Here is a scripture that this world hates, but that every true Christian loves: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3).
That is a beautiful one-verse summary of some critical aspects of God’s family government.
Leadership flows from God to Christ to husband to wife. When it flows this way, God can bless a marriage and a household. The question isn’t merely whether the man is the head of the wife, but whether Jesus Christ is the Head of the man. The man must actively follow his Head as attentively and submissively as Christ follows His. Then the man must direct and teach his wife, and serve her spiritual needs.
Men: You must be the spiritual head in your marriage and in your home. The husband has a God-ordained office to lead the family. We must not underestimate the importance of this office. God watches what husbands are doing with their office, and He judges them by how well they lead.
This picture is reinforced in Ephesians 5:23: “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.”
The image of the man being a woman’s head—and Christ being the Church’s Head—is vivid and powerful. The husband is the head, and the wife is the body, following the direction of her head. This is radically different from the way most people structure their marriages—and altogether more magnificent!
Fathers and husbands should embrace their role as a leader, provider and protector, and ask God for the help they need. This role comes with tremendous responsibility in many forms within your marriage. Fulfilling it takes real sacrifice, but as you do so, it is a blessing to your family, and it provides a powerful means of developing you as a man. It prepares you to take on greater responsibilities in the future, even into eternity.
Your Spiritual Life
1 Corinthians 11:3 shows God’s family structure: The head of the woman is the man; the Head of the man is Christ.
Your first duty in life is to God. A husband must follow his Head. He cannot truly fulfill his role unless he himself truly submits to Jesus Christ. If he doesn’t listen to his Head and tries to work things out on his own, he can get into serious trouble—just like a wife who does not submit to her husband. It is not easy for a man to submit to Christ, but he must fight to do so!
Nothing gives a woman greater security than to know her husband is completely committed to God.
Stay close to God. Whether you have the demands of married life or not, you absolutely must have daily, deep contact with your Creator. He is the source of the strength, wisdom and love you need. Leading a wife is a heavy responsibility that you cannot carry alone. Communicate with God and ask Him to help you. This is not just an enhancement to a successful marriage—it is the foundation! Without it you will fail! Do not let the pressures of your job or your home life encroach on your time with God in prayer, Bible study, meditation and fasting.
Your relationship with God affects you, but it also affects your wife. The quality of your private prayer and study and your relationship with God has real-world, everyday consequences in your marriage. If you are not growing in your submission to Christ and in your conversion, you will make it harder for your wife to submit to you, and obstruct her spiritual growth as well.
The first way to lead your wife spiritually is to lead by example. In your relationship with God, you have the opportunity and duty to set the example of prayer, Bible study, meditation, fasting, submission to God and obedience to His government. Day-to-day habits and routines will develop out of your study of the Bible, literature and sermon notes. Your decisions also determine your and your wife’s involvement in serving in the Church.
Your Wife’s Spiritual Life
You must lead your wife by example spiritually, but you must also take special care to help her be cleansed in preparation to marry Jesus Christ.
Christ sets the perfect example here: “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” (Ephesians 5:25-27). This is the spiritual role Christ fulfills toward His wife.
How much of yourself are you giving, helping your wife to become holy and without blemish? A Christian husband must be involved in his wife’s spiritual development.
In the same way that you must honor your wife and provide for her physical needs, you must also provide for her as an heir of eternal life. This means that you must give her the time and opportunity to attain the Kingdom of God.
Make sure your wife is able to get in her personal time with God. You cannot force her to pray and study, but you can make sure she has the time. We have a God-given obligation to help our wives. Discern when she is under stress, doing too much, worn down, tired during prayer. Don’t be a watchdog, but an advocate. Intervene, and take some of the burden off her shoulders for a while—free up her time by doing the dishes or taking the kids. And it may be necessary, if she is getting too caught up in physical responsibilities at the expense of the spiritual, to set her straight with loving correction.
Praying together occasionally as husband and wife—perhaps once a week or more—can be a wonderful and moving experience. To hear your wife talk to God—how she addresses Him and thanks Him, the details she includes in praying for God’s Work and for other people, even what she repents of before Him—can broaden your thinking and further balance your own prayer life. Praying in front of your wife can also give her a chance to learn from you and about you. Praying together teaches you much about each other and bonds you powerfully.
How easy is it for you and your mate to discuss spiritual topics? Regularly share what you are learning in your personal Bible study. Talk over the messages you hear in Church services. Consider doing some of your study together—perhaps going over articles on marriage and child rearing together. Review your sermon notes together. Prod each other to go at a set pace through a new booklet so you can discuss it over dinner or before bedtime. Even if you are studying different things, if you study at the same time and in the same room, it may spark some spiritual conversation.
Remember to keep it all positive. The idea is not to nag each other but to stoke and to feed off each other’s excitement.
Remember, you are commanded to nourish your wife (verses 28-29), which means to nurture or bring up to maturity; its root word means feeding. Can Christ spiritually feed your wife through your office? You must learn your Bible so you can guide your wife, caring for her spiritual needs with self-sacrificing, focused attention—the same care that Christ has for you.
A husband and wife can make a dynamic spiritual team in a host of other ways: encouraging each other in overcoming spiritual sins, striving for healthy diet and regular exercise, serving needs within the congregation, being given to hospitality, visiting the fatherless and widows.
Evaluate how well you are helping each other grow in virtue and godly character. Make your needs known. Get specific. If you feel your own attempts to help your mate tend to backfire, communicate about it, and have your mate show you how to use more tact and how to be most helpful. Pray about it together. Obviously, if your efforts hurt your relationship more than they help, they will fizzle quickly. So it is important to always make them constructive and uplifting.
When done right, the marriage relationship is a potent spiritual tool to help each of you attain God’s Kingdom.
Teach Your Wife
Think deeply on the picture in Ephesians 5:26-27. Christ died for His people and is now washing, cleansing and correcting us through His Word, the Bible. This is a deep, intimate expression of a Husband’s love! When you do Bible study, you are having a heart-to-heart with your Husband! Maybe He wants to encourage you, or point out some areas you can improve. If you have the right attitude and are seeking the correction, you can see the love in it—the love of a Husband who is sanctifying and cleansing His wife to make her holy and unblemished!
Jesus Christ is washing His Church today through His teaching. Our marriages should reflect this pattern. A man must also teach his wife. Christ will marry a bride who is beautiful because of righteousness (Revelation 19:7-8). He creates this spiritual beauty through teaching. He is your wife’s primary spiritual teacher, but as a Christ-led husband, you also have a responsibility to teach your wife spiritually.
A man must give himself to this role—and a wife has to receive it, and to seek out that attention and instruction from her husband as her spiritual head. Both husband and wife have to be committed to this God-ordained order.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. … And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home …” (1 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Corinthians 14:35). If she does ask you a spiritual question, she is fulfilling her role—she is seeking out the attention and instruction of her spiritual leader. Now you must fulfill your role! Take the time to answer her question about a point made in a Bible study, a statement she read in a booklet, or how to reconcile two seemingly contradictory scriptures. If you don’t know the answer, research her question in the Bible, using Bible helps or in Church literature. If that fails, seek answers from your minister.
Teach your wife the practical application of the Bible. Situations will arise where you can apply and remind her of a scripture about dealing with a neighbor, stopping a rumor, mentoring a child, or rising up to honor the elderly. Do not think, She’s an adult; I don’t want to preach to her. We all need reminders of what God’s Word says and how to apply it.
If you need to point out a fault your wife has, follow Christ’s example: Be kind and patient in your approach. Once the fault is acknowledged, help her to overcome it. In this context, be sure your wife knows how much you appreciate her. Work with her to ensure that the spots and wrinkles are being worked out and that your family is becoming holy and without blemish. This is the kind of wonderful, God-level love Paul is talking about in Ephesians 5:25-26. When you show this sacrificial love and selfless leadership toward your wife, you are helping her spiritually. You are washing her, helping her to become clean and perfect, a bride who is ready to marry Jesus Christ!
In 1 Timothy 3, Paul says that for a man to qualify as a leader in the Church, he must be “[o]ne that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” (verse 4). In the next verse, Paul explains why this is crucial: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?”
Think about that: The government in the home is the same as the government in the Church—and the same as the government in the eternal Family of God! The government in your marriage is the same as the government in Christ’s marriage!
You must get the government right in your home to prepare for those greater responsibilities. You have to rule well! This is a critical job in your family, and God gave this job to you. For your family to function, you must fulfill this God-given office.
In today’s society, we see a lot of laid-back “leadership.” Men prefer women to lead and make decisions in the family.
This is a sin! The husband must be the head!
A good husband will listen to his wife for the perspective and counsel she offers. But listening to a woman and being led by a woman are two different things. Do you listen to your wife when she presents ideas, weigh them and make the final decision? Or do you allow her to decide?
It is easy for a man to defer too much to his wife. It is easy to back off, to let her handle the child rearing, to expect her to establish order. But that is not the way Christ operates. The direction for the body must come from the head. That means you must hold to your Head, then provide direction, guidance, leadership and nourishment so your wife can hold to her head! Otherwise you are blocking the flow of government from God and cutting yourself and your family off from some of God’s blessings.
If you fail to do your job, you hinder God’s ability to lead your household. If you don’t step up, there will be confusion, and Satan will fill the leadership vacuum. But when you actively fulfill your office and yield to Christ, He will lead your family through you. Then God can give peace in your marriage and in your household.
Christ has control over His Body! He orders and organizes it. He uses His power to make changes. He enforces order and change when necessary.
Your fulfillment of your role will be evident in your home in specific, practical ways:
Have decisions come through you.
Establish the routine and order in your house.
Set and enforce proper bedtimes.
Run your finances. Establish your family’s budget and ensure that you stick with it.
Don’t get distracted by electronics, sports, the Internet or anything else and neglect your family.
Read God’s instructions on child rearing. Read and review The Missing Dimension in Sex, by Herbert W. Armstrong, and Child Rearing With Vision. Search pcg.church and Royal Vision magazine for biblical guidance. Implement what God says in the Bible in your family, and ensure that your wife is doing so as well.
Even when you are away, run your house. Call home to see how things are going, and give guidance.
Do not underestimate the importance of how you establish your home life. Establish your and your wife’s shared routine with intention and purpose. Organize and order your home life not according to your will but God’s, making sure to put time with Him foremost in your routine.
Set the example even in dress, hygiene, manners and other day-to-day realities that all flow out of your relationship with God. And when it comes to motivating and leading your wife to achieve worthy goals, this responsibility again falls to you.
If what you are doing is not working, then get counsel. Too often, frustrating situations within a marriage and in child rearing drag on and on, wearing out the wife and damaging the family’s relationship with God. Parents are simply too exhausted and irritated with the children and their behavior issues to make progress.
In some cases, a woman may resist going to the ministry. Be firm. Sometimes it is critical to seek counsel! Bring God in, get educated, and kick Satan out of the situation.
It is also worth mentioning that if your wife is encouraging you to get counsel, or seeking it herself, do not dismiss this call for help. Pay serious heed and recognize that this may well be exactly what is needed to resolve a problem.
When You Are Not Her Spiritual Head
If your wife is not a believer, you have a special responsibility, and a special opportunity.
First and foremost, you must respect your wife’s free moral agency and freedom of religion. Jesus Christ is Head of a Church that voluntarily submits to Him. He does not rule a wife against her will. It must be your wife’s decision to look to you as her spiritual head. Any attempt on your part to force the issue is certain to lead to disaster. Any effort to convert her to your way of thinking or your religion is sure to fail! Remember that it is God the Father who calls (John 6:44). You cannot!
In his autobiography, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote: “In all my experience since conversion, one oft-repeated incident has brought sorrow and regret.” He then described his own effort to “get our families converted.”
“With the best intentions in the world, I set out on a vigorous campaign. To me, it was the loving and intense desire to share the wonders and glories of Bible knowledge with those we felt we loved most. But to most of them, it was an unwanted effort to ‘cram my crazy religion down their throats.’ … This is a universal mistake committed by the newly converted. Especially is this true where a husband or wife yields to God’s truth without the other. …
“Most unconverted mates, especially if the converted one tries to talk the other into his or her religion, will break up the home instead.
“In all the years since my conversion, I have known of many marriages that have ended in divorce because the newly converted mate tried to talk the unconverted one into it. I have never heard of a case where the unconverted mate was talked into accepting it.
“Of all things evil and harmful a newly converted Christian can do, the very worst is to try to talk your husband or wife into your religion. Whatever else you do, let me plead with every such reader, never commit this tragic sin. If you love your husband or wife, don’t do it!! If you love your Savior who died for you, and now lives for you, don’t do it!!!” (emphasis his).
A Positive Approach
At times you may feel you are fighting an uphill battle. You wonder why God called you and not your wife. You may even feel it is the root cause of certain problems in your Christian life. But if you think of your situation as negative, consider God’s view.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (1 Peter 4:12). The Christian life is a struggle—a good fight, but a fight nonetheless (1 Timothy 6:12). Perhaps this is especially true in difficult situations like these.
Each time your spouse entreats you to forsake God, His Sabbaths, holy days or commands, you have an opportunity to choose to do the right thing. Be thankful for the challenge! See it as an opportunity to fight for God in a way that a man with a converted wife cannot. Consider it a blessing.
A thorny relationship with an unconverted mate should spur you to pursue godly wisdom. Opportunities to exercise it will arise regularly. “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:16-18). Living with an unbelieving mate requires wisdom from above.
Never forget that God is always there to help you (James 1:5). Ask Him for wisdom to know how to handle every situation, believing that He will answer (verses 6-7). Living with potential hostility or periodic alienation forces a Christian to regularly examine himself or herself. That makes the clay that the Master Potter is working with in you more malleable.
Do you automatically expect the worst in any situation? Do you sometimes enter delicate situations with pride or self-righteousness, knowing your spouse does not have the spiritual understanding you do? If so, consider the description of God’s love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
Strive to be an effective peacemaker, even under persecution. Read God’s promises in Matthew 5:9-10 to those who do. Proverbs 18:19 warns that an offended person is harder to be won than a fortified city. Remember Paul’s admonishment in Romans 12:18: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
Be a peacemaker, but don’t compromise with God’s law. Determination is vital in your situation. Never allow yourself to be pushed around or your relationship with God to be compromised. God called you alone at this time, and if you have to, you can make it without the support of your spouse.
If your spouse is not hostile, regard it as your job to keep it that way.
Also, your responsibility to fulfill the other aspects of your role as a husband and as a man is not nullified by your wife being unconverted. Strive to fulfill God’s commands as they apply to you in every way you possibly can.
Appreciate the opportunity to set a balanced example of God’s way of life. Be a light (Matthew 5:14). Remember that a light shines and shows a way of life without being heard, and it is pleasant and helpful if it is not glaring or garish. If you aim to live godly with all your being, you can claim God’s promise of peace in Proverbs 16:7.
Paul taught the Corinthians, “If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. … But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches” (1 Corinthians 7:12-13, 17). God is emphatic here. And so is Paul in his ruling that, all other things being equal, those married to nonmembers should remain together.
Note why: “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” (verse 16). What an awesome potential! A nonmember mate may someday respond.
God knows your spouse better than you do, so He knows there is great value to you being called in your situation. Obviously He knows all about it. If you allow the situation to get you discouraged or depressed, you show disrespect toward God.
“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy” (verse 14). The word sanctified means to consecrate or set apart for holy use. The unbelieving spouse is set apart. And to the degree that he or she responds positively to God’s selection process, to test and trial, to truth and correction, he or she is alsopreserved in Jesus Christ, yet not yet invited (see Jude 1). God may have several reasons for this. Have the relaxed faith to trust that He knows what He is doing.
If you take a negative approach toward your wife, it can hurt her and your marriage. Rather than alienating her, remember that she is sanctified through you. Work to keep your marriage progressing forward.
Do not underestimate this wonderful passage of Scripture! Use your golden opportunity to teach your unbelieving wife—not by your words, but by your example. This is how the unconverted may be won—through our conduct (1 Peter 3:1-2).
Do not make the mistake of misusing your authority, of lacking wisdom and of misrepresenting God to your wife. Your wife may not be interested in the same spiritual subjects, may not ask you spiritual questions, may not agree with your beliefs, but your responsibility to act like Christ remains unchanged. And your marriage can remain a powerful tool that God uses to strengthen your character and your biblical manhood.