How Do We Have Oneness in Marriage? Husband and Wife Roles

Tom Clark1

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Introduction Thoughts

Our secular-culture says that men and women do not have role-differences. One of the things the Bible says is that men and women are equal, but different.

They are equal:

  • Equal before God – Equally bearing God’s image;
  • Equal in God’s design and calling – They are equally important to God’s kingdom;
  • Equal in salvation.

But being equal in these ways, they are not the “same.”

That is, they are designed differently, and they have different assignments from God.

Here are basically two thoughts for us to consider:

1.   Husbands and wives have different roles in the home.

      They may or may not have different roles for jobs – that is a choice we make. But according to the Bible, we do have different assignments in our home environments.

      In a future article we’ll have a description of a husband’s role and then another article after that on a wife’s role.

2.   The culture’s attitude that men and women have same roles is damaging children, damaging marriages, and damaging both men and women by insisting that men and women have “sameness.”

This “sameness” idea is proposed by things like a culture process from 1900 through 1960 and beyond, and also by our culture, our current government and by our flesh.

Biblical Ideas of Differences Between Men and Women (Husbands and Wives)

In the book of Genesis there is the story of Adam and Eve, God’s first created humans. At creation they had no sin, and God warned them not to sin or they would “die” – in the sense of a loss of relationship with God.

Being humble before God they would raise children and send the children out over the world to extend God’s kingdom over the earth (Genesis 1:28). This was God’s primary calling for them – the first thing God ever said to a human (in the Bible).

And in this design Adam and Eve were equal before God; but they were also different in terms of design and assignment for their calling from God. Here are three biblical demonstrations of the differences between roles of Adam and Eve:

1.   Adam created first, he was alone. God was going to let Adam see the value of his female partner, but also to see the difference in their calling. In Genesis 2:18 God said

“It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

      So Eve’s design was to be a “suitable helper” to Adam. Then in 1 Corinthians 11:3 and 9 there are indications of the idea of a difference between them:

Verse 11:3 – I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man,

and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

Verse 11.9 – . . . man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

      We can see that Eve’s creation – and the assignment of wives – is for being “suitable helpers” to husbands.

2.   In the next point, Adam was the one assigned to have responsibility and initiative. The idea is that men (and husbands) are to take initiative as leaders. Here is the point:

      Adam was the one that God gave instruction – eat fruit, but don’t eat a particular fruit or it will be a disobedience and a loss of “life” with God. So Adam was the one first instructed not to sin.

      Then in Genesis 3:1-6, Eve was the one Satan approached. As a “serpent” he told Eve that she could eat any fruit, despite God’s instruction. So Eve saw three good reasons to eat the fruit, she ate it, and then in verse 3:6 she gave the fruit to Adam and he ate it.

     What we see next is that Adam was the primary sinner, not Eve. Several verses help us to see that. First, in Genesis 3:9 God called to Adam, not Eve, despite that Eve was the first to eat fruit.

     In Romans 5:12-21 there are several references to “man” as the sinner, not a woman:

Verse 5:14 – . . . death reigned from Adam until Moses . . . the offense of Adam . . .

Verse 5:19 – . . . .as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners . . .

      Adam was the main sinner, not Eve, because he was to take initiative toward her but he did not do it.

      So he was the one who spread sin and death through all humanity. This is an evidence of men – and husbands – as leaders, whether they do it or not.

      The same thing is visible in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22:

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

3.   In Ephesians 5:22-24, the husband and wife are described in two different roles:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church,

He Himself being the Savior of the body.

But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

      The idea in these three Ephesian verses is that the husband plays the role of Christ and the wife plays the role of the church – the two of them displaying God through their differences in design and assignments, and through their oneness in marriage.

Leadership does not include “control.”

In that first Ephesians verse there is the instruction for a wife to be subject to her husband as we as believers are subject to Christ. In Ephesians 5:33 and again in Colossians 3:18 and 1 Peter 3:1-6, wives are called to obey their husbands. But something we want know is that leadership does not mean having “control” – it means basically three steps:

      a.   Initiative – Not being a ruler, but using leadership to get the couple to focus on biblical things.

      b.   Service – Personal sacrifice before a wife and others under the leadership.

            See Matthew 20:25-28 down below.

      c.   Responsibility – Accepting God’s calling to be a “servant leader” in the home.

So the idea here is that a husband is a leader, but he is not in control. He is to take initiative and to be a servant to his wife (and to his children). Matthew 20:25-28 helps us to see this in the image of Christ:

Matthew 20:25-28

25 Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.

26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,

27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;

28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

As Christ is a Leader among us, He is also a Servant to us. His approach is not controlling us, but to shape us and direct us by serving us. So a husband is to do that (Ephesians 5:25) and a wife also does it (1 Peter 3:1-2). And whereas each serves the other, they have different designs and assignments.

So a husband and wife are equal to each other, but they are different in design and assignment. What we will see in the next articles is:

      First, a description of a husband’s role as a leader;

      And second, a description of a wife’s role as a “suitable helper” to her husband.

Tom Clark1 Tom Clark is a Family Life Ambassador with the Family Life Ministry and on the Advisory Board of the Virginia Christian Alliance.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

About the Author

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