Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 5:25e “. . .the church,. . .”
What Christ provides “the Church,” a husband is to provide his wife–leadership and love. Scripture is flawless in every way, including as an accurate interpreter of human need. The Bible’s definitions for roles perfectly match the innermost desires of people. For example, studies reveal that women, when seeking a man, are first and foremost attracted to the trait of confidence. This complies with the Biblical description, “the husband is the head of the wife” (5:23). Once a romantic relationship is established with a man, the main thing a woman desires from him is affection. This complies exactly with the Biblical command, “Husbands, love your wives” (5:25).
The Bible is our best hope for accurately discerning our person-hood and the role we are to fill in life. Husbands, to understand themselves aright, must look to Scripture, and our text emphasizes loving wives as Christ loved “the Church.” Never has there been a greater challenge for love to emulate. No love could ever exceed Christ’s love for the Church. For Her, “thoughts of love nestled in His heart; words of love lingered on His lips; deeds of love flew from His arm; and His steps left behind them the impress of love” (Eadie, in BI).
Since husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved “the Church,” we must ask the question, how did Christ love His Church? In at least four ways.
First, Christ served “the Church.” Every husband must be willing, for his wife, to stoop as low as Christ did when He took the towel and washed the feet of disciples who were unworthy. Jesus was willing to accept any position, however lowly, for the happiness and well-being of His Church. In the home, petty disputes about supremacy, priority, and position are expressions of an unutterable insanity spawned by selfishness, and reveal absolute ignorance as to how to have a happy home. In contented families, the question most often being asked is not, “How can you serve me?” but rather, “How can I serve you?”
Second, Christ protected “the Church.” When Peter worried about taxes, Jesus sent him on a fishing expedition to get the money (MT 17:24-27). When Jesus saw the hungry masses, He fed them. Husbands, we must, as best we can, provide security for our family with regard to food, clothing, and shelter. Let’s protect our wives and children by relieving them of worry in this area.
When the disciples returned from their preaching trip, Jesus took them to a resting place where they could relax (MK 6:31). In the midst of a busy, exhausted society, we husbands must be sensitive to our wives’ need for rest. The old saying is still too often true, “Man works from sun to sun; woman’s work is never done.” Husband, look at your wife. Is she tired? Is life pulling her down? Do you need to take her away for a while? It is your responsibility to protect her by helping her rest, even as Jesus helped the disciples rest.
When a storm threatened to drown the disciples, Jesus stilled the storm (JN 6:18-21). When their lives were in danger, He delivered them at His own peril, saying, “If ye seek Me, let these go their way” (JN 18:8). Husbands, we must be the house-bands, the ones who hold things together, who provide stability by protecting from outside harm. Are pressures from work or school or others straining the family? If so, you must step in and protect your family.
Third, Christ satisfied “the Church.” I wish we could have seen the look in the healed leper’s eyes, and the adoration on Mary and Martha’s faces when Lazarus arose. However radiant their countenances were, I wish we husbands would elicit the same gleam from our wives due to the love we shower on them.
Christ served, protected, and satisfied the Church, but this was not enough to satisfy His loving heart. He performed a fourth kindness for Her.
Eph. 5:25f “. . .and gave himself for it;”
Spurgeon portrays Christ as speaking to His eternal spouse,
“Forget thee, I will not, I cannot; thy name
Engraved on my heart doth for ever remain;
The palms of my hands whilst I look on, I see
The wounds I received when suffering for thee.”
Jesus gave not merely tears, pain, and groans, but His whole self. He gave His Deity–remember, this was no ordinary person who gave Himself. He gave His humanity, a robe of existence He voluntarily donned. He gave all of His essence as a God-man. All that was in Him to suffer, He gave freely.
Had He given His crown, robe, and scepter, we would have built separate museums to house each one. Had He given up Heaven’s happiness for only a little while, and then quietly returned, that would have been amazing, but He did more. “He is stripped naked to his shame; he gives his last garment that he may cover the nakedness of man” (Spurgeon). In Heaven our robes will be white (RV 19:14) solely because His is blood-red (RV 19:13).
Jesus did not count the cost, nor consider the shame. He deemed the Church’s happiness and welfare as more important than His own. On the cross He could have at any moment called ten thousand angels, or willed the iron nails to release. Love for “the Church” bound Him and held Him to the cross.
The ultimate litmus test of true husbandhood lies in the two words, “gave himself.” Legend tells of Tiberius Gracchus, a Roman who found two snakes in his bed. Superstitiously fearing it to be a terrible omen, he consulted the soothsayers, who told him one of them must be killed. If he killed the male, he himself would die soon; if the female, the wife would die. His love to his wife, Cornelia, was so great, that he killed the male, and died quickly.
Cyrus once condemned a wife of one of his generals to death for treason. The husband, hearing the sentence of death against her, fell prostrate before the king and begged to die in her place. Cyrus was so touched that he said, “Such love must not be spoiled by death,” and let the wife go free. As the couple walked happily away from the king, the husband said, “Did you see how kindly the king looked upon us when he gave you a free pardon?” She replied, “I had no eyes for the king, I saw only the man who was willing to die for me.”
If two pagans of antiquity could love their wives this intensely, what must be expected today from husbands filled with the Holy Spirit? A Christian husband should be prepared to endure any loss, even his life if necessary, for his wife. Few, if any, of us will have to die physically for our wives, but we all must die to self for them. We must be willing to make any sacrifice for their happiness and well-being. The kind of love demanded of husbands is always costly. James Boice relates the legitimate plea of one wife, “Dear, I know you are willing to die for me; you have told me that many times, but while you are waiting to die, could you fill in some of the time helping me dry the dishes?”
One more illustration may help us make practical application of our text. I know a couple who have been married 54 years. The first 31 years were a nightmare, the last 23 a dream come true. The turnaround took place at the very time when their marriage had essentially ended. The nest was empty, years of warfare had destroyed their bond, they had not spoken calmly to each other in a long time. One day about noon, the husband, convicted about his responsibility before God to save his marriage, quietly slipped into the kitchen unnoticed and sat down at the table while the wife was doing dishes. He softly and gently said to her, “I will do anything to save our marriage.” She sat down and, as the afternoon went on, poured out years of hurt and frustration. He silently listened and, once she finished talking, agreed to do everything she had asked of him. He “gave himself” unconditionally to her. The result has not been loss for him, but unspeakable gain and bliss. Husbands, be a husband the Bible-way. It is our best and only hope of finding true fulfillment.