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
- 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
(1) We Are All Equal - God Has
Made Us Equal
It is true that God treats us all
|"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
(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"
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
"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
(C) How Does This Apply to Husbands and
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
"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 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
"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
|"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"
"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
(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"
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your
own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord" (Colossians
"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
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
|"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"
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
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 he is to work.
[NB: (1) 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; (2) It may be the case that the
husband cannot work; perhaps for reasons of injury, illness,
incapacity, or other. Or perhaps the Lord has made clear to a
husband and wife that, for a season, it is His will for the husband
to stay at home while the wife is to work outside the home.
These are separate issues, and do not allow a free-for-all disregard
for the normal Scriptural practice for a Christian home.]
(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
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
|"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
|"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
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"
"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
"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
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
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:
Created To Be His Helpmeet, especially Chapter 23: To Obey or
Not to Obey;
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)
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© Elizabeth McDonald