What is the purpose of marriage? Â Does marriage mainly exist for tax benefits? Â Of course not. Â The Bible states several purposes for marriage:
- Companionship (Gen. 2:18).
- Enjoyment (Prov. 5:15-19,Eccl. 9:9, Song of Solomon). NOTE: Happiness is a purpose for marriage, but unhappiness is not grounds for divorce.
- Procreation (Gen. 1:22,Â 28,Â 8:17,Â 9:1,Â 9:7, etc.).
- Reflection (i.e., “mirroring,” not “meditation”) (Eph. 5:23-32).
This final purpose is, I believe, the paramount function of marriage. Â Paul states that the love a husband has for his wife must reflect the love Christ has for the church (Eph. 5:25), and vice versa.Â More than the meaningless commitment marriage is often found to be in America, Paul reveals that marriage is informed by the relationship between Christ and the church, and is designed to be a picture of that relationship.Â So, â€œHow is a Christian husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church?â€ Â Let’s consider Ephesians 5 together.
What Are The Responsibilities Of Husbands?
Paul begins verse 25 with perhaps the heaviest demand, the highest calling he could have given to husbands.Â He writes, â€œHusbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for herâ€ (Ephesians 5:25).Â So in the same way that Christâ€™s love for the church was sacrificial, giving himself up, so also a Christian husbandâ€™s love for his wife must be sacrificial, continually giving up himself.Â But the passage also implies that Christâ€™s sacrificial love had one primary objectâ€”He gave himself specifically â€œfor her,â€ his bride, the church.Â This means that Christâ€™s giving was for the benefit of the church.Â In the same way, the love of Christian husbands must sacrifice specifically for the good of their own brides, their wives.
One must also notice the intensity and faithfulness of Jesusâ€™ sacrificial love.Â Paul writes, â€œas Christ loved the church andÂ gave himself upÂ for herâ€ (Ephesians 5:25, italics added).Â So Paul says, essentially, â€œThe way husbands love their wives ought to reflect Jesusâ€™ own love for His church, which culminated in the giving up His own life on the cross.â€Â Therefore, husbands are instructed to love their wives with such intensity and faithfulness that they are willing even to give up their own lives for the benefit of their spouses.
Consider the following, as we unpack a bit more the meaning and implications of Paul’s words to husbands:
1) Husbands must embrace their spiritual, authoritative leadership over their wives (Eph. 5:22, 24).
See the study entitled “Husbands: Leaders Like Christ (The Position)” for a deeper explanation of male headship. Â For the purposes of this study, it will suffice to say that husbands must not be passive and/or spineless. Â I too often hear of husbands simply going to work, coming home, eating dinner, and spending the rest of the evening watching television and/or playing video games, effectively forfeiting their leadership in the home. Â Here’s the deal, though. Â To be a husband is be a leader, and while leaders are not domineering, neither are they passive. Â So, what does it look like to provide godly leadership for your wife?
2) Husbands must lead sacrificially (Eph. 5:25).
How was Christ’s love for the church displayed? Â By giving himself up for His bride, the church. Â We see the depths of Christ’s love for His bride in Philippians 2:3-8, which tells us that Christ, the Mighty God (Is. 9:6), descended from His throne on high to become the servant of the men who hated Him. Â And Jesus’ original plan in coming to earth was to be the sin-bearer, the atoning sacrifice, for His bride, the church (Eph. 1:3-10). Â H.D.M. Spence, in the Pulpit Commentary on Ephesians, wrote, “[Christ] gave himself up for her, showing that her happiness and welfare were dearer to him than his own–the true test of deep, real love.” Â Christ’s love for His bride knew no bounds, and neither must your love for your bride.
In practice, this essentially means, “Husbands, let your commitment to do what is best for your wives know no bounds.” Â Do things husbands in American culture are generally expected to do (i.e., mowing grass, taking out trash, etc.). Â Do things husbands in American culture are generallyÂ notÂ expected to do (i.e., washing dishes, folding laundry, vacuuming floors, making beds, dusting furniture, etc.). Â In addition, bring flowers to your wife when it isÂ notÂ Valentine’s Day (my wife likes flowers any time, and while I usually buy her flowers on Valentine’s Day, they seem especially appreciated when she least expects it, which is essentially any day other than Valentine’s Day), learn to care about what she cares about (whatever that is), ask her about her day and take the time to listen (without your iPhone), cuddle up on the couch with your wife, take her to her favorite restaurant, watch one of “her” movies with her (i.e.,Â Little Women, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, The Sound of Music…Â I’ve seen them all), etc. Â The bottom line is that Christian husbands ought to be marked by always doing what is best for their wives, just as Christ always does what is best for the church.
3) Husbands must love their wives the way they love themselves (Eph. 5:28-29).
In Ephesians 5, the church is called the â€œbrideâ€ of Christ, but Paul also uses another word in this passage to describe the relationship between Christ and the church and, by extension, the relationship between husbands and wives: it is the word “body.” Â In verses 28-33a, Paul explains that a husband is to love his wife in the same manner that he loves his own body, for in this manner Christ has loved the church.
So why would Paul use the analogy of the body?Â Paul writes, â€œfor no one ever hated his own fleshâ€ (Ephesians 5:29a).Â In other words, Paulâ€™s reasoning for usingÂ bodyÂ is that by nature people always lookout for themselves.Â All people naturally seek to do what they think is best for them. Â Specifically, Paul argues, people naturally nourish and cherish themselves quite well. Â So Paul commands that husbands love their wives, nourishing and cherishing them the way they would their own bodies.Â But he doesnâ€™t say, â€œHusbands, love your wives as though she were part of your own body.â€Â Rather, he says, â€œHe who loves his wife loves himself.â€Â In other words, although a husband and a wife are two people, they are, as Paul points out in verse 31, quoting Genesis 2:24, also one flesh.Â In other words, there is a mysterious union between husbands and wives so that the two become one flesh, so that to nourish and cherish your wife is to nourish and cherish yourself.
But what does Paul mean by â€œnourishâ€ and â€œcherish?â€Â â€œThe wordÂ nourishÂ (ektrephei) is most often used in the Bible for raising children and providing them with what they need, but the part of that meaning that applies here is not that the husband is a parent but that he is a caring providerâ€ (John Piper).Â And what about cherish?Â â€œPaulâ€™s only other use of this verb is in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, where, in powerful imagery, he speaks of his love for the Thessalonians: â€˜we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares (thalpo) for her own childrenâ€™ (nasb).Â He develops his thought in the next verse by saying: â€˜Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear [beloved] to usâ€™ (1 Thessalonians 2:8,Â nasb). . . . The one â€œcherishedâ€ is the one to whom one gives not only the highest good, the gospel, but also oneâ€™s very own life because that one is â€˜belovedâ€™â€ (Piper & Grudem, p.173).Â The reality here is in the same way Jesus Christ loves the church as Himself and is permanently committed to her, a wife ought to never wonder who or what it is in the world her Christian husband loves the most.
4) Husbands should lead their wives to maturity in Christ (Eph. 5:26-27).
Verses 26-27 reveal to us that Jesusâ€™ sacrificial love for the church is aimed specifically at the churchâ€™s sanctification, or spiritual maturation, for the ultimate purpose of presenting to Himself a beautiful bride. Â Paul tells us that Jesus accomplished (past tense) the justification (God graciously declaring sinners to be right with Him by faith in the work of Christ as their substitute, who lived the life the sinner was required to live, and died the death the sinner was required to die) of His people, â€œhaving cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, which is a reference to the purifying, perfecting, cleansing power of the gospel of Christ that is revealed in the Word of God. Â However, while Christ accomplished the justification of believers, declaring them to be holyÂ positionally, Christ is still accomplishing the sanctification (spiritual maturation) of believers, growing them in holiness practically (i.e., in the way they live). Â We find here in this text the reality thatÂ Jesus took for Himself a filthy, undeserving bride, and began cleansing her, though she continually struggle to value Him, and has committed Himself to purifying her in every way.
Given that only Christ can accomplish much of what is mentioned in verses 26 and 27, Paul’s point seems to be to highlight the purposefulness of the role of the husband in wanting and seeking to aid and assist in the spiritual maturation of his wife. Â As an extension of verse 25 where Paul instructs husbands to love their wives â€œas Christ loved the church gave himself upÂ for her,â€ Paul illustrates in verses 26-27 that husbandsâ€™ love for their wives ought to be specifically for her benefit.Â Just as Christâ€™s love works specifically for the well being of the church, so husbands ought to be concerned with the general, and particularly spiritual, well being of their wives.
I have often wished Paul would’ve taken a moment here to explain exactly how this should look in marriage, but he didn’t. Â In light of the whole of Scripture, however, I believe there are many things we can deduce regarding how this should look.
First, husbands ought to model godliness for their wives. Â Modeling godliness should express itself in a personal commitment to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, evangelism, faithfulness in gathering with believers for worship, humble serving, fasting, and the proper stewardship of time, talents and treasure (resources). Â In other words, husbands will provide a great service to their wives if they genuinely love God. Â The husband who does these things will likely have no need for a “how-to” section on purposefully loving your wife.
Additionally, husbands should pray with and for their wives. Â Pray the psalms together. Â Pray the model prayer from Matthew 6 together. Â Pray Paul’s prayers together. Â However and whatever you pray, let the Word of God shape your prayer time. Â Further, ask her regularly how you can be praying for her. Â Send her text messages from work letting her know what exactly you are praying for her that morning.
5) Husbands must recognize the permanence of the marriage covenant (5:26-27).
Do you ever think about the meaning of the word “permanent.” Â It means, “existing perpetually; everlasting, especially without significant change” (dictionary.com). Â The love Jesus has for His people will never end… ever. Â Sadly, marriage in America often (over 50% of the time, in fact… even among those who gather together in church buildings with some kind of regularity) is anything but permanent. Â Verses 26-27 tell us what Jesus is doing for His bride, and, again, there is no exception clause. Â He devoted Himself to her permanently. Â And Paul describes the permanence of Christ’s covenant with His bride in Romans 8:31-39 and in Ephesians 1:3-14. Â Listen to the beauty of these words:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Â He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Â Who shall bring any charge against Godâ€™s elect? It is God who justifies. Â Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who diedâ€”more than that, who was raisedâ€”who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Â Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Â As it is written,
â€œFor your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.â€
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Â For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, Â nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Â In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in ChristÂ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,Â so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.Â In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
These passages are overflowing with the language of permanence, as should your marriage be. Â Husbands must put into practice Jesus’ command regarding marriage, which they have likely heard if they have attending many weddings: “What God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mt. 19:6, Mk. 10:9). Â Your love and devotion to your wife should last for “as long as you both shall live.”
6) Husbands must remember that none of these responsibilities are contingent on the “good behavior” of their wives.
Every man wants to be respected by his wife. Â And Christ wants to be respected by His bride, the church. Â And it is for this reason that Paul concludes his explanation of marriage with the words, “let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Â But the temptation is to only lead your wife in a decidedly loving, sacrificial and purposeful way when she is giving you the respect you crave.
But husbands must notice something in the text. Â Actually, husbands must notice something not in the text. Â There is no “out,” no exception clause, for husbands anywhere in Paul’s explanation (for the record, there is not one in Peter’s explanation of marriage either). Â There is no, “But she did ______, and doesn’t deserve the kind of treatment I’ve been giving her!” Â The immediate question is, “Well, do you deserve the kind of treatment Jesus, after whom you are to model your treatment of your wife, gives you?” Â Jesus’ sacrificial, purposeful love for you has no escape clauses, and neither does your sacrificial, purposeful love for your wife. Â Your wife should never have grounds to question your love for and devotion to her, even in the moments when she is clearly undeserving.
The Need For Husbands To Lead Like Christ
Is being a husband a challenging role? Â Absolutely. Â Husbands are to model the self-sacrificing, purposeful, decisive, loving leadership that Christ demonstrates towards His bride, the Church.
Is being a husband an essential role? Â Absolutely. Â Marriage is the window through which the world may look to see the relationship that exists between Christ and the church.
Husbands, whatever humility you need to pursue, whatever forgiveness you need to ask, whatever sacrifices you need to make, whatever perspectives you need to change, do not make a mockery of Christ’s relationship to the church. Â The world is in desperate need of seeing the true beauty of the infinitely satisfying, deeply intimate relationship that exists between Christ and His bride, and your marriage is to be the reflection of that.
Resources Used For This Study:
- Duncan, Ligon. Â “Love Your Wife (3)”
- Hughes, R. Kent.Â Ephesians.
- Jones, D. Martyn.Â An Exposition or Ephesians 5:18-6:9.
- Piper, John and Wayne Grudem.Â Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
- Piper, John.Â Lionhearted and Lamblike: The Christian Husband as Head, Part 1.
- Piper, John.Â Lionhearted and Lamblike: The Christian Husband as Head, Part 2.
- Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.