmony and unity of marriage. It twisted man’s humble, loving leadership into aggressive dominance for some men and others lazy indifference. It twisted woman’s intelligent, willing, joyful, expression of submission into a manipulative, scheming, and vying for control, or even unashamed defiance of the headship of man. That’s what sin did and has done to the roles of men and women. The fall with all its consequences harmful to women did not arise from her being subject to the man, but the exact opposite happened, that when she abandoned her role of submission to Adam and decided to take matters into her own hands, the fall came. Eve determined to lead man rather than follow and disaster ensued, and sin came upon the whole world because of this.
In Genesis 3, the serpent tempted the woman to disobey God by eating of the fruit that had been forbidden for her to eat, the serpent deceived her, and she did eat, and immediately after her own fall into sin she offered the forbidden fruit to her husband, and he willingly ate and fell into sin. In this scene in Genesis, a reversal of the roles occurred. The ultimate responsibility before God rested with Adam who allowed Himself to be knowingly led astray by his wife and God considered Adam ultimately responsible rather than Eve. It is clear from Romans 5:12, that through one man sin entered the world. Also, by the fact that the all-knowing God asked not Eve, but Adam to explain the actions. Further in Genesis 3:17 it says,
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’
In other words, the term listen means really obeyed in this case, as it often does in the Hebrew Old Testament. We come to the New Testament and the apostle Paul makes the point that the role reversal that caused such devastation at the beginning must not be repeated in the church. We have the full story of what took place and what we’re to do, the woman must not be the one who leads the man in obedience to her. Ever since the fall, women have been vying for position and power in competition with man. When they engage in this activity, they are making themselves vulnerable to satanic manipulation as Eve was made vulnerable to satanic manipulation and temptation when she gave in to the voice of Satan and not God’s command. God’s intention in Christ was to rescue and reverse, which is what sin has really destroyed in the marriage relationship. That’s what we come to in scripture, where we read that this is how you do it so that this never happens again.
Once these role relationship principles are understood then the husband can fulfil his role as the leader and the woman as his helper. She can fulfill her role as the one who submits to his leadership. If these relationship laws are violated in any way and a role reversal has taken place, it is usually because both partners are failing in some way.
Let’s look at some of the things, not all of them, that will take place in a marriage between a man and a woman when the man takes the leadership role, and the woman takes the subordinate role. We are taking those seven principles and looking at them through the lens of scripture. The husband is now the loving leader, in which there are four characteristics that become evident when a man does leader. The first characteristic of biblical leadership is that the husband leads by taking the initiative. You notice that even in our salvation—God the Father takes the initiative to save us because He is the leader in bringing salvation to humanity. Christ submits to His leadership by coming into the world, being a perfect man and then obeying the Father even to the point of death, and even in the garden when Jesus prayed: Father, not my will, but Your will be done, if it’s possible that this cup can pass from me, please let it pass, but not my will. See, He submits to the authority of the Father. The man is the one who is to take the initiative. How do we see that happens in Ephesians 5? Well, the man chooses to love his wife. It says in Ephesians 5:25,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her
The verb there for love emphasizes choice. This makes the love stronger and more enduring than just mere infatuation with a woman. Here is a choice to obey the Lord because this love toward the wife is commanded by God. What he does is he chooses to love his wife, and he takes the initiative to do that. In the same passage of Ephesians 5, he does another thing, which is he chooses to love his wife sacrificially, just as Christ loved the church, He gave Himself up for her—the church represented as a female. Christ is the one who is taking care of her. Christ’s example shows that the marriage is about what the husband gives, not about what he gets, so he’s initiator. He gives up personal desires, goals, and plans for her needs and desires. Then she ends up getting the sense from a worthy man that she’s more important than his toys, hobbies, and projects. A man who’s endeavoring to obey the Lord understands that and realizes that and tries to keep that in perspective.
Under that, a husband also loves his wife by providing leadership in the home. You know the passage of scripture where it gives us the details on the character qualifications of an elder, it says he must be one who manages his household well. That is for elders, but that is the goal of every man—to manage his own household well. So he loves her by providing leadership in the home where he manages his household. He takes the initiative in doing that. He doesn’t give all the duties to his wife, he takes the lead in doing that.
Then under that, he loves his wife by being actively involved in her spiritual life. Another passage of scripture can be found in 1 Corinthians that talks about letting the women ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for a woman to speak in the church. The husband is the one who is taking the initiative. He is providing the leadership in the home. He does not want to let his wife lead spiritually. Real men are spiritual leaders, aren’t they? Too often I see the woman dragging the man. That’s not how it ought to be. It ought to be the man, not dragging his family, but leading his family. When he doesn’t do it then he is going against the roles that God has laid out for him. He does harm to himself and his family when he does that.
The second thing that comes under the characteristic of leadership is that the husband leads by exalting his wife. This means that he loves his wife when he shows her honor. If you remember the passage of scripture in 1 Peter 3:7, it says,
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
The Lord takes this very seriously—that the man is to honor his wife. How does that look? Well, let’s see how dishonor looks. Dishonor looks like when you raise your voice at your wife, yelling at her, using harsh words, manipulating her, insulting her, mocking her, and lying to her. That doesn’t honor her. What honors her is when you use gentle tones of voice, when you listen patiently, when you speak respectfully, when you speak kindly, when you express appreciation, and when you act courteously. That is the way you honor somebody, you are respecting who they are as a person, and a husband should be doing that because of his leadership. He is honoring his wife as God intends for him to do.
That leads to a third characteristic of leadership and it’s that the husband leads by abiding close to his wife. In 1 Timothy 3:2, it says,
An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.
In other words, the husband loves his wife by being a one-woman-kind-of-man. She can trust him to go out in the world to do what he needs to do in his labor and work and not worry that somehow, he is going to fool around. He is a one-woman man because he knows he lives as a man leader before God’s eyes. He fears God in that sense that he wants to do what is right. This doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be temptation in all these areas because there will be. There will be large amounts of temptations in our world we live today, but when his wife gets the sense that he abides close to her by being a one-woman man then it gives her freedom to not worry about that.
He also loves his wife under this by trusting her. Proverbs 31:11 says,
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
He trusts her, meaning, that he doesn’t have to worry about her either. As you trust each other, things get done. I don’t have to be worrying about things or having sleepless nights wondering or imagining if things are true or not true. He releases her to be the woman she ought to be.
Then he loves his wife by offering his life to his wife to protect their family. He can also organize their finances so that she can focus her full and best attention to her home and family. That is where she is the most fulfilled, in the centrality of her home, and that’s how God designed it. He loves his wife by maintaining an environment in which his wife feels safe being herself and she doesn’t have to come in her house and feel like she must walk on eggshells when he comes home. This is what a leader does, this is what God’s kind of leader does. He really takes care of her in all kinds of ways, emotionally and physically.
The fourth characteristic for the man is that he leads by including loving words and expressions of approval to his wife. In other words, he loves his wife by making her happy. Deuteronomy 24:5 says,
When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the army nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken.
He’s paying attention, in that first year of marriage, to make sure that they draw close together. They begin to talk to each other and work together with how they are going to things and plan. It’s a time where a lot of things get done. It’s not means to be pulled away. This is what happened in Israel to make sure this took place, and for what reason? So that she can be happy.
Underneath that, he loves his wife by being a good noticer. 1 Peter 3:7 again, he is to dwell with his wife in an understanding way as one who is weaker. I believe that means that is one who is the prized vessel. It’s not a container that you put on the ground or put junk in, it’s a vessel you put on a mantle, and it’s praised and lifted. He looks at his wife and takes care of his wife that way, in which he notices things that are going on. He notices, realizes, and recognizes his wife’s behavior, attitudes, and desires so that he can encourage, help, and praise her. He also understands his wife is weaker in a certain physical way, and sometimes in an emotional way, and sometimes in a spiritual way, even if she isn’t those things. He is to notice what is going on in her life.
It’s funny when you have marital counseling and you ask some simple questions to the man and you say to the man, do you know what your wife’s so-and-so is? And then look at you with a blank stare without a clue that his wife would like or dislike something. It’s not that we know everything about them, but we’re growing into understanding what our wives need, want, and desire and we’re leading them, taking the initiative. Worthy men, not all men are worthy in the sense that they’re not putting any of those things into practice, and they are being disobedient to God. I don’t think a Christian man could not put those things into practice, or want to put them into practice, and say that they are obeying God.
That leads me to the second person in the marriage and that’s the woman. The wife is to be a respectful, submissive, helper. That’s a good thing. There are four characteristics of her submissive role. The first one is that the wife actively seeks out to submit to her husband. Again, in Ephesians 5, it says,
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
It is also the choice of the woman to obey the Lord because this submission toward her husband is commanded in the Word of God, it is a spiritual matter between her and her Lord. The motive for obedience is God Himself. In other words, you cannot be right with God if you don’t want to do that. It’s like it says in the passage where when a husband doesn’t want to do it his prayers are hindered, and here you can’t be right with God if you don’t want to do that. Of course, the wife then desires to respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33 says,
Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
It’s interesting, the Greek word for respect is the word phobetai, which means to fear, but it doesn’t mean a knee-knocking fear, rather reverence. It means to have respect for someone, like we have respect or reverence towards God or toward a person, and in this case, toward one’s husband. If the husband is who he ought to be then it’s not hard to do that. There may have been a time in your life when he wasn’t like that, but what sometimes amazes me is when a husband becomes like that then it seems sometimes the women are mad that he’s like that now. Let men be the initiators in those things and wives be the one who chooses to submit to his leadership. Be someone who desires to respect him, that you’re going out of your way to do that. It’s like it says in scripture, see to it that that’s done!
The second characteristic of her submissive role is that the wife follows her husband’s agenda, not seeking her own freedom and independence. She’s following the man’s agenda and plan. She does that understanding that respect and submission to her husband is comprehensive. In the same passage in Ephesians 5:24 it says,
But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
That means submissive to him in everything, of course all categories of life, and excluding sin. Parenting, how are we going to raise our kids? Are we going to use the rod? Spiritual part of life, how are we going to lead our family spiritually? Are we going to make sure that church is an important part of our whole family coming together and going there to church to learn, fellowship? Finances, how are we going to handle those? Who’s going to do it? Doesn’t have to be the man who does the finances, it could be the woman who is more apt to do those kinds of things. But it needs to get done, you need to decide which is going to happen. All of kinds of decisions must be made in the home and as the wife submits to her husband then she submits also to his agenda. Pray that he is worthy to carry out that agenda.
It was Wayne Grudem who writes Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth where he said: If there is genuine male leadership, there is a quiet subtle acknowledgement that the focus of the decision-making process is the husband not the wife, and even though there will often be much discussion, and there should be much mutual respect and consideration of each other, yet ultimately the responsibility to make the decision rests with the husband. This is not because he’s wiser or a more gifted leader or person, it is because he is the husband, and that God has given him that responsibility. This is a God-given responsibility, it is a very good responsibility and when it is lived out, it brings peace and joy to the marriage. That’s the way God designed it. You can think about it as building a building, if you have the building plans in front of you, and you decide somewhere in the building project that you’re going to throw the plans away to figure it out yourself then the building is going to end up crumbling and falling. However, if you build on the building plans and you stick with the building plans and the structure is going to be built strong and very little is going to be able to take that thing down. That’s how God designed marriage.
A third characteristic of her submissive role is that the wife serves her husband by not competing with his leadership. Unfortunately, we live in a world where everything is about competing with men. Every area of life is about competing with men. We live in a society that is feminizing men. You hear the term today that is toxic masculinity. We need some toxic men who are going to lead their family’s! We need men who will men. That’s what we need in our country and in the church, we could never give that up in the church because that’s how God designed it. If the world can’t look anywhere for an example, they must look at the church and, in the church they are going to find men and women, not perfect, but men and women who desire to obey the Lord and they’re figuring these things out and putting them into practice every day. In doing that, they build a strong family and then their kids are looking at them, so they already know what a family is supposed to look like when they leave the home. They will know how a husband is to respond to his wife and what a wife is supposed to respond to her husband. Not only do they know it from the Word of God but also from example and the modeling that is before their eyes. We are passing down to the next generation the model that is going to save our nation. The breakdown of the family is a real thing today. Most times you find that police officers and people in law enforcement say the reason why crime is so high is because there’s no father in the home with no family structure.
She is not competing with his leadership, that’s why it says in 1 Peter 3:1 that she respects her husband by influencing her husband with a holy submissive behavior. 1 Peter 3:1,
In the same way, you wives be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.
A respectful, submissive behavior of the wife is very powerful before a man. That’s the tool in your toolbox right there. You want a win them? Win them like that. If you’re going to preach to him, nag him, pulling on his coattails all the time, becoming silent in all the ways that those things happen, you’re not going to win him just push him away. Submissive, respectful, helpful. Also, she respects her husband by dedication to her husband as a helper. Again, Genesis 2:18, I already mentioned that she was created by God for the man to be a helper. She’s his teammate, completes him, and she puts her gifts at his disposal. I love what it says in the last couple of chapters of Proverbs, especially Proverbs 31:10-31, that whole section that talks about the personification of wisdom as a woman.
An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
When you find a wife like that, you don’t want to let her go, you want to continue with her forever. Then in Proverbs 31:23,
Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
Why is he known in the gates? Because of the excellent character of his wise, helpful wife. That’s why you look in Proverbs 31 and she’s doing all these things. Some people have called her the bionic woman. But she’s taking care of her family, husband, the needs of the people and it’s amazing what’s going on, but it’s showing when a wise person does things then they are efficient in what they do. The wife who is wise is efficient in what she does. It was John Piper who said, about the wife: it’s a divine calling of the wife to honor, affirm, and nurture her husband’s leadership and to help carry it through according to her gifts. She’s carrying through his leadership, helping him lead.
The fourth and final characteristic for the woman in her submissive role is that the wife submits even when she would’ve preferred a different plan. That’s a big one. That could be some biting of the lip a little bit—maybe we should do it this way? Doesn’t mean you don’t talk about it, but when her husband has a plan, and you prefer a different plan you submit to his plan. I am saying that in the sense that’s a good plan, it’s just an alternate one. It may not be exactly as you planned, but he’s doing it as a Christian man leading his family. She respects and submits to her husband by keeping her home, and this is a key thing, keeping her home the primary influence, which is the greatest sphere of influence that she has. The Christian man wants his home in order, he wants his wife to help him do that, and when she does that, believe me, it’s peaceful. That’s why the Epistle of Titus 2:4-5 tells the older women to,
So that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
In other words, the older women are teaching the younger women how it is to be a submissive wife because you don’t know how to do that—not that she says that to them, but they don’t know. When you first get married you don’t know anything. You’re just figuring it out, but if you have the Word of God, you will figure it out and you will be these people that the Bible is talking about, because this is how God designed it. If God has a plan, it’s the best plan. There are no alternative plans. If you’ve been around for a while and you put these principles into practice, there is no arguing with them—this is it, the way to do it. This is the way to have a blessing, this is the way to have influence right here. It says this,
to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
In other words, so the plan of God will be exemplified by all who see! This is not my design, this is God’s design. When you put it into practice, God is honored, which is the goal! When a man puts that into practice, his prayers are heard as the leader. This is the attitude of a God-fearing woman, and if these roles go out of sync, then it is usually the fault of both partners. The husband may need to become a better leader, lover, learner, and the wife may be making it difficult for him to lead because of her contentious attitude. The husband makes the submission of the life easier when he is an attentive, caring leader and the wife makes leadership easier by being a gentle, supportive, and helpful follower. That’s the goal of the church.
As the Spirit of God enables us, both the husband and the wife, to daily put into practice these role relationship principles we’re hedging against role reversal, against the sin of the garden, which always brings disastrous results, and we end up having a marriage that will be more reflective of the leadership and the submission that exists between the Father and the Son. Then, of course, how Christ loves the Church in whom He is the head and then the Church submits to the headship, as the husband is the leader, and the wife submits to his headship as God designed it. When we do that God is honored and God is exalted. The Gospel now brings power to those who may come to you and say, how come your family is so different? Is that not an open door for the gospel? Let me tell you how it is, it has nothing to do with me, it has everything to do with God and let me give you my testimony. It’s a gospel opportunity. Not only that, moms, when this happens, you’ll be happy. You know what they say, when mom is not happy then nobody’s happy.
Let’s pray, Lord thank you this morning. Your Word is amazing. I thank you Lord that contained in it are the very principles of life. Lord, we must praise you and thank you that you have given them to us. You opened our eyes to see, and you put the Word of God in our hand. I pray Lord that we do not ignore these things, we do not set them aside, but Lord that we would practice them every day. I pray Lord, that our families would come to the place where we are honoring you, that we’re becoming more and more like a picture of how Christ loves the Church. I pray Lord that you would help the men to be spiritual leaders, enable them to do that. I pray that you would help the women to be a submissive helper, I pray you would enable them to do that by your Spirit. We do know, Lord, that if we walk in the Spirit then we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, but we will put these principles into practice and Lord, I pray that you would bring the result when we do. We know Lord that those results are security, joy, and peace that is in our home so we can pass that baton to the next generation, and they could know how to do it too. I pray Lord that in the end result, your name will be exalted, and your Word would be lifted up as what is true. I pray this in Christ’ name, Amen.