HUSBAND AND WIFE RELATIONSHIP
In this article we want to look at what the Bible says about the privilege of marriage, and what it says about the roles and responsibilities of husband and wife. We also want to understand what the Bible means when it says that marriage is a covenant.
When God created Man, He saw that the basic human unit was man and woman, or husband and wife
Both the male and female in Genesis 1 were called Adam, which just means Man, or human. God said that it was not good for man to be alone.
Right from the beginning God called husband and wife in marriage to establish themselves as a new single unit. That is why they were both called Adam.
Leave and cleave
When a man marries, he has to leave and cleave, that is, leave home both physically and emotionally and establish a new kind of relationship in a new household.
Genesis 2:24 says,
This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. NLT
In leaving his parental home, a husband changes his priorities. He establishes a closer relationship with his wife than can ever exist even between parents and children.
To be joined to literally means to be glued together—permanently. Once he is married, he has to consider his wife and treat her as being part of himself. United into one means that God now sees them as one body—one unit. And out of their union come children who combine in one person all that they both are.
In some quarters, it seems that living singly is preferred over marriage. They may proclaim celibacy for all as a noble virtue, and marriage only for those who are of lesser character, but that is completely opposite to what God says.
God saw that Adam was not complete on his own and needed a helper. Man was created to be a social being, to have meaningful relationship with other humans.
Genesis 2:18 says,
And the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him.” NLT
Literally translated, the word companion means that the woman God created would be the perfect counterpart of the man, standing opposite to him or before his face. She would be the completion of the man, like him in every respect. He would be able to recognize himself in her. She would not be inferior or superior to the man. She would be equal, but opposite.
We are all equal
The New Testament also makes clear that God made male and female equal.
Galatians 3:28 says,
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians—you are one in Christ Jesus. NLT
God views nationality, social status, or gender as irrelevant. There can be no more rivalry between the genders for us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have to see each other as God sees us. Males are not more valuable than females; both are His special creation, created equal. They are the complement of one another. He has given them each a unique and special function in the family, in society and in the ecclesia.
A believing husband and wife are first and foremost brother and sister in the Lord Jesus Christ, equal, and complementary. That needs to be reflected in how they relate to one another, valuing each other as unique and special, but equal, even as God sees them.
Submitting to one another
That will also be worked out in how married couples make decisions and act upon them.
Ephesians 5:21 says,
And further, you will submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. NLT
Before wives are commanded to submit to their husbands in verse 22, they are both commanded to submit to each other. Husband and wife cooperate as partners in exercising their God-given dominion together by submitting to each other.
Submitting can only be done willingly; it can never be demanded of another person. Love and respect in a marriage are what causes it to thrive.
Ephesians 5:33 says,
So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. NLT
If a husband loves his wife as he loves himself, there will be no problem for her to respect him, as this verse commands. God has designed a wife to respond to true love with respect for her husband.
In God’s eyes, marriage is not just a contract between two humans; it is a covenant. It is a coming together of husband and wife, where they promise to live together as long as they live.
God is witness to their vows. The fact that their vows are made before God and that He is witness to them defines marriage as a covenant in the Biblical sense.
In Malachi 2:14-15, God clearly says that marriage is a covenant.
14 You cry out, “Why has the Lord abandoned us?” I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made to each other on your wedding day when you were young. But you have been disloyal to her, though she remained your faithful companion, the wife of your marriage vows.
15 Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard yourself; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. NLT
God made covenants with man as a guarantee of His faithfulness. He commands the same faithfulness of husband and wife in the covenant of marriage because marriage reflects His covenant faithfulness to us.
When we place a high value on lifetime commitment to one another, as God does, then we can walk in the power God intended for us and expect that He will bless our marriage.
What about divorce?
Unfortunately divorce seems to be a part of modern life, and most people accept rising divorce rates without stopping to think too much about it. God does not accept divorce as a normal part of life as He designed it to be. He tells us about how He sees it in the Bible.
In Malachi 2:16 God said,
16 “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “It is as cruel as putting on a victim’s bloodstained coat,” says the Lord Almighty. “So guard yourself; always remain loyal to your wife.” NLT
God says to these leaders of the Jews that He hates divorce, because it does violence to the lifelong covenant that husbands and wives enter into, to which He is witness. Faithfulness to their wives was more important to Him than the excuses they used for divorce, which only revealed the hardness of their hearts.
God hasn’t changed His mind. He still hates divorce, because of the violence it does to what ought to be the closest relationship of love. It leaves behind incredible damage, not only to husband and wife, but also to children and members of the wider family.
Jesus tells His disciples the real reasons that lie behind divorce.
Matthew 19:7-9 says,
7 “Then why did Moses say a man could merely write an official letter of divorce and send her away?” they asked.
8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce as a concession to your hard-hearted wickedness, but it was not what God had originally intended. 9 And I tell you this, a man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” NLT
As He answers the question of the Jewish leaders; Jesus makes clear that He does not agree with their argument on divorce. He says that Moses gave permission to divorce only because of their hardness of heart.
But God’s word is that man has no right to separate those whom He joined together in marriage. His original mandate “till death do us part” has not changed over the ages. It was still applicable in Jesus’ day and is just as applicable today.
The Devil loves to take advantage by exaggerating each partner’s faults and planting unforgiveness for each other in their hearts. They harden their hearts toward one another.
Their love grows cold, and they become more and more polarized in their opposition toward one another as they justify their own position. That is what leads to divorce, and that closes the door to forgiveness.
This goes against what Jesus said about the need to forgive one another even as He has forgiven us. How much better to stand together, face the difficult issues, resolve them, freely forgive each other, and be strengthened in the relationship through that process.
We need to build each other up, pray for one another, and not allow the Devil to get his hands on our marriage.
The Biblical principle for believers is that divorce is not an option.
1 Corinthians 7:10-11 says,
10 Now, for those who are married I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord. A wife must not leave her husband. 11 But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else go back to him. And the husband must not leave his wife. NLT
Husband and wife live out the truth of God’s covenant love in their lives together, and that is why they need to freely forgive and be reconciled to each other when differences come in between them.
That will also be worked out in how married couples make decisions and act upon them.
If you are someone who has or is experiencing domestic abuse, the good news is that God’s heart is for you. He is always for you. As we look at what the Bible has to say about divorce, we see God’s care for those who have struggled, suffered and felt unworthy or downtrodden.
Know that you can find freedom because God does not want you to stay.
Experiencing abuse is not your fault, you are not to blame. Abuse is not a breakdown in communication, it is the intentional act of one person deliberately harming another.
‘While God’s heart is for healing and reconciliation of marriages, the restoration of a biblical marriage is impossible when the abusive spouse does not repent or change.’— Ally Kern, Survivor’s Handbook (p.185) —
Breaking the marriage covenant
Abuse, in whatever form it takes, breaks the marriage covenant. When we get married, we vow to sacrifice for someone else, to love them, to stand with them in sickness and in health. Marriage relationships, whilst imperfect, are meant to be relationships of love and commitment to one another.
An increasing number of highly-respected theologians agree that there are a number of forms of mistreatment which stand alongside adultery as grounds for divorce as adultery.
I came across this site which is an excellent site to assist and identify if you are being abused in your marriage.
Recognising domestic abuse
It can be hard to know when behaviour within a relationship has become abusive, but this list of questions taken from the UK government website is a good guideline.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you might be in an abusive relationship. There are links at the bottom of this page to places that can help.
Privilege of Marriage
Having said that lets now look at the privilege of a Godly marriage. God has given mankind a tremendous privilege in the gift of marriage.
What a privilege to establish a new household, and exercise dominion together. The husband has by his side the one who completes him in every respect, and the wife has her husband as protector and provider, the one who completes her.
What a privilege to enjoy each other as individuals, to become one flesh, and to bring children into being and raise them.
1 Peter 3:7 says,
7 In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat her with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. If you don’t treat her as you should, your prayers will not be heard. NLT
The husband must treat his wife with understanding as they make a home together, and to prize her highly. God has called them to be co-creators with Him as children are born to them. The Bible says that God is looking for godly offspring. They are affecting eternity by bringing children into the world. What a privilege, and what a responsibility!
Responsibilities in marriage
Privilege carries responsibilities with it, and this includes the privilege of marriage. As partners together, husband and wife have responsibilities toward God and toward each other.
The Bible addresses husbands’ and wives’ responsibilities, not their rights, because rights are never an issue when each see to their responsibilities.
A husband’s responsibilities are to understand and honour his wife
We have seen from 1 Peter 3:7 that he is to prize her highly. A man will take great care of a luxury car he has bought, letting no one or nothing near it that may cause damage to it.
That is how a husband should honour his wife, understand her and care for her, except more so. He is responsible to protect her as his complement and partner in life.
There are several other responsibilities for both husband and wife outlined in Ephesians 5, and we will look at each of these in turn.
First, let’s read Ephesians 5:22-33,
22 You wives will submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord.
23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of his body, the church; he gave his life to be her Savior.
24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives must submit to your husbands in everything.
25 And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her
26 to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s word.
27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.
28 In the same way, husband’s ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man is actually loving himself when he loves his wife.
29 No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body, which is the church. 30 And we are his body.
31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”
32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.
So again, I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. NLT
Head of the wife
In verse 23, when it says that the husband is head of the wife, it does not mean that he is to be a tyrant. It says specifically that he is head of his wife as Christ is the Head of the church, to love and protect it. It means that the husband is accountable to God for his wife’s protection, welfare, and comfort.
Love his wife
Verse 25 commands a husband to love his wife, Paul never tells wives to love their husbands, because he knew that they would naturally respond with love when they were truly loved by their husband. That is how God designed them. But husbands needed reminding that they need to love their wife because so often they live out of the head, rather than out of the heart, as a woman does.
Your love is to be self-giving
In verse 25, Jesus is the husband’s example, where He gave himself for her, that is, Christ gave Himself for His Bride, the church, and like Jesus, a husband’s love is to be self-giving. That certainly is a high standard to attain to!
But what wife would not respond positively to this kind of self-sacrificing love? It certainly binds a husband to his wife in a unique way.
Nourish and nurture your wife
In verse 29, it says that if a man loves his wife as his own body, then he needs to nourish and nurture her. Also, in verse 29, lovingly cares for, means to bring up to maturity, or to warmly protect.
He has to allow the warmth of his love to control how he nurtures her. This is not just seeing that his wife has what she needs in the physical sense, but more particularly in the spiritual, mental, and emotional sense.
Protect your wife
A husband is to protect his wife. In verse 33 to love his wife as himself does not just mean that he loves her as much as himself. Rather he is to love her as being his very self.
That is how he is to protect his wife. He is to protect her physically, and especially in the mental and emotional areas, where his wife may be more vulnerable than he.
A husband is to be faithful
The word holy of verse 26, which means to set apart, shows that Jesus’ Bride, the church, is set apart for Him. But Jesus has set Himself apart to be faithful, too.
In marriage, the husband is commanded to set himself apart from any other relationship to be faithful to the woman he married. God’s command is that both husband and wife set themselves apart for each other in marriage to the exclusion of anyone else.
Having covered the husbands’ responsibilities let’s now look at the…
Just as the husband has responsibilities toward his wife, so the Bible says that the wife has responsibilities to her husband, some of which are mentioned in the passage we have read from Ephesians 5.
Submit to your husband
In verses 22,24, the wife is commanded to submit herself to her husband as she submits herself to the Lord. The Bible does not say that the husband can demand her submission. That is really slavery.
If the husband fulfils his responsibilities toward his wife, then submission to him is no problem, because she knows that he truly loves her. By willingly submitting to her husband, they can both live in harmony. God wants them to exercise dominion together as a couple. Submission helps that to be worked out in their lives.
Respect your husband
A wife is to respect her husband. So much of television and other media circulate attitudes that belittle husbands or put them down. Look at how many shows or advertisements show men as dumb or useless.
The Bible says that a godly wife is not to hold attitudes that are seen in the world. She is to esteem him highly as God’s gift to her. The word respect in verse 33 means to be amazed at, to fear. In this context it means to reverence, hold in high esteem, to defer to.
Faithful to your husband
A wife is to be faithful to her husband. In verse 26, just as the husband is to set himself apart for his wife, as Christ has done for His Bride, she must do the same for him.
She is to remain faithful to him as her husband, and not seek intimate relationships with other men. In marriage, her range of choice has been narrowed down to one. That is what the word holy means.
Display Godly character
A wife should reflect a Godly character. Verse 27 says that Jesus is preparing the church to be without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish.
That is what God wants to do in each one of us. A wife can reflect what Jesus is doing in the church by allowing God to iron out the spots and wrinkles in her life. That will certainly have an impact on her husband!
Be a help meet
A wife is to be a help meet, verse 28 says that the husband needs to love his wife as he loves himself. That provides her with the security to take up the responsibility of being his helpmeet as they live together.
As we have seen, the wife is the perfect counterpart for the husband. She completes what is lacking in him. That can be her joy and also her husband’s protection.
In God’s design, marriage is not an agreement of 50/50%, but 100/100% giving to each other. God holds the husband responsible to give himself 100% to his wife, and the wife to give herself 100% to her husband. God designed marriage so that both can be the complement of the other.
This article is an extract from module two, session 9, “Power of Godly Character in the 20 week transformational ®Growing Deep and Strong Christian Discipleship course.
It has been designed that almost anyone with leadership or management skills could pick up and begin discipling new Christians.
Go to our website now and find out how to get involved in making disciples.
Carl is a follower of Jesus Christ; Author of the Christian Discipleship and Leadership program called the ©Growing Deep and Strong Series. Founder and Director of Internet Secrets Made Easy. His life passion is to be a catalyst and facilitator in developing people who will become leaders and disciplers of others. Connect with him on Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube