And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Monday, January 28, 2013



Recently I presented a paper in my DMin class on what the Bible teaches about order in the marriage partnership.  This paper sought to define terms, exposit pertinent scriptures, and provide practical application. It also sought to make the reader aware of how some well intended Christian teachers have complicated the issue.  Thus, in a hopes that what I have found and written will benefit you,I am presenting this paper over the next several posts.  Should you have questions or comments, you may send them to

Fulfilling one’s role is imperative.  Never is compromise accepted in the marriage roles, as is often suggested by books such as The Five Love Languages, His Needs Her Needs, or Love and Respect.  These books all suggest that when one party gives the other should give also.  This teaching curtails the responsibility mandated unto God to love the spouse, and instead suggests that to get affection a husband must first barter for the other’s involvement by respect, kindnesses, or appealing to her felt needs and desires.  Scripturally, we are to love our spouses as in obedience and love unto God.  “Just as Christ loved the church” emphasizes that we once were distant sinners who rebelled and operated in our own flesh, without a love for Christ.  Yet, Christ still gave Himself up for his bride, the church, in order to provide sanctification, cleansing her with the washing of the word, in order to make her presentable, holy, blameless.  Husbands and wives are to understand cures for marriage from this admonition, not out of self-preservation or in the manipulation of a supposed hierarchy of needs.

            This Ephesians passage finds the commands for the wife being summed up in submitting and respecting her husband.  These are neither conditional nor optional.  Her obedience is ultimately unto the Lord, not just her husband. 

            The idea of submission is not to be carried to the extremes of being a doormat for abuse or a permission to sin if directed by her mate.  Wisdom and logic, especially paired with the other doctrines of scripture, are to be applied at all times to the context of submission.  Misinterpretations of this directive have been used by husbands to abuse or misinterpret the role of his wife. This aspect is further explored in the section on Bill Gothard.  Some wives have endured years of verbal, physical, and spiritual abuse all the while fearing that something worse may happen if they disobey God by “non-submission.” This perspective has affected feminism and has been in need of clarification, as seen in the Baptist Faith and Message of 2000.  Husbands need to be aware that this scripture never advocates his “kingship of the home,” but rather how he is to lovingly serve his wife.  It puts the husband in the envious position of being the exclusive love attraction to his mate, other than Christ, rather than the fleshly lull of worldly substitutes.

            For the husband, litanies of objectives are outlined for his ongoing duty.  These too are neither optional nor conditional.  They include loving as Christ loves the church, moving toward the goal of her purification and beautification through the word that she be holy and blameless.  He is to nourish and cherish his wife, as a fellow member of his own body.  His inspiration is taken from the Genesis passage in chapter 2 verse 24, aspiring to the glory of the pre-fall condition.  He must therefore be mindful that sin has not relinquished him from duties nor objectives for the marriage to be a union that exists unto the glory of God.  Rather, the conditions of his present state and the promises of God ought to provide fervor in actively loving his wife.

            Both lists of objectives for husband and wife give the couple a truer definition as to what it means to love one’s spouse, cleaving to each other and becoming one flesh.  It is an active pursuit, for the betterment of each other, and a cleansing from sin, that seeks to attain the glorious pre-fall fellowship between each other and God Himself.

1 Peter 3: 1-12 is a great paraclete to Ephesians 5.  Again it begins with a discussion of wives submitting to their husbands.  Here, Peter addresses the issue of whether or not a wife should submit to a husband who, is at least, not fulfilling his role or, at worse, is perhaps an unbeliever.  It is the behavior of the wife, in submission, that sets her apart from the rest of the women of the world.  This submissive aspect of the woman is done out of love for the Savior, following His example, and therefore the glory of God is demonstrated in the life of a believer.   1 Peter chapter 3 sets the context for submission as exemplified in Christ.  The axiom of imitating Christ in all things is abundant in the marriage relationship.  There is more at stake than the happiness of the wife.  The person of Christ is illustrated in the consistency and character of the believer, thus affecting her spirit, her husband, and the witness to her mission field.

The wife is to complete her ministry unto her husband by submitting, in the hopes that he will see her behavior and be won over should he not be a Christian.  In the context of the Greco-Roman period, the actions of such a wife would surely make her a standout among all others.[i]  Further, her adornment is to be not merely outward, but more so from the inward person of who she really is.  Sarah, Abraham’s wife, is cited as a godly example to emulate.  

The husband is commanded to live in an understanding way, and to consider his wife a weaker vessel.  To be understanding, the Greek word, gnosis, presents an admonition to have practical wisdom in how to effectively love one’s wife.   It carries with it the position that there must be an ongoing update as to her current situations and being.  Therefore, the husband needs to consistently relate to his wife to know her heart.

It must be understood that the husband, as Adam did, is to consider his wife as not inferior, but fulfilling the role of a suitable helper.   The Greek word, asthenes, is used here.  It means a weakness such as “the flesh is weak.”  This would translate as lacking power.  The husband in turn enables his wife to complete her role.  This again becomes a symbiotic relationship; each benefits the other.  The consummation of marriage in this order is synergistic and fulfills the doctrine intended for the two becoming one flesh.

Along with the idea of the wife being a weaker vessel, the husband thus is to show her honor by considering her a fellow heir.(vs 7)  This again demonstrates that the wife is neither to be ruled over, nor be a doormat, but a partner that completes a union of two fleshes.  This order is crucial; for when the husband honors his wife, his prayers remove potential hindrances.          A strong spiritual practicality is paired with loving one’s wife when the husband takes care to maintain such order in the marriage.

Peter then ties together in verses 8-12 an overview of how a husband and wife are to conduct the order of marriage biblically.

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, "THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS, MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT. "HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT. "FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL." (1Pe 3:8-12)


Peter is not only concerned with the heart but the practical application.  Each of these relational matters finds its victory in relying upon the Lord as it says; “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,” and “His ears attend their prayers.”  This summation is not simply a new teaching from Peter, but a reminder of God’s word as spoken in Psalm 34. 

[i] Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 2nd ed. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids. 1993.

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