Many men in our culture, and even in the Church, have little understanding concept of the real meaning of love. If you dispute that, just look at the divorce rates, and the division in churches.
Furthermore, our text for today from Ephesians chapter five, sets a very high standard for husbands to follow. And we’re not given the option to take it or leave it. We have a direct command from God, through the apostle Paul, to love our wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her. This is a principal part of our leadership responsibility as men.
In our text Paul is addressing married men so husbands will be the focus of our teaching today. However, if you don’t fit that category, I still urge you to listen carefully.
You and I must admit; love is a mystery. Not a mystery in the sense of something that cannot be discovered, like an unsolvable crime. But rather, something that is not truly known or understood by human reasoning, but only by the revelation of God.
We want to search out God’s revelation on this subject. So, I’ve titled the message, “Leading by Love.” Our text is Ephesians 5:25-33. Here is the Word of God.
Like a precious gem, our text highlights several FACETS, reflecting the love of Christ and showing us how to lead by love.
The First FACET is,
Paul introduces this subject with a clear, unequivocal command. As husbands, we’re commanded to love our wives. Suppose that’s all the text said. We’d be left to figure out for ourselves, how to do that. But the next few words of the sentence chase away any doubt as to what this command means; “even as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for [her].”
The word, even, means, just as, or in the same proportion as. Husbands are to love their wives in the degree that Christ loved the Church. He made the ultimate sacrifice for His bride, the Church. He laid down His life for us. This is the example for husbands. I admit, it’s a tough act to follow, and we’ll never be successful trying to do it in our own strength.
But why did Christ make this sacrifice? Look at verses twenty-six and twenty-seven. They show us as husbands why and how we are to love our wives. It is from these verses that we get the facet of purifying love.
Christ gave Himself for the church to make her holy and pure. The exact words of our text are “sanctify and cleanse.” To sanctify means to set apart for special use, to hallow or consecrate. To cleanse carries the idea of making something pure, to remove everything that would defile. And that cleansing is accomplished by the Church being “washed by the water of the Word.” Since Christ is our example, how do we as husbands wash our wives in the water of the Word?
Some have seen this as a command for husbands to read the Bible with their wives. That’s a worthwhile practice. But the original word here is not logos, referring to the written word, but rhema, referring to the spoken word given by a living voice. It’s used to describe particular messages given to individuals for personal application. For example, Jesus told Peter where to cast his nets. “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless, at your word [rhema] I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5).
As a husband I am responsible for the spiritual direction of my wife and family. In God’s order of headship, He acts through His ordained structures of authority to give direction. God gave His message to Jesus the Living Word and Jesus communicates that message to the Church. In a similar way, Jesus gives His Word to the husband, and he speaks that Word and its application to his wife. This truth assumes that the husband is taking his responsibility to lead seriously and is attempting to love his wife unconditionally.
This doesn’t mean that the wife’s relationship with the Lord is dependent on her husband. If that were true, a woman with an unbelieving husband couldn’t be a Believer. It does mean that the wife is to submit herself to the rhemas of her husband. As he reads and meditates on the Word, God gives him specific application to the personal needs they have as a couple and family. He then communicates them to his wife and even seeks her counsel. Then she submits to the decisions and implements them in her sphere of authority.
When this procedure is violated, we have a situation like that of our first parents, Adam, and Eve. The command forbidding them to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was given to Adam before Eve was created. So, her knowledge of that command came as a rhema from her husband. She did not obey his direction and the result was great destruction. The same is true today when a wife refuses the rhemas of her husband.
Notice further, the reasons for the cleansing. “That He, Jesus, might present [her] to Himself a glorious church, not having any blemish or fault, or any such thing…” We husbands are to assist in the process of cleansing our wives by the rhemas so that we may present her to ourselves and to our groom, the Lord Jesus Christ. She is to be honorable, noble, and free from moral fault and defilement.
Let me ask you husbands; when your wife comes to you seeking guidance on some particular issue, what do you say? Our first problem, as men, is that we often don’t hear what our wives are saying. Oh, we hear the words alright, but we haven’t taken time to really listen to their heart. I know, that takes more time and attention, but we must learn how to do it. Then we often respond with – “whatever.” We find it much easier to be passive, don’t we?
If you asked God for something and got that kind of response repeatedly, how long would it be until you stopped asking? After a while you get the idea that your needs aren’t very important. I’m glad God doesn’t respond that way. But I’m grieved that many husbands respond that way and I myself have been guilty of this.
Brothers, we must see how important it is for us to cleanse our wives by the Word! It was such a priority for Jesus that He gave His life. Yet we often fail to follow through because it may be inconvenient, or we fear rejection, or we feel inadequate. Jesus gave Himself completely to the Church, and we husbands are called to give ourselves completely to our wives; in purifying love. As we understand and apply this truth we will better understand how to lead by love.
The Second FACET is,
Notice verses twenty-eight to thirty. Because of the reasons given in the preceding verses, Paul says men are obligated to love their wives as they love themselves. The New Testament usage of the word ought carries the idea of being indebted. In John13:14, Jesus said to His disciples, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” That’s not a suggestion, it’s an obligation. We are indebted to Jesus to do what He commands. In other places it is translated as indebted, owe, bound, due, etcetera.
Therefore, we are obligated to love our wives as we love ourselves. Notice, there’s no qualifier here. It doesn’t say love your wife if she’s a Christian, or if she’s submissive, or if you feel like it. It just gives the strait-forward command; do it! Love her the way you love yourself. We men are quite adept at protecting ourselves. Whatever steps we take to protect ourselves we must also put forth to protect our wives.
We tend to do that quite naturally in the physical realm. Most men, if their wife is threatened, will put themselves in harm’s way to protect her. That’s the way we’re wired; although the influence of the feminist movement in our culture has eroded some of that natural, protective instinct. And notice how that care is to be exercised. We are to nurture and protect her with tender care. That is in keeping with our two main responsibilities of working and keeping that we explored earlier under the subject, “Biblical Manhood.”
Generally, we men aren’t known for our tenderness. In western culture, tenderness has often been viewed as a sign of weakness. But it isn’t. It takes a strong man to be tender. Jesus exhibited both strength and tenderness during His ministry on earth, and His continuing ministry to His Church. The apostle Peter reminds us, “Likewise, husbands dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the more delicate vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers may not be hindered.”
We men usually do OK at protecting our wives from physical harm, but what about the more important areas of spirit and emotions? In earlier years of our marriage, Joyce would ask me to evaluate some of her clothing choices. She wanted to know if it met what I understood to be a biblical standard of modesty. Even today after 40+ years of marriage she still occasionally asks my opinion on this.
Some of you might think that’s absurd. I wasn’t trying to micromanage her life. My goal was, and is, to protect my wife; spiritually, emotionally, and physically. This is especially important in our day, and it’s an area where to many husbands are failing their responsibility. They’re saying “whatever,” when they should be saying no! No one said protecting love would always be understood and appreciated.
My wife has asked me to read some of the books she’s read. She knows the tendency of women to be swayed by their emotions. She wants me to see if there is any error in what she’s reading. This facet of protecting love affects so many areas of life and is so important in the times we’re living.
The reason for this protecting love is not only because she is your wife, but also because she is a part of the Body of Christ, the Church. She is an important member of the Church, and you protect her so she can fulfill that role too. As Believers, our union with Christ is so intimate, that we are spoken of as being “one with Christ.” That’s what Jesus prayed in John seventeen.
As we take our responsibility of protecting love seriously, we will grow in our understanding of how to lead by love.
The Final FACET is,
Oh, how we need the teaching and modeling of persisting love today. Far too many Christian marriages end in divorce. And many that stay together are less than joyful. What does that say to the world about our love for Christ and each other?
Christ’s love for His bride, the Church, is a jealous love. In fact, the Bible teaches that anything that comes between us and our love for Christ constitutes unfaithfulness, spiritual adultery. In a similar way, nothing is to be allowed to come between a husband and wife. Because of this, we are instructed that a man should leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh.
I don’t want to spend much time on this point of leaving father and mother, other than to say, if there is not a clear transition of authority and loyalty, there will be problems. When a man marries, he leaves the authority of his parents and establishes a new unit of authority. If he, or his wife are not properly disconnected from those former ties, it will create conflicts. As Jesus clearly stated, “No [person] can serve two masters.”
What then, does it mean to be joined to your wife? The literal meaning of the word is, to adhere, or to glue. Most of us have some experience with glue. We may not know why it works, or how it works, but we know it works. You may already know this, but the success of a bond is dependent on the amount of surface area. The more surface area you are able to incorporate, the stronger the bond. That is why it is so important that we men learn to know our wives. The more we understand each other, the more our interests and our goals overlap, the stronger the bond.
It is also true that the type of glue used and the pressure that is applied affect the permanency of the bond. In my many years of working with wood, I have seldom seen a properly prepared glue joint fail. With proper preparation, proper technique, and a good product, the joint will be long lasting. In fact, I’ve purposely tried to break a glue joint after it was cured, only to have the actual wood fibers separate while the glue join remained intact. Sadly, that’s what happens in marriages that are ripped apart by the pressures of life. There is serious damage to everyone involved, including the children!
What happens too often today is that men and women do not properly prepare for marriage. God designed us to develop the relationship leading to marriage; first spiritually, then emotionally, and finally physically. But many couples attempt to build a relationship in the reverse order. They begin with the physical. When that happens, the emotional and spiritual aspects become stunted; they can’t grow properly. The marriage “bond” is already compromised. But when we honor God’s principles there is a whole lot more to the marriage than just a physical attraction.
We must remember too, that Christ’s commitment to the Church was not a “we’ll try it and see if it works” kind of commitment. NO, it was an act of His divine will. He loves His Church regardless of her response. He will continue to love her even as she spurns His love. Remember what I said at the beginning of this message? There is no qualifier given for a husband to love his wife. It is to be unconditional, just like Christ’s love for the Church. Men, there’s no way we can come even close to this standard unless we have a growing, vital relationship with Jesus.
The closing verse of our text neatly summarizes this whole section. We husbands are to love our wives as we love ourselves and as Christ loves His Church. The wives are to reverence their husbands; to respect, honor, and obey them. When each finds their role and faithfully fills it, regardless of the response of their spouse, God’s blessing will follow.
Men, we are the leaders, the initiators in this relationship. We must take seriously the command to practice selfless, purifying love toward our wives. We must practice protecting love, even when our intentions may be misunderstood. And, we must commit ourselves to persisting love, the kind of love Christ has for His Church.
If our marriages are less than what we’ve learned today, we must take the first step. In my observation, there are few wives who will not respond favorably to humble, loving leadership from their husbands. As we apply what we’ve learned, our wives will resemble this priceless gem. They will reflect a new radiance from these various facets we’ve looked at, and we will more fully understand how to lead by love.