Roles in Marriage

Sunday Morning Bible Study

May 19, 2002

All through our lives we learn about playing “roles”.  Children in a school play learn how to memorize their lines and play their part.  Some children play “house”.

Two little children, a boy and a girl, walked hand-in-hand to a neighbor’s house. The little girl stood on her tiptoes and just able to reach the doorbell. Then, an elderly lady greeted them at the front door. “Good morning, children,” she said. “What can I do for you?” “We’re playing house,” the little girl answered. “This is my husband and I’m his wife. Can we come in?” Thoroughly enchanted by the scene, the elderly lady replied, “By all means, do come in.” Once inside, she offered the children lemonade and cookies, which they graciously accepted. When a second tall glass of lemonade was offered, the little girl politely declined. “No thank you,” she said. “We have to go now. My husband just wet his pants.”

When it comes to marriage, God has a role for each of us to play.

Role #1 - Submission

(Eph 5:21-24 KJV)  Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. {22} Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. {23} 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. {24} Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

When we talk about this “evil” thing called submission, we usually talk about the wife needing to be submissive.  But in reality that’s not quite the whole picture.

There is a sense in which we all have relationships where we need to learn about submission.  As employees we need to submit to our employers (Col. 3:22).  Ultimately each of us needs to learn how to submit to God (James. 4:7).

(1 Pet 3:1-6 NASB)  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,

submit (hupotasso):  A military word meaning to line up in rank under; to obey.

Help your husband grow

The goal is that your husband be “won”.  Men are taught by actions, not words.
Sometimes gals seem to have an easier time at making decisions.  Perhaps it’s that “women’s intuition” thing.  Sometimes I secretly wonder if women aren’t sometimes smarter.
But gals, your husbands need to grow in making good decisions. If you always decide for him, he'll never be a strong, decisive leader. But if you let him decide, even fall on his face, he can grow and learn to make better decisions.

If every time you give your opinion, you then sit in the back and take potshots at him, he’ll eventually never want to bother making another decision.  But if you give your opinion and then support WHATEVER decision he makes, even if he fails you’ll find that the two of you are closer together through the whole thing.  You’ll also find that he’ll probably think twice before discarding your opinion.

Guys, if you’re smart, you’ll give your wife’s opinions a LOT of weight when it comes to making your decisions.  Guys – are you learning anything?

{2} as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. {3} And let not your adornment be merely external-- braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; {4} but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. {5} 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.


It was the “holy women” who “hoped in God” who learned to do this.
The difficult time is when a wife says, “But he’s going to take us over a cliff if I let him make all the decisions.”
That could be true.  But on the other hand, perhaps God wants you to go over a cliff.  Maybe that’s where he’ll learn to make good decisions.
I know there are limits to this.  I don’t think God wants you to stay in a home where your husband beats you or abuses the kids.  I don’t think God wants you to break the law when you submit to your husband.
But I think that when it comes to submission, we all make far more excuses than we ought to.
Be careful about excuses.

Over the years I’ve heard gals say, “Well I’ll submit to my husband as long as he loves me like Christ loves the church”.  But that’s not what the Bible says.

Peter said that a wife was to submit even if he “obeys not the word”.

Be careful that your reason for not supporting your husband isn’t simply because of your own self-will.


A married couple was celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. At the party everybody wanted to know how they managed to stay married so long in this day and age. The husband responded “When we were first married we came to an agreement. I would make all the major decisions and my wife would make all of the minor decisions. And in 60 years of marriage we have never needed to make a MAJOR decision.”

Do you ever let your husband make any decisions?
I remember working at Calvary Anaheim, and sometimes wondering what in the world my boss, Mark, was thinking.  I remember thinking at times, “this guy doesn’t have a clue!”  I went through a process of learning to submit to him, even when I didn’t agree. Most of the time I found out that I was the one who was wrong.  Submission is a “faith” thing.  Do I trust God to use my submission?
Submission is God’s pattern in the home.  There comes a point where God is going to ask you to trust Him that He knows what He’s doing.  Will you take a step of trust in God and submit to your husband?

{6} Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

Give your opinions.

Sarah is the example for women to follow.
She called Abraham “Lord” (and obeyed him) (Gen. 18:12)
But before you guys get all excited about this, keep in mind that Sarah is one of the most outspoken ladies in the entire Bible.
She was the one who gave Abraham the idea of taking Hagar as a wife (which was a mistake).
She was the one who felt it was time for Hagar and Ishmael to leave the family.  And God told Abraham to pay attention to his wife!
Sometimes she was wrong, sometimes she was right, but she shared her opinions.
“Submission” doesn’t mean “shut up and obey”.  It means “suggest and support”.
The president is not the expert on all the issues, but he surrounds himself with people who are.  When it comes to making decisions, a wise person will ask advice from the best people and then make their decision. 
Who knows most on specific subjects?  The advisors. Who makes the decisions?  The president.

Role #2 - Love

(Eph 5:25 KJV)  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

A wife’s concern ought to be to submit.  A husband’s concern ought to be about loving.  A husband’s concern is NOT to make his wife submit.  A husband’s focus is on loving.  Sacrificially.

Sacrificial Love.

A sacrifice meets needs.
Jesus saw our real need and responded to it.

The Bible says that our greatest need was our separation from God, caused by our sins.

Jesus was willing to die on a cross, to take our place, as a sacrifice, to pay for our sins, in order that we might be made right with God.

Husbands – do you even know what your wife needs from you?

Sometimes us guys are kind of fixated on “stuff”.  We want a new toy, a new computer, a new gadget, and we think that solving problems comes when we buy “stuff” for her. 

Some of us guys like to fix things.  The toilet breaks and we go to Home Depot, spend $1.50 on the right part, $50 on new tools, come home and fix the thing.

But sometimes guys, she doesn’t need stuff.  Sometimes she doesn’t even need her problems to be fixed.  She just needs you.  She needs you to sit still and just listen to her.  She needs to know that you are completely supportive of her.

His sacrifice was unconditional.
The Bible says that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
He didn’t die for people who were nice to Him.  He died for people who shook their fist at Him.
He didn’t say, “Well, you’re not meeting my needs, so I won’t help you”.
He saw our need and went to the cross.
His sacrifice was costly.
It’s easy for us to sit back and daydream about giving up our lives for our wife.  We picture the terrorists bursting in the door and firing a bullet at our wife when suddenly we get up and dive in front of her, and dying in her place.  Nice dream, but hardly reality.

Will you give up the Laker game to go to the store for her?  Will you give up your night with the guys to remodel her bathroom?

Things that are easy aren’t a sacrifice.  Sacrifice means that we are willing to endure tough times.

There is a story to the effect that a certain missionary society in South Africa once wrote to David Livingstone, “Have you found a good road to where you are?  If so, we want to send other men to join you.”  Livingstone replied, “If you have men who will come ONLY if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them.”

Are you willing to be a “man” who will walk the road of marriage, even when it’s hard?  Sacrifice.

Beautifying Love.

(Eph 5:26-28 KJV)  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, {27} That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. {28} So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
If a husband loves his wife correctly, his love will purify and beautify his wife.
washing of water by the word” – sometimes we look at this as our obligation to read the Bible to our wife, and that’s not a bad thing!
But keep the analogy straight here.  Jesus loves His bride; I love mine.  Jesus sacrifices Himself for His Bride; I sacrifice my life for my wife.  Jesus washes His bride in the water of His Word (the Bible); I am to wash my bride in the water of MY word.
Your words can build up your wife or tear her down.
(Prov 12:18 NASB)  There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Too often we use our words to cut each other up rather than bring healing.

A priest and a nun were lost in a snowstorm. After a while, they came upon a small cabin. Being exhausted, they prepared to go to sleep. There was a stack of blankets and a sleeping bag on the floor but only one bed. Being a gentleman, the priest said, “Sister, you sleep on the bed. I’ll sleep on the floor in the sleeping bag.” Just as he got zipped up in the bag and was beginning to fall asleep, the nun said “Father, I’m cold.” He unzipped the sleeping bag, got up, got a blanket and put it on her. Once again, he got into the sleeping bag, zipped it up and started to drift off to sleep when the nun once again said, “Father, I’m still very cold.” He unzipped the bag, got up again, put another blanket on her and got into the sleeping bag once again. Just as his eyes closed, she said, “Father, I’m sooooo cold.” This time, he remained there and said, “Sister, I have an idea. We’re out here in the wilderness where no one will ever know what happened. Let’s pretend we’re married.” The nun said, “That’s fine by me.” The priest yelled out, “Get up and get your own stupid blanket!”

Our words shouldn’t be cutting, but healing.

Solomon and his wife

(Song 4:1-3 KJV)  Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks:

Hey, this is pretty romantic stuff.  Guys, take notes!

…thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead. {2} Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.

He’s actually complimenting her teeth, saying that she doesn’t have a single tooth missing in her smile.

{3} Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.

Okay, okay, so it loses something in the translation.  But you get the picture.  The guy is telling his wife how beautiful he thinks she is to him.

Caution:  If your wife is like mine, she will respond with something like, “You need to get your eyes checked”.  Don’t let this stop you!  Keep it up!

(Song 4:7 KJV)  Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.

Could it be that this was the perfect woman that doesn’t have a single imperfection?  No.  But he loves her so much, he doesn’t see her faults.

In response to all his washing words of love, he sees no spot in his bride.

Isn’t this just like Jesus’ love?  Jesus’ love washes us and removes the spots and wrinkles.

Is this deceptive?  Isn’t this just buttering her up so I can get something?  Not if you really mean it!!!

If you honestly start making it a practice to build up your wife honestly on the things you appreciate in her, you will find that you will pay less and less attention to the “spots”, until you get to the point where you just won’t see them anymore.

And better yet, this isn’t just some mind game you play on yourself!  You will find that your wife WILL ACTUALLY BE MORE BEAUTIFUL EVERY DAY!!!  She’ll be washed in the water of your words.