Preaching & Teaching

The Role of Husband and Wife

The Bible gives Christians a substantive framework for marriage that will result in a God-glorifying union. In Lasting Love: How to Avoid Marital Failure, Alistair Begg clarifies what the roles of a wife and husband look like according to God’s design:

The Role of the Wife

In 1 Peter 3:1–6, Peter utilizes a whole series of contrasts to make a point:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (ESV)

Outward beauty versus inward beauty. External attachments versus internal attitudes. Changing fashions versus unfading beauty. Through these contrasts a husband is led quietly to the Christ his wife honors.

Unfading Beauty

These are matters of pressing urgency. Women are not exclusively, but they are particularly, bombarded by the mentality of the mall. Hair, clothes, jewelry, and the potential enslavement to fashion calls out to them from the newsstands, radio commercials, and television advertising. So, as husbands, we need to learn to praise our wives and daughters for inner loveliness, lest by default, if not by design, we set them on a quest for beauty that will inevitably and ultimately not be fulfilled.

A wife is to ensure that irrespective of what she may have in her jewelry box, she is cultivating “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4 NIV). This should not be misunderstood to be referring to a certain kind of personality. Gregarious or quiet, funny or serious, extrovert or introvert, the qualities of a gentle and quiet spirit will shine through. Nor are these gems to be confused with natural timidity, or uneasy reserve, or affected piety. They are expressions of spiritual fruit.

The Role of the Husband

The Bible is clear in declaring that if a man cannot take care of his own home, then he has no business endeavoring to take care of the church:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:25–33 NIV)

Taking Care of What We Love

Men must resist the cultural tendency to rate image higher than character. It is all too easy to content ourselves with keeping up an image while neglecting the essential disciplines that forge our characters. When we expose ourselves to the searchlight of God’s Word, there will be no room for pretense. As a husband and father, I am forced to recognize that “if Christianity doesn’t work at home, then it doesn’t work!”

Have you noticed how fanatical some men become over their cars? They wash, polish, and pamper them almost continually. They drive them sparingly. They don’t like other people tampering with them. These guys love to be seen in their cars, hoping to attract admiring glances. Many of the men I have just described give more time and attention to the machines in their garages than to the women in their living rooms.

Overstated? Probably, but it is essential not to miss the point: the enjoyment we derive from something is directly related to the time and trouble we take to nurture and care for it. When a man proves himself capable of displaying tender care toward his toys, he has no excuse when it comes to his relationships. It just doesn’t work when he tries to justify apathy toward his wife by claiming, “I’m just not put together that way.”

By Alistair Begg

Alistair Begg is the Senior Pastor of Cleveland's Parkside Church (located in Bainbridge, Geauga County, Ohio), a position he has had since 1983. He is the...

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