Does the Bible allow a Christian husband to treat his wife any way he decides is best? Does a Christian wife have to submit to her husband at all times? The apostle Paul has the following to say to Christian husbands and wives regarding their conduct toward each other:
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Eph. 5:24)
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Eph. 5:33)
The Greek word for “submit” in Ephesians 5:21–24 is hypotassó, and it refers to a wife’s “recognition of an ordered structure” in which her husband is the person to whom she should show appropriate respect “as to the Lord” (BDAG, 1042; Eph. 5:22; see also 1 Pet. 3:1–6). Similarly, the Greek word for “respect” in Ephesians 5:33 is phobētai, which means to have a profound measure of reverence/respect for someone (BDAG, 1061).
While some Christians have wrongly used these Bible verses as an excuse for husbands to mistreat their wives, the verses actually communicate the vast responsibility a husband has to care for his wife and the wife’s duty to honor her husband. In an upcoming article, we will focus on a Christian wife’s responsibilities to her husband. First, here are six things (in no particular order) every Christian husband should give his wife:
A Christian husband should love his wife as he does himself and always protect her from all harm (Eph. 5:25–29). He should do his best to “nurture and cherish” his wife in the love of Christ as he would his own flesh and tend to her spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical needs (Eph. 5:29; Col. 3:19).
A Christian husband should always respect his wife. When Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands in Ephesians 5:24, he does not mean that wives must endure abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of any kind by their husbands. Rather, Paul is reminding the church that a wife is under the leadership of her husband (Eph. 5:23). A Christian husband must always show his wife honor, both publicly and privately, and protect her dignity and reputation from any and all slander (1 Pet. 3:7).
3. Spiritual Leadership
A Christian husband should provide his wife with spiritual leadership. Even though his wife may be well equipped in biblical doctrine and application and spend a considerable amount of time instructing their children in the faith, a husband must be diligent to oversee and guide the spiritual training of his family (Eph. 6:4).
A Christian husband should be attentive to his wife. He should always do his best to set aside a substantial amount of time to be with his wife, enjoy her company, and seek to understand her better. In doing so, a Christian husband and his wife can grow closer to each other and build a stronger marriage that honors God in all (Prov. 5:18–19; Eph. 5:31).
A Christian husband should always be faithful to his wife. Even when times are difficult due to financial, emotional, or physical challenges, a husband’s personal happiness must always be subordinated to sacrificially loving his wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25; see also 1 Cor. 7:1–5). In doing so, he honors not only his wife but also his Lord.
A Christian husband should enjoy his wife. She is a precious gift from God given to comfort, support, encourage, and love her husband (Prov. 18:22; 31:10–12; 1 Pet. 3:1). The more a husband values, cherishes, and nurtures his wife, the more she will reflect God's love as his radiant bride.