A Biblical Portrait of Marriage

Josh Buice

Yesterday, I was privileged to preach an overview of Ephesians 5:22-33 in our morning worship service.  Over the next few weeks, I will go back and spend one week on the responsibilities of wives and at least one week on the responsibilities of husbands in marriage.  This text is rich and worthy of our attention as we consider how Christianity is put on display in the covenant of marriage.

The God Ordained Role for the Wife

The idea of biblical submission is antithetical to our modern culture.  That goes for submission to pastors in a local church, submission to the church in forms of accountability, and the idea of a wife being submissive to her husband.  However, that is exactly what God has intended for His people.  Our God is orderly and as we look at creation and the church as a whole, you can see the clear blueprint of orderly design that God has mapped out before the foundation of the world.  For the marriage to work properly, as God designed, there must be specific roles for both the wife and the husband that are different—yet complimentary.

The word “submit” is not actually in the original text of Ephesians 5:22, but it is clearly a carryover from the previous verse.  In Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, we see the word “submit” clearly connected to the wife’s responsibility to her husband.  So, the point is clearly established in the Word—God intends the wife to place herself under the leadership of her husband.

Submit = “ὑποτάσσω” – “hupotasso {hoop-ot-as’-so}” = “A Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader.” In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”

Anytime you see women who reverse the roles of the wife and the husband, it will breed problems for their marriage and the totality of society.  It happened in the Garden of Eden as Eve reversed her role with Adam and took the lead in making the decision to eat the forbidden fruit.  Although both sinned and clearly violated God’s command—it is clear that Satan was attacking Eve (the weaker vessel) from the beginning.  If anything was unclear at first, Paul makes it abundantly clear by writing in verse 24, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

The God Ordained Role for the Husband

When people misunderstand biblical headship, it confuses God’s intention for the servant leadership of his wife.  This is true for the liberal theological minds who malign biblical complementarianism and for confused husband who views himself as a glorified dictator who lords his authority over his wife.  Biblical headship is a servant leadership that leads out of love and genuine care rather than a bullying approach to dictatorship.

In 1943, Dietrich Bonhoffer wrote a wedding sermon from his prison cell for his close friend and his friend’s fiancée. In that sermon, Bonhoffer described headship in the following way:

Now when the husband is called “the head of the wife,” and it goes on to say “as Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23), something of the divine splendour is reflected in our earthly relationships, and this reflection we should recognize and honour. The dignity that is here ascribed to the man lies, not in any capacities or qualities of his own, but in the office conferred on him by his marriage. The wife should see her husband clothed in this dignity. But for him it is he who is responsible for his wife, for their marriage, and for their home. On him falls the care and protection of the family; he represents it to the outside world; he is its mainstay and comfort; he is the master of the house, who exhorts, punishes, helps, and comforts, and stands for it before God. [1]

When we consider what Christ did for His bride (the Church) as He suffered humiliation, persecution, and brutal crucifixion—it places the spotlight on the lack of genuine sacrificial love that many men extend to their wives.  When most men refuse to go to Walmart for their wives, is that really sacrificial love?

Headship also involves a sanctifying love.  Just as the bride of Christ is to be pure and without blemish in order to be presented to Him, so she is constantly being washed by the Word—so must every husband engage in the sanctifying love for his own wife.  The question every husband must answer is:  “Is your wife more holy as a direct result of being married to you?”

Marriage was instituted by God and it exists for God and His ultimate glory.  If there was ever a city that violated the marriage covenant, it was Ephesus.  With temple prostitution and false god worship taking place on a daily and weekly basis—Paul points out the fact that for Christianity to be put on display it must be lived out within the framework of the covenant of marriage.  That puts Christ on display to a sin cursed city.

May that same thing be said about the Christians in our cities.  It’s one thing to know about Christianity, but another thing to live out Christianity in the covenant context of marriage.


  1. R. Kent Hughes, Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), 184.
Author A Biblical Portrait of Marriage

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.

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