The Christ-like Husband

Ephesians 5:25-32

Marriage in the ancient world was in shambles. Demonsthenes said, “we have courtesans for the sake of pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately, and of having a faithful guardian for all our household affairs.” Xenophon said it was the husband’s aim that a wife “might see as little as possible, hear as little as possible, and ask as little as possible.” Socrates asked the ancient Grecian husband: “Is there anyone to whom you entrust more serious matters than to your wife – and is there anyone to whom you talk less?” In Palestine the Jewish Rabbi Hillel allowed a man to divorce his wife for virtually anything. Marcius Cato, the famous Roman statesman of the second century B.C., wrote, “If you catch your wife in an act of infidelity, you can kill her without a trial. But if she were to catch you, she would not venture to touch you with her finger. She has no rights.”

Today marriage is in trouble. General Montgomery of World War Two told his men: “Gentleman, don’t even think of marriage until you’ve mastered the art of war.” Recently Neel Burton in an article in Psychology Today titled “A Feminist Critique of Marriage ” wrote, “To partake in the institution of marriage in the 21st century is also to condone the historical abuses perpetrated in its name…At a time of unparalleled social freedom, why, say many feminists, should we limit ourselves to an inauthentic, monotonous, and potentially calamitous life of state-enforced monogamy? Are we really so brainwashed, and so cowered, that we cannot imagine a better way of living?” The divorce rate is at fifty percent. Very little preparation is made for marriage. A person has to have four years of training to receive a plumber’s license, but absolutely no training is required for a marriage license.

Many men need to read the “trouble-shooting” instructions in the ultimate marriage manual – the Bible. The apostle Paul has much to say about marriage in his letters. In Ephesians 5 he set a very high standard for husbands. They are to love their wives “even as Christ also loved the church.” It is easy to say to your wife, “I love you.” Your wife needs to be loved. But loved how? The Perfect Husband and ultimate lover is Christ as seen in His relationship to his bride the church. Obviously no sinful human being has the capacity to love with the divine fullness and perfection with which Christ loved. Loving is a matter of choice and an act of the heart and the will.

A Christ-like Husband Will Have…

A Submissive Love

If you’re a husband who thinks the wife’s duty is to submit carte blanche to you because you’re the husband and God said so, it’s time to step back and look at what He first demands of you: “husbands, love your wives,…” (5:25a). Utter submission to the will of God is for the husband to submit to this command and love his wife like Christ loved the church. The husband’s duty in marriage is to submit to Christ and love her. The root of most marital problems is sin, and the root of all sin is selfishness. Submission to Christ and to one another is the only way to overcome selfishness, “You just don’t know how bad my wife is! I’m miserable. That woman fights me and belittles everything I try to do. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to love her —I want to leave her!” Think about it! Which came first, the church’s submission to Christ or Christ’s loving service and sacrifice of Himself for the church? Obviously it is the latter. So husbands, love your wives in the prescribed manner and she most likely will choose to submit.

A Sacrificial Love

The manner in which a man is to love his wife is “…just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…” (5:25b). Christ’s love was sacrificial. The Greek term from “gave” is paradidomi. According to Strong’s Dictionary it means “ to surrender, i.e yield up.” The greatest example of Christ’s love for his church, that he “gave himself up for it” by being crucified on the cross. Jesus understood how difficult it is to sacrifice for His bride. In a garden just before being betrayed, He prayed to God, asking, begging, crying, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (see Matthew 26:39f). Have you heard someone trying to explain why a man cannot find a woman to marry. They will say, “the reason he kept breaking up with all those women was because he did not want to make the sacrifices that marriage demanded.” A man must sacrifice his self-centered focus when he marries a woman. Many men get married thinking nothing will change. They can continue with all the same activities they did before they were married. However marriage takes sacrificing of one’s time and exerting effort.

What is the hardest thing for a person to give to another? It is themselves. Jesus did not just donate blood to the church. He did not just give advice or provisions. He gave His whole self. Your wife is sick – you will need to sacrifice yourself for her by taking care of the kids, dinner, laundry and all the other things she does, in addition to caring for her physical needs. Yet this seems so paltry in comparison to what Christ was willing to give in love for His bride.

Ironic that marriage takes place at an altar. Sacrifices take place on altars. When a man and woman stand at the marriage altar and say “I do”, they are really saying “I don’t” as in “I don’t exist anymore”. Marriage is death to the old single self.

Look at Jacob’s love for Rachel. He was willing to sacrifice fourteen years of his life working for his father-in-law to have her as his wife. A husband will love his wife sacrificially when her happiness and well-being are more important to him than his own. True Christian love “seeks not its own” (1 Cor. 13:5). When things go wrong in the relationship, a loving husband will not seek blame but in patient loving service and dying self seek a loving solution. Dr. Ed Wheat, marriage counselor and author, wrote: “It might not be your fault, but that does not matter. It is always your responsibility.”

A Sanctifying Love

The purpose of Christ giving Himself of the church is “that He might sanctify…” (5:26a) her. According to Strong “sanctify” means “to make holy, i.e. (ceremonially) purify or consecrate; (mentally) to venerate: – hallow, be holy, sanctify.” It is akin to the term “holy” which means “to set apart”. In the marriage ceremony, the husband is set apart to belong to the wife, and the wife is set apart to belong to the husband. The wife has a holy or sanctified place in the heart of the husband. He is set apart from his work, his hobbies, his family and friends. He has made her special just as the church is holy in relationship to Christ.

A Sanitizing Love

Jesus died to make His bride holy “…and cleanse her…” (5:26b). The Greek word katharizo is translated here, “cleanse.” The English word “cathartic” is derived from it. Before an ancient Greek bride’s wedding, she would go down to a river or pond and take a ceremonial bath to cleanse away her past life. Afterward, she would don her stain-free wedding dress to await her groom. Some view this cleansing here in verse twenty-six as a mention of baptism which washes away the sin before one is added to the church or bride of Christ. Today, all congregations have their spots and wrinkles. Christ still seeks to sanitize the church which exists and functions in an impure and contaminating world.

A Christ-like husband will strive to keep his wife protected from living in Sodom USA with its wicked environment. He will not encourage her to be like the women of the world in her talk, walk or dress. He will not treat her as did Persian King Ahasuerus who demanded his wife Vashti expose her beauty to a bunch drunk men who had been engaged in a seven day drinking feast (Esther 1).

A Singing Love

The church is filled with filthy sinners who had to be made clean and without glory were made glorious. Jesus is able to glorify or sing the praises of His bride. What Christ has done is so “He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (5:27). Love is always doing the best for the object of one’s love whether they deserve it or not. The Good Samaritan’s expression of love to the man who was beaten and robbed was based on his own generous character and on that man’s severe need. Whether the man deserved his care, did not enter into the picture.

Today, husbands need to glorify or sing praises of his wife. When God first brought Eve to Adam, he spontaneously burst into the first love poem or song: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen 2:23). Peter said, “husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). The term “honor” primarily denotes an estimate given to a valuable treasure proclaiming its worth. Husbands, do you regard your wife as your treasure? If you want to be married to a princess, treat your wife like one. Communicate to her that she is important, and what is important to her is important to you. A husband is to be considerate of his wife. A husband is to be chivalrous to his wife as “a weaker vessel”. Husbands are to honor their wives “as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” Your wife has an equal status before God and an equal reward to anticipate. Your roles are different, but you are spiritual equals. So husbands, honor her as Christ did who died for both her and your soul.

A Self-Love

Narcissus was a character in Greek mythology who was a very handsome youth. One day he happened upon a pond which reflected back to him his face. He fell in love with his own reflection. He became so love stuck with himself that he focused on his reflection to the exclusion of every thing and everyone else. He did not even leave the pond long enough to eat. So he soon wasted away and died. Where his body lay, grew a beautiful flower which bears his name – Narcissus.

The Golden Rule of marriage is “so husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph. 5:28). This is not to say a husband is to have a narcissistic personality disorder. This would be a kind of love which would be self-defeating in having a good marriage relationship. Mayo Clinic defines a narcissistic personality as “one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Husbands, when you fail to love your wife as your own body, you fail to love yourself. Just as you cleanse, protect, and pamper your body, do the same for her body and soul. The husband who loves his wife as Christ loves the church will no more do anything to harm her than he would to harm his own flesh. As Christ is one with His church, husbands are one with their wives. Therefore when a husband harms his wife, he harms himself. A husband who violates his marriage, violates himself. A husband who destroys his marriage, destroys a part of himself. Husbands communicate with themselves all the time. They should thus communicate with their wives. His love must be selfless not selfish. A husband’s closest neighbor is his wife. And Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31).

A Serving Love

Paul goes on and explains why a husband is to love his wife like he loves himself, “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes…” (5:29a). A husband would never starve himself, so he should not starve his wife of due attention. According to A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures, the term “nourish” means “to nourish up to maturity and on.” The Greek word used here is found nowhere else except in Ephesians 6:4 where fathers are commanded to nourish their children in the Lord.

Nourishing others requires serving them. Jesus came to serve and love and not to be served. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” Mark 10:45; see Matt. 20:26-28; 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:35-45; Philippians 2:7). Jesus focused his mission on man’s greatest needs. A husband must focus on the needs of his wife. Not her wants, but what she really needs. To give that which helps her grow and mature in favor with God and man. This may require a certain level of sensitivity to her feelings, moods, and even her nonverbal communication. Jesus showed us how to serve even to the point of washing one another’s feet. A dripping faucet may mean nothing to the husband, but it may be a constant irritation to the wife suffering from this form of water torture and in need of his domestic heroism.

A Solicitous Love

According to the Cambridge Dictionary the term solicitous means “showing care and helpful attention to someone…eager to help”. This is also the kind of love a husband needs to express to his wife. Just as the Lord “cherishes” the church (5:29), so the husband is to cherish his wife. The Greek term for cherish is thalpei. It means “to warm…to foster with tender care” (A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures). To cherish her is to use tender love and physical affection to give her warmth, comfort, protection, and security. Cherish also means to hold dear, to treat with affection.

As Christ is attentive to the church, so husbands must be with their wives. A husband might not be cherishing his wife if she complains: “you seem to resent having to spend money on me” or “I feel you would rather be at work than home with me.” The opposite of cherishing is to ignore one’s wife. But, what has the wife done to merit this treatment. Husbands need to remember how much worse he has treated his God and God still cherishes him.

In the Song of Solomon the Shulamite girl was dark skinned from working in the vineyards. She felt inferior to the more elegant lighter toned women of position. So, the shepherd lovingly built up her self-esteem by praising her as “altogether lovely.”

A Steadfast Love

Winston Churchill was once asked the question, “if you could not be who you are, who would you like to be?” He replied, “If I could not be who I am, I would most like to be”…Lady Churchill’s second husband.” The Prime Minster of England expressed a steadfast love for his wife.

Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 as another reason why a husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife…” (5:31a), “To be joined”, or in other translation “cleave”, is translated from the Greek word proskollao meaning “to be glued or cemented together.” One thing the Church can count on is the fidelity of the bridegroom. Just as Christ does not carelessly separate Himself from believers, husbands and wives are not to carelessly or frivolously divorce their partners. In fact, the only way for a marriage to end other than death is divorce on the grounds of adultery. Divorce can only be the result of a terrible crime against the oneness of marriage (Matt. 19:4f). This is why God always says, “I hate divorce” (Mal. 2:16). In fact, the term “divorce” should never even be brought up by a couple unless there is genuine proof of adultery.
This steadfast love is to continue to grow. However some spouses cannot leave father or mother and this greatly hinders the ability of the couple to form a loving relationship.

A Sexual Love

The Greeks had four terms for love in their language. The term used in this context is agape for selfless love which is rarely used in ancient Greek literature, yet found abundantly on the pages of the New Testament. Brotherly love or friendship is expressed by the term phileo.  The word storge is the natural affection shown in loving family members. The Bible does not use the term eros which was romantic or sexual love.

Although eros is not used in the New Testament, the concept of sexual or romantic love is found in this passage and others. Continuing to quote from Genesis 2 Paul writes, “…and the two shall become one flesh” (5:31b). This refers to sexual union between a husband and wife. Paul clearly identifies this meaning in 1 Corinthians 6:16: “or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’”

This sexual love is not optional. Spouses are not to defraud each other. “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor. 7:3-5). There have been attempts by some through the years to undermine the importance of sexual love in marriage. But, the love expressed in the intimate romance between the husband and wife is so important that the only place where it can occur is within marriage between husband and wife.  The only time divorce is approved, is when sex is found with someone else outside of marriage (1 Cor. 7:2; Heb. 13:4; Matt. 5:32,33).

Husbands, do you love your wife like Christ loved the church? A man who was afraid that he loved his wife too much was asked if he loved her as much a Christ loved the church. When he answered no, he was told, “Then you must love her more.” If your wife can’t see Christ’s love in your life, it’s time to get with the program. Do these things and I bet your wife would follow you anywhere and trust you with anything.

– Daniel R. Vess

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