Mark Twain said somewhere that, “It is not the parts of the Bible that I don’t understand that upset me; it’s the parts that I do understand.” I may not have that quote exactly right, but the point is familiar to anyone who has read the Bible.
The role of Christian women is spelled out plainly in the Bible. Because many of the Bible’s words run exactly opposite of the world’s way of thinking, however, people go to great lengths to excuse, to modify, or to ignore its clear instructions.
The Bible says that God first created Adam and then Eve to be his helper (Genesis 2). As God looked across his very good creation, he determined that it was not good for the man to be alone.
When God formed Eve out of Adam’s rib, and brought her to him, Adam must have been thrilled. Finally, someone who corresponds to me! She is like me, but is different. We compliment and complete each other.
Notice a few facts from the way that God made man and woman. Their roles were established by God in the garden, before sin entered into the world. The man was made first. The woman was made for the man—to be his helper and companion. The New Testament agrees with this understanding, “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (1 Corinthians 11:8-9).
This is also confirmed in Genesis itself as the man names the woman based on his name, and that as sin enters the world in Genesis 3, God holds the man primarily responsible.
Certainly as a consequence of sin entering into the world the roles of the man and the woman are affected. Men became tempted to dominate their wives in harsh ways, and women became tempted to take over and rule their families. These temptations do not alter the order that God established for Christian homes. Husbands are to be sacrificially loving leaders, taking responsibility for the welfare of the home. Wives are to be respectful and submissive helpers of their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-33).
These roles do NOT imply superiority or inferiority, any more than a hammer is superior or inferior to a pair of pliers—they are just different tools with different roles. Jesus submits to the Father, but both are co-equal persons of the Trinity (1 Corinthians 11:2-3). Christian husbands and wives are both made in God’s image and are equally precious as children of God. They each, however, have their own roles to play under God.
Because I have written so much more to men than woman on this subject over the years, let me say a few words of encouragement to help the helpers.
I hope you have already been helped by the thoughts that God has established this role for you. God doesn’t make mistakes. He gave you to your husband. He loves you. He will give you all of the grace you need to help your man. No matter how tough your role may seem (some guys need a lot of help!), he’s got you there to glorify him as your husband’s companion and helper.
In 1 Peter 3, wives are called to submit even to unbelieving husbands. They are called to win them to Christ without words by their godly behavior. That means a Christian wife ought not tape “Repent!” on their husband’s beer cans, or stuff gospel messages in all of his pockets.
Peter includes a precious word of encouragement to the ladies in such difficult circumstances. He points them to Sarah in the Old Testament and says, “as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:6). Behind your husband is a great and sovereign God.
As you submit to your husband, who is definitely not all-knowing and all-wise, don’t be afraid. Your heavenly Father is all-knowing and all-wise. He is watching you. He sees your heart, trusting in him and doing what is right. As long as your husband doesn’t ask you to sin, submit. You are not responsible for how things turn out, but you are responsible to submit for the glory of God.
Submission is an act of your will. It is choosing to align your will underneath of your husbands. God commands wives to submit to their husbands as they submit to Christ (Ephesians 5:22). If following Jesus is climbing a ladder, then submitting to your husband is one of the rungs.
Respect is the attitude of the heart with which your submission is to be given. Our reverence for Christ is the basis for all of the roles of headship and submission (Ephesians 5:21). Wives should reverence their husbands because of their reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:33).
To a degree all wives must respect the role of their husband more than the man himself (again all husbands are sinners, but some need more help than others). How many soldiers in the Army have to respectfully obey an order from a not so perfect officer once in a while? Jesus has sovereignly given you your husband, and he has told you what to do in relation to him and how to do it.
Being a helper doesn’t mean that you are a doormat. The more good advice and input a godly wife gives, the more help her husband receives. Be as helpful as you possibly can, but always do it respectfully, and don’t undermine your husband as he makes the final decision.
Pray a lot. Pray for your husband—that is one of the most helpful things you can do. But also pray for God’s help to glorify him best in the role he has assigned you on earth. He will never let you be tempted beyond your ability to honor him (1 Corinthians 10:13).
By John Crotts