THE ROLE OF THE CHRISTIAN HUSBAND
by Will Graham
We are called to obey the will of God in every sphere of life. Everything we do is to be subject to the Lord. Our church life is to be dedicated to God. But every other sphere of our life is to be submitted to God: our working life, our financial life, our social life and even our family life.
Family life is going through a crisis in the West. We have forsaken our Christian foundations and therefore the true meaning of marriage is being progressively deformed in society. However, Christians are not called to follow the patterns of godless society; we are instructed to follow the Word of the Lord.
What we are going to do is to look at what the Bible has to teach us about the role of a Christian husband. This is an important message for all Christian men. In this article we will be looking at Ephesians 5:25-33.
Before expounding the text, let me give a brief introduction to Ephesians 5. The purpose of Ephesians is to explain the glory of Christ and the high calling of the church. God wanted to unite the believing Jews and Gentiles in Christ. So Paul encourages the believers to walk in the unity of the Spirit. There is something more important than our nationality: that is our call to Christian discipleship.
All of God’s children are my brothers and sisters regardless of their race or nationality. I am Northern Irish and I live in Spain. The Spanish believers are my family. At the moment I am preaching here in Transylvania and the Hungarian/Romanian believers are my family. We have one Father. So no one nation is more important than another. Paul stresses this fact so that there is peace in the church. The church must not be divided over superficial issues such as race and nationality.
And in Ephesians 5 he reveals that the way we walk in Christian unity is by the power of the Spirit. In verse 18 he says that we must always be filled with the Spirit. And there are many consequences of being filled with the Spirit. We will speak among ourselves with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. We will be thankful to the Lord. We will keep away from the works of the flesh. And in this list of things Spirit-filled people do, Paul now turns to husbands and wives.
He says that a Spirit-filled husband is a man who loves his wife and a Spirit-filled woman is one who respects her husband. If men do not love their wives, they are in sin. And if a wife does not respect her husband, she is in sin. Today we will look at the role of Christian husbands. We will divine the text in the following fashion:
1. Love your wife as Christ loved the church, 5:25-27
2. Love your wife as you love your own body, 5:28-30
3. Love your wife more than anyone else, 5:31-33
1.- Love your wife as Christ loved the church
Paul calls upon men filled with the Spirit to love their wives. It’s a command. A man who does not love his wife is not filled with the Spirit. He is not being faithful to God.
Sometimes when I see how some men treat their wives in public, I ask myself why they decided to get married. Love is something we can all recognize whether we are Christians or unbelievers. When a man loves his wife it is easy to see. He defends her. He spends time with her. He looks after her. He provides for her.
One of the main ways which we can show our love is by spending time together. But sadly our generation has no free time. We are all so busy with education and work and ministerial commitments. This means that we don’t have time for our wives and so they feel neglected and forgotten. This is not walking in love. Some people even sacrifice their families so that they can spend more time in the ministry. This is not biblical. If your house is not governed by the Word of the Lord, then you cannot have a ministry in the church. If you are married, your first responsibility is to your wife. She is your principal ministry. She is more important than anything else. Single men can spend 20 hours a day in church ministry if they want to; but married men are called to love their wives. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:32-33, “He that is unmarried cares for the things that belong unto the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married cares for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife”.
God calls married men to love their wives. Not just to put up with them but to love them actively. Your wife should know that you love her by your actions and words.
In these verses, there is a model of love. That model is Jesus Christ. Paul says: “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church”. So the model for married men is not a famous actor or a football player; but Jesus Christ. What is the type of love that we must have for our wives? It is the love of Jesus.
Paul specifies what this love of Jesus means. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25). So the proof of my love for my wife is by my giving myself up for her. I am prepared to live and die for her in the love of the Lord. In that sense the man is the head of his wife. He is not the head in the sense of a dictator who just spends all day telling his wife what to do: “do this, don’t do that”, etc. He is a man who dedicates time to his wife and lets her know that she is a special treasure for him. This is what a man does when he is filled with the Spirit of God. How many marriages have been broken because the husband and wife no longer spend quality time together?
The problem is that so many men have other goals and projects and they end up sacrificing their families in the process. This is not the will of God. Men must love their wives and give their lives for them just as Jesus did for the church. Jesus gave his life, “that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (vv. 26-27). So we too must desire the same for our wives: for them to be holy, radiant and blameless. The way I treat my wife must lead her to Jesus.
That is why it is important to develop spiritual disciplines together. A man of God is called to instruct his wife in the things of the Lord. So we must read the Bible together and godly books together. We must pray together seeking God’s blessing.
God gives husbands so that they edify their wives in the faith. I am responsible for teaching my wife the Bible. We should talk about Scripture together and meditate upon the things we learn therein. Our minds should be continually fixed upon the Lord and we should seek to walk in His ways.
I cannot think about marriage if I am not a spiritually mature person. If I cannot take care of my spiritual life with the Lord, what good will I be for my wife? If you are not a man of God or if you play about with the things of God, do not get married to a Christian girl! You will be a curse for her and your father-in-law, God Almighty, will call you to account. If you want to make God angry all you have to do is to hurt one of His daughters. If you are not a man of faith, you will destroy your wife and your family.
It is sad when we see so many unspiritual husbands who send their children to Sunday School and youth groups expecting church leaders to do his job. It is the father who is supposed to disciple his children in the Lord. The husband is his child’s first missionary. So if you are not a spiritual man; do not get married. You will bring condemnation upon yourself.
You must provide for your wife spiritually. You must be a man of God. Remember that God didn’t create a boy and a girl in the Garden, but a man and a woman. Men must be responsible and mature, not clowns. Men of God must be serious and prepared to invest time, love and energy in their wives so that they become more like Jesus. That is what a man of the Lord does.
If you live like that—as a man of God, as a mature Spirit-filled man of God—it will be very easy for your wife to submit to you. So husbands, love your wives. Do you love your wife? Does she know you love her?
2.- Love your wives as you love your own body
Point two: love your wives as you love your own body. Ephesians 5:28-30.
So Paul says men should love their wives as Jesus loved the church and as they love their own bodies. Biblically speaking, it is correct to love ourselves. Not in a sinful, self-centred way but in a natural way. There are many things we do out of love for ourselves that are not necessarily selfish. Paul mentions two things in this passage: we feed our bodies and we care for our bodies.
Food has to do with provision. It’s not selfish to eat. After all, we can eat and drink for the glory of God. Since we provide for our bodies in this way, the Lord wants husbands to provide for their wives. Now we have already spoken about the need to provide for our wives spiritually. But being a man also means supplying our wives material needs as well. A woman needs stability. And so God has given husbands to provide for them so as to give them a roof above their heads, a bed to sleep on and food in the kitchen.
This means that the man must be a worker and bring money home to feed his family. A lazy man is a curse from hell. God created Adam to work in the Garden; not to sit in front of TV all day long. God will not bless lazy men. So husbands must have a healthy attitude towards work. God blesses hard workers and if you study the Bible you will see that almost everybody God called was working when He called them. Moses was taking care of sheep when God called him, Gideon was threshing wheat, Elisha was working with oxen and Peter was fishing. There are many more examples. Men of God work and put food on their table.
Now, what happens if you are unemployed? Well, you can still keep active. If you’re unemployed there are so many things you can do around your house: paint, fix broken things, clean, spend more time with your family and help your neighbours. Unemployment is no excuse for laziness. Even in unemployment you can serve the Lord. Your hard-working attitude will be a blessing for your wife and your children.
So we provide food for our bodies if we love ourselves; and we also take care of our bodies. So this means we must also take care of our wives. When we pronounce our marriage vows in public, we swear to love our wives in sickness and in health. So we must always look after our wives with love and care when they aren’t feeling well.
But physical care is not the important thing. We must make sure that our wives are in good spiritual care. Many times our wives have genuine worries and we must be ready to lend a listening ear. Maybe they are things that don’t necessarily worry us as men; but it is important for our wife to see that we think her concerns and opinions are important. All this has to do with taking care of her. Your wife must know that she can count on you in her hour of distress. In the same way that we flee to the Lord when we are overwhelmed; so too in marriage we can share mutual concerns and receive help one from another. This is the beauty of marriage. It is a little society of friends.
In this way, marriage becomes a reflection of the image of Almighty God. As God is three persons in one divine substance; so in marriage, two united souls become one before the presence of the Lord. A marriage that works is a marriage that glorifies the Triune God. This is the reason why the devil is so opposed to marriage in our generation. He knows that marriage is a manifestation of God’s Triune beauty.
3.- Love your wife more than anyone else
The third point is: love your wife more than anyone else. Ephesians 5:31-33.
In this passage Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 where it says that a man “will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife”. This is an important principle. Now a man’s wife is more important than any of his natural ties. My wife is more important than my mum and dad. I love my mum and dad and love them in the fear of the Lord; but my wife is number one. I have two sisters; but again, my wife is more important.
One major problem for many contemporary marriages is when the young husband or wife are unwilling to break ties with their blood family. Many times this provokes tension and stress at home because there are so many different voices wanting to go in different directions. The head of the household is the man; not the father-in-law, the mother-in-law, the brother-in-law or the sister-in-law. A man must not allow his mother or father to disturb his marriage. And the same truth applies to the wife.
Paul again refers to the example of Christ and the church in verse 32. Christ is the Lord over the church. There are not fifty different voices. It is the supreme voice of Christ that must reign. In the same way, it is the husband who has the responsibility for his household and he must not let his God-given authority be despised by his natural parents or his in-laws.
So your wife is more important than anyone else. Even your children! And in verse 33 Paul repeats that husbands must love their wives. Now notice that he doesn’t put any conditions when he mentions love. He commands them to love her at every moment. The text doesn’t say: “Love her when she’s in a good mood” but “Love her”. Full stop!
If you only ‘love’ your wife when she’s happy or when she looks pretty, you don’t love her. You must repent. When she’s sad, love her. When she’s angry like Godzilla, love her. When she’s sick, love her.
Sometimes you might think: “She doesn’t deserve my love”. That doesn’t matter. You don’t deserve the love of Christ and yet He continues to love you. We must love with the love of Jesus and not the superficial love of the world that only bases its love upon appearances. The love of Jesus is only possible if we walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. When we walk in His freedom, then we can forgive offenses easily. But if we are not walking in intimacy with the Lord, then our hearts become cold and instead of forgiving, we build up bitterness and hatred in our souls and this, in the future, will cause a lot of damage. As Ephesians 4:26 says, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”. This is how the devil works to destroy marriages by the lack of forgiveness.
The man is responsible for taking the first step and for confessing his faults. We all fall. We’re all sinners by nature. But by the grace of God we can humble ourselves and say to our wives: “I’m sorry for being so hard-hearted. I’m sorry for speaking to you in a bitter tone. I’m sorry for letting you down”. A man who lives like that is truly filled with the Spirit and led by Christ.
Here’s a question: when was the last time you asked your wife forgiveness? When did you last say sorry? When was the last time you opened your heart to her? Does your wife know you love her? Does she see that you long for her to be like Christ?
To conclude all that we have shared let’s go over the three points:
1. A man of God must love his wife as Christ loved the church.
This means giving our lives for our wives and putting her first. She is more important than our jobs and church ministry. A big part of love means spending time together.
2. A man of God must love his wife as his own body.
In the same way as we feed or bodies and take care of them, so we are called to provide for our wives (both spiritually and materially) and also to take care of them.
3. A man of God must love his wife more than anyone else.
Your mum, your dad, your brother or your sister is not more important than your wife. God calls us to separate ourselves from our biological bonds to be united to our wives in holy matrimony. The two must be allowed to forge their own way forward in the fear of the Lord; not with constant disturbance and manipulation from the in-laws.
All in all, the great purpose of marriage is the glory of the Triune God. In the same way that the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Spirit and vice-versa; so the husband is called to love his wife as Christ loves the church and as he loves his own body.
Let’s love our wives for Jesus’ sake and start to invest time and effort into our domestic lives. That is how men filled with the Spirit walk. Are you filled with the Spirit? Then love your wife. Amen.