Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.(Eph 5:22-23)
We live in a fallen, sin-marred word that is fundamentally broken from the inside out. Understand that. We live in a world where there are sometimes mothers, but no fathers. We live in a world where husbands are emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive. These things do happen and are happening. And they create unique cases in which it is both unsafe and unloving to tell the wife or children to be submissive and obedient.
While acknowledging that this is the case (and having been privileged to be part of a pastoral staff that has to deal with cases like this from time to time), we can still teach the general commandment: Wives, submit to your own husbands. Husband, before you do too much in the way of chest-thumping and self-congratulating, know that your calling is an even heavier one:
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. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Eph 5:25-31)
If your wife has to be the church, you have to be Christ. It is a high and heavy calling – one which we should treat with the utmost gravity and fear. How should I love and lead my wife? Like Jesus loves and leads His church. That is all. There is no wiggle room in this. There is no room for you to be the spineless sitcom dad. There is no room for you to be the gushy, obsessive romantic comedy boyfriend. You get to love her and lead her like Christ. There are no exceptions.
Great, you say. We’ve established that there is a seemingly-impossible standard. But how do we achieve that? How do we live up to that? To try to answer that question, I want to key on to one verse specifically here in Ephesians 5:
…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. (Eph 5:26-27)
Jesus cleanses His bride with the Word. This is part of his High Priestly ministry that He is continually performing so that one day He can present us to His Father as a holy, wholly redeemed bride. Now, that right there is some pretty heavy gospel – and it’s sadly beyond the scope of this writing to deal with all of the joy-laden implications of this passage. Today we will be mainly focused on one of them: how you can mimic Christ (and you are commanded to do so) and love and lead your family like He loves and leads His.
The implicit command of this passage is that we should be “washing” our families with the “water of the Word.” It’s a concept that stretches back all the way to the Old Testament and the Mosaic Law, where parents are charged with taking the commandments of the Law and teaching them to their children:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise… (Deu 6:4-7)
But as in many cases, the Law of Grace is more specific and more demanding than the Law of Moses. Where the Law of Moses commanded the Israelites to teach the commandments of Scripture, a careful word study will show that as Christian husbands and fathers, we have an added responsibility: to diligently search the Word of God for specific messages for our wives and families.
There are two Greek words commonly translated as “word” in Scripture. The first, and most common, is logos, the word from which comes our English word “logic.” This is a term that is used to refer generally to the revelation of Scripture and also to Jesus Christ Himself (John 1:1).
The second word – and the word that Paul uses in Ephesians 5 – is rhema. A rhema is a specific, timely word from God for an individual or situation. Rhema is what happens when the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the logos in a way that applies directly to our lives.
Paul is not telling us that all we need to do to fulfill our role as the spiritual leaders of our home is to read the Bible to our family (though that is certainly an excellent start). He is telling us that we have a responsibility to study the Word of God diligently for guidance, not just for ourselves, but for our family. We are thus responsible not only for our own spiritual growth, but for shepherding the spiritual growth of our wives and children.
- Are you seeking for rhemas from God’s Word for your own life? Or is your Bible time merely nominal or intellectual?
- Are you seeking for rhemas to guide your family? As men, we don’t have the luxury of just studying God’s Word for ourselves – as if that wasn’t important enough.