Yesterday I had the privilege to preach on the role and responsibility of the husband in the marriage relationship from Ephesians 5:25. As we continue to walk through Ephesians together as a church, we looked at the wife in our last sermon in our series and yesterday’s focus was the husband. This particular verse, although very popular in the heated debate of marriage, is one of terrifying responsibility. It could be titled—”The Great Command.”
The Great Command
Ephesians 5:25 – Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
In verse 25, we see Paul issue a firm and terrifying command to the husbands in the church at Ephesus. The word “love” is a present imperative, meaning that this is not an idea that’s up for debate, discussion, or vote. It’s commanded that all husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. A few things must be noted grammatically.
- In this one verse, we see marriage language. It points to husbands and wives.
- We also see gender specific nouns being used, pointing to the complimentary roles of men and women—husbands and wives.
- It must also be noted that Jesus loved the church in Ephesus far differently than He loved the city of Ephesus. In that same way husbands are called to love their wives.
From the very beginning, the devil has attacked marriage and the institution of family. That has been one of the most common attacks in the arsenal of the devil. From the beginning, the devil cast a shadow of doubt on the Word of God, and he thereby divided the first marriage and brought great ruin into the world with misery and death. From that one sin, the devil successfully attacked the family. Things have not changed today.
Today, we see divorce culture in the church at basically the same rate as it is outside of the church. Covenants no longer mean anything to a secular culture. That’s why the word of man has been diminished to the point that we are forced to sign a pile of papers to borrow any money from a bank. What a person promises to do no longer is upheld to a level of believability.
The marriage language of Ephesians 5:25 rules out recreational dating, polygamy, and homosexuality. God’s plan from the beginning of time has been marriage and family. No matter what our secular culture tries to say or how the words “marriage” and “family” are redefined, God’s dictionary has not changed. This new wave of family life and marriage law in America brought on by the flamboyant sexual revolution in the wake of the feminist movement from the 1960s has radically affected the institution of family in America in a short number of years.
Add to this the perpetual adolescence trends with delayed parenthood and the society as a whole is starting to feel the pains of change. Only time will tell the whole story, but such radical shifts in the way family operates and functions in a culture will bring about many other changes—and many of those changes will not be positive.
The husband is called to “love” his wife. This was a backward command to the culture of Ephesus—a city wholly given over to pagan prostitution and false god worship. To be committed in a very intentional love – one of self-sacrifice and covenant keeping love – was antithetical to the culture of Ephesus. That’s why Paul wanted the church to be reminded of their responsibility to uphold Christian doctrine through their marriages.
The love mentioned here by Paul is “ἀγαπάω” — to have a warm regard for and interest in another, cherish, have affection for, love and it also means… to practice/express love, prove one’s love.  In other words, this type of love was far different than the sexual love of the Greek culture or the brotherly love of the Greeks. It was a love based on an intentionality to love rather than feelings or sexual appetite. To think that this is commanded of all husbands – to love our wives as Christ loved the church – is a sobering thing.
I really appreciate Ray Ortlund Jr and his definition of husband in his commentary on Proverbs. He writes:
What does the word “husband” mean? We have the related English word “husbandry,” that is, cultivation. And when the word “husband” is used as a verb, it means to cultivate. If you are a husband, here is your job: to cultivate and nurture your wife. Your lifetime impact on your wife should be that her life opens up more and more, and that she is enabled to become all that God wants her to be…Her children rise up, they stand up, and they speak respectfully to their mom. They tell her why they esteem her, whey they admire her as a woman of God. Where did the kids learn that? From dad: “…he praises her” (Proverbs 31:28)…A husband cultivates his wife by setting a high tone of praise in their home. No putdowns. No fault-finding. No insults. Not even neutral silence. But rather bright, positive, life=giving praise. 
The Great Example
Ephesians 5:25b – …as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
When we consider what’s stated next, it’s quite sobering. It’s like standing on the side of the Grand Canyon and being asked to jump across it. It’s like standing on the beach and being asked to swim across it. It’s like standing at the base of Mt. Everest and being asked to climb to the summit. It’s extremely intimidating. However, it’s not only intimidating, it’s reassuring at the same time.
From the beginning, we know that we are incapable of fulfilling the “marriage law” of love. However, we also know that our dependence is on God’s ability to give us strength, wisdom, and a cultivating love for our wives in such a way that honors Him. We ask for Him to strengthen us in this great task and then look to Christ as our great example. Just as we come to the sobering and humbling knowledge that we are incapable of living the Christian life on our own, we likewise come to the reality that we are incapable of loving our brides in the same way as Christ loved the church—His bride.
It is our duty to exemplify the gospel through marriage and family. Headship for men is important, but it cannot be detached from a self-sacrificing, covenant keeping love. We have different roles as husbands and wives, but each role compliments the other in such a way that honors God’s intention from the beginning. We must cultivate our wives in a physical and spiritual leadership that honors God. Anything less demonstrates a low view of Jesus, a love view of salvation, and a low view of Jesus’ relationship with the church.
- William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 6.
- Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., Proverbs—Wisdom that Works, ed. Kent Hughes, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 150-51.