This article looks at the husband's task to love his wife and the husband's task as head of his wife.

Source: The Outlook, 1991. 3 pages.

God's Design for Husbands

John and Mary were having severe conflicts in their marriage. They went to a psychiatrist (who professed to do Christian counseling) as they sought to get their problems resolved. He did them more harm than good. There were several factors contributing to the breakdown of John and Mary's mar­riage. A major factor was that Mary was not at all convinced that she should submit to her husband as the head of the home. So she functioned accordingly. Their counselor helped to convince her she need not recognize John as head of the home. Problems in their marriage and family kept getting worse and worse. Disharmony and confusion prevailed. The children were suffering the sad consequences. This type of thing is happening a lot today. Failure to accept and live by the head­ship principle, as set forth by Paul in Ephesians 5, contributes greatly to on­going conflicts in many homes.

Was Paul Culturally Conditioned?🔗

Many are getting the message from leaders within the Christian community that Paul was culturally conditioned when he wrote that wives must submit to their husbands as to the Lord, that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church. The primary idea propagated is that Paul was a male chauvinist because he lived in a society in which males dominated; women were suppressed and enjoyed little recognition. It is said by some that if Paul were to write today, he would certainly not say such things. In this age of much greater enlightenment he would grant women equal authority with men.

What must be said about this? In the first place it must be noted that to say such things about Paul (or any other writer of Scripture), is to hold that he was in error and did women a gross injustice. This is a practical denial of the fact that the Holy Spirit is the primary author of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21). Without doubt Paul held firmly to the position he set forth in Ephesians 5. He was also moved, carried along by the Holy Spirit to set forth a divine truth, God's design for the relationship between husband and wife.

Furthermore, if we notice the im­mediate context of the passage in which Paul writes about the relation­ship between husband and wife, it be­comes abundantly clear that there is no valid reason to hold that he was culturally conditioned. Look at the practical instruction he gives just prior to this on how Christians must live in a sinful society, in contrast to the way of the ungodly. Think for example, of Ephesians 5:3, 4: "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual im­morality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people." And look at Ephesians 5:18-20: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for every­thing, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Would you dare say that Paul wrote this only because he was cul­turally conditioned? Is it not true these are divine directives for us to live by today?

Now look at the verses immediately following Paul's statement that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church. He says,

Hus­bands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her ... to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.Ephesians 5:25-28

A bit later he writes: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother... Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."                                                            Ephesians 6:1-4

Is it valid to say Paul wrote this only because he was cul­turally conditioned, therefore we need not live by it today? Of course not! Is there any valid reason, then, to hold that idea of cultural conditioning as he wrote about the husband-wife relation­ship (in three short verses)? No!

For hundreds of years Bible-believ­ing Christians have understood this and lived by it. The clear teaching of the Bible is that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church. Husbands have the divine mandate to exercise headship authority. This belongs to the very essence of marriage as instituted by God. No church synod, presbytery or council can change that. No one - just no one - can ever possibly change it!

Let me urge you, for God's glory, for your good and that of your children and future generations, do not allow any pressure group (such as the militant feminist organizations), educators or professionals, persuade you to reject this headship principle (see also 1 Peter 3:1-6). These include college and seminary professors, theologians and ministers. Do not let any of them make you believe they alone can properly interpret Scripture. That is a pre-Reformation idea. Hold tenaciously to what you see is clearly taught in Scripture. This is the way of God's blessing for a happy marriage and family life.

The Lord willing, later we will con­sider the manner in which the Chris­tian wife must respect and submit to her husband as head of the home. Now we continue our consideration of God's design for Christian husbands, how they must function in the role God has given them.

Reflect the Love of Christ for the Church🔗

The husband then, may exercise authority pretty much as he pleases? He may run rough-shod over his wife's feelings and desires? He may ignore her needs? Make decisions without consulting or discussing matters with her? The husband may say to his wife, "Jump!" and she has to ask, "How high?" It's okay for him to treat his wife as if she were his servant, or a "nobody"? What about that? Absolute­ly not!

It must be admitted that many hus­bands have treated their wives much like that. But the problem is not with God's arrangement. The trouble is with the sinful abuse of authority which God has given to the husband and father in the home. Sometimes it is in part due to terrible ignorance or misunderstanding of how one must function in the home. Anyone who has treated his wife in such a manner must repent of his sinful behavior and learn how to live as God requires.

Paul gives very specific directions - basic principles - for Christian hus­bands to live by. He says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her..." Ephesians 5:25

By that he does not mean only because Christ loved the church. He means: The manner in which Christ loved the church. It is the high calling and privilege of every Christian husband to follow the model provided by Christ in His loving leadership over the church. Husbands, Christ is your perfect model, to learn from and follow. Emulate Him! Al­ways seek to faithfully reflect the love of Christ for the church as you live daily with your wife.

But, can anyone actually do that? Not perfectly! For we have our weak, sinful nature and the devil's opposition to contend with. However, the very fact that Paul directs us to do so indi­cates we can begin to approximate the Lord's loving leadership over the church. It is possible through the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in every Christian. This should be an en­couragement and an incentive for every Christian husband to prayerfully work at it.

To learn more about what love means we must consider more con­cretely the love of Christ for the church.

Christ's Love is Self-Giving, Self-Denying🔗

"...Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." (Ephesians 5:25). In his letter to the Galatians Paul makes it very personal, "...who loved me and gave himself for me." Who was Jesus always thinking about? Who is always on His heart now? His people, the church, His redeemed bride. It was always a total self-denying love. How far did He go? He gave His life for us! Totally! Nothing was too much for us. It is so clear: A Christian husband must always be thinking (next to his commitment to Christ), first of all about his wife, her wellbeing and her happiness. He must never be self-centered, self-seeking; his must always be a self-giving, self-sacrificing love.

This Affects Daily Living🔗

If you are a Christian husband, all of your planning and decision making which affects your wife and family, must be done in such a way that it reflects the love of Christ for His church. Do not then, be guided primarily by what you desire or even perceive to be your personal needs.

Self-giving, self-sacrificing love will move you to seek to meet your wife's needs. This includes her physical, material, social, emotional, recreation­al and spiritual needs. Do all you can to make life pleasant and sweet for her. Paul also writes,

In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church...Ephesians 5:28, 29

The Apostle Peter writes, "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heir with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."1 Peter 3:7

He doesn't mean you should treat her as a weak­ling. But rather treat her as a precious vessel. Seek to really know and under­stand her. At the same time, lovingly bear patiently with her shortcomings and failures. Always respect her as one who is like you, a saint, cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, ac­cepted totally in Him and clothed in His righteousness. Treat her as your equal, heirs together of the gracious gifts of God, struggling against sin, seeking to faithfully serve Him. Your love for your wife must be uncondi­tional and perpetual, as is Christ's love for the church.

Be sure never to behave as many husbands do today. They think primarily of pleasing themselves. So they are sure to enjoy their time of rest, relaxation, entertainment, recreational and social activities. Some will spend hour after hour watching their favorite television programs, football games, going golfing, fishing, boating and hunting. What about the wife? She can stay at home to carry on with her household responsibilities and care for the children. Some husbands spend plenty of money on their personal recreational and social activities. But when the wife would like to go out, they just cannot afford it. Yet, when they go to bed he expects to have a good sex experience. This type of thing is utterly sinful! Not only that! It often results in a very unhappy marriage and home. The wife begins to feel the only time her husband really wants her is when they are in the bedroom. There too, he is usually self-seeking, instead of giving.

The wife soon thinks, "I'm being used." She becomes vulnerable, then is attracted to another man who listens and shows interest in her, making her feel he is very loving and caring. She eventually gets into an adulterous relationship. Then the husband wakes up and seeks help to restore their shaky marriage!

Loving your wife as Christ loved the church also means that you must al­ways give her priority over your inter­est in work, business, profession, or any other vocation. She must get the message loud and clear, that second only to your commitment to the Lord, is your love and commitment to her and the children God has given to you.

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