Husbands Love Your Wives
Topic: Marriage Passage: Ephesians 5:22–5:33
Husbands Love Your Wives!
Leading with Love
If you are looking for popular, best-selling advice on relationships and marriage, you need look no further than John Gray and Barbara De Angelis. Barbara has written several books on relationships including Secrets about Men Every Woman Should Know, and the award-winning video Secrets for Making Love Work. John wrote the best-selling book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. As speakers, Barbara commands 15k per lecture, and John gets between 30-50k per appearance.
However, John and Barbara’s success in teaching about marriage has not translated into success in their own marriages. In fact John and Barbara were once married to each other, but their marriage ended in divorce. John is working on his second marriage, and Barbara is working on her fifth. So, while their advice is in big demand, few seem to be asking if it actually works. Reminds me of the saying, “an expert is someone who is paid to be wrong.”
The passage we are looking at this morning isn’t trendy or culturally cutting edge. In fact, it’s pretty politically incorrect! But it does paint a compelling picture of marriage between a man and a woman as God intended it to be – and God is the One who invented marriage. But it gives us more than just instruction on marriage – it gives us an example to follow.
Although Paul starts with the wives, I want us to start with the husbands this morning, and the good news is men, we have an example as to how we are to lead and love our wives: Jesus Christ. We are not pioneers in how to love our wives and nurture our marriages. It’s already been done by Christ and we are to follow His example.
Title: Husbands Love Your Wives! (Pray)
- A Theology of Marriage: marriage points to Christ and the Church
- Leadership in the Marriage: the husband is the head of the wife
- Applying leadership in the Marriage: practical thoughts on how husbands should demonstrate Christ-like leadership to their wives
I. A Theology of Marriage: the marriage of a man and woman points to Christ and the Church (22-33)
Paul doesn’t base his teaching on marriage on the practical, but on the theological. Marriage is built on a massive theological foundation – and they are built for a higher purpose than simply our personal happiness or the procreation of children.
Marriage is to act as a kind of parable of the relationship between Christ and the Church. If you are married, your marriage is meant to point to something greater than your marriage: the relationship between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church.
This has always been God’s purpose: in verse 31 Paul tells us that back in Gen. 2 when God instituted marriage and declared that a man would leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two would become one flesh, even then God had Jesus Christ and the church primarily in mind – great mystery but it is true.
This gives us more than the “how’s” of marriage – it gives us the “why”. Gives the Christian a glorious motivation for what we do. Why should a husband be a loving, godly leader? Because he is to be a reflection of Jesus Christ’s loving leadership of the Church. Why should a wife be a good follower of her husband’s leadership? Because she is to be a picture of the church’s joyful followership of Jesus Christ.
This is how we can glorify God in our marriages – by seeking to reflect an accurate (though it will never be a perfect) picture of how Christ loves the Church and how the Church submits to the Savior.
II. Leadership in the marriage: the husband is the head of the wife (vs. 23)
Two weeks ago I taught an overview of biblical manhood and womanhood so I’m not going to go over that again. If you have a question about submission and headship in the home – I’d recommend you listen to the message from April 19th.
In verse 23 Paul states as fact that the husband is the head of the wife. He doesn’t tell husbands they should be the head, he says they are the head of the wife. Men, you are the head of your home. You can either be a good head or you can be a bad head – but you will be the head of your wife and your home. God has called you to lead your wife!
In his book, Reforming Marriage, Douglas Wilson says that the husband finds himself in the place of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. He can be a harsh and domineering head – or he can be a passive head, allowing his wife to lead, but either way his “bad headship” will be the most obvious thing about the marriage and the home.
Even if a husband abandons his wife and children, his leadership (in this case abandoned leadership) will still have a profound effect on family. Wilson asks “How many children have grown up in a home dominated by the empty chair at the table?”
I remember years ago singing a song about the pains of divorce (I come from a broken home), and a young man coming up to me afterward and saying he still remembers the day his dad drove away and out of his life. It was many years later – still filled this young man’s heart and mind.
Inescapable leadership, men. That’s what we have – because that’s what God has called us to. Question is not, should a husband lead? The question is, what kind of leader is the husband to be?
We see the answer clearly in Paul’s instruction to the husbands. Nowhere does he tell the husband to exercise their authority. Nowhere does he tell the husband to command the wife to submit to him.
¨ There are husbands that feel the need to enforce or defend their leadership. Emphasize their authority rather than their love. Their authority and their wife’s submission becomes the centerpiece of their leadership.
Under that the wife will either wilt and become a weak and dominated woman under his authoritarian rule, or she will rebel against his authoritarian leadership. Either result fails to reflect Christ’s loving care and nourishing of the church.
Paul really just gives one command to the husband: love your wives! That’s how you should lead! Your leadership should be a leadership of love. But Paul doesn’t just give us the instruction, he reminds us of the example:
- Love your wives as Christ loved the church…(vs. 25)
It is a sacrificial love: He gave himself up for her. Jesus’ love is a self-giving love. He lays down his life for the good of his bride, his sheep, his people. Someone has said we are to love our wives with a “Calvary love”. Exactly right.
Good leadership biblically is always characterized by giving of oneself for the other’s good. This describes all good leadership as it’s meant to be. Government is to govern for the good of the citizens. When politicians use their office for their own selfish gain it is corrupt and poor leadership.
Shepherds were to care for flock, not fleece the flock or abandon the flock for their own safety. God has strong things to say about unfaithful shepherds (Ezek. 34). They are to care for and lay down their lives for the flock (again, Christ is the example).
When the Titanic went down, a disproportionate percentage of the 1517 who drowned were men due to the “women and children first” policy. Wives had to leave their husbands with heart-breaking realization that they would probably be forever separated in this life. Weeping and grieving, but they knew it was right. The leadership of the men was demonstrated in their laying down their lives to care for their wives. It’s the way it is. We do not think poorly of a wife who leaves her husband in such circumstances, but we would think very poorly of a man who used his leadership to order his wife to remain while he got on a boat to save his own life.
Calvary is the pinnacle of Jesus’ love for His bride. He died on that cross in the place of His sin-stained bride – so that He could wash and cleanse her of her sin and present to himself a beautiful and unblemished bride. We cannot, of course, save our wives, but we can lay down our lives to serve them and help them grow in sanctification in their walk with God.
- As we love our own bodies
Face it guys, we love ourselves! That’s a given! We are to love our wives as we love ourselves. This has a theological underpinning to it: a husband and wife are one flesh. That’s what Paul goes on to say – when you married, you became one flesh. That also is a representation of Christ and the Church. The church is Christ’s bride – but the church is also Christ’s body. Two metaphors, but also they are interconnected and complimentary: Gen 2 is a mystery revealed in Christ and the church: His bride is His body – one flesh.
So we are nourish and cherish our wives as we nourish and cherish our own bodies. The word nourish means to feed and mature, the word cherish is to “warm” – we are to warm our wives with our love. To cherish them is to prize them, to honor them, to husband them.
One of the meanings of the word husband is to care for a farm – to tend the crops and care for a garden. Jesus gave himself to make his bride beautiful and present to himself a radiant and unblemished bride. Husbands are also to cherish and nurture the beauty of our wives helping them to blossom like a garden of beauty.
Women are created by God to be beautiful. God made beauty inherent in women – but that beauty is to be tended like a garden. Husband Solomon in the Song of Songs:
A garden locked is my sister, my bride…awake, O north wind, and come O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow.
We are to tend the garden of our wives. A harsh husband is like a man trampling fragile flowers underfoot – the wife of a harsh or domineering man will seem crumpled, broken, crushed. Rather than beauty, there is a wiltedness that reflects his poor husbandry.
A husband who abdicates his leadership will have a neglected garden – much of the beauty and strength and talent and potential of their wife will be unrealized. Frustrated and lonely.
If we nurture and cherish, our wives will grow more beautiful as the years go by – tended in their beauty by a wise and loving husband. Guys, that is the example Christ has given us – we are called to follow that example. If our wives are not growing more beautiful, we will answer for it – for we are probably not leading them in a Christlike way.
III. Applying leadership in the marriage: practical thoughts on how husbands should demonstrate Christ-like leadership to their wives
1. We need to lead!
There are many men who are afraid to lead. Afraid of making a mistake, afraid of being rejected, afraid of the responsibility. There are men who hide behind the “I don’t know what the Lord wants me to do” excuse – paralyzed from making an actual and firm decision and then sticking to it! Sure you’ll make mistakes – make some boneheaded mistakes.
ILL: In Band of Brothers they’re talking about a loser commander (NCO) and they say, the reason he is a bad leader isn’t cause he’s made wrong decisions, but because he made no decisions. Don’t let the fear of making the wrong call stop you from leading.
Man up and lead! Just Do Something! God has called you to lead. He will give you the grace to lead as you step out. In that we want to help our wives look beyond our leadership and trust God’s sovereignty even if we make mistakes.
2. Lead in your spiritual example
Are you consistent in your time in God’s word and prayer? Does she know that you are a man after God’s own heart? Are you a spiritual wimp riding on your wife’s coattails? Stop it! Not acceptable! Men, we need to be the spiritual leaders in our homes – and we are failing if we’re not no matter how else we’re leading.
3. Bear the responsibility in the home.
Doesn’t mean we need to do everything, but we need to bear responsibility and oversight. It’s not good enough to say, “I’ve delegated that area to the wife and now she is responsible to get it done”. That’s abdication, not delegation.
Discipline and instruction of the children. Dads, don’t be passive – don’t make the excuse, well that’s her department, she does it better than I do. Passivity posing as humility. Lead!
Finances – some h and w teams have wife do the expenses and bills. That’s ok, but I think this tells us that the husband needs to bear the weight of the responsibility. He needs to carry the anxiety, not the wife. When J and I first got married, she did the bills – she was far better at it than I was! But there was too much bill and too little month and the anxiety of not having enough money and what to pay what to hold off began to weigh on her til she finally gave it to me – I’ve been doing it since. Had to get better at it. Had to carry the weight.
4. Lead in reconciliation after an argument.
When there’s a breach in the relationship through conflict (and there will be), lead in humility and pursue reconciliation with your wife. Don’t allow it to dangle forever – and don’t wait for her to come to you. Work through your sinful attitudes, repent to the Lord for the sin you contributed and go and ask her forgiveness. Doesn’t mean your 100% wrong and she’s 100% right – it just means you’re leading toward reconciliation.
5. Lead wife in faith in present and future grace.
Women can fear – fear the future. 1 Peter encourages women to follow the patriarch’s wife Sarah, saying you are her children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
There is a capacity for your wife to fear the future or what will happen. What will happen to the kids? What will economic future looks like? What would she do if something happened to you? We all experience fears, of course, but I think most women have fears knocking on their hearts more often and more loudly than the men. In that moment we need to resist the temptation to laugh at their fears or belittle them or tell them to “be a man”.
Lead them to faith in God’s grace – His grace in the present and His future grace. He has been good, He is good, He will be good. Like Sarah, we point them beyond ourselves, and our circumstances to a great and sovereign God and nurture their trust in that God.
Principle isn’t husband has to do all of it – carry the weight (responsibility) and monitor how his wife is doing with it.