So What Are Husbands Supposed To Do?
“Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious—not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
Much ink has been spilled in the discussion of the command for wives to be subject to their husbands. To be sure, this command is counter-cultural, so it naturally creates more waves than the command to husbands: “love your wives”. But I want to explain today that the command to husbands is similarly counter-cultural and, perhaps, equally difficult as the command to wives.
We are told that husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the church. Many have pointed out that Christ died for the church, so husbands should “be willing to die for our wives”. Many have pointed out that husbands should also “die daily” for our wives in a metaphorical way. This means that husbands should always sacrificially serve them.
Yes, husbands should be willing to die for their wives. And yes, husbands should die daily (or live daily, as some have put it) to meet the needs of their wives. But many sermons and commentaries miss Paul’s point when they stop there. Paul isn’t just saying husbands should meet the needs of wives. He’s saying they need to care about their wives’ most important need: becoming sanctified, becoming more like Christ. Husbands need sanctify their wives like Christ sanctifies the church.
How do they do that? “By the word”, Paul says. God’s word naturally has a sanctifying effect. A husband’s word by itself cannot sanctify his wife. But a husband who follows God’s word and incorporates it in his leadership of his home will bring sanctification to his wife.
A godly husband will diligently set out to understand and apply God’s word to himself and his family. Consequently, the wife of a Christian man should be more spiritually mature because of her relationship with her husband.
More could be said about this, but this much is certain: the goal God sets for husbands here is a sacrificial goal. Husbands committed to sanctifying their wives will have to fight against their own immaturity, ignore their desire for approval, and forgo many other pursuits that might otherwise occupy their attention.
There are a few important applications here:
- Single women who wish to marry should only marry a man who internalizes the word well enough to be capable of obeying this task.
- Single men who wish to marry need to wait. They aren't ready until they have a pattern of resisting habitual sins (like substance abuse and pornography) and producing spiritual fruit. Until you can be led by the Lord, you can’t lead others.
- Christian husbands need to recognize their job description and strive to do it, even if they are presently failing. If that’s you, understand that everyone has to start somewhere. Join a small group. Find a mentor.
It’s also important to realize that Christian fathers have a similar calling to apply God’s word to the hearts of their children, “Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)