Roles for Men and Women in the Home
A while back—my wife and I bought one of those shed kits from Costco. It’s one of those kits that comes with everything you need—wood, nails, siding—you just have to put it all together. Now, I wasn’t expecting it to be super easy—so before I started, I did some online research and I could see that the first thing I had to do was get the foundation squared—or nothing else would go smoothly. If I didn’t get it squared, the entire project would be a battle. But once it was squared, everything else would go smoothly.
Well, it’s one thing to watch a video, it’s another thing to actually do it! I spent 30-40% of the whole project just working on the foundation—the part no one sees! — But I knew that if I didn’t get that right the frame, the siding and the windows would be a constant battle.
A home is just like that. If the foundation is not squared, you spend your life dealing with secondary problems. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount—that if you build your house on sand, it can’t weather the storms of life. He also said a house divided cannot stand. And this morning, we’re continuing in our sermon series on marriage, and we’re going to look at how to square our homes to scripture.
Today we’re going to talk about God’s design for the home. A few weeks ago, we talked about God’s design for men… Last week we talked about some critical theology that undergirds the home, and today, we’re going to talk about how to align the roles of husband and wife with God’s design.
Now, the moment we talk about “roles” and “design” we’re talking about structure…And the moment we talk about structure in the home, we’re going against our culture! Our culture says we can do whatever we want in the home…that we’re enlightened now and don’t need structure.
But the collapse of the family unit in America shows that the world’s ways don’t work. In America, only 46% (less than half of all children) live with both of their biological parents. 23% of children are growing up with a single mom. Children with divorced parents… See their parents less often, have less access to extra-curricular activities like sports and music, and struggle more in school. They are more likely—themselves—to end up in relationships that either never marry or end in divorce. The emotional and economic toll of the family breakdown cuts across America. The world’s rebellion against God’s design is not working.
Following Our Design
Many marriage-struggles stem from people following their own design rather than God’s. Our culture used to mock God’s design…now it actually fights God’s design with measures like... Redefining marriage to be a temporary living arrangement with anyone you’re temporarily loyal to. Or when couples refuse to call one another “husband” or “wife” because of patriarchal connotations. And labelling anyone who follows God’s designs as chauvinists, or misogynists, or sexists…
In today’s day and age to even teach on God’s design for marriage is an act of civil disobedience. But that is what we have to do. We are God’s people. We have made a covenant with Him to follow the ways of His kingdom, regardless of how the world may treat us or what it might do to our social standing. And so, today we’re going to dive into the radical waters of God’s roles for men and women.
So, if you have your Bible, please turn to Ephesians 5, and once again, we’ll look at verses 22 to 33…and we’ll talk about how to square our homes with the Word of God…. And let’s start with roles for men.
Point #1 God calls men to lead their wives faithfully
I want to start with giving you a quick overview of the roles God has given to the husband: In verse 23 – they are leaders who are the head of their wife. In verse 25 – they are lovers who love their wives as Christ loved the church. In verse 27, they are launders who wash their wives with the Word. And finally, in verse 28 – they are laborers who provide for their wives. Let’s work through these principles together starting with verses 22 & 23…
Paul says, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Verse 23 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.” Now, we’re going to come back to Paul’s instruction to women later…but for now, let’s talk about what Paul means when he says: the husband is the head of the wife in the same way that Christ is the head of the church.
When you think about how Christ is the head of the church… He is our life! He guides the church, He leads the church, He fills the church, He blesses the church, He chastens the church, He loves the church and abides with the church. And Paul is saying that in a similar manner, the husband is the head of the wife…
But here’s the thing—we need to understand that when we say that the man is the head of the wife, we have to remember that Jesus is the head of the man! Put a bookmark here and let’s turn over to 1st Corinthians 11.
Followers of Jesus
1st Corinthians 11 is answering the question about head-coverings, and back then, some women wore coverings a lot like a burka to signify they were married. Paul is answering the question about if that tradition should be brought into the church. And as he answers that question, he makes an important point in verse 3. He says, "But 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." So, there is a structure and purpose for headship: God the Father is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of his wife.
So, the ultimate authority in the home is Jesus! He’s the king of the castle… And He’s put a captain in the home to carry out His orders. That doesn’t mean women can’t (or don’t) follow Christ— they do all the time —and in many homes, if it weren’t for the wife’s obedience no one in that home would follow Jesus! But God’s design is for men to be the leaders of the home the same way that Christ leads the church.
Men are Not Better
Both men and women equally bear the image of God. Both are equal in their worth and value. Their difference is a matter of role and responsibility. God has given men the role and responsibility of leadership—specifically leadership in following Jesus. And so, when the Bible says men are the head of the home, it’s saying that men bear the primary responsibility to lead their home in a God-glorifying direction.
So, Men—your home is a stewardship entrusted to you by Jesus to serve His kingdom. He’s given you a wonderful wife to be your teammate To work together To serve together To weave together your skills and talents together to accomplish Christ’s work (that He wants to do through you) in your home, and in your church and in your community. And you’re the head!!! You’re the coach!!! You’re the leader!!! You’re the cheerleader!!! The inspiration!!! The encourager!!! The motivator!!! The energy!!! The strength!!! The determination…behind the spiritual work you and your family do for the kingdom of Christ.
And men, one day you will give an account for how you’ve led your home. And you will stand before Jesus…and Jesus will ask you: How did you follow Me as your head? How did you show your wife what it means to follow by your example? How did you lead your family to do My work in you and through you?
Not “Yes Dear”
I know this is hard to hear. And society has so beaten down men that it’s hard to find men who are leading their homes. Sometimes you’ll hear a guy say, “I’m the leader in the house and I always have the last word. And that’s: ‘Yes dear’”. That may be funny but it’s not biblical and if it’s true—it’s dangerous. Now, we should have the attitude of dying to self for our wives And if our wife wants something and it’s not a matter of biblical obedience then we should “Just do it!” But God hasn’t put us into the home to be “Yes Men”. He has put us into the home to be leaders. And if saying “Yes” leads your family to follow Jesus then do it! But if it leads your family by saying “No!” … then it’s your responsibility to say “no” to anything that takes you away from your pure devotion to Jesus. And so, men: Jesus is your head…and you lead your wife by showing her how to follow Jesus.
Now— The health of the head is critical. When someone’s head is unhealthy, we say that something is wrong! So, there are two unhealthy extremes of male headship: Tyranny and passivity. And either one means the home is following somebody besides Jesus.
When the home is led by a tyrant— the home is following his will and not Jesus’. When the home is led by a passive man—the home is following the will of the wife, or the children, or the mother-in-law, or culture, or someone else. And neither are following God’s design where Christ leads the man, and the man leads the home.
Now, having said that—there are some situations where you’ve got a godly wife with a brain-dead-husband—and she’s got the family unit on life-support and she’s doing all she can just to keep the family plugged-in to Jesus… And as long as she’s not usurping her husband’s biblical role of headship—She’s doing the right thing.
Men aren’t leading
I think a lot of the problems in churches and homes stem from the fact that many men aren’t leading their families to follow Jesus. When some men hear about male leadership, they think it’s a blank check to get whatever they want! That’s not the case. Men are leading their wives in how to follow Jesus. Women don’t have to be doormats to ungodly demands. They are first and foremost: Servants of Jesus… And if their husband asks them to do something that contradicts the Word of God — like in ancient days when husbands would tell their wives to leave unwanted babies in the elements to die of exposure— A wife can play the card that says, “Jesus is my ultimate head I can’t follow Him if I do this.” Male leadership does not give the husband the right to demand ungodly things from their wife.
When the Bible calls men “to lead”, we’re supposed to be going somewhere to have a plan for our home. That plan may not always be fun and it may not be a place we naturally want to go. But a wife can’t say, “I’ll only follow him if he’s leading me to a place I like…”
Wives will follow
But I think most wives will follow their husbands—and allow him to make mistakes—if the men were at least trying to go somewhere! Women want their lives to matter for eternity too! They know this passage!... And they’re saying, “I wish my husband would just step up and lead!”
Not Rocket Science
So, guys—this isn’t rocket science. It starts with just wanting to follow Jesus. The person who is “lost” has no interest in following Jesus they just want to follow self & sin. But the person who is born-again pursues Jesus and obedience to Him. And, if you are born-again, then Jesus has given you a will that wants to obey Him and your act of obedience is to step into your God-given leadership role in your home. And so, be a man who prays and sometimes even fasts. Be a man who reads your Bible and talk about it with your family. Be a man who prayerfully looks at what God has given you and asks Him for guidance about how to use the blessings He has given you for His kingdom purposes. God calls men to lead their wives faithfully. That’s the first point. The second point is:
Point #2: God Calls Men to love their wives Unconditionally
Sometimes women are concerned that if we teach that men are the head of the homes, that will give men the freedom to be tyrants behind closed doors. That’s an understandable concern, but that won’t happen with a godly man. A man who is seeking to fulfill his role as the head of the home is seeking to obey God and be faithful with his responsibilities. That’s a godly man! And a man who uses this principle to abuse his family would have used something else to abuse them…and if that man is in the church, it might take church discipline to bring him to his senses. So, let’s be clear: Men, don’t ever use these truths—in anger—with your wife. Instead, tell your wife, “Honey, I’m committed to fulfilling the role God has entrusted to me. I’m committed to leading us so that we’re more godly, righteous, and Christ-centered. At times, you might not like my leadership, but please know that I’m trying to lead you in love.” Hopefully they’ll see that you’re acting out of obedience to the Lord and love for her.
Let’s turn back to Ephesians 5:25 where Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives just AS Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” The pattern for a husband’s love is Christ’s love for the church!!! And when a husband loves his wife this way—he’s following God’s design for the home.
Women Need Love
Men, here’s what you need to understand: God has hard-wired your wife to need your love. Colossians 3:19 adds a further statement saying: "Husbands, love your wives and don’t be bitter toward them." If you’re fighting like cats-and-dogs, I guarantee that your wife does not feel that you love her. The word “bitter” comes from the Greek word “pikraino” which means “to pick” or “to be pointed.” Paul says don’t be “bitter towards them.” The word “towards” also has the idea of close proximity. As we live with our wives, we’ll see their faults up close and personal… And we’ll be tempted “to pick” at them with pointed words. Husbands—don’t do that! Learn to love your wife.
The word “love” is mentioned five times in this passage. It’s the word “agape”. Agape love is God’s love for us. It is a unique kind of love that originates from God and flows in us and through us as we walk in fellowship with Him.
And agape love is unconditional. God’s love for us is not based upon anything we do or don’t do. God doesn’t have scales that determine if we deserve His love. He just loves us. It’s His nature to love us. 1 John 4:8 says that “God is love.” He loves us unconditionally. We do not earn it. We do not merit it. He just loves us. In the same way, men: love your wife with unconditional love.
Sometimes a couple gets to the point where they no longer feel like they love each other anymore. Often, that’s because familiarity breeds contempt. It doesn’t take long before a husband and wife know each other better than anyone else on the planet. And eventually—they’re not sure they like what they find!
Folks—you need to realize that no one is lovable under a microscope! Does she have warts? — You bet. Does she sin? —You bet. Does she have imperfections? Absolutely! But think about Christ’s love for us. Do we have warts? Do we sin? Are we far from perfect? Yes! And yet—Christ loves us. And men, you’ll be most Christlike when you unconditionally love your wife in all her imperfections.
Now, if you’re not sure you can love your wife unconditionally— Let me encourage you: you can’t! Or at least—not in your own strength. You need God’s love flowing in you and through you. And the more difficult your marriage situation—the more you need to meet with God through prayer and fasting, to have Him change your heart to align with His love for your spouse.
Every married person will have days where they wake up say, “Hey, this isn’t what I bargained for!” When we’re at that point—whether it’s for just one day or for an entire season—that’s a symptom that there’s a probably a breakdown in our relationship with God.
I heard one preacher point out that if we’re struggling to love our wife…we need to remember that God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we say, “Hey, she’s not my neighbor. I can’t stand her!” God also calls us to love our enemies! So, no matter what, when a man doesn’t love his wife with agape love, it points to a problem in his relationship with God. If you’re getting the sense that this is hard, you’re right… That’s why we need to love our wives sacrificially.
Back up in verse 25, Paul says, “Husbands love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Christ’s love is sacrificial. He loves the church so much that He gave Himself up for her! Think about what Jesus gave up for us! In eternity past He never dwelt with sin in His presence, but in His earthly life He was surrounded by the stench of sinners. In eternity past He never experienced anything but adoration, but in His earthly life He was rejected by society and even His disciples. In eternity past He never experienced pain, but in His earthly life He suffered the greatest pain imaginable on the cross. In eternity past He never experienced separation from the Father, but in His earthly life He experienced the horror of an eternal chasm while on the cross. He did this because of His sacrificial love for the church. He gave Himself up for His bride. And husbands who love their wives with Christ’s love will sacrifice for them. Men, when we committed to marrying our wife, we committed to sacrificing for her.
When I was in school, I remember talking with one of my favorite professors. He was (and is) a great teacher and clearly loved to preach. He was a pastor for years before becoming a professor. I asked him why he left the pastorate. He explained that the pressure was too much for his wife. And he believed that God was sovereign over his wife’s strengths and limitations and because it was so hard for her—God obviously had not called him to the pastorate. And so, he gave up his dream and resigned but God had redemptive purposes in that, and God used him to teach hundreds of pastors the Word of God. Because of his obedience, his ministry was magnified.
So, men, we may have to make sacrifices for the families that God has entrusted to us. Perhaps it’s something as significant as giving up your career. Perhaps it’s something as practical as giving up a preference about where to go for dinner. Perhaps it’s turning off the TV and turning to our wife and talking with her. Men, lead your wife by showing her what sacrifice looks like.
Let’s look at one more facet of agape love…agape love is also volitional.
Since agape love unconditional, and since agape love is sacrificial… It doesn’t wait to be asked. It doesn’t wait for the feelings to kick in. It just does what is right. We see what Christ’s volitional love does in this passage… Look back at Ephesians 5:26. Verse 26 says, "so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,"
So, Christ’s agape love means He pursues His bride’s purity. Verse 26 tells us that Christ sanctifies His bride—that means He sets her apart holiness and purity. Guys, we live in a sin-sick world. We need to guard our wives so that the sickness of our society doesn’t infect our homes. We need to make sure that the things that go on in our homes are… Morally pure, Doctrinally pure, Spiritually pure. Sometimes you’ll need to say: “Hey, this TV show just crossed a moral line. Let’s turn it off.” You may need to say “no” to things that compete with the time when the church gathers for worship.
In a lot of homes, it’s the opposite. The wife is the one who is uncomfortable with a TV show. The wife is the one saying that church should be the priority— And although it’s good she’s saying something… Men—if that’s how things are in your home—your home is not squared to God’s design. You need to be seeking your wife’s purity… And if something violates her conscience, you should know that, and turn it off. And since you’re leading in what it means to follow Jesus…you should take a good hard look at whatever it is, and prayerfully ask the Lord if that’s something He wants you to be doing.
We’ll also protect our wife’s purity by washing her with the Word. We see that in verse 26.
Washing with the Word
In other words, it’s the man’s duty to make sure the family—is regularly in the Word… Hearing it, Listening to it, Reading it, And worshipping God from it. The Word of God has a cleansing effect. When we regularly hear the Word of God it renews us and transforms us and guides us to be more faithful followers of our Lord.
Men—if you are following Christ’s example, you will instruct your family in God’s Word. God has called you to be the primary instructor of God’s Word to your wife and children. Now, I realize this might be hard from some men…but I have a question—this might seem out of left field—But which trucks have Cummins Engines? Okay, now for something harder: Which diesel engine is better…The Ford 7.3 or the 6.0? Now why?
Men, if you can learn the benefits of engines in trucks you don’t even own— you can learn the Word of God well enough to read it to your family.
What we do in our home is read a verse or two— I ask a bunch of questions like “Who is this talking about?” / “What does it mean?” Then we go around the table and each person has to tell what they have learned about God and themselves. And then we all pray and ask God to help us live what we’ve just learned.
It doesn’t have to be every day…but it should be a regular part of your home so that your kids grow up saying, “My home taught me the Word of God.”
And when your kids are gone from home, don’t stop washing our wife with the Word of God, keep seeking her growth in Christ and read and pray with her.
Another way that men are to wash their wives with the Word is to be sure that they are going to a solid Bible teaching church. Solid Bible teaching isn’t always easy to hear… It can be dry It can be convicting. It definitely goes against our culture. But it’s the man’s ultimate responsibility to be sure the family is part of a church body where God’s Word is honored faithfully.
It’s also the man’s responsibility to be sure the family makes church a priority. It’s easy to let things like: Out of town guests, and kid’s events, and car repairs… Keep us from church. But it’s the husband’s responsibility to say to his family, “You know what, the Jews trusted God every Sabbath, and He provided them with manna. We’re going to keep Christ first and go worship Him and trust Him with the outcome.”
But I also want to say, that I see men doing this at WCC. This is the only church I’ve ever been at where Father’s Day has higher attendance than Mother’s Day. Virtually every church will tell you that Mother’s Day is the 3rd Highest attended Sunday of the year…and that’s because when woman get what they want, they want to be with their families worshipping the Lord. Father’s Day is usually the exact opposite when the men get what they want, they go fishing. But here, it’s not like that. Father’s Day actually has a higher attendance than Mother’s Day, because you men are stepping up to lead praise God for that.
We’ve got one more principle on volitional love from this passage… The last way Christ volitionally loves His bride is by providing for her.
Verse 29 tells us that Christ nourishes the church. He provides what the church needs: He provides the grace, the instructors, the members, the ability, the opportunity to do His will. In the same way, loving husbands provide for their wives. 1 Timothy 5:8 echoes this point saying, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." God calls men to provide for their families.
Do you know what the word “Husband” used to mean? (This is one of the most convicting aspects of being a man…) Hundreds of years ago, the term “husband” meant “someone who managed an estate”. Wealthy landowners would have estates throughout the countryside. Since the wealthy in those days were above doing work, they would put husbands on the property to live there full time and manage the estate. Husbands were caretakers. They took care of the animals, the buildings, the land.
And, so when people looked for a word that best described a married man….and when they looked at all He did in the home they decided the best word for him was the word for a person who takes care of everything!
That’s pretty convicting. In our day, usually the wife manages the home. She’s the only one who knows what’s going on with the finances, the kid’s school, the sports practices, the summer plans, the dog…No wonder many wives don’t feel loved. Men—our job is to step up and pick up our cross and follow Christ and get involved in what goes on in our house.
God calls men to lead their wife and love her unconditionally, sacrificially, and volitionally where we… Proclaim God’s Word, protect her Purity, and provide for her needs.
So, that’s points 1 and 2…. Now let’s talk with the women…. Ladies, hopefully as you’ve heard what I’ve told your husbands, you can see that it’s from the Bible. And just as it’s called to men to lead their wives and love them— it calls the wife to…
Point #3 Respect their Husband Unconditionally
We see this in verse 22 where Paul says, "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord." The word “subject” is a tough word for a guy to teach on. The Greek word is “hupotasso” it was a military term that meant “to rank under.” It was used in various places in the New Testament to speak of someone who was under the authority of someone with a higher rank. But that doesn’t mean they were silent…in fact it’s just the opposite. A general who was embarking upon a battle would have wanted intelligent, supportive input from everyone around him! And that’s the role God is giving to women.
Sometimes people think that submission means “putting your head down and just doing it.” That’s “hupakouo” (not “hupotaso”). “Hupakouo" means “to listen and do what’s being told to you”. Paul uses “hupokouo” in Ephesians 6:1 when he calls children to "obey" the parents. Children have to just do what their parents say. But in Ephesians 5:22 he doesn’t use the word for “just listen and do it…” He uses the word for voluntarily recognizing that the leadership and responsibility rests with the husband and encouraging him and supporting him to accomplish Christ’s work in the home.
And the illustration that Paul gives us is the pattern of the church’s submission to Christ. We mentioned this last week…the church is the Bride of Christ who submits to Jesus as her head. The church should never say to Jesus… I don’t like where You’re taking us! Or what Your Word says! Or how you do things! And so…until You come around to my way of doing things, I’m not going to submit to you! The church is supposed to submit to Jesus. And verse 24 gives us a sense of this scope…Paul says, “so also the wives ought to be their husbands in everything.”
That word “Everything” is pretty straight forward but we live in a complex society and it takes a lot of work to follow this principle in across the landscape of life. Many homes have… Facebook and two incomes and Alexa that will buy stuff without any effort And this is where our modern homes need God’s wisdom.
A study found that a third of all divorces list "Facebook," as part of why they wanted a divorce. Social media is causing all kinds of problems in marriages. And so, both spouses should know each other’s passwords. Both should defer to each other’s concerns about who the other person is connecting with online… We should not have separate, online worlds that our spouse doesn’t know about.
Likewise, as more women work, and wages increase—they often make more money than their husband—That’s what happened when Corinne and I first married. And it’s tempting to think that “I earned this money, I decide what to do with it!” But the family budget is a collaborative pool of resources. Not only will both people likely have a say in it, but the ultimate responsibility rests with the husband… He doesn’t have to do the finances—but he is responsible to be sure that the family is honoring God with the resources He has entrusted to that home.
This fundamentally comes down to what Paul calls “respect” in verse 33.
Verse 33 says, “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” To respect him means to recognize his God-given role in the home and honor him.
Men are hard-wired to need respect.
This is how men operate. We operate in the world where we honor each other and esteem each other. That’s what they do in the military. That’s was they do in sports. That’s what they do in business. We’ve all seen the old movies where some man hits another man with a glove. In the world of men, to lose respect for someone is to hit them below the belt.
Sometimes women ridicule men for wanting respect. They say it’s a matter of pride or protecting his “fragile ego”. These kinds of statements mock what we have here in our text: the biblical role for women is to respect their husbands.
Some wives will say, “Well, how can I respect my husband when he doesn’t do anything worthy of respect?”
Respect is Unconditional
The respect here is unconditional. Look at verse 24. Paul says, “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives out to be to their husbands in everything.” Wives are to be respectful to their husbands in everything. This is unconditional respect! Just like you hope your husband gives you unconditional love, you should give him unconditional respect. Imagine if I just taught on love and said, “Husbands, love your wife only when she deserves it! Hold back your love until… She is a great cook A great home maker Has her makeup done perfectly and watches football with you every Sunday! There’s not a woman in this room who would say that’s biblical love! But this is exactly what women do with men when they say they won’t respect him until he does something worthy of respect!
Easier for some than others
Now I can appreciate that it is easier for some women to love and respect their spouses. For some of you, this will be very hard. But here’s how this works: Just as God has hard-wired you to need unconditional love God has hard-wired your husband to need unconditional respect. And just as your husband can’t love you unconditionally on his own, you can’t respect him unconditionally on your own. You need God to give this to you…and it comes from walking with Him…because that’s how Jesus lived…
Respect is Christlike
When Jesus was on the earth, He said “I do not seek to please myself but Him who sent Me.” He also said, “I only do the will of my Father.” That’s the example of Jesus. And Ladies, the measure of your Christlikeness is how much you respect your husband.
And this goes back to one of the main themes of this series: Our problems at home nearly always reflect a breakdown in our relationship with God. The context of this passage (in verse 18) is about being filled with the Spirit. And when husbands are filled with Christ, they love their wives like Christ loves the church. And when wives are filled with Christ, they respect their husbands like the church respects her Lord, and how Jesus respects the Father.
This is God’s design for the home. It has stood the test of time for thousands of years, and it produces homes built on peace, love and the Word of God. This design is ridiculed in our society... but as citizens of Christ’s kingdom, we seek to square our homes with His Word. God calls Husbands to be leaders, lovers, launders and laborer’s for their wives in the same way that Christ is these things for His Bride. And likewise, God calls wives, to submit to and unconditionally respect their husband like the church respects Christ. As we live out these principles, we will be building a home squared to God’s design. And when we follow God’s design, when storms come our way—we will be able to weather them with God’s grace, and strength and peace.