Ephesians 5: 25 (NKJV). 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
This week in our study of biblical marriage, we have been focusing on the New Testament and Ephesians 5 in particular. The very last verse of this chapter tells us that the most important thing about marriage is love and respect. Both want love and both deserve to be respected. However, there is something about the makeup of each gender that causes them to want and need them differently. Men want love but need respect. Women want respect but they need to know they are loved.
Yesterday we looked at verses 22 – 24 in detail. They clearly state that wives are to submit to their own husbands in the Lord. It does not say they must unconditionally obey. It does not say that women must submit to men. It says wives submit to their own husbands in the Lord. There are times when a woman simply will not submit in a marriage. However, it is my contention as a man that the problem is more often that the man is not “in the Lord” and is therefore not worthy to be submitted to.
There is no question that women can be just as much at fault for marriage problems. I am a man and I believe that if we are to be the leaders we bear the greater responsibility. My wife tends to focus on the wife’s responsibility more than I do. Perhaps I can get her to share some of her insights. The most important thing to remember is that we each bring something to the table in marriage. I cannot change my wife. I can change myself. If I focus on that, I must trust the Lord to deal with my wife. Of course, that goes both ways.
What does it mean when this verse says “in the Lord” concerning the husband? I believe this is talking about a Christian marriage. That is not to say that the principle of marital submission by the wife does not apply in a marriage where either one is not a Christian. I do think it applies differently. I do not have room to cover both in this space, so I will concentrate on the Christian husband.
If I am a man and a Christian and I want my wife to submit to me, I need to be functioning “in the Lord.” To me that means I need to be walking in my Christianity. I need to function according to Christian principles in my life. I need to be honest, walk in integrity and have good character. I need to walk in love and faith. I need to apply holiness and righteousness to my lifestyle. More important, I need to do all those things in my marriage relationship.
One of my counseling techniques with couples is to go to 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul defines the love of God. I ask them to put their name in each time the word love appears. I then ask them if they can say that is how they act towards their husband or wife. We often apply this scripture to our relationships in church or in the world but not in the home. If your spouse were a coworker would you treat him or her the way you do. Think about it.
This is true for both, but it is especially true for the husband. Three verses in this part of Ephesians 5 focus on the need for the wife to submit to her husband and one mentions respect. Seven verses speak of the husbands need to love his wife. Which is really emphasized in Paul’s teaching? I would suggest it is not the wife’s need to submit. It is the husband’s need to love as Christ loved the Church.
How am I to love my wife? 1 Corinthians 13 is a good general picture but Paul gives us a more specific picture here. First, he tells us to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. If I am going to love my wife, I must do for her what Jesus did for the church. When Paul says he gave himself for her he means Christ died for the church.
Men, you have every right to expect your wife to submit to you just as long as you die for her! I can hear some of my macho brothers saying, “I’d take a bullet for my wife!” Oh that it were that easy. The hard part is not dying physically for my wife. Jesus did that for the church but he also gave his whole destiny for it. He sacrificed his will for the church. (Mathew 26:36) The story of the garden of Gethsemane tells us that Jesus’ flesh did not want to go to the cross but he went anyway.
Paul often speaks of dying but not in a physical sense. In 1 Corinthians 15:31 he tells us he “dies daily.” That certainly does not mean physical death. He speaks of being crucified with Christ and of dying to the flesh. As a husband and a leader in my home that is the dying I am required to do. Not only that, but I am to die or give myself for my wife.
It is my responsibility to die to what I want and give myself for what my wife wants and needs. I must not just do what is good for me in work, career and recreation. I must do what is best for my wife. Even in the bedroom, I must die for my wife. I could give all kinds of examples but I think you get the idea.
As you read these verses, it is evident that Jesus took the responsibility for providing salvation for the church. Each person had to choose to accept it and walk in the power of it. It is up to us as husbands to die for our wives. We are to provide an atmosphere of love and protection. We are to place our needs behind her needs: Our desires behind her desires. In my experience, most women have little trouble submitting under those circumstances.
Let me look at one more verse.
Ephesians 5:29 (NKJV) 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.
I like the word cherish. The Greek word implies the idea of brooding as in the way a bird hatches an egg. The mother protects the egg. The word also means to warm. When I cherish something, I protect it and I take especially good care of it. Paul says we should cherish our wives as we cherish our own flesh. Nothing is as important to us as our own flesh, but there are some other examples that may help to clarify what this means.
Maybe you had a possession you cherished. For many men in America that possession is a car. When I get a new car, I like to keep it clean. I wash it and polish it. I like to look out the window at it. If I let someone drive it at all, I make sure to tell them loudly and often to be careful. I cherish that car.
We might cherish a possession that has a special meaning to us. Maybe someone we love or loved gave it to us. Maybe it is valuable. We put it in a safe place. We make sure it is in good condition. We might display it in a special way. All of these things portray the idea of cherishing.
As the leader of my home, I am to cherish my wife. I am to care for her, protect her and display her proudly. I am to make sure she knows how much I cherish her. Men, many of us do not tend to show affection easily. Nevertheless, you are not just a man you are a husband. Learn! Tell her you love her. Show her you cherish her. Be the leader in your home. Not by bullying or declaring, “I’m the man of house woman, and you will submit!”
Lead by loving and cherishing. Make it your goal in life to cherish your wife. Most women will respond to that. They were designed to respond to that kind of treatment. You will be surprised. One brother said, “Marriage is the closest thing to either heaven or hell there is on earth.” Husbands, take the leadership role in making it heaven on earth.