A Husband's Love
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
This past week someone asked me what I am preaching on. I mentioned that we have been going through the book of Ephesians and I’m at the passage about husbands loving their wives. I had also told him that I had just gotten back from vacation. And so I jokingly said that I had previously preached on women submitting to their husbands and immediately left town.
I don’t doubt that the message that we had last time was an important one. Given our day and age, understanding a wife’s role and demonstrating that kind of submission is nothing less than a lost art that needs to be recovered.
But we should note that today’s passage far surpasses the previous one in its importance. As I mentioned last time, the amount of space devoted to the role of the husband is significantly more than that which is devoted to the ladies. It is more than double the space. We should recognize that is not by accident. The role of the husband is critical. For every ounce of thought that goes into submission, there is a pound of reflection and application for a man’s leadership.
And we should understand the importance all that much more for what it has previously said about the husbands. As the wives were being addressed in verses 22-24, it was noted that the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church. If you are reading that passage as a man and an air of pride comes over you, then you’re doing it wrong. The weight of those words should hit you like a ton of bricks.
The idea of headship implies a position of greater obligation. It’s not just a word of authority, it is a word that speaks of responsibility. I cannot get past that without thinking about being liable to a greater level of punishment if I mess up. We may like to think about the power it gives us, but, in truth, it should evoke a sense of duty and guilt should I fail to carry out those duties.
Furthermore, when we recognize what this passage says about husbands--if we truly comprehend what these words are communicating, then we should understand that men have a much harder role. You can say what you want about a woman’s submission, and frankly, I sympathize. It can’t be easy submitting to a sinful, fallen man. But when we hear that a man is called to love his wife as Christ loved the church, you have to recognize that the bar has been set in the skies.
This is nothing less than one of the highest and hardest callings that a person could ever have. And this is one of those reasons why marriage is not to be entered upon lightly. To be sure, what Paul is proposing here is nothing less than revolutionary.
Husbands are commanded to love their wives. But what does that mean? What does the love of a Christian husband look like? How would we describe it and how would it differ from the kind of love that often is shown?
When we talk about the love of a husband, we should first of all understand that it is to be an exalting love.
I. It's an exalting love
We might call it a preferential love, but I really want you to think of it as a love that lifts up.
Our passage begins by saying, “Husbands, love your wives.” That may sound normal to us. It might not be all that staggering, but if you were hearing this in the original langauge and if you were sitting in that congregation when it was first read, this would come down as a bombshell.
And we should not neglect the particular word that he uses for love. In the Greek language there are several words that can be translated as “love.” There’s the word eros, which is a sexual kind of love. It’s the word from which we get our word erotic. It’s really a selfish kind of love.
Then there’s the word “philos,” which means close love. We have the city of Philadelphia, which is the city of brotherly love. It is a love which recognizes a real bond of connection. It’s a deep love.
There are a couple words in the Greek that can mean tender affection. They are terms of endearment and have a sense of a real, genuine love. There’s an affectionate love.
But the word here that Paul uses is one that might have surprised the men of Ephesus. It’s the word agapao. It is said to be the highest form of love in the Greek language. It is no ordinary kind of love. It is a love that is radical. I would add that it is a love that lifts. It is an exalting kind of love.
You just look at how it is used in this Epistle. It almost always has a sense of lifting up and exalting those who are loved.
Eph 1:3-4 talks about how God has chosen us before the foundation of the world. “In love he predestined us for the adoption through Jesus Christ.” We didn’t deserve God’s grace; we didn’t deserve to be loved in this way. God’s exalting love was demonstrated before the world began. He took sinners like us and made them sons. He elevated us to a new status. That’s the kind of love that he showed.
Eph. 2:4 says that “God, who is rich in mercy and because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses and sins, made us alive together with Christ.” His love took dead sinners and exalted them into a world of life.
In chapters 4-5 Paul uses the word agape a couple of times in reference to the kind of love that we are to show one another. And you understand that he’s talking about the Jew Gentile relationship. And when he says that they need to love each other, part of what he is talking about is that they need to have a much greater view of one another. Don’t look down on these Jews; don’t look down on these Gentiles. Look at them as your brother and sister in Christ. Part of the love you will show is that you will have a higher regard for one another.
So when Paul comes to the end of chapter 5 you’ve been set up this whole time. Husbands are to show a radical kind of love. It is to be a love that that recognizes her as a gift; it’s a love that sees her as a blessing. You don’t look down at her in any kind of way. She’s to be loved in such a way that she is seen as having a high and glorious position in your home and in your life.
A lot of guys do not look at their wives this way. And the kind of love that they show her is lacking because of it. They see her as a sexual object. They look at her on the basis of her productivity: is she contributing enough financially, is she doing enough work around the house. You can see their lack of love by the way they talk about their wife; they refer to her in derogatory ways. She’s not the queen of the house. She’s not his joy and delight. She’s just not on the same par as him.
Maybe they look at her as the so called “weaker vessel.” You know, she’s weaker, she’s just not up to snuff.
Peter does use that language. But you have to understand what he meant by that. When Peter calls the wife the weaker vessel, he’s not using derogatory language or giving some sort of image that would disparage a woman. You have to think of it as a priceless vase. Suppose you have a hand crafted vase that was made to be a household decoration. And it was made out of some of the most exquisite material. Now, you don’t go flopping that vase in the dishwasher after dinner or tossing it in the sink. It would shatter if you did that. No, you take that vase and you set it in a special place in the house. You put it in the chest in the dining room so that it is displayed behind the glass or you set it on a special table where people can admire it.
That’s what you do with a weaker vessel. You give it a special regard. You don’t treat it in a common way; you are not rough with it. You exalt it because it is so fine. Because it is delicate, you give it special honor.
And so when Paul says agape your wife, he’s saying that you need to have a kind of love that lifts her up. The kind of love that is required of you is a love that sees her as the prize of your life. She is to be regarded as the most precious thing in your house.
Just by way of application, and there are many applications that flow out of this--many I cannot take time to relate. But one way you will know if she is being loved with an exalting kind of agape love, is that your decisions do revolve around what is best for her. I mentioned that in passing last time. I mentioned that unless a man has a biblical reason not to go with his wife’s counsel, he should ordinarily follow that advice. Why is that? It is because that advice is most likely in her best interest.
When you make a decision, it is a decision that has regards for what is best for her. You take into consideration how this is going to affect her. That means you tell the boys, I can’t go out and do night with the guys anymore. My wife needs me. My time isn’t mine to do as I please anymore. My life revolves around her.
You see, your decision making will demonstrate whether or not you have an agape love. It will reveal what kind of status she really has in your eyes. If she’s just a second thought in your life or if she’s not the highest priority, it will be clearly revealed in the decisions you make.
There’s a lot more I’d like to say about this in terms of application. But I don’t want to get bogged down in different dos and don’ts. I want to simply emphasize the principle that is being laid out here at the very beginning of the passage. Paul is calling husbands to love their wives. And we should recognize the nature of this love. It is a love that has a particular focus. It is a love that singles out. It is a love that gives incredible attention. It is a love that imputes a higher status upon your wife than she might have or maybe even deserve.
That’s agape love.
But you’ll notice that Paul not only says that your love as a husband will be an exalting one, it will also be a giving love.
II. It's a giving love
Notice what Paul says. He goes on to define this love by saying that a husband should love his wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Here again you see the nature of an agape love. You were a sinner. You were a vile person who deserved death and hell. But you know what happened? Christ loved you. He loved you so much that he died for you. You deserved his wrath and curse. You deserved anything but his love. You deserved to be punished for your transgressions, but he didn’t give you that. He gave you love. And in that love He gave up his life. He turned his back on his own comfort; he disregarded his own welfare and he gave himself over to inexplicable pain and suffering for you.
As Paul thinks about a husband’s love and how incredible it should be, he naturally goes to the gospel. That’s because the gospel is the highest kind of love; it is the highest display of love. Jesus Christ died for his people. He gave up his life as a sacrifice so that they could be comforted with life and salvation.
So a husband’s love is to be a sacrificial one. And that’s why I say it is a giving love. It is a love that gives up one’s rights. It’s a love that gives up one’s time. You give up your desire to sit down and kick up your feet, because you know you need to serve your wife.
This is the the measure that you need to use in evaluating whether or not you are loving your wife correctly. You have to ask yourself, “Am I loving my wife to the same degree that Christ has loved me?” You should ask yourself if you are dying for her.
I’m not talking about whether or not you are willing to jump in front of a bullet for your wife. I’m talking about the everyday sacrifices; the less dramatic forms of self denial. Yes, you want to read the article on your phone, but she’s come into the room and she’s like to talk. She wants to go over some items that need planning out or simply unload some things that are on her heart. You may express this giving love by giving up your interest at that moment, flipping over the phone and looking at her to give her your undivided attention. You show her that she is the most important thing to you at that moment.
Better yet, when you’ve had a spat, this can be a time of giving love. You may need to give in that you are the first one to apologize. You can give up your pride and say, “Look, I’ll do this” even when you may not want to do that.”
That’s what Christ did. He did not wait for you to come to him. He loved you in that he acted first. He sacrificed the blessings of his throne. He willingly came down. He gave up his life and he gave up all of his desires in order to serve his bride. And that is what we as men are supposed to do.
If your love is not costing you anything, then you are doing it wrong. Christ saw our need, and he acted. He gave. And that’s what we men are supposed to do.
That, of course, means that you know what your wife needs. You know a lot of men are not able to love their wives sufficiently because they simply are not dialed in to their wives enough.
They do not know her needs. But we need to recognize that women have certain needs. Yes, most guys get that she has physical needs and many men do a good job of providing for those things. But they miss the many other things that she needs. There are emotional needs, social needs; needs of communication, connection, and recreation.
When you start tending to her on this level, you are going to find that there are a lot of ways to give and to love. You will find that there are plenty of ways you can die to yourself and give up our life on her behalf.
Thirdly, a husband’s love is to be a sanctifying love.
III. It's a sanctifying love
In verses 26-27 Paul says that the reason Christ gave himself up was so that he “might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle.”
Paul is speaking of Christ and the cleansing aspect of his work. Christ came to save us from our sins. He didn’t just seek to save us from the guilt and penalty of sin by giving up his life and taking the punishment we deserved. He had a greater aim. He desired us to be completely free from sin. Part of the reason he died was that we might be saved from the presence of that sin.
His immediate goal was that we might have eternal life, but his real objective was to make us morally pure. His love is displayed in that he seeks to make us righteous and obedient to God.
Think about that guys: If a man is doing his job, he’s going to be very much concerned for the spiritual development of his wife. He’s going to recognize that one of his main duties is to help her develop in that walk with Christ.
Yes, you need to provide financially for your household. You need to work and make sure that she can eat and is clothed. But there’s something even more important than that. God has put you in her life in order that you can help her know him and obey him more.
There’s that portion of a wedding ceremony where the father gives his daughter away. As he places her hands in her new husbands, he’s transferring his authority over to him. Up until that point the father has been the one who has sought to teach her and to guide her in how she was to live. The father and the mother have been the ones who have been praying for her and praying with her. But at the moment he says, “I do,” the husband becomes the one who is in charge of that.
It is not the job of the church. It is not the job of other ladies or her friends with whom she does a bible study. And certainly she’s not to be out on her own when it comes to her spiritual development, as if she graduated the home is now to go it alone. He is to be one of the primary spiritual influences in her life. And he is to be seeking whatever means God has provided to advance her in her holiness before God.
If a man is doing his job and loving her he is going to make sure she is able to come to church with him. He’s going to try and take the kids and free up her time so that she can get to that bible study. He’s going to do that because he knows that is going to strengthen her faith. That exposure to God’s word and to the means of grace will be a way in which he washes her with the word.
But it also means he is going to be in constant prayer for her. He’s also going to be leading family devotions.
Here’s the real clincher: He’s going to be able to confront her and correct her in a way that is going to help to build her up. You know a lot of guys cannot do that. They either lack the grace to admonish and correct; they do it in some way that is lording it over her, or they simply do not have it in them to tell stand up to her and say no.
If you are going to be loving your wife in the way that Christ loved the church, you need to be able to do that though. As I said, God has put you in her life to build her up in the faith. You need to help calm her worries and lead her into a peaceful state of mind. You need to help her focus more on the Lord and less on the things that she fears. You need to help her trust God and know that these patterns of life are the ones that God desires.
As I said before, there’s much more to be said in regards to this. There’s a whole sermon right there. What exactly is a sanctifying love? What does that look like? How do you lead family devotions? How can you help nurture your wife’s faith? How do you correct her when she speaks out of turn? “My wife is not that submissive wife. She’s quite a bear! How do I handle that?” Most men will just run and hide. They are more prone to avoid and dodge things in this regard. They say they just want to keep the peace.
There’s a lot that might need to be learned in this regard. There may be a good deal of courage that they need to muster first.
But it really begins by simply taking this calling to heart. Again, God has put you in her life not just to be a breadwinner. That’s very important, and we don’t want to neglect that part of the role. But we would do well to remember that Christ’s primary aim is to make us holy.
Someday we are going to be presented before the Lord and we are going to find that we are spotless. He is going to cleanse us and make us to be the kind of people we were meant to be. And we as men should understand that this is our calling too.
There is certainly more to say about the role of the men. There is still a fourth point to make. We have not broached verses 28 and following and what it says about a husband’s calling. We need to understand how a man’s love is to be a cherishing one.
But we’ll take that up next time we gather together. It is enough for us to have thought about these first several verses and hwat they say about love.
I want to challenge you men though. I want to challenge you this week to think deeply about what we’ve studied so far. What ways does your love need to change? How can your view of your wife change this week? In what ways can you demonstrate a love that exalts?
Is it a giving love? When it comes to your wife, how exactly are you dying to yourself? What kinds of sacrifices do you need to be making? What exactly are her needs and how can you meet those needs?
And when it comes to her spiritual life, does that have the priority that it should? Are you seeking to lead her spiritually and present her to the Lord as one who is spotless?