Marriage: Aiming to Emulate Christ and the Church: Husbands
Ephesians 5:21-32

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(c) Copyright 2008 Rev. Bill Versteeg

 Ephesians 5 (NIV)
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 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.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Brothers and sisters in Christ
Last Sunday, we reviewed what we have discovered thus far as we have research what the scripture has to teach us about marriage. We discovered above all that marriage is designed by God to emulate the relationship between Christ and the church. Marriage is not a simple metaphor for the relationship between Christ and the church, the marriage relationship was created by God so to display the relationship between Christ and the church. If we accept that biblical truth, then it follows immediately that how we shape our marriages is not just some cultural adaptation, how we shape our marriages is a matter of obedience to God.
There are many things that can be said. Let me highlight first a very important distinction to avoid extremes and then enter into the central themes of our text.

First of all, marriage is a display, it is not the reality of Christ and the church. I know that there are some men who would like to take any teaching from this passage and turn it into a demand for obedience from their wives. Let’s be honest, many of us have known or heard of men who are authoritarian, who will, just because they are “the man of the house” demand submission, their rule always is infallible, their wants are served first, they use their power to serve themselves. Self serving authority is evil, it is demonic, it is everything this passage is not talking about! Remember, marriage is a display of Christ and the church. To all men here, there is one God and you are not him. Your wife’s first allegiance is to God, to obedience to God, to the authority of God. The authority you have is only delegated by God to you, and God gave it to you to serve others, to serve your wife, not to serve yourself. Remember, Christ came to serve, not be served. Remember what Jesus said: (Matthew 20:28)

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—
28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Our marriages are to be just as, like Christ and the church. If you take this passage in Ephesians 5 and its teaching on headship to mean that you can selfishly wield authority, you don’t know character of Christ, you don’t know the scripture and your perspective is pathological.

Once in a while, I run into that authoritarian personality in a man, it seems however that that is far less common than the other extreme - the extreme that throws out the concept of headship all together. Far more often, I run into men who have abdicated their role as head in a marriage, they give into the old nature that is lazy and passive, their slothful characters hide in defeat with a bear in one hand, chips in the other and the eyes glued to Hockey Night in Canada. Their wives carry the heavy load of leadership in the home, managing the home, taking care of the kids, and yet when the lights go out these men want sex. If this kind of selfish passivity describes you, you don’t know the character of Christ, you don’t know the scriptures and your behaviors are at least spiritually pathological!

What does it mean to be a man in a marriage? It means first of all that we are people men worthy of honor! Worthy of Respect. It means that we are men who don’t have to demand honor from their wives because we ourselves are men worthy of honor like Christ is worthy of honor to the church.
How is Christ worthy of honor at the head of the church?

First, notice that he is worthy of honor in character.
The simple truth in life is that behaviors arise from the core of our being, from who we are deep down inside. And this passage first of all tells us that Christ, through his behaviors in relationship to the church, is a God and a man of incredible character, character in self sacrificing unselfish love and service, even to the point of giving up his own life to his bride, doing what is needed so that she can be sanctified, so that she can mature, holy and blameless, and being flawlessly faithful. In my comments, let me first focus on the attribute of his faithfulness.

Paul describes that faithfulness this way

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

Paul’s point is faithfulness in love. Here, Paul is saying self care is self love. When we are healthy individuals who love what God has created, we take care of ourselves very faithfully. No one every hated his own body. They are faithful to it. Their body can depend whole heartedly on the care their head gives to it.
I have not met any people who willingly hit their thumb with a hammer. And I have seen how people react when they hit their thumb with a hammer. Their head makes sure that every part of their body is taking care of the thumb instantly. They are jumping up and down, kissing it, wrapping it carefully in bandages, tenderly making sure that nothing hits it again, taking it to the doctor if necessary, crying for it if need be. You see, the character of hate, that Paul is referring to is the character that cannot be relied on to take care of things when care needs to be given. You remember the story of the Good Samaritan. The question was, what does it mean to love your neighbor. And the story displays hatred as not being reliable, the Pharisee and the Levite hated their neighbor, when they saw pain, they did not care for it. No one does that to their own body. It is that kind of faithfulness that Paul is referring to.

Are you, a man worthy of honor because those around you know that you can be trusted, that your love and your expression of love from day to day will not change, that you are reliable in character, there is no capriciousness, no unpredictability in how you respond to them? This is so important. Christ to us is constant, he is faithful, that is the foundation of our lives with God.

Paul says it this way to 2 Timothy 2:13 in describing Christ

If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.

Can your wife, your children say that about you and your character? That is a man worthy of honor. To say that to be different, he would deny himself. That is a man worthy of respect. Your wife and your children can bank securely on your character. It does not change from day to day, mood to mood. It is not influenced by alcohol or drugs. They do not find that their lives are like walking on eggs around you one day, hoping they don’t break one, and then the next day you are the paragon of virtue. Reliability in love, faithfulness, that is the first characteristic worthy of honor. Men, young men, in obedience to God, build faithfulness into your character. Become a man worthy of honor! To be a person who fulfills the role of headship as Christ is for the church is first of all to be a person that is faithful and therefore worthy of honor. I do not know many women who would not respect and thoroughly enjoy submitting to a man who they know is totally faithful to them and reliable in every loving way, with the mantle, the kind of character that we already saw in Colossians 3 “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience and forgiveness.” It is in that kind of context where interactions and words are clothed with these consistent characteristics that beauty is enhanced, that relationships are clean, without spot, without skeletons in the closet, with no unfinished business.

So to Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (he is consistent in doing this) 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

To be the head, to fulfill the role of headship also means being the person who takes initiative. Again, it is best for us to look at Christ and the church. Notice how Christ takes the initiative as head of the church.

First - Christ takes the initiative in reconciliation. This ought to be the first and most obvious theme that arises from this passage and the scriptures. The scriptures are very clear. Apart from God’s grace, according to Romans chapter 3, not one of us, his bride, would seek reconciliation with God. In our fallen nature, we are enemies of God. Reconciliation is not even on our horizon. That is the realities of being dead in sin. But scripture tells us (Romans 5:8-10) that even while we were enemies, Christ took the initiative to die for us. Taking the initiative in reconciliation is a man’s job.

Again, this becomes very practical. When two people choose to live close to each other, the potential for disagreement and conflict increases, sometimes exponentially. We don’t have fights with people we don’t interact with. We have fights with people who affect our lives, and there is no one on this earth who affects our lives more than our spouse. Conflicts are part of marriage. As one counselor said, every couple at least one time in their marriage has to be thankful that there is not a gun in the house. And if there is one way to let the devil get a foothold in your marriage, it is to let issues go unresolved for days, or weeks or months. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. When we live together in anger, our interactions are interpreted in the worst possible light, our motives our questioned, our flaws highlighted, a multitude of sins are remembered, we become self centered and the glories of love are lost.

Notice - Christ took the initiative in reconciliation. If you are a man, if you are the head of your home, then you take the initiative in reconciliation, in resolving difficulties, in asking for or giving forgiveness. Take the initiative to deal with problems before they get out of hand. Be the one who is faithful to covenant, to love, always and first. So Paul says in this passage that the characteristic of Christ is that he loved the church and gave himself up for her, cleansing her, that’s reconciliation.

Second - Christ also takes the initiative in provision.

After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.

Men, you are called to be providers - physically, emotionally and spiritually!

Physically. As head of your home, you are called by God to provide for your wife and your family. I believe it is written in our dna of manhood to be providers, to take the initiative in provision for our households, to make sure that we have what we need to make ends meet and to make sure that our consumption does not overwhelm our income. Passive bums who do not provide for their family can hardly be called men and are certainly not worthy of honor. More can be said, let me go to the next point because I believe on this point, I am preaching to the choir.

Men, as head of their wife and home are called to be providers emotionally. Notice how Paul describes the actions of Christ - he washes his bride with water through the word. Men, do you recognize the power your words have in making your wife beautiful? Your words have the power to destroy, and your words have the power to build her up and make her beautiful. I believe that this is at the heart of what Paul is describing to us regarding Christ and the church. Christ comes to us as the Word of God. Christ comes to us as the clearest expression of the heart of God to us, the heart of God’s love, the heart of God’s will, the heart of God’s care for us. When we hear of God’s love for us, it is most clearly said by Christ. When we hear of God’s faithfulness to us, he will never leave us or forsake us, it is most clearly heard in the word of Christ.
We are to be men of words of caring words. When it comes to love, it is not honorable to be a man of few words. We cannot afford to be emotional flat-liners. Just as Christ came to tell us of God’s love, so to, we must be men who everyday tell our wives, our children, our love for them. These are words that build up, beautify, even honor those around us. To be the head of a household, the head of the wife is to care for her with the words that we speak. That is probably worth an entire sermon all by itself, let me though get to my last point.

To be the head is to take the initiative spiritually in your relationship.
When the judgment day comes, and God comes to see how it is with the church- guess who he is going to look to - he is going to look to Christ - the head of the church, for we are in him, busied with him in baptism, raised to newness of life in him. When God comes to evaluate the church, he will come to the head, his son.

If we as men aim to emulate the relationship between Christ and the church, then we must understand that we have a profound moral and spiritual responsibility for taking the initiative for spiritual and moral provision in our marriages and families.

If that means anything, it means that men are called by God, for the sake of their families, for the sake of their marriages and for the sake of the glory of God reflected through their marriages, they ought to be sure that they are growing spiritually. There is no room for passivity in spirituality when it comes to be a man. Scripture calls us men - seek the Lord with all your heart and he will be found by you. The repeated call of the epistles is simply to grow in the knowledge of God and aim for the full maturity as sons of God. Be a man in your family who where your wife knows, where your children know that if anything can be said about you - it is that you walk with God, that you know God. John in his 1st epistle honors elderly men for the very characteristic that they know Christ. When Christ comes to you, he looks to you for how your family is doing spiritually! Aim to emulate Christ and the church.

When it comes to growing spiritually, be the initiator - be a man. Take responsibility for your growth in the Lord. And take responsibility for prayers, for devotions, for the moral and ethical values of your own home. That doesn’t mean that you do it all yourself. Sometimes wives are very gifted at praying. Sometimes wives are there more often to read devotions. Sometimes the ethical standards in what is watched on TV, what is worn on our bodies, what is lived out in practice is a negotiated mutual understanding between husband and wife. But before God, the buck stops with you man! Just like the buck stops with Christ, when it comes to Christ and the church. May it be said of you, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Now this morning I have tied headship to being a person worthy of honor in character - faithfulness and in initiative. Let me say that it takes very little effort to submit to someone who has those qualities. Not only can I trust his character completely, I also know that when things need to be done, he will make sure that they will get done. What a safe place to live life. What a secure place to celebrate love and have a family. With a man who is faithful and who takes initiative wherever that is needed.
Let me conclude this morning by saying something to wives and the women among us. No husband is perfect. There is one God and you husband does not qualify. But your obedience to God does mean that you are called by God to honor your man, not in his sin or disobedience, there are however ways that you can honor him and help him develop all his potential as a man in Christ. That we will look at next week as we look at wives who aim to emulate the relationship between Christ and the church.


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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