Husbands, Love Your Wives! (Ephesians Sermon 40 of 54)
May 22, 2016 | Andy Davis
Sanctification, Grace, Life in the Spirit, Holiness, Man as Male and Female, Marriage and Parenting
What Makes a Good Sermon?
For the third week, I have the privilege of preaching on Christian marriage, and as I've been meditating on Ephesians 5, I've found these verses that I'm about to preach on searching my soul. I preach best when the message preaches first to me. When I feel that I'm sitting under the word of God myself, that I'm able best to explain it to others. I also think the best sermons are those in which you have a sense of an encounter with the living God. I was talking some time ago to Don Carson, D.A. Carson, about his first time hearing Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great Welsh preacher preaching, and he had heard so much about Lloyd-Jones, who many consider the greatest preacher of the 20th century. And he went to hear him, and as he was listening to him preach, after a number of minutes, he had one thought. "This guy is overrated." He was disappointed. Lloyd-Jones' introductions are not really that noteworthy, he starts the same way every time. "I should like to call your attention this morning to," and then off he goes. And he begins every sermon that way. But as the sermon progressed, Don Carson changed his opinion entirely. Two-thirds of the way through that sermon, he thought, "This man is the greatest preacher I've ever heard." But by the end of the sermon, he wasn't thinking about Lloyd-Jones at all. He had one overwhelming thought, "What a majestic, holy, great God we serve and what a great savior is Christ." He was to some degree, transported out of the place, and wasn't thinking about the human messenger at all. And I think that's the best you can do in a sermon, the best you can do is through the text, to have an encounter with the living God. And for me as a preacher, to feel that I'm also hearing from God and sitting under that.
The Task: Bringing Light to the Marital Union
That's my desire today, as we look at this section on the message to husbands. I feel very much my own weakness and my own sinfulness. Frankly, I feel that any husband that reads these words and doesn't feel that, you haven't read them carefully, or you don't know yourself. Talk to your wife. I actually would say, do that. Take Ephesians 5, read it out loud to your wife and say, "Hun, how am I doing?" She'll tell you. Ouch. That's the very thing I'm going to urge you to do at the end of this sermon. But I've felt that and I feel the conviction of it and to feel that I, like Isaiah, I am a man of unclean lips. I'm a sinner. And I live in a land of people of unclean lips. We're surrounded by people who are messing up in the area of marriage, they're messing up in the area of sex. This is a virulent issue in our culture. We are surrounded by wickedness in this area, and aberration, and darkness. Deep darkness, a darkness that can be felt. We live among people who don't really understand what God intended when He set up marriage. They don't understand the sacredness of the marital union.
And we are called on to testify to the light, we are called on to be the light. We are the light of the world, and to proclaim the light to people who are sitting in darkness, who are walking in darkness, the people who are walking in darkness have seen a great light. And that light is Christ. And we get to it, as it says in Philippians, “to hold out the word of life is as we shine like stars in a crooked and depraved generation.” We get to do that. And I think marriage may be one of the best platforms to do that. It's one of the best displays of the Gospel there is. A good, healthy Christian marriage, and the burden for that, I think, is on the husbands, primarily. That we would lead our wives toward a beautiful display of the Gospel, in a crooked and depraved generation that needs to see this truth.
Now, you heard Ron read these words. I'd like to read them again and I really want to marinate in the text this morning, for you men and for all of us. Look again at Ephesians 5: 25-33. There it says, "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, cleansing her, by the washing with water through the word, 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. 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, for we are members of His body. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery. And I'm talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband." I think the world that we live in, this country that we're living in, needs desperately a generation of godly Christian husbands who will live out as best they can, by the power of the Spirit, the challenging words that are here.
My desire is that this would set our marriages up as a platform, that we would be a city on a hill, that we would be a light that has been lit by the Spirit of God and put up on a lampstand. This Christian marriage lived out by the power of the Spirit has converting power. First and foremost, we're going to see over the next few weeks, in the lives of your children who are observing you as they watch the way you interact, but also a surrounding community.
The Command: Husbands, Love Your Wives!
The Basic Command
We're going to begin now with the command. In verse 25, the simple straightforward command to husbands: “Husbands, love your wives.” This is the basic command. Now, this may be surprising to some, because men get married because they love the women that they're marrying. They're in love with them. He's in love with her, so why in the world would he need to be commanded to love her? Because this is the very reason they're getting married, so he would think. So it seems a little odd to some, but Martin Luther, speaking of married love, and especially of newlywed love, spoke in the earthy way that only Luther could do. He said it's like “drunken joy.” “It's irrational and short-lived. Soon, you will wake up and the wine will have worn off, and you're left with this woman, and now comes the real story.”
You have to love Luther. He just says it unvarnished, just like he thinks it is. The real question then is, will you love the real person you're married to? Stanley Hauerwas put it this way, "The faulty assumption is that there is someone just right, the perfect person for us to marry. And that if we look closely enough, we will find that perfect person. This moral assumption overlooks a critical aspect of marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person. We never know whom we will marry, we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while, and he or she will change, for marriage being the enormous thing that it is, means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem, then, is this: Learning how to love and care for the stranger whom you actually married."
We actually do need to be commanded to love our wives. We need to be commanded to love our wives because biblical love is the most challenging thing our sinful beings will ever do. It searches us to the bottom of our souls. Genuine, spiritual love, genuine, Biblical love does not come naturally to any of us. It is a supernatural work in us by the sovereign Spirit of God. And it begins here for us with the command. I really have tended in sanctification and the overall promises, the marvel of the Gospel, to look at all commands as promises. It's a beautiful thing. All of us should see all commands in the Christian life as promises of what the sovereign grace of God will work. Someday, I will love my wife as perfectly as Christ loved me. That's a beautiful thing, and it gives me hope, it fills me with such hope. But for us as Christians, the idea of being commanded to love should not surprise us. Isn't this the fundamental summary of the law that Jesus gave us? “The first and greatest command is this: To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second command is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”
We have to be commanded to love God. How much more then commanded to love our wives? So this shouldn't surprise is that there is this command to love. And then on the second commandment, “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” the command of a Christian husband to love his wife is a subset of that overarching command that God gave us. Your wife is your nearest and best neighbor. She is the one that you are commanded on, horizontally, to love the best. This shouldn't surprise us that we are commanded in this way, and this is the very thing the Holy Spirit of God has come to work in us. He has come to work in us by the blood of Christ, so that the law of God may be perfectly fulfilled in us who “do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” See what He's doing?
And so this husband's love for his wife, set in this context now, Ephesians 5, is a subset of the overarching kind of ethical approach that Paul's taken, that we, Ephesians 4:1, are to “live a life worthy of the calling we have received.” And we are only able to do this, Ephesians 5:18, by the power of the Spirit, as we are filled with the Spirit, we can live a life worthy of the calling we have received. We saw last week that the command to the wife to submit to her husband was directly, even grammatically connected to being filled with the Spirit, because it has all those participles, be being filled with the Spirit, and then there's, -ing, -ing, -ing, -ing, five of them. The last one is submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord, "Wives to your husbands." So it just flows right from the Spirit-filled life. But we should see the extension also to the husband. As the husband is filled with the power of the Spirit of God. He is enabled to love his wife in this way. It's a subset of the Spirit-filled life.
The Command Is: Love Your Wives!
Now, what do we mean by love? Now, I have given a definition multiple times in previous sermons. But I want you to know, the definition that I've given you in the past, it came, it started for me personally in meditating on Ephesians 5. This is where it started. How would I define love? Love is heart attraction resulting in cheerful, sacrificial action. Attraction, action, both of those aspects are Biblical love. If you only have one or the other, or neither, you don't have Biblical love. You need both, as the heart is drawn out to and delights in the object of love, that's the first, it flows out in actions that actually meet needs for that person. That's action. And so there's a sense of heart attraction, your heart is drawn toward the person, and it results in cheerful delighted sacrificial action. That's what love is.
Now, John Piper makes a strong case for marriage in his book on Christian hedonism called Desiring God. Now, Christian hedonism is the idea that Christians should live for pleasure. That's what hedonism is. We should live for pleasure. We should be pleased. But the thing is, we're just so messed up on what should please us. We should be ultimately pleased or delighted in God. And if we're not delighted in God, we're not born again. And we should be genuinely, horizontally in love toward others, toward our neighbor, we should be delighted in their blessing. We should enjoy blessing the other person. It should bring us pleasure. And if we are not pleased, it isn't love. I think he makes his case. I think he's right. Fundamentally then, love, horizontally is for me to knit my heart together with another person, and find personal delight in their blessing. God loves a cheerful giver. It's more blessed to give than to receive. I want to live for that pleasure vertically toward God, horizontally toward others. These are the two great commandments. That's what I want.
Piper argues that genuine love must flow from a deeply interested heart. I am personally delighted to bless you, to give to you. Well, this is even more true when it comes to a husband. This is the pinnacle of that horizontal relationship. I am personally delighted to live for your blessedness. I get my highest earthly joy out of seeing you blessed. That's what I want. That's what love is. Because this is a command, and it must be obeyed, and because other people sometimes say, "I just can't help how I feel. There's nothing I can do about how I feel." They say that love is an action. It's an act of the will. Friends, I'm telling you, that's only half of the equation. If that's all you have, you're a hypocrite. And I guarantee, your wife will sniff it out. If she doesn't know you are delighted to bless her, then she will not be blessed. And she'll know. We have to press through to the real thing, by the power of the Spirit. We have to find a transformation of the heart, where I actually personally am invested in the blessedness of my wife. That's what love is.
Vastly Beyond the Initial Fireworks of Romance
Now, this goes vastly beyond the initial fireworks of romance. The command may seem strange for those just falling in love, those who have recently been engaged, or are dating, or courting. Let me say, “Why you have to be commanded to love your wife. If you have to be commanded, now something's wrong.” Friends, something's wrong! Did you not know that? Something is wrong. It's called indwelling sin. There's a parasite inside us, there's a tumor growing inside us. Something is wrong. And guess what? The two of you, you've been on your best behavior during your dating lives, haven't you? Come on, be honest. You didn't want your intended getting too close to your family, because they're going to spill the beans and what you're really like. Alright? Well, soon enough, he or she will know. Your spouse will know. Husband, your wife will know. Wife, your husband will know what you're really like. And then you settle in. And then, actual sin patterns will start to emerge for both of you. And the things that you found so delightful in the other, the things you found, husband, so delightful and your wife, not so delightful down the road sometimes. "Oh, she's so quiet and shy, and so tender and all that." It's going to drive you crazy five years in. And the same thing, "She's so neat, I love the way that she's so neat. That really helps me in my not neatness." Yeah, try that 10 years down the road. Are you still delighting in that part of her personality? So we need to be commanded, and here is the command. Husband, here's your command: Love her. Let your heart be warmed toward her. Be delighted in her, cherish her, and serve her. Heart attraction that results in cheerful sacrificial action, that's what Ephesians 5 is teaching. That's the summation of what's going on here.
The First Pattern for a Husband’s Love: Christ’s Love for the Church
A Husband’s Love is Like Christ’s for the Church
Alright, now, we're given some patterns here. The first pattern given here is Christ's love for the Church. Looking at it in verses 25-27, "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." The pattern for the husband's love is Christ's sacrifice at the cross for the Church. That's the pattern here. Now, Jesus spoke quite directly about love and sacrifice in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." It's the idea, Christ delighted to lay down his life for His bride. It was his joy that He did. Now, this cost was immeasurable, but the ultimate glory of what He's done is also infinite and immeasurable. And will make it all worthwhile. But He had to pay a price for His bride. Now, this is an old covenant feature. It's not something that happens so much anymore.
I remember a friend of mine, Zane Prat, who's with the IMB now. He told a funny story. He came back, he was in his late 20s and single, which was very strange for the Afghan men that he was ministering to. Muslim Afghan refugees in Pakistan. They were saying, "Why aren't you married? Haven't you been able to afford a wife?" they asked. He said, "Well, I don't... You don't have to pay. In my country, they're free." They're like out of their minds. "Then why aren't you married? Hasn't your father been able to choose one for you? There must be plenty of women." "Well, actually, we make our own choice." "Then why aren't you married? You get to choose your own and they're free." "Yes, but in America, she gets to choose, too." And then their circuit breakers just went off at that point. It made no sense at all. Entirely different pattern in the Islamic world.
Similarities to Jacob and David
But in the Old Testament, there was frequently a bride price. Like, do you remember how Jacob had to serve that conniving con artist Laban for seven years. You remember that whole thing? Seven years. But I love what it says about those seven years, as he was serving to marry Rachel. “Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” Can you actually imagine Jesus thinking in that way about His own price that He paid? "It seemed actually small compared to what I get." I ponder that. I don't know how to think about that, but He was delighted to pay that price. Or then you remember David, it was more of a warrior thing with King Saul. "If you want to marry my daughter, I need a 100 Philistine dead men. You going to kill 100 Philistine soldiers." I think he was hoping to get rid of David, but he underestimated him. He killed 200. He went out and killed 200. And in that way, he was enabled to win Michal, Saul's daughter.
Christ Gave Himself Up at the Cross
But Jesus had to go and destroy the devil and his kingdom at the cross. He had to destroy the devil and his kingdom by dying. That was the bride price, and He paid it. He gave himself up at the cross. “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church,” heart attraction. And gave Himself up for her, sacrificial action. Cheerful because it's for the joy that was said before, and we'll get to that in a minute, to make her holy. This is obviously speaking of Christ's blood atonement, how He shed his blood. Ephesians 1:7, "In Him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." And he did it for the benefit of the blessing of the Church, the immeasurable blessing in the New Heaven and New Earth of her eternal salvation. Every blessing you have as a Christian, from great to small, all of them are blood-bought, paid for by the blood of Christ. What blessedness? And you haven't seen anything yet compared to what you're going to get in Heaven. All of them blood bought, paid for by Jesus. And this is the measure of his commitment and his love for His bride, the Church.
Christ Gave Himself Up for the Benefit of the Church
Song of Solomon 8:6 says this, "Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm, for love is as strong as death. It's jealousy is unyielding as the grave, it burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame." Song of Solomon 8:6. Jesus' love is like that, only better. His love burns like a holy fire, like a zeal for the holiness of His bride, the Church. And His love is stronger than death, it's not as strong as death, it's stronger. It defeated death on behalf of the Church. That's the commitment and the love that Jesus has for His bride, the Church. And He gave Himself up, as I've mentioned, because He was delighted to do it. It made him happy, ultimately joyful to do this.
Christ Gave Himself Up for His Own Delight in the Church
Hebrews 12:2, it says, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God." For the joy that was set before Him, He did it. He could see the future, how there would be some from “every tribe and language and people and nation,” clothed in white, standing around the throne, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the lamb." And He could see it and He wanted it. He said in John 17, "Father, I want those whom you have given me, the elect, to be with Me and to see My glory. I want to share this blessedness together, and I am delighted to give My life to make that happen." It's a shared joy, and eternally perfect, perfectly shared joy, and eternal marriage in Heaven between Christ and the Church, a shared experience of delight in each other. And for this, He laid down His life.
Husbands are to do that for their wives. Do you not see how infinite, how soaring this command is? How this will search you the rest of your life? Saying, "Am I doing this for my wife? Am I laying down my life for my wife?" Jesus made it daily in terms of discipleship. “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself daily and take up his cross and follow me.” This is a daily dying to self. And I think a huge part of a Christian husband's sanctification and service is toward his wife and his family. And so daily, he's going to deny himself and take up his cross and live for his wife.
Practical application, just going to make it all the way through, just keep making practical application. Can you just be honest, husbands, how this is the hardest thing you'll ever do? Just be honest that it's hard for you to give yourself up for your wife, to lay down your life for your wife. Just be honest. The essence of the flesh is a fanatical commitment to self. All of us have it. And you're being called on here as a Christian husband to deny that, for the sake of your wife, to say no to your flesh, to what you want in the flesh to do, to benefit your wife.
Christ's death on the cross teaches all husbands to lay down their lives for their wives. You have to think consistently daily, what would most bless my wife. How could I be the best blessing to her? Does that not search you, O Christian husbands? Are you doing that? Are you thinking every day, "How can I bless my wife today? What can I do to bring her joy?" It means to deny your own selfish interests and your pleasures and find your pleasure in her pleasure. Certainly involves the hard work of holding down a job that will meet her physical needs, to be a breadwinner, definitely to do that, but it's so much more than that.
Remember, in Genesis 2:15, “the Lord God put the man in the garden to serve it and protect it?” Protect her by providing for her, but more than that, what about your time? What about your free time? Costly hobbies, I've been thinking about that. The ones where you're there all day, golfing, hunting, fishing, watching a sport, doing something like that all day long. Meanwhile, your marriage is shriveling. Your wife's just learned to kind of be on her own, doesn't need you, you don't need her. It means learning to find out what blesses her. One writer talked about speaking her love language and had these five love languages. I think that's helpful. I don't know if there's only five, but I thought that the listing of the five was beneficial and helpful to me. Maybe serving her, acts of service, maybe it's gifts, words of affirmation, words of love, physical touch, especially of the non-sexual type, holding her hand, hugging her, serving her in some way, giving her quality time, full attention, a good conversation, whatever she likes. And I think all of the above, not "That's her one." She's blessed by all them. But just to a greater degree, maybe in one more than others, but just learning how to do that.
The First Goal of a Husband’s Love: The Wife’s Radiant Holiness
Christ Died for the Church to Be Radiantly Holy
Okay. Now, what is the goal of a husband's love? Well, the first and primary goal in all of this is your wife's radiant holiness. You should have an eschatological and end time view of your marriage. Think about her on Judgment Day. What's she going to be like on Judgment Day? How can I serve Jesus' ends for her on Judgment Day? How can I get her ready for Judgment Day?
Look again at 25 through 27, "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy. To make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, radiant holiness, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." Christ laid down His life for His Church to make her radiantly holy, beautiful. He wanted her pure, and clean, and holy and beautiful, in radiant glory.
Now, spiritually, he found her the exact opposite of all those things. Ephesians has made that very plain, how we were enslaved to lust, we were serving Satan, how all of us were sinful and wicked and degraded, depraved, that's how he found us. Defiled. How different is that from us husbands? When we found our wives, when we first met them, they were beautiful to us, and attractive. And in Christ, we married a Christian, so there's already been justification and some progress and sanctification, all that's beautiful, but that's not how Jesus found the Church. No, He found us serving Satan, found us dead in our transgressions and sins and corrupt.
Now, I don't think there's anything wrong. I think there's everything right with a young man seeing a young woman's physical beauty as attractive and being attracted to her. That's just a gift of God. That was exactly how it was with Jacob and Rachel. He saw her, and as soon as he saw her, he loved her. That was a biblical example of love at first sight, and he loved her until the day she died. And so there was an attraction there and there's nothing wrong with that, but we were repulsive. And the beautiful thing about all this is, we are found corrupted and dead and all that, and we are, Revelation 21, someday going to be beautifully dressed for our husband, descending from Heaven, and we are ready for the wedding day. And we're going to be radiant and glorious and beautiful. It's going to work, in other words. And He's going to make his bride beautiful and radiantly holy, so He can enjoy her forever. And He is very zealous for this.
Isaiah 62:1, I believe this is Jesus speaking about his church. "For Zion's sake, I will not keep silent." This is Jesus speaking, "For Jerusalem's sake, I will not remain quiet till her righteousness shines out like the dawn and her salvation like a blazing torch." He is zealous for the holiness of the church.
Now, if you look carefully at the words of 26-27, Jesus gave Himself for the Church to make her holy, that is totally conformed to God's nature, free from all sin, free from all stains and blemishes and any such thing, anything that would mar her radiance. And it says He washed her with water through the word, the word of the Gospel cleansed her conscience and her heart by faith. And positionally, she seemed to be in justification, holy and blameless in his sight, but then in actuality, she's not. She has bad habits, she has a sin nature, all that kind of thing. And there is progressive salvation, the sanctification that goes on. That's the marvel of all of this. We're not done being saved yet. And one of the beauties of marriage is that God has given us marriage as a workshop of salvation, of sanctification, because neither the husband nor the wife are done being saved. We both need to be made progressively holy, and yet we have these roles to play.
“To Present Her to Himself as a Radiant Church”
So it says in the text, “in the same way, husbands ought to love their wives,” so we are to wash them with water through the word for the purpose of her holiness and growth in Christ. And guess what? While that's happening, you're going to be growing, too. because you need to grow, too. Same thing in pastoral ministry, there are no perfect pastors. We're growing together. And it's just such a beautiful thing. No, you are not Christ to your wife, you don't shed your blood for her. You're not the atoning sacrifice turning away the wrath of God. That's been done once for all. But now you get to act like Jesus in her life, and that is to partner with Him through the Spirit in her ongoing salvation, sanctification, to help her grow in grace in the knowledge of Christ. And you get to do that by washing her with water through the word. And this idea is beautiful. Paul talks about it in 2 Corinthians 11:2, he's talking about the Corinthian church, a local church. He said, "I'm jealous for you, with a godly jealousy." He said, "I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so I might present you as a pure virgin to him." I think every husband ought to think of his wife that way. Like I'm not your real husband, Jesus is. And I want to get you ready for the real wedding day, the eternal one. I want to do everything I can to get you ready for Jesus. That's what this marriage is about. And I know that I'm also part of the Bride of Christ, and He's going to use that whole thing to get me ready too. And this is just a beautiful, beautiful picture.
And as you do that, you're getting her ready for Judgment Day, guess what? You're going to have a better and better marriage. Brothers, you're a fool if you don't do this, because it says in the text, "He who loves his wife loves himself." Hint, hint. Want a happy life? Do this. Bless your wife, pour into her. Make her happy, live for her joy, her only joy. Do that, and 10 years, 20 years down the road, you will be a blessed man. He who loves his wife, loves himself. John Piper said that's probably the most hedonistic verse he can find in the Bible. It's like, “You want to get something good out of this? Do this.” You're a fool if you don't. That's what he's saying. You're going to get benefits.
Practical Ways to Obey This Command
Practically, just practically, husbands, are you doing this? Have you set aside time for the two of you to be in the word together? I was convicted by this. We have family devotions, but I need more time with just the two of us over the Word of God, I think it would help. We've not been doing it. We've been busy doing other things. We're faithful in the family altar. Don't miss, really. But I think there's some times, we could have just the two of us in the word. I think it would help. But if I could just say, husbands, get to know the word. You say, "Well, you don't know my wife, she's a real Bible person. She knows the Bible far better than I do." Well, let that not be so 10 years from now. Get into a competition. You guys are competitive. I know you. Compete with her. Don't tell you're doing it. She's got a big head start on you, maybe. Catch up and pass. Or not. I don't care if to the grave, she knows more of the Bible than you, just as long as you're both growing and accelerating in your knowledge of the word of God. Be the priest, the pastor of your family, especially to your wife. And pray for her, take her weak areas, the ones that you would be tempted to complain about, don't complain, don't tell it to some other person. Bring it up vertically to God in prayer, pray for your wife's weak areas.
The Second Pattern for a Husband’s Love: His Love for Himself
The Second Pattern
The second pattern for a husband's love is his love for himself. Look at verse 28-30, "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, for we are members of His body." So we have the one pattern, love her as Christ loved the Church. Now, here's a second one if that's too lofty for you, you need it, it will pull you up, but here's a practical one: Just love her the way you already do love yourself. This is very practical and it's easily understood. There's a basic premise here, husbands. You already love yourself. As a matter of fact, you've been loving yourself your whole life. When you were an infant, you were fanatically committed to the care of your own body. Just ask your mother, "Mom, was I fanatically committed to the care of my own body when I was an infant?" "Oh yes. Three in the morning, you didn't care what I was going through, that you wanted what you wanted when you wanted it. You were committed to your own body then, and I saw it all the way through. It never left. You continued to feed and care for yourself, and if you were hurt, to cry because you were hurt, and to look after it and I saw it all the way through. Actually, it's never stopped.
You Already Love Yourself
You already do love your own body. In the same way, love your wife. That's what it means. When you're hungry, you feed yourself. When you’re thirsty, you give yourself drink. When you are weary, you rest. When you have an itch, you scratch it. Everything you have needed, you have looked after your whole life. Now, you're married. This is the pattern. You have become now, one flesh. Look at verse 31, "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." Her flesh then has become your concern as much as your flesh is. You need to feed and care for her. And I'll tell you what, I have seen some magnificent older godly couples show me how to do this. Show me how to do this. I remember one woman years ago, early in my marriage, at my pastoral ministry here. And her husband had Parkinson's and she cared for him for 10 years, daily. I remember asking her, "Is it hard?" She said, in a very simple way, she just said, "It's not hard if you really love someone." Cheerful, just caring for him. Feeding. And so, that's a wife to the husband, but it's something husbands can and often do for the wife. I've seen it the other way, too. Where her body, her bodily needs, are the same as if it were your needs.
The Second Goal of a Husband’s Love: The Wife’s Healthy Delight
Her Physical Delight Must Be Your Own
Now, the second goal of a husband's love is the wife's healthy delight. The husband lives for the wife's healthy physical delight as much as for his own, and also her spiritual delight. Their hearts are linked together. He loves his wife, loves himself, means if you're happy, I'm happy. Do you understand how practical this gets in the issue of conflicts and arguments? What ends up happening is Satan deceives you in the midst of a conflict, marital discussion. Ever had a marital discussion? We've had lots of marital discussions. Alright, you're having one of those. Alright? You are deceived in the middle of it by a demon who whispers in your ear that it's possible for you to hurt your wife and not be hurt too. He's whispering the same thing in her ear, but you're forgetting that you're one flesh. You're one. You can't hurt her and not be hurt. It's impossible. This just causes you to say, "What can I do right now to bless you? How can I lead us out of this conflict in a way that will cause you to flourish and grow, actually?" Conflicts are going to happen. But ultimately, “he who loves his wife loves himself,” means I'm going to seek a shared experience of joy. My joy is going to be yours, your joy is going to be mine. That's what we're looking for, that's the oneness. So we're no longer selfish.
I love what it says in Deuteronomy 24:5. I don't know if we can get this in the federal code, in terms of military service. Listen to this. Concerning serving in the military in Israel, "If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. Instead, for one year, he is to be free to stay at home, listen, and bring happiness to the wife he has married." Isn't that beautiful? That's such a clear statement of what I'm talking about. Live to bring her happiness, I would say, a holy happiness. That's what you're seeking to do.
The Timeless Mystery of Marriage: Christ and the Church
Now, we've already talked about this timeless mystery of marriage. I don't need to say much more about it because we've said some things, well I’ll make a few comments. It says in verse 31-32, "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery, but I'm talking about Christ in the Church." This healthy Christian marriage puts the mysterious Gospel on visible display. People can see it. The IMB loves to send married couples on the field, because it's seeking to give a multi-generational vision to the Church. Now then, not only them because Paul was single, but there is a desire to put marriage on display wherever possible.
And as I said at the beginning of the sermon, there's one audience that's just observing all the time. And that's your growing children, they're just watching the Gospel in the way the husband and the wife are interrelating. We'll talk about that over the next few weeks. As you grow in your one flesh, one spirit union, you are growing putting the Gospel on display.
Now, let me say one thing about the idea of “one flesh.” I think it's pretty clear that the word “flesh” refers to the marital union of sex, of sexually relating, marital relations. Our nation, our age is completely insane in this. It's completely insane. Part of it, the sexual revolution of the 1960s has made sex not sacred anymore. It's not sacred. It's just a physical thing, like a handshake. Something you could do at a party with a total stranger. Someone could say, "It didn't mean anything to me, it was nothing to me. I didn't even know her name," or "his name," that kind of thing. It's insane. And now it's gotten into even weirder things over the last 15-20 years, where gender itself is being questioned, but it started with the sexual revolution. As Christians, we should not, must not be deceived. Sex is sacred. It's meant for marriage. “For this reason,” for marriage, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” Sexual purity is of the essence of a healthy marital union.
If I could just speak to all you single people, you young men and young women, commit yourselves to absolute purity with regard to sex. As Christians, we need to have a sacred view of marital relations. Be pure. And you married people, recommit yourself to what you promised in your vows. You said something like “forsaking all others, keeping yourself only for this one person, the spouse.” You said something like that, live it. It's especially hard in this time of Internet pornography, and other assaults from the media, and from romance novels, and other things that pull hearts of married couples away from each other in terms of sexual purity. Be zealous in these things.
Husbands Pursue, Wives Respect
Now, let me make some final practical commands and we'll be done. Verse 33, "However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband." Isn't it amazing how just by way of summary, the Apostle Paul goes back and hits the thing that each gender, each person needs to hear the most? Husband, let me tell you again, love her, cherish her like you did when you were dating her. Cherish her. Take her out on dates, love her, give her gifts, win her heart, woo her, still, even 20 years in. Love her, cherish her. And you wives, you see to it that you respect your husband. Don't bad mouth him, don't gossip about him, don't talk with your girlfriends about what he's like. But respect him. And respect his authority in the home. Submit to his leadership. That's the summation that Paul gives here at the end.
I want to add some practical things. Now, I have made a commitment always to preach the Gospel in every text. Now, this focus has been to Christian husbands, but I can easily preach the Gospel. We've already heard it. Jesus left Heaven and gave His lifeblood for the Bride, the Church, for sinners like you and me. That's the Gospel. Jesus died in our place, the holy for the unholy, to bring us to God, put to death in the body, made alive by the Spirit. That's the Gospel. And if you trust in Christ, your sins will be forgiven, all of your sins forgiven, and you will be part of the Church, the Bride of Christ. You'll be part of what Christ came to do, and he will love you forever.
And if I can just say, apart to all Christians, apart from even marriage, do you not see in these words to the Christian husband, just how much Jesus loves you? Whether you're a widower or widow, single, never married, whoever you are, Jesus loves you. This is how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for you. He died for you, He shed His blood for you, because He cherishes you and delights in you.
Husband’s in Need of Repentance
But now, I want to speak specifically quickly to different categories of husbands. Let me start to the husband who needs to repent. Now, those of you who don't need to repent, you don't need to listen for the next minute or two, alright? No, actually you do. You need to come and talk to me after the sermon. Say, "I was the husband who didn't need to repent." “Glad to meet you. I want to enroll in your class. I want to enroll in your college. I don't know how you do it. But first, before I do that enrolling, I really want to talk to your wife, and see if she thinks you need to repent.”
So to husbands who need to repent, all joking aside, husbands who need to repent, repent, repent. Look over Ephesians 5:25-30, and say, "Search me, O God and know me." Say, "Have I been this kind of a husband to my wife?" Were there different kind of failure modes? There are abusive husbands, sinfully angry, physically abusive, emotionally abusive. There are some of those. More commonly, there are just neglectful, lazy, negligent husbands who are not zealous about their marriages, and don't really do much, and they're just on autopilot, and they're not zealous for their wife's sanctification. I'm just calling on you to repent. Go to God and say, God forgive me for not being a Christ-like husband these many years to my wife. Lament over the wasted years, and ask forgiveness of God. And if you confess your sins to Him, He is faithful and just. And He will forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
Secondly, go to your wife when she can listen to you, and you're not distracted and ask her forgiveness, too. Confess your sins, that you've been negligent, whatever the Lord lays on your heart, whatever ways you have not loved her, or served her, or been godly toward her. Ask her forgiveness. And she will forgive you. And let that be the beginning of the rest of your years together.
New husbands, maybe the intoxicating wine of your honeymoon hasn't worn off yet. Great, enjoy it. But maybe you're already seeing that you're married to a real person. All I'm going to say to you as a new husband is set good patterns. Set up patterns of Bible study together and prayer. Set patterns of praying for your wife. Go back to Ephesians 5 frequently. Early in your marriage, set up good habits and patterns. Be quick to ask forgiveness, don't be prideful. You have a long way to go as a husband, she has a long way to go as a wife. Grow together.
Thirdly, to resentful or bitter husbands, your wife has hurt you in some way. Forgive her, as the Lord forgave you. It says in Ephesians, express that forgiveness and ask her if she's holding anything against you. Almost certainly, the root of bitterness has defiled both of you. Give and receive forgiveness. And if you've been one of those neglectful lazy husbands, what I would suggest is a question that I think would be good for all husbands regularly to ask your wives. "Do you feel loved by me?" It's a yes, no question, but better, maybe, "How can I love you better?" Let's read Ephesians 5:25-30 together right now. Okay, read it. And then say, "How can I love you better?" And listen. And put into practice the things that she says. And then ask the Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to give you power to love, and lead, and serve, and teach, and serve, and protect as the Lord has called you to do. There's many more things I could say, but I'm just going to close now in prayer that God would strengthen you Christian husbands to live out what he's called on us to do. Let's pray.
Father, we thank you for the beauty of the word. We thank you for all of the many ways it instructs us and teaches us. I just want to pray for my brothers right now who are husbands, who are Christians, who have been searched by the text today, who have been probed by it, who have been convicted by it. Lord, it's a good thing. It's a good thing. And I pray, O Lord, give them strength and humility and wisdom to repent. And Father, I pray for wives, as they see their husbands grow, that they would be encouraging to them and pray for them, and that they also would submit to them as we talked last week. And through their godly submission, would help their husbands become more and more Christ-like leaders. I pray for both husbands and wives, that you would sanctify them through these beautiful roles that you've given us to play. These roles are temporary, but they are powerful and important. O Father, I pray that you'd help us to live out the Gospel in front of an unbelieving and watching world that needs it so much. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.