Faith in Focus


"Husbands Submit to Your Wife!"

Last time we considered that the whole issue of leadership in marriage was based on Ephesians 5:18: where we are called not to be spiritually `Drunk with wine' but instead, `Filled with the Spirit.' There we considered the characteristics of being spiritually `drunk.'

This time we see that the key to leadership in marriage is "Submission" as we find it in Ephesians 5:21: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Biblically, a husband exercises his leadership in the marriage by submitting to his wife. (Biblical leadership can be summed up as SERVING) How? By loving his wife as Christ loved the Church! In order to understand marriage and our place in it we need to understand the relationship between Christ and the church.


The love of Christ for the church is revealed in four ways: It is a Sacrificial love, A Purifying love, A Caring love, and, an Unbreakable love.

i) A Sacrificial Love:

So firstly in verse 25: we see that the love of Christ for the Church was a SACRIFICIAL Love. "Husbands love your own wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her." Jesus loved the church so much that He gave Himself up for her. He took upon Himself the anger and judgement of God in His sacrifice on the Cross. We did not deserve this infinite wonderful saving love of Christ: for He died for us while we were still enemies! We did not merit His favour: for we deserve only God's wrath and judgement. God did not rescue us because we deserved it, but because He is love. Now this is of fundamental importance because the world is object oriented in its love and attraction. Oh! She is a nice looking girl - I would like to get to know her better! What a fantastic car! - I love it! But the love of Christ is a sacrificial love. His love is expressed to meet the needs of you and me - the church. For true love seeks not its own. It is not: "What can I get out of it?", rather, "what can I give to it?" We see this in John 13 when Jesus washes the feet of the Disciples (which they certainly did not deserve!) who were busy arguing among themselves whom was the greatest. They were puffed up and proud, not concerned for Jesus and His predictions about His death to come. And when there was no servant, there was no way that they would take the task of a servant and wash their fellow's feet!

But what did Jesus do? He loved them and He gave Himself to them showing this by becoming their servant and washing their feet. In this He symbolised His greatest act of service and love to come in few hours - dying on the Cross. Not because they deserved it or were loveable, (for at that moment they were real rogues!) but because He loved them. That Agape love which is an act of the will expressed in action. It is sacrificial because it does not seek its own way and advantage but meets the needs of others as far as it takes. As husbands we are called to love our wives this way by being committed to the marriage and the wellbeing of our wives through following the example of Christ's loving commitment to the church. We are called to be willing to die for her; even to put away habits and actions for the sake of the marriage.

ii). A Purifying Love

Which brings us to the second aspect of the love of Christ for His bride - the Church. It is a PURIFYING Love! Look at Verse 26-27: "Husbands love your wives 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." Here we see the wonderful love of Christ. Jesus the Bridegroom has set the Church - His Bride - apart for His own precious possession. To make Holy or to sanctify Means to set apart for God. In 1 Peter 2 - we read that: "You are a chosen people, a Royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you might declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." Therefore we no longer belong to this world rather, we have been sanctified, set apart to Christ and so we are no longer free to do whatever we like to do. As the Church we have been set apart as Christ's own precious possession in order that He may do certain things for us, which is to cleanse us and purify us. To love someone is to want to see them pure for Love always has purity as its goal. No one loves and then wants to defile what they love, that just doesn't happen. And Christ has so loved the church He purified her, cleansing her from every sin and stain. As the Prophet says: "Though your sins are as scarlet they shall be as white as snow." When by faith we are saved in Christ then we are cleansed from sin, absolutely pure, able to come into the presence of the Holy and Awesome God clothed in the righteousness of Christ. The goal of this purifying is to make the church into everything Jesus wants her to be; to present the Church in all her radiant glory with intense splendidness. No flaw or stain or blemish. Perfect, Blameless and Pure. As the Bride of Christ, therefore, we look forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, to the time of our glorification. Now how does all this wonderful truth now apply to our marriages? For Paul says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Well our marriages are to reflect the relationship of Christ and the Church. Therefore, in the same way when a man sets his love and affection on a chosen woman, he chooses her for himself and selects her from all the others and in marriage he declares - "She is mine" thus separating her to be his own wife. This separation in marriage means that the bride is no longer free to do some of the things she did before. Now she lives for her husband and her husband for her. The husband does not look at other women, because his bride is the one he has separated to himself.

But more than that, marriage is also an act of purification for it takes our wives out of the world, out of the past and sets her apart from any other relationships or past indulgences and marriages thus purifies them. Everyday as husbands we are to seek to keep our wives in Holiness, Virtue, Righteousness and Purity. Therefore not putting her into any compromising situations, not exposing her to anything that defiles: Parties, movies, obscene talk, whatever. Love always seeks to purify. Therefore Husbands, to love your own wives as Christ loves the church is to lift her up, draw her near to God, promote virtue in her life and encourage her to be Christ-like. Husbands are called to love their wives so she will not even want to look anywhere else, or be anywhere else! Love her so she may be pure and undefiled, being the best woman she can be by the Grace of God.

iii) A Caring Love:

Which brings us to the third aspect of the love of Christ for the church. The love of Christ is a CARING Love. Verse 28-29: Husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. To nourish and cherish her just as Christ does the Church. The word "nourish" means to feed, to cause to come to maturity. Christ in His love for the church equips her with everything she needs to grow to maturity. Jesus provides all that we need for spiritual growth, individually and as a body. Through the reading and preaching of the Word, the and ministries of the church. He gives us His grace for each day. As it says in Philippians 4:19: And my God shall meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." The word "CHERISH" or `to care for' describes a mother bird sitting on the nest to soften it her with body heat. And so it calls us to provide warmth and security. Home is to be a place of rest, a haven in the stormy seas of life.

Paul says that we are to care for our wives as for our own bodies. Basically teaching that when our bodies need something we meet it. If we are hungry we feed it, if we are tired we sleep, if are cold we put on something warm. In the same way if our wives have needs, we are to meet it. Naturally, without fuss or begrudging but gladly providing and protecting.

iv). An Unbreakable Love:

But it means much more than just that, which leads us to our last aspect of the love of Christ for the church: that it is an unbreakable love. Verse 30-32: Husbands are to nourish and cherish their own wives as Christ does the church - For we are members of His body. And here Paul leads us back to the "One Flesh" concept again. The church is the Body of Christ, an integral unbreakable organic unity. It is more than just two people in a relationship together. The church is really part of Christ. `Flesh of His flesh and bone of His bones.' For in Verse 31 Paul refers us straight back to Genesis 2:24. Where the context is how Eve was formed from the rib of Adam. And when Eve is brought to Adam he responds "This is now flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones And she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man."

And so woman was made by the operation of God from the substance of man. Therefore not to care for your wife is like not caring for your own body; for that is what she is! A man cannot separate himself from himself. And here says Paul is the profound mystery: that the church was made as a result of the operation of God upon the Second Adam through Jesus Who Died on the Cross Rose again and Ascended into heaven pouring out His Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The point is this: as Eve came from Adam so the Church came from Christ. As our humanity started in Adam so our New Humanity started in Christ. As Eve made up for the deficiencies of Adam - as his helpmeet so the Church (as it says in Ephesians 1:23) is the fullness of Christ. To be sure, Christ in Himself is perfect, complete, whole, but as the Mediator Christ is not full without the church. Only when all the elect have been called in and Redemption comes in all its fullness shall Christ as Mediator then be all in all.

And so, Paul says: As this organic and mystical unity - this "ONE Flesh" - is with Christ and the Church, so it is with Husband and Wife. They are not two individuals living together. They are not merely two partners, but one! And it is a relationship that breaks all former relationships of authority. It is a new and intimate relationship therefore a husband is to leave (the word is abandon) the authority of his parents and cleave (literally `be glued to') his wife. In this way the husband is the head of a new unit, a new family. So that he is no longer primarily a child of his parents, under their authority, but the husband to his wife. The same goes for the wife. Therefore the attitude of the husband to his wife is the same as to his own body. A man ought to love his wife because she IS of his own body. As Eve was part of Adam so a wife is part of her husband. This is the uniqueness and mystery of marriage. All this being so, we can then see the utter devastation of divorce. For divorce tears apart something unique and precious, as we see in Matthew 19 where the Jews ask Jesus about divorce. To which Jesus replies: Moses only granted divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. But this was not God's way, not God's design in the beginning. For God has said: What God has joined let man not rent asunder (- that is tear apart). In response to this the Disciples then say to Jesus: "If this is the situation between husband and wife, it is better not to marry!" If marriage is so binding - WOW! And it is! For we are pointed to the relationship of Christ and the Church as our model, that is what our marriages are to look like. That is what they are to operate like.

And so, Marriage is a most precious and intimate gift of God. Cherish it. Protect it. Jesus our Bridegroom is the perfect model of love in His relationship with us, the Bride, the church. One day He is coming back to take us into the Bridal chamber for He has gone ahead to prepare a place for us. At the time the Father alone knows He will come back and take us into the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Then we, the church, will be the most beautiful bride there ever has been in all of eternity. Glorious, Radiant, Holy, Blameless and Pure.

Do you not wait with longing for that Day? Is there not a thrill of anticipation as we wait for His Return on the Clouds? The beautiful thing is that we may have a small measure of that glory in our own marriages, for our marriages are to be a reflection of that wonderful relationship of Christ and His Church. As one writer put it, "We may not be able to have the whole ocean, that is the perfection of Christ. But we can have a bucketful, a glimpse, a taste, as we live everyday by His Grace and Spirit as husband and wife before Him. That is the transforming power of the Gospel!

Mr Alan Douma is the Minister of the Reformed Church of Christchurch.

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Faith in Focus /NZ Reformed Church / / revised July 2000 / Copyright 2000