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2016, Elizabeth McDonald, Bayith Ministries www.bayith.org  email: bayith@blueyonder.co.uk  You are very welcome to make copies of this article for personal research or for free distribution by print or email, but please respect our conditions that the content remains intact (including this copyright statement); that no misleading impression is given that we are necessarily associated with or endorse the distributor; and that proper reference is made to the title and author.  Website owners are encouraged to link to this page, but you must not incorporate this article into your own website without our prior written consent.  Thank you and bless you.

 

Christian Beliefs, Teachings, Doctrines, Christian Living, Christian Ethics

Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them ...
is like a [wise] man which built a house, and digged deep, and laid the foundations on a rock:
and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock
(Luke 6:47-48)

Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
For other foundation can no man lay that is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10b-11)

If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3)

 

The Home

Husband and Wife:
Equal and Different

by Elizabeth McDonald
24 February 2016

 

 

I recently had a conversation with a precious sister in the Lord who suggested to me that a wife may do as she sees fit, with or without the agreement of her husband.

Her reasons were the following...

  • A husband must accept his wife's plans because we are all equal - God has made us equal,
  • But if he doesn't accept her plans she may do them anyway, because for the husband to refuse to accept what the wife wants to do would be like the wife not accepting that her husband must go to work - wanting instead to keep him with her.

 

(1) We Are All Equal - God Has Made Us Equal

It is true that God treats us all equally:

"Tribulation and anguish, upon  every soul of man that doeth evil, ... But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, ... For there is no respect of persons with God" (Romans 2:6-11).


(A) Equal Salvation

We are all equal in our standing before God as sinners:

"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23),

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: ... Therefore as by the offense of one, judgement came upon all men to condemnation..." (Romans 5:12,18a).

We are all equal regarding the means of obtaining salvation:

"...so also the free gift.  For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift of grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. ... For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (Romans 5:15,19).

We are all equal in the response required of us in order to receive salvation:

"...that whosoever should believe on him should not perish" (John 3:16),

"...even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (Romans 5:18b),

"For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:9-15, vv11-13).

We are all equal in our position in Christ once we are saved:

"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus ... 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" (Galatians 3:22-29, vv26 and 28).

So regarding salvation every believer is equal.  There is "no difference" between anyone - husband and wife, brother and sister, parent and child - in our need for salvation, in the means of our salvation, or in the response required from us to obtain it.  And following our salvation we "are all one" in the Lord.


(B) But Different Roles

When we come to believers' roles in the church, however, we find that though our various roles are equally worthy in God's sight, they differ in kind and purpose; and it is God Himself Who has arranged this:

"For the body is not one member, but many.  If the foot shall shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?  If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?  But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.  And if they were all one member, where were the body?  But now are they many members, yet one body.  And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you" (1 Corinthians 12:12-21),

"And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.  Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing?  Do all speak with tongues?  Do all interpret?" (1 Corinthians 12:28-30).


(C) How Does This Apply to Husbands and Wives?

Likewise, the husband and wife are equal in salvation.  They are:

"heirs together of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7c).

And because they are equally heirs of eternal life they must equally care for one another:

"Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence [benevolence: 2133: favour, good will, wishing to do good, actively friendly, helpful]: and likewise also the wife unto the husband" (1 Corinthians 7:3),

"he that is married careth for ... how he may please his wife. ... she that is married careth for ... how she may please her husband" (1 Corinthians 7:33b,34b).

But, as in the church so in the marriage: beyond these general commands to them to care for and love each other, God has prescribed very specific and different roles for the husband and wife, and He applied this rule right at the beginning of creation...
 

(i) God's Ordained Order for Husband and Wife

"And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him" (Genesis 2:18),

"and the rib, which the LORD God had taken from the man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man ... she was taken out of Man" (Genesis 2:22-23),

"I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of every woman is the man" (1 Corinthians 11:3),

"[The man] is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of man.  For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.  neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man" (1 Corinthians 11:7-9).


(ii) God's Specific Role for the Husband

"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. ... Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.  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.  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.  He that loveth his wife loveth himself.  For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: ... let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself" (Ephesians 5:23,25-29,33a),

"Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them" (Colossians 3:19),

"ye husbands, dwell with [your wives] according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered" (1 Peter 3:7).


(iii) God's Specific Role for the Wife

"...thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Genesis 3:16b)  [Note that this command is the very first recorded words of God to the woman],

"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. ... and the wife see that she reverence her husband" (Ephesians 5:22-24,33b),

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord" (Colossians 3;18),

"Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation [conversation: 391: behaviour] of the wives.  While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.  Whose adorning ... [is] even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (1 Peter 3:1-4),

"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 Sarah obeyed [obeyed: 5219: under, hear, listen, give heed, follow, yield] Abraham, calling him lord [lord: 2962: master or head of a house, husband]: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well [do well: 15: to do good so that someone (in this instance, the husband) derives advantage from it; the practice of good]" (1 Peter 3:5-6).


(iv) Are These Roles Interchangeable?

God loves the husband and wife equally, but nowhere in His Word does He suggest that the different roles He has prescribed for them are interchangeable, or may be negotiated, or adapted, or confused, or ignored, or disobeyed, or usurped.  In fact, Scripture spells out just what happened when the roles He established for the husband and wife were confused:

"And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. ... And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat" (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-6),

"And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?  And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.  And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked?  Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?  And the man said, The Woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.  And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done?  And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat" (Genesis 3:9-13),

"Unto the woman [God] said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.  And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for the sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:16-19),

"Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, ... So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" (Genesis 3:23-24).

Eve usurped her husband's position in the marriage by taking the lead, and Adam relinquished his headship by submitting to his wife, and the consequence was, as mankind subsequently found out, somewhat serious!

Other instances of the confusion of the husband's and wife's roles, and the awful results, include Abram and Sarai (Genesis 16:1-16, 21:9-11; Psalm 83:1-8), King Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 21:1-23; 2 Kings 9:7,10,30-36) and King Ahasuerus and Vashti (Esther 1:1-22; 2:1-4).

 

(2a) The Wife Not Accepting Her Husband Going to Work

(A) God Commands the Husband to Work

Before the Fall, the man would enjoy working and it would be a pleasure:

"And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and keep it" (Genesis 2:15).

After the Fall he would dislike working and it would be onerous:

"And unto Adam [God] said, ... cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground" (Genesis 3:17a-19a).

So if a wife won't accept - whether volubly or even just silently in her heart - that her husband must leave her each day to go to work to provide for her and their family, then she is rebelling against God's specific command to her husband that is to work.

[NB: it goes without saying that the issue here is not the geographical location of the husband's work place.  He may commute long distance, or work locally, or have an office in a room in the home; where he works is not relevant here.]

 

(B) God Commands the Wife to Help, Not Lead, her Husband

God created the woman out of the man and decreed that she was to be a help meet for her husband:

"And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him" (Genesis 2;18).

But the Fall came about when Eve, deceived by the serpent into misunderstanding the nature of a wife's equality with her husband - believing it also allowed her to take 'control' in the marriage, usurped her position as a help for her husband and instead took the lead:

"And unto Adam [God] said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it" (Genesis 3:17a).

God used the word "hearken" to Adam, which means "to obey, to give heed to".  This is a lot more serious than simply "to hear", or even "to listen to".  For the husband to "hearken" to (i.e. to obey) his wife is to turn God's order for the family on its head; and the result in Eden couldn't have been any worse.  From that one, seemingly very small, act of disobedience eternal life was lost, and sin and suffering became man's lot.

"How different the history of man would have been if, when the Devil came to tempt Eve in the garden, she had just said, 'Let me consult my husband before I take a decision.'  Oh, what a different story it would have been then!" [Zac Poonen, Three Tips for Husbands and Wives, 18 November 2011].

So if a wife actively tries to prevent her husband from going to work, then not only would she herself be chafing against one of God's specific commands, but she would also be usurping God's order for the marriage by trying to rule over her husband - just as Eve did in the Garden of Eden.

 

(2b) The Husband Not Accepting His Wife's Plans

As we have seen in the various scriptures above, God's command to the husband is that he is to lead and rule over his wife, and God's command to the wife is that she is to help and submit to her husband.

The following passage is also pertinent to the issue of a disagreement between a husband and wife concerning something the wife may want to do, but with which her husband does not agree:

"If a woman also vow a vow unto the LORD, and bind herself by a bond, ... And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul; And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.  But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the LORD shall forgive her" (Numbers 30:3a,6-8),

"And if she vowed in her husband's house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath; And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her, and disallowed her not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.  But if her husband hath utterly made them void on the day he heard them; then whatsoever proceeded out of her lips concerning her vows, or concerning the bond of her soul, shall not stand: her husband hath made them void: and the LORD shall forgive her" (Numbers 30:10-12),

"Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void.  But is her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her: he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them.  But if he shall any ways make them void after that he heath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity. These are the statutes, which the LORD commanded Moses, between a man and his wife" (Numbers 30:13-16a).

So if a wife has made plans with which her husband does not agree, is she right to continue with them anyway?

"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" (1 Samuel 15:22b-23a),

"As for my people ... women rule over them.  O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths" (Isaiah 3:12),

"She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction.  She trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God" (Zephaniah 3:2a),

"Charity ... vaunteth not itself ... seeketh not her own" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a),

"But I suffer not a woman ... to usurp authority over the man, ... For Adam was first formed, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (1 Timothy 2:12b-14).

If we are to accept that God's Word means what it says, then we have no choice but to say that if the wife does what she wants without her husband's agreement and/or blessing then she is in rebellion against God's clearly stated command to her to submit to her husband.

 

(3) Are These Two Scenarios Equivalent?

In conclusion then, from all that we have seen above about the prescriptions of God regarding the roles of husband and wife, can it be said that a husband not wanting his wife to do something or go somewhere is the same as a wife not wanting her husband to go to his place of work?

For the wife to want to keep her husband with her when he wants to work is to rebel against God's clear command that the man is to work.

For the husband to want to keep his wife from doing something she wants to do without having his agreement, is to obey God's clear command to rule over his wife.

[NB:  It may indeed be the case that the wife is hearing the Lord correctly, while her husband is not, regarding her desire to do something.  Nevertheless, she is still to submit to her husband and leave it to the Lord to turn her husband's heart if that is His will - see Exodus 14:14; Proverbs 21:1.  Or, it may be that he is commanding her to sin regarding a particular issue.  That of course is an extremely serious dilemma for her if she wants to obey God by obeying her husband but her husband's command amounts to disobeying one of God's own commands.  What should she do in that instance?  Please see these two books for Biblical guidance on this issue:  (1) Created To Be His Helpmeet, especially Chapter 23: To Obey or Not to Obey;  (2) Me? Obey Him?]

So we can see that, no, the two scenarios are not the same: the husband not accepting his wife's plans is not the same as the wife not accepting that her husband must go to work.

The one is obeying God.  The other is disobeying God.

"There is never peace in the home when a contentious woman has placed herself at the head of it.  Peace and harmony, both in the marriage relationship and in the home, can only be achieved when wives surrender to God and obey His command to submit to the authority of their own husband" [Glenda Hotton, Help! I Can't Submit to My Husband].


 

"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 Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord:
whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well"
(1 Peter 3:5-6)