As a concrete thinker I generally have a hard time grasping new concepts. My first response to something new is, “Give me an example.” If I can just visualize by way of an example I feel I can better grasp what is being presented. For many people love is a tricky concept.
Many people believe love is merely an emotion. Like, two teens in high school who feel attracted to each other, and therefore believe they are “in love.” As time goes on most people realize that loving someone is more than mere attraction – it requires action. Thankfully, when husbands are told to love their wives, they are not left without example. In Ephesians 5:25-33 Paul instructs husbands how they are to love their wives:
“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.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
For Christians, specifically men here, God has given us the supreme example of how to love our wives in Christ. It is through Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross that provides for us the supreme example of how husbands are to love their wives. In this post we will look at three points Paul is communicating in Ephesians 5:28-33.
First, husbands are to love their wives sacrificially. The church is the bride of Christ just as a husbands wife is his bride. Christ “loved the church”, His bride, by giving “Himself up for her.” (vs. 25) The cross gives us a picture of the sacrificial love God has for His bride. Though a picture, it is more than that. Christ did not hang on a cross and endure suffering without death to show us love – He actually died physically for us and experienced a degree of separation from His Father for us. Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 that even “even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There was nothing lovely about us, except that God, in His triune self, purposed to save a people for Himself, His bride, whom the Son gave Himself for in order to purchase their redemption. The Son left His place next to the Father in order to become a man so that He could die for His people. The self-sacrifice of Christ provides the reason and example for why husbands are to give themselves to their wives.
Men, when was the last time you gave up something you wanted or needed so that your wife could have something she wanted or needed? It might be giving up buying another book, or new fishing rod, or new hunting gear. Have you ever given up an activity or not gone to an event and felt the pain of sacrifice? This is what Christ did for His bride. This is what Christ did for you and this is what you are to do for your wife.
Second, husbands are love their wives spiritually. Has it ever occurred to you that as a husband you are in a way responsible for the spiritual health of your wife? It was not until my second year in seminary that this idea was presented to me. I remember sitting in chapel as a guest speaker preached from Ephesians 5 25-33. I will never forget how he challenged the men to take responsibility for their wives sanctification. This is not to say we are wholly responsible for their spiritual lives but it is to say that, as the spiritual head of the home, we need to make sure our wives do not fall back spiritually because of our lack of spiritual leadership. Just as we work out our own salvation, we need to be there for our wives to help them as well. This means we need to make sure we are walking with the Lord ourselves. We cannot offer the spring of living water to others if we are not first drinking of it ourselves. Through the Holy Spirit in our lives, Christ is guiding us in our sanctification so that we might be presented “without spot or wrinkle.” (vs. 27). Husbands too, as we are accountable to God for how we lead our families, need to be actively involved in our spouses spiritual lives as we bathe them in the Word.
Third, husbands are to love their wives as they love themselves. Sometime the absence of things stated in Scripture can have meaning. I find it ironic that while we are told to love everyone else, including God, we are never told to love ourselves. In fact, in the second commandment to love others, we, ourselves, are the example of how we are to love others, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39).
In Ephesians 5:28-33 Paul uses a slightly different reason for why husbands are to love their wives. Husbands are to love their wives because they are a part of them. “For no one ever hated his own flesh.” In Genesis 2:24 we are told that when a man and a woman are married they become “one flesh.” There is a joining together at marriage that cannot be separated. Paul says that “he who loves his wife loves himself.” (vs. 28) This is because they are one flesh. It is in the best interest of the husband to love his wife because in doing so he is contributing to the well-being of his own life. Doing what is best for his wife is also doing what is best for him. This is not a selfish love. It is a love that does what is best for the one flesh the two have become.
Though a little trite, the saying “a happy wife is a happy life” has a lot of truth to it. You will rarely meet a happy man who does not also have a happy wife. Conversely, an unhappy man probably has an unhappy wife. As the bride of Christ, Paul says there is a mystical union between Christ and the church, His blood bought people. Christ does what is best for the church because it is in some part of Him. He has given Himself for her, joined Himself to her and now lives for her. As believers we are joined to Christ and Christ loves His bride.
A husband who doesn’t sacrificially love his wife is not only hurting his wife, he is hurting himself as well by tearing at his own flesh. Husbands, how are you loving your wife and continuing to build your marriage? Can you identify some areas of growth and needed change in your marriage? Husbands, though you many complain that your father never set a good example of how to love a wife, you are not without one. Look to Christ, who, in loving His bride the church, provided the supreme example of how a husband is to love his wife. From the cradle to the cross, Christ loves His bride and now calls husbands to look to Him even as they lead their wives as Christ leads His church. As husbands love Jesus they will naturally grow in their love for their wives. As husbands do so, they will reflect the love Christ has for His bride, the church.