How Wives Can Stop Damaging Marriage
An overview of the wife’s role from Ephesians 5:22-33
Bill had not been feeling too well of late, so he made an appointment with his physician. On the appointed day, he and his wife drove to the clinic. Later that afternoon, after a battery of tests and examinations, their doctor said, “Bill, I’d like to talk with your wife while you get dressed. We’ll wait for you in my study.”
His wife sat on a comfortable chair while the doctor explained, “Mary, your husband has a rare and potentially terminal disease. He is suffering from a nervous, potentially fatal, stress-related disorder. You will need to create a totally stress-free environment for your husband. Mary, I know you have a career, but you must quit your job and become a stay-at-home wife. You’ll have to get up a half-hour early each morning, shower, and put on a fresh dress, fix your hair and makeup. Prepare a nutritious breakfast for your husband with emphasis on fresh fruits and whole grains. Send your husband off to work with a big hug and kiss.
“As soon as he leaves the house, put on your work clothes and clean and scrub the house from top to bottom. Remove any possible allergic or pathogenic source of stress. About an hour before lunch, shower and get ready for your husband to come home for lunch. Prepare him a light, high-protein lunch with emphasis on fresh fruit and salad. Send him off to work with another kiss and spend your afternoon thoroughly preparing your house for his home coming in the afternoon.
“Meet him at the door freshly showered and dressed. Give him a big kiss and lead him to his favorite chair. Give him a refreshing drink, the newspaper, and the TV remote. Tell him to relax while you finish preparing his meal. Make sure his dinner includes all of his favorite dishes. After dinner, encourage him to relax while you tidy up the kitchen and lay out his pajamas and draw his bath. Be attentive to his every need during the evening, and of course be just as romantic as you possibly can be.” On the ride home Bill asked, “What did the doctor tell you?” Mary was quiet for a moment–then she said, “He said you’re going to die.”
Damage and erosion in relationships is rampant. If you watch the flat screen, listen to music, read the news–you are bombarded with attitudes, attacks and assaults on marriage and relationships. It will subtly affect you. You will be worn down. Your marriage and friendships will suffer. Instead of turning to the Word or seeking godly counsel, many believers turn to Google for answers to marriage, parenting, and friendships–which will damage them.
If you allow your life to be filled with secular pursuits, instead of divine pursuits–meaning all your free time is filled with sports, entertainment, video games, events, and not Bible study, not fellowship, not service nor worship you are damaging healthy relationships, including your marriage. Attitudinally, the me-first mentality of today, with its increased preference of things over relationships, materialism over marriage, is destroying marriage.
The pursuit of possessions is, right now, surpassing the pursuit of relationships–particularly marriage. Fewer and fewer people are getting married today, with the average age for marriage now has risen to 30 years of age for a man and 28 years for a woman. With the destruction of God’s two created sexes–male and female now, you live in a day when anyone can be anything, every opinion is valued, any construct is accepted, except those who uphold God’s Word. They’re viewed as destructive, hateful, judgmental and criminal, making it harder to share and embarrassing to live–except if you are in Christ, born again, made new, no longer spiritually blind, but now able to see.
Finally, since there is little biblical teaching on marriage, roles, and relationships even believers succumb to secular ideas. Because they are not immersed in Scripture, but immersed in secular data, they often follow error. When God created man, he quickly created woman and married them, the two becoming one. The marriage relationship was so sacred to the Lord that He designed it to be for life until death.
Marriage is founded upon two keys—1) an unbreakable vow, and 2) sexual union. And it can only be broken by the violation of the vow through desertion, 1 Corinthians 7, and violation of the union through adultery, Matthew 5 and 19. There is a third, and that is death–which of course is not to be arranged by the other spouse. God created marriage and values it so much–the Lord teaches us through Malachi that He hates divorce. Malachi 2:16, “’For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel.” He allows divorce for the innocent party, over adultery or desertion, but he hates divorce. Say it with me, “God hates divorce!”
If divorce occurred before you became a Christian, God says to you, all things have become new in Christ. To the innocent party who experienced adultery or desertion by your spouse, you are loved by Christ. And grace, forgiveness and love are granted freely by God to the repentant who have divorced. God put those caveats in His Word to be gracious to the innocent and to communicate to all His people that He hates divorce and loves marriage.
Two weeks ago we studied the basic commitments from the context of Ephesians. You will damage your marriage if you are . . .
Chapter 1 IGNORING God’s Sovereign purpose for your marriage
Chapter 2 MINIMIZING your sinfulness and your desperate need for God’s grace
Chapter 3 OVERLOOKING the incredible LOVE of GOD to fill your life
Chapter 4 AVOIDING your inter-connectiveness to the church family
Chapter 6 ELEVATING your children over your marriage
Last week, we studied the key command in marriage and relationships from Ephesians 5:18—“Be filled with the Spirit.” No one can have a godly marriage unless they work at being filled with the Spirit first and foremost. Now today, how can wives wreck their marriage? Ephesians 1 to 3 talks about your position. And Ephesians 4 to 6 addresses your practice–your walk. Then explaining your lifestyle, your behavior, your function in marriage, Paul begins in verses 22 to 33 with a study of Christ and the Church, by describing a husband and a wife. There are two main emphases in verses 22 to 33–the exhortation to submit and the command to love. Men are to love and women to submit.
Sounds unfair, doesn’t it? We like the word love, and we chafe over the word submit. But once you see what God is asking of both male and female to make their marriage work this week and next, you won’t think it unfair at all. Go to the fair and see the two-headed cow, or as I saw, the two-headed snake, and you at once say, “That’s not right.” It’s the same in a marriage–a two-headed marriage is freaky.
As you travel by plane, it’s a good thing there is a pilot and a co-pilot–the last thing you need is for both of them to fight over the controls. “I’ll land it–no, I’ll land it!” In order for a marriage to work, the husband and wife must pursue functioning in their role. Both husband and wife have to die to self and function the way God designed. For Jean and I, it is not something we talk much about–we just do it and it works. But in order to get there, you have to know what it is that God designed for you. So let’s look at Ephesians 5:22 and look at women first. Men love and women submit–everything else in this passage explains those two commands. How are wives supposed to respond–what’s their job?
Love means wives die to self by SUBMITTING themselves, providing respect
This is like the man who asked the lady librarian, “Can you tell me where I can find the book, Man–Master of Women?” She said, “Oh yes–Fiction counter, on the left.” What is the greatest relationship you have ever known? Dad and Mom? Some couple who are relatives? Maybe a couple you know at our church who have been married a long time? The answer we should say is this–the greatest, best, purest, most wonderful relationship you have ever known is the Trinity.
One of the great secrets of the Christian life is that the answers to all of life’s questions are found in the character of God. When we understand who He is, then we can better understand who we are, since we are made in His image. We only understand marriage when we understand the divine relationship between the three persons of the godhead. It is the Trinity that gives us the model for husbands and wives and all other relationships.
Second Corinthians 13:14 says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” The Bible teaches there is only one God we love, yet He is manifested in three persons/personalities. And what is amazing is, within that unity and equality, there are different functions.
1 John 4:10 says the Father sent the Son
John 14:26 says the Father sends the Holy Spirit
John 15:26 says the Son and the Father send the Spirit
John 17 the prayer of Jesus demonstrates the submission of Jesus the Son to God the Father
So in the Trinity, there is plurality, perfect unity, perfect oneness–yet there is authority and submission. All three persons of the Trinity are equal, all three are God, they share the same essence, and yet there is submission and authority–not inferiority, not dominance, not dictatorship, but there is authority and submission. And it is the very design of the Trinity which God uses to teach us how marriage is to work.
This is the truth of 1 Corinthians 11:3. As God is about to discuss the role of women, He makes this statement about the Trinity as the reason there are different roles in marriage. “I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman and God is the head of Christ.” God is the head of Christ, authority and submission–yet Christ is equal to God. The man is the head of a woman, authority and submission–yet man and woman are equal before God.
The principle of authority and submission in marriage is not an outdated cultural principle. Authority and submission are qualities found in the very person and character of the unchanging God of the universe. The submission of a wife in marriage to her own husband is not something men dreamed up. The practice of submission has been around as long as God has existed–an eternity. The roles of men and women are based upon the person and function of God. We are imitating God, the Trinity, the first, best and greatest relationship. Submission is a godly quality, a God-like attribute–a way in which we bring glory to God.
What’s submission mean? To submit literally means to rank oneself under another’s authority. True submission to authority is submitting to God as the author of all authority and it is demonstrated by following the lead of another. It is a military term, meaning to follow orders. So how does a woman submit in marriage?
First Wives submit by being their husband’s number one FAN
The submission of a wife is to her own husband only. The word submit is used a total of 39 times in the New Testament and five of those times it is directed at wives to submit to their own husbands–not all women to all men. Notice what God says each time He calls wives to submit.
Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”
Colossians 3:18 says, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
1 Peter 3:1 says, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands.”
1 Peter 3:5 says, “For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands”
Titus 2:5 says, “To be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored.”
Five times in the New Testament, women are exhorted and commanded to submit themselves in such a way as to subordinate themselves under their own husband’s authority. She does not submit to every man–only to her own spouse. And it’s your own husband–this is your man, this is your primary relationship. We ride husbands to not forget that their wives are more important than their career or sport. We also need to remind you wives–your husband is more important than all your kids, your ministry or job. It is your own husband–your one and only. There is a hint of possession and belonging in that phrase, “your own husband.”
Being his greatest fan means you listen to him over your dad or mom, you respect his judgments, you delight to meet his needs. It means you set aside a brownie for him when you make them for the kids. You esteem him for his provision, his hard work, his protection and his sacrifices. You encourage him and free him up as he serves Christ. He is your very own husband.
**Q — Ask him, “Do you believe I am your number one fan–that for me, there is no one else I delight in more, except for Christ?”
Second Wives submit by treating their husband like they would treat Christ–giving their BEST
In Ephesians 5:22 it says, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, [circle this] as to the Lord.” Literally, this says to wives, treat your husbands as if he were the Lord Jesus Christ. Wow! Your best! You say, “He’s not and I can’t.” That’s right, but Jesus can through you. Maybe you can’t stomach submission to your husband, but as a Christian you can submit to Christ and this is what Christ asks of you–even if he’s a non-Christian (1 Peter 3). And Christ empowers you through His Spirit to get it done.
In your own strength, it’s impossible–but God can through you. Jesus says, “You submit to Me as you submit to your husband. Submit to him as if you were submitting to Me!” Because life is busy, we tend to give our spouse that which is leftover–whatever time, energy, finances, focus, attention we have that is leftover. But Jesus says–after Christ, give Him your best, your most, your heart, and your attention.
When I finally got a hold of this, as a pastor, as a spouse–I stopped taking Monday as my day off. My brain was oatmeal on Mondays, my body was worn out on Monday, and that was the day I could spend time with Jean. She was getting the leftovers, the worst of me, not the best. Listen ladies, your children will only see Christ properly when they see you give your best to your husband. Next to Christ, there is no relationship more important than your spouse–and your focus, time, energy all communicate whether you value Christ by giving your marriage your best or merely leftover.
Once a couple was asked the secret of their long marriage. One of them answered and said, “We take time to go to a restaurant twice a week–have a little candlelight dinner, soft music and a slow walk home. She goes on Tuesday and I go on Friday. No plan to be together.
**Q — Ask him, “Husband, do you believe I give you my best, or do you merely receive my leftovers?”
Third Wives submit by following the LEAD of their husband
It is like a great play with two equally qualified actors–one plays the lead role, the other plays the supportive role. The lead actor doesn’t force the other to play the supportive role, nor does the supportive actor resent or try to upstage the lead actor, but both seek to completely fill out their role to please their audience. Christ is our audience.
God designed the roles for order and leadership. Here, ultimately, is the issue of authority. The Bible tells us in Romans 13, God alone establishes all authority. Romans 13:1 says, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Anytime you reject direct or delegated authority, that is rebellion–and anytime you accept direct or delegated authority, that is submission.
Before you freak, understand submission to authority is commanded in business, children, government, in the Church, to each other as Christians, and in marriage. Rebellion to authority, except when that authority commands you to directly disobey the Scripture, is always viewed by God as sin. And catch this–you cannot be in rebellion on Earth and be in submission in Heaven. Anytime you rebel against God’s designated authority, you are not acting like Christ, but in fact, are acting exactly like Satan.
This is why 1 Peter 3 tells us godly women actually pursued submission. True submission is actually an initiated action. It’s something a wife chases after, regardless of her husband’s action or inaction. Talking about Sarah, 1 Peter 3:5 and 6 says, “For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. 6Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” (Jean says, “I’ll call you lord, but only with a little l.”)
Submission implies respectful and complimentary words, building up your husband and encouraging your husband by comments, motivating him to be the husband he can be and expecting him to be the leader he’s supposed to be. Wives, do you realize the power of expectation? At UCLA, they did a study. They told teachers at a test school they could predict who from the B and C students would become A students the following year. They gave all the students a test–then gave each teacher a list of 4 to 5 B and C students who would become A students the following year.
At the end of the year, 90% of those B and C students became A students. Then they told the teachers the truth–the test was bogus and the names of the students were randomly picked from all the B and C students. The only difference was the teachers’ expectations. Because of the test, they expected the students to do better and almost 90% moved up in GPA–the power of expectations. Wives, when you submit, you’re expecting your husband to lead. You’re expecting him to do the biblical action. By initiating submission, you’re expecting him to act godly. You’re also giving him what he desires most—significance.
Back to Ephesians 5:33, for it says you wives are to respect your husbands. Ephesians 5:33, “Nevertheless, let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself, and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.” The Greek word for respect is fobou, where we get the word phobia. It literally means to be filled with awe, fearful, respectful–meaning it’s difficult. The toughest choice for a man is loving his wife when she is unlovely. But her greatest need from him is the security that comes from unconditional love.
The toughest choice for a wife is respecting her husband when he is not being respectable, yet his greatest need is unconditional respect. Ladies, just as your husband can choose to love you unconditionally, you can choose to respect him unconditionally. How?
1 Respect begins with your FOCUS
Are you focusing on your spouse’s strengths or weaknesses? Are you more like a vulture or a hummingbird? When a vulture flies over the desert, it finds a carcass because that is what it’s looking for. But when a hummingbird flies over the desert, it finds a flower, because that’s what it’s looking for. What are you looking for in your spouse—what are you focused on? Carcasses or flowers?
2 Respect involves your THANKFULNESS
Are you thankful for your spouse? Do you see ways God uses your spouse as a catalyst in your life? The Bible calls marriage the grace of life–it’s grace, unmerited favor, and an undeserved gift. For those of us who are married, it is the best there is in life. Are you thankful you have a spouse, when so many have lost theirs? Say thanks to God and to your spouse.
**Q — Ask him, “Husband, do you believe I am committed to following your lead?”
A The key issue with marital roles is dying to SELF
You can’t be a Christian without a submissive heart. You can’t be a true Christian without dying to self. Husbands or wives not willing to die to self or submit to authority are raising a question about their salvation. Let me be pointed–unless you die to self and submit to Christ, you are not a Christian. Maybe you need to turn to Christ in faith–which means to die to self and depend totally upon the work of Christ to save you and to repent, meaning turn from your way of doing things and submit to God’s way of living life.
For those of you who are saved, if you are hung up about loving or submitting, the real issue is your unwillingness to die to self, to follow the example of the cross, to imitate the way of your Savior who died to self for you. Admit to Christ and your mate, you’ve not died to self. Then, by His Spirit, seek to treat your mate as more important than yourself.
B True Christians submit to AUTHORITY
The Bible says each of us are to submit to . . .
Parents Luke 2:51
Employees Titus 2:9
Secular authorities 1 Timothy 2
Law enforcement Romans 13:1
Church eldership 1 Peter 5:5
God James 4:7
Christ Ephesians 5:24
The Word of God Romans 8:7
Each other Ephesians 5:21
And wives are specifically commanded to submit themselves to their own husbands five times in the New Testament. Husbands, have you learned you are under authority to God, to the Word of God, to your elders, to your boss, to each other as Christians, and to law enforcement? The easiest way for a wife to follow a husband is for the husband to be under the authority of the Word of God. There is a right way and a wrong way to get two pianos to play in harmony. The wrong way is to try to tune them to each other. The right way is to tune both pianos to a single tuning fork. Tuning your marriage and family to the Word of God is what creates harmony in the home.
Wives, do you make it easier or more difficult for your husband to lead? Ladies, have you learned to follow your husband unconditionally? Remember 1 Peter 3:1 to 2 says, “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, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” Even if he does not, your unconditional respect is going to please Christ and impact your husband.
C Develop the habits of HARMONY in marriage
EARS Husbands, you may hear her words, but are you listening with your heart? What is she saying? What burden should I bear or am I trying to merely fix this? Husbands, use your ears.
EYES Husbands, choose to make your wife the standard of beauty for you. I’ve seen a flight arrive with 50- and 60-year-olds and my heart response was, “I made the perfect choice for me.”
FEET Husbands, are you demonstrating you are willing to do anything for her? From daily fixing things, to giving up a career or hobby for her sake? The list at home . . .
PASSION Wives, have you learned to take care of your husband’s physical needs in a way that is a delight to you both, instead of an item to check off your list of duties? Young wives don’t get this–which is why the Bible says you need an older woman to train you how to like your husband. They can help you. Find a mentor to help you.
SPEECH Wives, are you choosing to esteem your husband for being a provider, a leader, a parent, and a lover–and actually, or eventually, mean it from your heart? Ladies, no matter what, whenever you complain about not having this, or not being able to do that, you are tearing down your man. If you respect him, that means you are content with what he provides for you. Be courageous and ask each other today’s questions.
D If Christ is ALL, then your marriage will be amazing
Listen, before Paul talks about marriage in Ephesians 5:22, he tells the Ephesians to be filled with the Spirit in 5:18. If you pursue Christ, are filled with the Holy Spirit, demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit–which is, think about this in terms of marriage, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
If you obey the Word of God and function in the church, and seek to be a witness to the lost around you, seeking to bring God glory in your home, at work, at play, with marriage, with your parenting–then as a result of that relationship with your God and Savior, His character, God’s person, His attributes will leak all over your partner. And as a result, your marriage will be amazing. Let’s commit again to turn to Christ–and for His children, to follow Him as our first love. Let’s pray.