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Roles and Responsibilities In Christian Marriage

Ephesians 5:21-33

On July 29, 1981, one of the most highly publicized and glamorous weddings in history took place. Britain’s Prince Charles married Lady Diana in a ceremony watched by an estimated audience of 750 million people worldwide. 4500 pots of fresh flowers lined the route to St. Paul’s cathedral. 2500 people crowded that grand church where more than 75 technicians with 21 cameras worked to enable the world to watch this wedding. For many people, this was a modern fairy tale. A royal prince weds a lovely lady in a grand cathedral surrounded by adoring subjects. They were the envy of millions. They were rich, young, handsome. It was a "marriage made in heaven." Sadly, we know that the fairy tale became a nightmare. The couple grew more and more distant. Affairs ensued. The storybook marriage made in heaven eventually collapsed into adultery and divorce. It takes more than a prince, a lady, and a palace to make a happy marriage. As someone said, "marriages may be made in heaven but the maintenance must be done on earth." For marriages to survive, they require regular maintenance. They require effort.

But more than that, they require a certain kind of effort. We must do the right things to have a successful marriage. God’s Word tells us what those things are. God presents His program for a happy marriage in the Scriptures. Marriage works well only when we pay attention to the roles and responsibilities God has mapped out for us.

In Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul gives us the picture of a Christian marriage. In this key passage about marriage, we see the God-given roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives.

Remember the Context

It is important for us to remember the context in which these instructions are given. Paul has been describing the Spirit-filled life. In vv. 19-21, he uses several descriptive participles to define the activity of the Spirit-filled life. One of those activities, found in v. 21, lays the groundwork for what follows. Spirit-filled believers submit to one another because of Christ. They humbly seek to serve one another. In what follows, Paul describes how this mutual submission is played out in the home.

Getting the Framework Straight

1. This passage describes marriage in the context of our commitment to Jesus Christ. Our commitment to our spouse is a function of our commitment to Him.

2. Equality is not the focus of the passage. Function is. This passage in no way diminishes the equality of women as subservient or less than men. The focus is on God-given roles and functions.

3. The husband and wife are called to obedience by God. Nowhere is the wife instructed to enforce these commitments on her husband or the husband on the wife. We need to focus on our own obedience and responsibility.

I. Wives submit to your husbands (vv. 22-24).

A. Biblical submission described.

1. Submit = a decision to voluntarily place yourself under your husband’s authority. It is to give place to his position as God-ordained leader in the home.

2. Submit to your own husband.

3. Submit as unto the Lord. You are really submitting to Christ’s authority through your husband.

B. Reason for biblical submission.

1. The husband is the head of the wife.
a. Established pattern of creation.
b. Pattern repeated in Bible - 1 Cor. 11:3.

2. This reflects Christ’s relationship to the church.
a. Wife submits as church submits.
b. Husband leads as Christ leads (Savior). A caring leadership not controlling.


Let me tell you four things that destroy biblical submission.

Qualifying Submission - I will follow my husband if... The only occasion in which you should not follow your husband if he asks you to go against God’s Word.

Grudging Submission - I will follow my husband but I don’t like it... You follow but not joyfully.

Faithless submission - I will follow my husband but I’m afraid he won’t lead us properly. You follow but you are not doing it with confidence in the Lord and in your husband.

Forced submission - I will make you follow me. Husbands, you are never told to enforce this command. Your authority in the home is not a controlling, harsh, and uncaring dictatorship. It is to be a wise, prayerful, caring influence of leadership. If you have to remind people that you are the leader, you probably aren’t.

II. Husbands love your wives (vv. 25-30).

A. Love described.

1. Love = agapao, the love that characterizes God.
2. It is the same love that Christ has for the church.
a. Self-sacrificing = he gave himself for her.
b. Interested in the welfare of the one loved.

3. It is the same love you have for yourself.

a. Nourish her.
b. Care for her.
c. She is part of you.


Christ gives his life for the church. Are we giving our lives for our wives? If we took an inventory, we would soon know the answer to that question.

Our Checkbook - Does it show that you are more concerned about your needs and wants or hers?

Our Calendar - Does it show that we spend time with our wives just to be with them and enjoy their company?

Our Speech - Does it communicate tender affection, encouragment, understanding, and appreciation? Or does it sound demanding, uncaring, and uninterested?

Our Prayers - Do they express gratitude to God for our wives? Do they contain references to her needs, her hurts, her responsibilities, and her challenges?

The beauty of God’s pattern is that it answers our deepest needs. A wife’s greatest need is to be secure in the love of her husband. A husband’s greatest need is to be respected by his wife. I believe God made us that way. He created us with these relational needs in marriage. When wives submit to their husband’s leadership, he finds it easier to love her. When he loves her selflessly, she finds it easier to submit to him. It is a beautiful pattern.


Wives, if your submission to your husband was the only indicator to others of the relationship of the church to Christ, what would it communicate? A voluntary, joyful following of His leadership?
Husbands, if the way you love your wife was the only indicator to others of Christ’s love for the church, what would it communicate? A selfless, sacrificial, tender love for her welfare?

There may be some husbands and wives here today that need to swallow their pride and confess their sins to each other. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a distant, lifeless marriage was transformed into a vibrant, loving marriage? It can happen. May God make it happen for every marriage here today.


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