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Sermon: Genesis 2:24-25: Marriage, Divorce, And Remarriage: The Responsibilities Of The Wife

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 2:24–25

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:24–25, ESV)

New Testament Reading: 1 Peter 3:1-7

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:1–7, ESV)

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Introduction

In this sermon we are again asking the question, how can we have successful and God honoring marriages? In the previous sermon all of the focus was on the role of the husband. Husbands are to lovingly lead their wives. A husbands love for his wife is to be like Christ’s love for the church. His love is to be unconditional, sacrificial, purifying, selfless, affectionate, understanding, and affirming. Christ loves the church with this kind of love. Husbands are to love their wives in imitation of their Savior. Today our attention turns to the wives. 

Before we go there I should say that although only a portion of the congregation is being directly addressed in this sermon and in the previous one, all should be able to apply the principles that have been and will be communicated. I think you are doing this naturally. Someone did approach me after the sermon last week and said, “though I am not married, I had my relationship with my mother in mind the entire time. I need to love her with an unconditional, sacrificial, purifying, selfless, affectionate, understanding, and affirming love”. These principles, though they are being delivered to husbands in regard to their relationship with their wives, and to wives in regard to their relationship with their husbands, are truly applicable to all. For example, parents should love their children with an unconditional, sacrificial, purifying, selfless, affectionate, understanding, and affirming love. Christians should love their brothers and sisters in Christ with an unconditional, sacrificial, purifying, selfless, affectionate, understanding, and affirming love. Certainly the love that a husband is to have for his wife is special and, in some respects, unique. But love is love. All Christians are to love others with the love of Christ. 

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I. Wives are to submit to their own husbands as to the Lord. 

We know that husbands are called by God to lovingly lead their wives as Christ has loved the church. But what is the  role that wives are to take in the marriage relationship? The answer is that wives are to submit to their own husbands as to the Lord. 

This principle is clearly communicated in 1 Peter 3:1-7. There we find the words, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1, ESV). Wives, we are told, are to “be subject” to their own husbands. And in verse 5 of the same passage we read, “For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:5–6, ESV). Wives are to “submit to their own husbands”, we are told.

The Greek word translated as “be subject” in 1 Peter 3:1 is ὑποτάσσομαι and it has this basic meaning: “to submit to the orders or directives of someone—‘to obey, to submit’”. And it is the same Greek word that is behind the phrase, “by submitting” in verse 5 – “For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands.” Also, notice that Sarah is put forth as an example of one of those “holy women” who adorned themselves with a “gentle and quiet spirit”. Sarah, we are told, “hoped in God” and therefore “did not fear anything that is frightening” when she “obeyed Abraham, calling him lord”. What does it mean, therefore, for a wife to “be subject” to her husband and “to submit” to him? It means that she is to honor and respect him as her head or “lord” and is to obey him in all things.

I’ve put the matter rather bluntly for a reason. Of course, more needs to be said about a wife’s submission. This call for a wife’s submission does need to be qualified. It is true, for example, that a husband should honor his wife and cherish her opinion while making decisions so that, in most instances, decisions are made together. And indeed, there are limitations to a wife’s submission. More needs to be said about this issue, and more will be said. But I am afraid that in our culture we are too quick to dismiss the clear and plain teaching of scripture on this subject. We are tempted to avoid it or to brush it to the side. We are quick to go immediately to the task of limiting or qualifying the call for a wife’s submission. We are quick to say, “Ya, well certainly the scriptures do not mean this or that when they say to the wife, ‘be subject’…” Or sometimes we run immediately to those hypotheticals, saying, “but what about when… is a wife still called to submit when…” What I am saying is that while these is certainly more that needs to be said concerning the submission of a wife to her husband, it is important that we first allow the clear and unambiguous teaching of scripture to stand. What role is the wife called to take in the marriage relationship? She is to be subject to her husband, submitting to him in all things. 

1 Peter 3 is not the only place where this teaching appears. Paul addresses husbands and wives in Colossians 3:18 where he says, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:18–19, ESV). Here in this text the role of husband and wife is stated most succinctly. It is fitting, or right and proper, that a husband love his wife and that a wife submit to her husband. 

We find similar words in Ephesians 5 in that passage that we considered last week. In verses 22 we read, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Ephesians 5:22–24, ESV). Notice that in this text Paul says that wives are to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord”. And again in verse 24, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands”. The wife is to submit to her husband in the same way that the church is to submit to Christ – in all things. This does not mean that a husband should micromanage his wife, but it does mean that he is to be honored as the head in all things, for he is the one who is responsible before God for his wife and family in all things.     

Before we go any further it is important to recognize that “submission” does not mean “less significant” or “of lesser worth”. We see this principle on display throughout society. Children are to submit to their parents showing honor to them by virtue of their position of authority, but they are not less significant or of lesser worth. Citizens are to submit to those who govern showing honor to them by virtue of their position of authority, but they are not less significant or of lesser worth. When a wife is called by God to submit to her husbands it is not because she is less significant, of lesser worth, or of lesser ability. It is because of the order that God established at the beginning within the marriage relationship.  

We even see this principle of submission on display in what the scriptures reveal to us concerning the Triune God. The scriptures reveal that in order to accomplish our salvation the Son of God submits to the Father, and the Spirit of God submits to the Father and the Son. This is significant. Within the Triune God we find the principle of subordination on display. Clearly, “submission” does not mean “less significant” or of “lesser worth”, for Father, Son and Holy Spirit are “the same in essence, equal in power and glory” (BC, Question 9).  

Consider 1 Corinthians 11:3 which says, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3, ESV). Even Christ lives under the authority of another, namely God. And every husband lives under the authority of another, namely God and Christ. And every wife lives under the authority of another, namely God and Christ and her husband. When a wife submits to her husband, she ultimately is found living in submission to the Lord as she lives in obedience to him, and in reliance upon him. 

What does it look like for a wife to submit to her husband?

A wife submits to her husband she looks to him as her head, allows him to lead in every area of life, seeks to help him fulfill his calling, and shows him honor and respect within the home and within the community.

As I have said before, this does not mean that a husband should micromanage his wife. Nor does this mean that the wife should have no say in family decisions. Ideally, a husband will trust his wife and will give her great freedom to use her God-given abilities to manage her responsibilities wisely (Newheiser, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage, 97).

I do wonder what kind of wife people envision when they hear teaching like this on submission. Do they envision a woman who is weak, incapable and oppressed? Do they envision a woman who is controlled by her husband, free only to follow his every command?  I certainly hope not! In fact we should expect that a godly woman who submits to her husband in all things will be strong, capable, wise and highly esteemed by her husband. We should expect that a submissive wife will have great freedom do choose and to do as she sees fit. It is possible, and may I add preferable, that as a wife learns to truly honor her husband as head, the husbands will grow in his esteem for her and will gladly give her freedom to run as she fulfills God’s calling for her life. 

This is terrible what I am about to do. Rarely do I use illustrations, and I am about to use a football illustration in a sermon directed towards wives (even that sounded rather sexist, didn’t it?). Tell me, who is more valuable to a football team, the quarterback or the coach? It’s hard to say, isn’t it? Who has more freedom?nWell, they both have freedom don’t they, but of a different kind. And who is more impactful to the outcome of a game? Also, hard to say? But when I ask, who is to submit to who? the answer should be clear. The quarterback is ultimately to submit to the will of the coach.

When I think of a wife properly submitting to her husband I do not think of the kind of submission that a small child is to have before his parents, but instead the the kind of submission that a pro bowl quarterback should have before his coach, or a gifted manager before the owner of the company.  

Before we move on I would like to read you that famous description of an excellent wife found in Proverbs 31. And as I read this description of an excellent wife ask yourself, does this sound like a woman who is weak, incapable and oppressed by a controlling  by her husband, or one who is trusted, highly esteemed, and free?

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:10–31, ESV).

 Wives are to submit to their own husbands as to the Lord. This they are to do in all things. This they are to do, not on the basis of their husbands worthiness, but in obedience to the command of God. 

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II. Wives are to take the position of helper.

Secondly, notice that the woman was created by God in the beginning to take the position of a helper. Therefore, the command for wives to be subject to their husbands is rooted, not in culture, but in creation. I will keep this point brief given that I expanded upon a similar point regarding the headship of the husband in last weeks sermon. When Paul says, wives “submit to your husbands as to the Lord”, he is not saying “this is how we do things in our culture”, this is how God designed the marriage relationship to function from the beginning.  

In the creation narrative we learn that Adam was formed first, and then Eve. And when the time came for the creation of Eve God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18, ESV). Eve was created to be Adam’s helper. Wives are to come alongside their husbands as helpers. 

A wise and godly wife will recognize that an important part of her responsibility is to come alongside her husband to help him to thrive in whatever it is that the Lord has called him too. 

Listen to Newheiser. He says, “this can be done through wise counsel and encouragement. She will work hard to make their home a place of joy and refuge for him, too (Titus 2:5). A wife has a very powerful influence over her husband, which can be used either for good or for evil. Few men can refuse to do what their wives want, even when they are wrong (see Gen. 3:6; 16:2). Conversely, a wife’s respect and affirmation are a powerful motivator. A godly wife ‘does him good and not evil all the days of her life’ (Prov. 31:12). Proverbs 31 implies that the husband of this excellent wife is successful, has an excellent reputation, and sits with the elders of the city because of the kind of wife God has given him (v. 23).”

Wives are to take the position of helper.

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III. Wives should submit to their husbands even when it is difficult.

Thirdly, it must be said that wives should submit to their husbands even when it is difficult. 

Our sin makes a mess of everything, doesn’t it? Why is this teaching about headship and submission within marriage so difficult for us to swallow? Is it not because of sin? I think most would agree that if we imagine Adam and Eve living in paradise before sin entered the world this teaching about headship and submission does not seem difficult, but is in fact quite beautiful. Imaging Adam in his upright state perfectly loving and leading Eve as her head. And imagine Eve in her upright state perfectly submitting to Adam as his helper. 

I hope that you would agree that this order of male headship and female submission is not in and of itself difficult or distasteful. It is difficult, and some even find it distasteful because of our sin. Truth be told, some wives make it very difficult for their husbands to lovingly lead because of their sin. And some husbands make it very difficult for their wives to lovingly submit because of their sin. Furthermore, some men have a very difficult time leading in a loving way because of the sin that is in their own heart. And some women have a very difficult time submitting to their husbands in love because of the sin in their own hearts. Put more simply, the order of male headship female submission would not be difficult for us or seem distasteful to us were it not for sin. If we were not in sin we would not gripe at the suggestion that husbands and wives should both lay down their lives and live for the good of one another. 

In Genesis 3 we are told of Adam’s fall into sin. And there in that same passage we also hear God’s curse pronounced upon the servant, the woman and finally the man. Of particular importance to our topic today is the curse that God pronounced upon the woman. “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you (Genesis 3:16, ESV).”

I grew up reading the NKJV. Here is how it translates the second half of Geneses 3:16: “Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16, NKJV). The question we are left with is what does it mean for a wive’s desire to be “for” her husband. And what does it mean that the husband will “rule over” his wife. 

We should remember that these words are words of judgment. God is saying, this is how things will be because you have chosen to rebel against my word and to go your own way. Whatever is communicated here, it is not good, but is a distortion of God’s original design for the marriage relationship. Put differently, it is only because our sin ands rebellion that a wife now has a “desire for” her husband, and that the husband will “rule over” his wife.

I think the ESV’s translation of Genesis 3:16 is good when it says, “your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” I think the NET’s translation is even better when it says, “You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you” (Genesis 3:16, NET). That, I think, is the sense of the verse. According to God’s design the husband is to lovingly lead his wife, and the wife is to lovingly submit to her husband. But here is the natural order of things now that we have fallen into sin: the wife will wrongly seek to control her husband, and the husband will wrongly attempt to dominate his wife. 

Sin – the first sin of Adam, and our personal sin – messes everything up. It is now very hard for a man to lovingly lead, and it is also very hard for a wife to submit. But in Christ it is possible. That which was lost in the fall of the first Adam is restored by the finished work of the second Adam, Christ Jesus our Lord. We have been renewed in him. Our guilt has been taken away, and the power of sin has been broken. God is now at work in us to sanctify us by his word and Spirit. And I am convinced that God uses the marriage relationship to sanctify his people profoundly. It is in marriage that a man and woman learn to love one another selflessly with the love of Christ. 

What should a Christian wife do if she is married to a man who makes submission very hard? The answer is that she should do her part. Wives should submit to their husbands even when it is difficult. Her impulse will be to control her husband, to manipulate his behavior, to self-protect. But this is not God’s will for her. A wife should lovingly submit to her husband even when it is hard. She should be like Sarah who trusted in God and did not fear anything that it frightening when she submitted to Abraham, calling him lord, despite his significant weaknesses and shortcomings. 

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IV. There are limitations to a wife’s submission. 

Fourth, it must be said that there are limitations to a wife’s submission. 

If a husband asks the wife to do or say something that is contrary to God’s law, it is right for the wife to refuse. 

If a husband is forbidding the wife to do that which God’s law requires, it is right for the wife to disobey her husbands. 

If a husband is abusive the wife should remove herself from the situation. Though he may choose to stay in the home, the abusive man has abandoned his wife by his thorough violation of the marriage covenant. 

Great care needs to be taken here. It is easy for someone who wants out of a marriage relationship to level the charge of abuse against their spouse. I have witnessed both husbands and wives claim that their spouse is abusive so as to have grounds for divorce. Upon closer examination it became clear that there was no abuse, only a difficult and unhappy marriage. A difficult and unhappy marriage is not grounds for divorce, but abuse is.

Lastly, if a husband is unfaithful to his wife she does not sin by divorcing him. 

There are limitations to a wife’s submission.  

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V. A wife’s submission is voluntary. 

Fifthly, it should be said that a wife’s submission is voluntary. 

I suppose there is a twofold exhortation in this point, one for the wives and one for the husbands. 

Wives, how important it is for you to simply decide to honor your husbands in this way. At some point you simply need to choose to do it.

Husbands, you cannot make your wives submit. If your wife is disrespectful to you and unwilling to follow your lead the way to change her is not through domineering behavior, but through love. Your wife must won, brothers. Husbands, love your wives. Pray for them. Live with them in an understanding way. Yes, confront their sin! But do it with kindness. Love them with the love of Christ. Brothers, how did Christ bring you to the place of submission to himself? How did bring you the place of calling him Lord? Did he not gently woo you? Did he not draw you to himself with his love? Did he not win you so that you offered up your submission willingly? 

A wife’s respect and loving submission should be won, for her submission must be offered up voluntarily. 

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VI. God may use a wife’s submission  change her husband.

Sixthly, it is important to reminder that God may use a wife’s submission to change her husband. 

If a husband is living sinfully it is right for a wife to desire that he change for the good. The question is how to best bring about that change. 

The worldly wife will seek to change her husband through nagging, withdrawing, withholding, threatening, and other manipulative tactics. The godly wife will seek to change her husband by her respectful and pure conduct. 

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” (1 Peter 3:1–2, ESV)

Notice that I did not say that a wife’s submission will win her husband, only that a wife’s submission may win him. Why then should a wife be respectful to her husband if it is not a guaranteed method to bring about transformation? She is to do it, not because it is effective, but because it is right. The will of the Lord is that wives submit to their husbands. And God may use a wife’s submission to change her husband. 

Wives, lovingly submit to your husbands and pray for them. It may be that  God uses your respectful and pure conduct to win your husband. God may still win your husbands even if you choose the way of worldly manipulation, but he will win him in spite of you and not through you. If you wish to be used by God to win your husband, live a respectful and pure life before him, and pray for him always.

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VII: A word to single women: marry in the Lord.

Seventhly, and lastly, I have a brief word to the single women who hope to marry in the future. Sisters, marry in the Lord. Be resolved to marry a man who has made a credible profession of faith and shows evidence of pursuing true holiness in Christ Jesus.    

When you say “I do” on that wedding day you agreeing to sit in the passenger seat of the marriage as you allow your husband to lead. Choose to marry someone who will drive responsibly. How important it is to marry in the Lord! How important it is to marry someone who has truly surrendered themselves to the authority of God in Christ Jesus.

Some women, I am afraid, are too picky when choosing a spouse. They are waiting for Mr. Perefect to stroll along. Sisters, he doesn’t exist! But others are far too naive. They are willing to marry the first thing that shows interest in them. 

Sisters, marry someone who seems to be true Christ follower, one who is interested in growing in the knowledge of the Lord, in holiness and in grace, one who is willing to lead you in Christ Jesus according to the word of God. 

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Conclusion 

In conclusion, what is the wives role in the marriage relationship? She is to submit to her husband in the Lord. She is to take the position of “helper”. She is to submit even when it is difficult, entrusting herself ultimately to God. There are limitations, of course, and these have been stated. A wives submission must be voluntary. And do not forget wive’s, the Lord may use your submission to change your husbands. Finally, if you are single now and wish to marry in the future, be sure to marry in the Lord.   

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, 1 Peter 3:1-7, Genesis 2:24-25, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: Genesis 2:24-25: Marriage, Divorce, And Remarriage: The Responsibilities Of The Wife


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