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Question and Answer

Can a Wife "Teach" Her Husband?

Question:

Can a wife teach her husband if the wife is more knowledgeable? Can a husband go to his wife with a question? Can women preach inside the church? Outside the church? These questions do not reflect on my marriage but as a Christian, I want to understand more. Thank you.

Answer:

It is clear from the forthright questions you ask that you want to apply the teachings of the Bible faithfully. We need to know not only the principles taught in God's word, but also how to apply them in life situations. So I will try to do this by relating them to my own attempts to live by the word of God as a pastor. So here goes:

1. "Can a wife teach her husband if the wife is more knowledgeable?"

I believe the answer is yes, with qualifications.

Proverbs 31:10-31 describes the "virtuous wife":

10Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
11The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
12She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
13She seeks wool and flax,
And willingly works with her hands.
14She is like the merchant ships,
She brings her food from afar.
15She also rises while it is yet night,
And provides food for her household,
And a portion for her maidservants.
16She considers a field and buys it;
From her profits she plants a vineyard.
17She girds herself with strength,
And strengthens her arms.
18She perceives that her merchandise is good,
And her lamp does not go out by night.
19She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hand holds the spindle.
20She extends her hand to the poor,
Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
21She is not afraid of snow for her household,
For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
22She makes tapestry for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
24She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies sashes for the merchants.
25Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.
26She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
27She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
29“ Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
30Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
31Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates. (New King James Version)

Note the following verses (among others):

10Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
11The heart of her husband safely trusts her.....
16She considers a field and buys it;
From her profits she plants a vineyard.....
18She perceives that her merchandise is good....
23Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.

24She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies sashes for the merchants....
26She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.

27She watches over the ways of her household....
28Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
29“Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”

30Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
31Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.

The virtuous wife in Proverbs 31 is praised by her husband for her wisdom, and that wisdom includes not only her being knowledgeable about real estate, "merchandise," etc., but also her practical wisdom in spiritual matters. "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness." (verse 26) That she possesses such wisdom is not surprising, for she is a "woman who fears the LORD" (verse 30) and thus one who has experienced the truth of such promises as the following:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.(Psalm 111:10, NKJV)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7, NKJV)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10, NKJV)

In Acts 18:28 we read about a certain preacher by the name of Apollos who was not only "an eloquent man" but also "mighty in the Scriptures" (verse 24). But we also read of a married couple by the name of Aquila and Priscilla who realized that, notwithstanding his good points, he was inaccurate in some things. So "they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately." I understand this "taking him aside" to mean some private meeting with him, probably in the home. And in that sphere both husband and wife were free to teach this great preacher.

In my early ministry (which began in 1952) I too received such instruction during visits to elderly church members—usually women—who wanted to help me to know the way of God more accurately. I also learned, early in my own ministry, that my wife's counsel was of great importance. This does not mean that she was always trying to tell me what to do. No, but she was always willing to tell me (respectfully) what she thought. And I learned soon enough that she was often right. There is such a thing as a wife's discerning instinct.

2. Can a husband go to his wife with a question?

If Apollos could learn from Priscilla, as well as from Aquila, I see no reason why a husband cannot learn from his wife. We have already seen that the godly woman described in Proverbs 31 "opens her mouth with wisdom," and I see no reason why a husband would disdain to hear her. Abigail "was a woman of good understanding" but her husband was "harsh and evil in his doings" (1 Samuel 25:3). Things got so bad that this godly woman had to act on her own (v. 19) to avert a complete disaster (read the whole chapter). A man who has a wife like that and will not so much as listen to her is rightly called (as he was) "Nabal" - a fool.

3. Can women preach inside the church? Outside?

The answer "inside the church" is "No!" and it is stated as clearly as any precept I know of in the Bible (see 1 Corinthians 14:34-38 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15). But can she "preach" outside the church? The answer to this depends on what is meant by "preaching." If, by speaking of "preaching" we only intend the kind of "witnessing" that all Christians are called to do, then we need to choose our words more carefully. Since it is God's will that only men serve as teaching and ruling officers in his church, and since some of them are called of God to preach (officially proclaim) the word, it is best not to use the term "preach" in those situations where "witness" is more accurate.

If we use the word "teach" rather than "preach," we should note that although the Bible declares that women are not to have authority over men in the church (including official authoritative teaching authority), there is at least one situation where wives are not only allowed to teach, but commanded to teach. Consider Titus 2:1-5:

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that ... the older women ... be reverent in behavior, ... teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. (NKJV)

Not only may older women teach younger women, but also women are to be involved in the very important task of teaching children. Consider Ephesians 6:1-4:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (NKJV)

For "admonition," many modern translations (New American Standard Version, New International Version, English Standard Version) have "instruction." Although fathers may have the primary responsibility for instructing or teaching their children, those children are to obey their "parents" (plural, i.e., fathers and mothers), indicating that mothers are also to be involved in the teaching of children, leading to the conclusion that it is appropriate for other women in the church to teach children as well.

Thank you for some very basic and important questions.


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