Husbands

 •  16 min. read  •  grade level: 9
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no Man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself” (Eph. 5:25-3325Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. (Ephesians 5:25‑33)).
“Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col. 3:1919Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. (Colossians 3:19)).
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:77Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)).
The duty of the husband is quite as simple as that of the wife. As hers is comprised in the word “obedience,” his is contained in that of “love.” The wife, if a direction sent to a special class be excepted (Titus 2:44That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, (Titus 2:4)), is never commanded to love her husband. It is taken for granted that she will do so; and, as a matter of fact, she seldom fails in this direction. Even though she may be unequally yoked—be united to one who has not the least sympathy with her holiest feelings, and receive little but unkindness, her love will survive the harshest treatment. Crushed and trodden under foot, it will spring up and greet the first display of kindness with a forgiving embrace. It is a perennial fountain. But with the husband it is often otherwise. With fewer of the tender emotions, engrossed by his daily occupations, and exposed, it may be, to severer temptations, his danger is to forget his responsibility to love—or at least to manifest his love to—his chosen wife. Hence the Spirit of God recalls his responsibility to mind, and gives this injunction, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:25-2625Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:25‑26)).
(1.) Let us consider what is to be the character of the husband's love as here enjoined. “Husbands love your wives, even as Christ loved the church. It is a most wonderful standard; and no doubt here introduced because of the typical character of true marriage, because the primal marriage between Adam and Eve displayed, in figure, the union between Christ and the church. This should ever teach us the sanctity and real character of marriage before God. What then, we may inquire, was the character of Christ's love to the church? The answer is here given. First, He proved it by giving Himself for it (vs. 25); and He gave Himself to death for it, and thereby in fact purchased His bride. “He gives Himself; it is not only His life, true as that is, but Himself. All that Christ was has been given, and given by Himself; it is the entire devotedness and giving of Himself. And now all that is in Him—His grace, His righteousness, His acceptancy with the Father, His wisdom, the excellent glory of His person, the energy of divine love that can give itself—all is consecrated to the welfare of the assembly. There are no qualities, no excellencies in Christ, which are not ours in their exercise consequent on the gift of Himself. He has already given them, and consecrated them to the blessing of the assembly which He has given Himself to have. Not only are they given, but He has given them; His love has accomplished it.” And this gift of Himself is greatly enhanced when we remember that it was upon the cross that this gift was consummated. Secondly, His love is displayed in His sanctifying and cleansing the church with the washing of water by the word (vs. 26). This exhibition of love is a present thing, that which goes on now, and by which He suits it to Himself. “It is important to remark that Christ does not here sanctify the assembly to make it His own, but makes it His own to sanctify it. It is first His, then He suits it to Himself.” The means is the word, the washing of water by the word, the truth taught in John 13 by the washing of the disciples' feet by the Lord. And there, it will be remembered, it is in connection with His love. “Having loved His own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” The sanctifying and cleansing of the church is thus the expression of His abiding and unchanging love—love that finds its delight in making it morally suitable to Himself, and hence never wearies in watching over, tending, and preparing it for Himself. Thirdly, the fruit of His love is seen in the object lie has before Him—” that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it might be holy and without blemish.” This refers to the time when the Lord shall have returned to receive His church to Himself, or more exactly, to the period indicated when it is said, “The marriage of the Lamb is come” (Rev. 19:77Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. (Revelation 19:7)), when the church as the bride is perfected in glory, “having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (Rev. 21:1111Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; (Revelation 21:11)). And never until then will the measure and extent of Christ's love for the church be apprehended, because then its effect and consummation will be displayed.
And wherefore have we this wondrous description of the love of Christ for the church? To show what should be the character of the husband's love for His wife. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church. Not to press too closely the comparison in all its parts, we yet cannot fail to observe, that as Christ's love preceded His giving Himself for the church, so there cannot be a true union in the sight of God unless it has sprung from love. Love, and love only, should be the motive of the choice; and love must cement and beautify the union when formed. The whole element of the married life should be love; and not only so, but if the husband looks upon the standard here given, he will see that the one and constant demand the wife will make upon him is for love. His love must endure—survive all trials, unweariedly seeking to draw his wife closer and closer to himself, and ever keeping before him (as to earth) the object of a union which, as it has sprung from, can only be cemented by, an unchanging and indefatigable love. Nothing less can be intended by this divine model. A special application may perhaps not be out of place. Many a Christian husband finds himself united to an unbeliever; but his duty remains the same. And as the love of Christ seeks the eternal blessedness of the church, so the love of the husband will not be satisfied with seeking to secure the present comfort and happiness of his wife; but it will be exhibited in watchful and tender ministry of that word which brings the knowledge of salvation, through faith in the Lord Jesus. Every husband indeed will feel the obligation of caring for the spiritual welfare of his wife; for it is in this direction that his love will more nearly partake of the same character as that of Christ for the church. Truly therefore marriage, according to God, is no unimportant thing; and the more deeply this is felt, the greater will the husband feel the need of constant dependence, in order in any way to meet his responsibility. And, it may be added, the more constantly he is himself abiding in the sense of Christ's love, the more freely will his love flow out towards his wife.
2. But again it is added, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his with even as himself” (Eph. 5:28-3328So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. (Ephesians 5:28‑33)). Here we are carried back, as has been remarked, to the garden of Eden, to the creation and presentation of Eve to Adam, which in itself is a manifest figure of the union between Christ and the church; and this fact accounts for the way in which the apostle weaves the two things in these exhortations. (See Gen. 2:21-2521And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 25And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:21‑25)). The union is thus looked upon as so complete—as Adam said of Eve, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh;” and again, “They shall be one flesh”—That it is said, so ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. In this aspect, self-love is to be the measure of a man's love to his wife; and as this is one of the instincts of our nature—and naturally its governing principle—it is impossible to conceive of a more definite and comprehensive direction. Let therefore the oneness of the union—they two shall be one flesh—be apprehended, and love will follow; for the husband will then no more consider his wife as distinct from, but as a part of himself. Thus whatever touches her, will touch him; and his self-love, moving now in a wider circle, includes her, and all that affects and concerns her, within its embrace. All that he desires for himself he will also desire for his wife; all the care he exercises for himself he will exercise for her; and all that he receives he will receive for her as well as for himself. In a word, all the good he seeks, and all the evil he deprecates, he will also seek and deprecate for his wife, as for himself; for together they are “one flesh,” and therefore he that loveth his wife loveth himself. The word of God provides in this way a perfect antidote against selfishness, and leads out the husband in self-sacrifice, which is the fruit of all true love, and which finds its highest exemplification in Christ, who loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.
We have said that self-love is to be the measure, in the aspect considered, of the husband's love for his wife; but it is remarkable how this also is connected with Christ, teaching us that in no human self-love, but only in the love of Christ for the church, can its true pattern and example be found. For, giving the other side, the apostle proceeds: “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.” It should again be added, if we would have a full sense of the responsibility, that this obligation of love is also irrespective of the character of the wife. No amount of unworthiness in the wife, short of the one sin specified by our Lord, can excuse the husband from the duty of love; for Christ loves the church unceasingly, and spite of all faults and failures, and even worse; yea, He is even seeking to wean her from her faults, and to cleanse her from her defilements by His perfect charity; and His love, be it ever remembered, is the model of that of the husband, It may be that he will fail to copy it in its infinite perfection; but notwithstanding, it is His love which the husband must ever have before his eyes. Behold in this the wisdom of God; for here is the provision to direct the gaze of the husband to Christ, to keep Him before his soul, and thereby he will surely be drawn into imitation of His love; for no one ever failed while his eye and heart were fixed upon Christ.
(3.) The apostle Peter confines himself to certain aspects of the husband's responsibility. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:77Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)).
To dwell with the wife “according to knowledge,” is to have the relationship, and the affections proper to it, ordered by the truth, by the knowledge which the Christian has of the relationship in the sight of God. And this is exceedingly important; for herein lies the difference between the believer and the unbeliever in these relative positions; and it behooves the Christian to act, in all these according to the new place in which he has been brought by the death and resurrection of Christ. The Christian husband will therefore dwell with his wife according to the truth of his union with his wife, as revealed in the Scriptures.
Moreover, he is to give honor to his wife, and on two grounds. First, on the natural ground, that she is the weaker vessel. There is little doubt that this reference is to the more delicate frame and organization of the woman, requiring and deserving more gentle and more tender treatment. So that just as weakness constitutes a claim upon strength for consideration and support, so the wife as “the weaker vessel” has a claim upon her husband for thoughtful, loving watchfulness and care. He is to give her honor by rendering her all the attention which her more delicate nature requires. It is possible, however, that there may be a reference to the fact that “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Tim. 2:1414And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. (1 Timothy 2:14)), that she thus showed herself to be “the weaker vessel,” by being the first to fall through the subtlety of the devil. More easily acted on, especially through the affections, she thus needs and demands from her husband vigilant and tender care to shield her from the peculiar temptations to which, with her weaker nature, she is constantly exposed. But, secondly, this exhortation is grounded in grace as well as in nature, “as being heirs together of the grace of life.” In Christ there is neither male nor female (Gal. 3:2828There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)). All natural distinctions therefore, as constituting any relative superiority in Christ, are abolished. While therefore the husband claims the natural obedience of his wife, he must never forget that, if they are both children of God, they are together “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:1717And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:17)). And as such he is to give honor unto his wife; for these natural ties, and these relative connections, are only for earth; and when the Lord comes to receive His people unto Himself, husbands and wives will alike be caught up together in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and then both will be like unto Christ, and be forever with Him.
Attention to this injunction is the more needful for the reason given, “that your prayers be not hindered.” It is pre-supposed that husband and wife will habitually unite in prayer; and hence the warning is, that any failure in the husband to give honor unto his wife will tend to disturb harmony of feeling, and thus to hinder prayer. It were well if all Christian husbands and wives would often ponder these words. For in the activities of this present time there is great danger of neglecting this united prayer; and the slightest disturbance of concord will ever tempt them to neglect it the more. Satan knows this, and hence he ever seeks to cloud over the peace of these relationships; for he does not forget that it is impossible for husband and wife to go together to the throne of grace when there is the smallest discord in their hearts. The husband must watch against this snare, remembering the importance of their prayers not being hindered. For how many things are there constantly occurring in every family which need to be spread out before God! And how blessed it is when husband and wife can go together, with one heart, concerning every difficulty and perplexity, to the throne of grace!
(4.) There is one thing the husband is taught to avoid: “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col. 3:1919Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. (Colossians 3:19)). It might be thought that if the love were secured there would be no place left for the bitterness. But is it so in the actual experience of life? Many a husband who truly loves his wife drops, in moments of unwatchfulness, when out of the presence of God, hasty words, which are as bitter as gall to a tender heart. The object of the warning seems thus to be to secure the constant exercise of a spirit of self-judgment, so that the husband may avoid everything that might fret or irritate the spirit of his wife. Bitterness—whatever the provocation—is to be carefully eschewed; and it will be done the more easily if he but remember his responsibility to love his wife, even as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it.
Such, then, are the divine requirements from the husband. We might perhaps shrink from them, if we did not remember that He who enjoins them is ever at hand to supply the needed grace, and to enable us to walk according to His word. The power for such a walk is found in the Holy Spirit who dwells within us; and inasmuch as He ever leads us to Christ, we shall find that the path thus indicated is one of peace and blessing, leading us into the enjoyment of a fellowship which adumbrates, by no means dimly, that between Christ and the church. As Christ to the church, so is the husband to the wife. To fulfill therefore the duties of a husband needs that Christ in His love to the church should ever be before the soul; and then, if the eye be but upon Christ, there will be transformation into His likeness (2 Cor. 3:1818But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)), and the consequent expression of Christ in the relationship which the husband sustains towards his wife.