God created Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden. When he was assigned the task to name all the beasts of the field and every bird of the heavens, he discovered that there was no helper fit for him (Genesis 2:19-20). And so God formed a woman out of one of his ribs and brought her to Adam, who exclaimed: “This at last is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh!” (Genesis 2:23). Together the man and woman had dominion over creation, both were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). The woman helped and complemented the man and together they formed a unity, sealed by becoming “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), which also refers to sexual intercourse.
The fall disrupted the good relationship
The fall disrupted this good relationship and the man would ‘rule’ over the woman (Genesis 3:16 – this was not a command, but rather a consequence of sin). Lack of respect for each other crept into the relationship and is found in many marriages all over the world. But in the New Testament, wives are exhorted to respect their husbands and honor her husband as the leader of the family (Ephesians 5:22). This means that the wife gives her husband room to give spiritual and practical leadership to the family. She treats him respectfully and supports him where needed. In this way, husband and wife reflect the covenant relationship between Christ and the church. The husband refers to Christ and the wife to the church. Christ gave himself up for the church, likewise the husband should love his wife as his own body (Ephesians 5:25-28). And the wife should submit to her husband as the church to Christ. For both partners in a marriage, there is no room for self-centeredness.
Respectful and pure conduct
God is pleased by wives who practice ‘respectful and pure conduct’. It may win over husbands who are non-believers (1 Peter 3:2). God delights in the “imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit“, it is very precious in his eyes (1 Peter 3:4). Such wives put their hope in God, they do good and have no fear for anything that is frightening, because of their trust in God (1 Peter 3:6). The husbands are told to show honor to their wives because they are heirs with them in the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).
Own initiative or leadership
Being a helper to the husband, or having a gentle and quiet spirit, does not mean the wife cannot take initiative on her own or exercise any leadership. In Proverbs 31, a portrait is painted of a wife who bought a field (verse 16), has lively trading going on (verse 24), skillfully leads her household (verse 15) and teaches with wisdom (verse 26). She is praised as “far more precious than jewels” (verse 10), praised by both husband and kids (verse 28). This is because she does not try to take the role of her husband, but because “she does him good and no harm, all the days of her life” (verse 12). Her husband’s heart “trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain” (verse 11). A husband who fully trusts his wife and praises her, is a husband who feels respected and loved. The husband has a position of honor within his society: he is “known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land” (verse 23) – a position strengthened by his wife’s excellency.
So that is in a nutshell what the Bible says about being a wife: a woman who faithfully helps and supports her husband, respects him, loves him and has a sexual relationship with him and with no one else. She is equal to her husband in the sight of God (Galatians 3:28; 1 Peter 3:7) but has a unique position in her marriage, just like her husband has its own position in his marriage. Together they reflect the covenant relationship between the church and Christ (Ephesians 5:22-32).