How Husbands Can Stop Damaging Marriage
An overview of the husband’s role from Ephesians 5:22-33
We all know that men have some annoying habits. So these were taken from some conversations I had on the patio . . .
1. Chews with his mouth open, even when you’re eating at someone else’s house
2. He snores like there’s a big giant drooling Mastiff in bed next to you
3. Picks his fingernails
4. Mixes plaids and stripes
5. Leaves the toilet seat up
6. Leaves his dirty clothes or wet towel on the floor next to the bed, or next to the hamper, or on the floor of his closet
7. Leaves his dirty dishes right next to the sink
8. Sits on the couch watching sports and pretends he’s listening to you, and says, “Uh huh,” every once in a while
9. Sitting on the toilet for a ridiculous amount of time
10. Being overly amused by burping and flatulence
All of us agree, men and women are different–not only physically, but also in their roles. Sadly, those unique differences are under massive attack. Someone has said, “Husbands are like lawn mowers—they’re hard to start, emit foul odors, and don’t work half the time.” Clearly, the Bible teaches, in order to bring God glory by displaying the oneness of God plus the authority and submission of the Trinity, wives are to be submissive to their husbands and husbands are to be the loving authority of their wives and children.
So why aren’t there more submissive wives and leading husbands? Since Genesis 3 and the corruption of the entire human race into sin, men have tried to control their wives and wives have tried to control their husbands. Instead of a couple submitting to Christ and following His plan for marriage, they are trying to get what they want. As a result of this sin, we have male chauvinism, the feminist movement, and now the transgender movement, which are all wrong and lead to a lot of suffering and pain.
The first step is to deal with your internal sin problem by turning to Christ in repentance and faith. Secondly, as a believer, you must depend upon the Spirit to empower you to live out your role as a man or woman. Finally, you must follow God’s blueprint for men and women in their distinct and complementary roles found in His Word. That is why we preach the Bible verse-by-verse and word-by-word. We only want to hear what God has to say, then be a doer of the Word by the power of the Spirit. So have you been hearing then doing God’s Word? Three weeks ago we studied the basic commitments from the context of Ephesians. You will damage your marriage if you are . . .
Chapter 1 IGNORING God’s Sovereign purpose for your marriage
Chapter 2 MINIMIZING your sinfulness and your desperate need for God’s grace
Chapter 3 OVERLOOKING the incredible LOVE of GOD to fill your life
Chapter 4 AVOIDING your inter-connectiveness to the church family
Chapter 6 ELEVATING your children over your marriage
Then two weeks ago, we studied the key command in marriage and relationships from Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the Spirit.” And last week, we studied the function of wives and how they can prevent damage in their marriage and friendships. And today, we will conclude this series with a brief look at God’s design for husbands and what steps they can take to prevent damage.
Ephesians 1 to 3 talks about your POSITION, and Ephesians 4 to 6 addresses your PRACTICE or your WALK. Part of the wise walk is to be filled with the Spirit, which introduces Christ and the Church and husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22 to 33, which contains only two main emphases in the exhortation to SUBMIT and the command to LOVE. Men love and women submit.
Remember, in marriage there is a pilot and a co-pilot–the last thing you need is for each of them to fight over the controls. “I’ll land it. No, I’ll land it!” Each needs to understand God’s design and pursue it. But this is not easy for wives or for husbands. In order for a marriage to work, the husband and wife must pursue functioning in their role. Both husband and wife have to die to self and operate the way God designed. Wives die to self through submission to a husband in everything. Husbands die to self by leading, loving and more. Look at some obvious truth from Ephesians 5. One of the ways men die to self is to become . . .
ONE The responsible LEADER of his bride
Remember verse 23, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.” Paul states a fact–the husband IS the head of the wife. (Not could be, would be or even should be–but he IS the head.) The only question is this–is the husband a Christ-like leader, dependent upon the Spirit, being responsible, initiating biblical direction, and continually engaged in the spiritual welfare of his home? Or is he a lazy leader, following the patterns from his upbringing, the poor examples around him–or worse, leading via google? Husbands do damage when they’re winging it, passive, not pursuing God’s truth.
When you hear the word “head”, it is not a synonym for boss. The husband does not get to boss his wife around. This is not an employer/employee, where the husband gives a job description to his wife and she is his subordinate. Headship is being like Christ. Jesus has a bride, the Church, and husbands have a bride–and they are to treat their bride as our Lord treats his bride. Do you? Men, married or single, let me spell it out for you.
A Husbands must PURSUE their bride
You initiate–it is your job to keep the marriage fresh. Jesus doesn’t sit back and wait for us to pursue Him, He pursues us. And as the head, a husband pursues relationship with his wife.
B Husbands must SET biblical, Christ-honoring direction
Under God’s providence, you are the one dealing with issues and taking care of the future needs and responsibilities. She may bring up insurance, savings, budgeting, kid problems or house needs, but you set the direction.
C Husbands REPENT and restore first
Did Christ wait to restore you to himself? No, Christ initiated. You must be the first to humble yourself at an impasse and ask forgiveness in order to restore the relationship, like Christ. Christ was sinless and did that for us. In situations of marital strife, husbands must initiate. Which points to the second major point for husbands.
TWO The sacrificial LOVER of his bride
Verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” The main point of this entire passage is husbands love your wives. There are only two commands in verses 22 to 33, and both are ongoing, both are directed only at husbands, and both of them are the same—”husbands, love your wives.” It’s present tense continual, and it is a non-optional command. It is supernatural, in that it must be of the Spirit whose fruit is love. It involves giving not merely provision, not merely giving time, not merely giving attention, not merely fixing problems–but giving yourself (dying to self).
You love her more than sports, hobbies, more than your job, more than your kids, more than any person except Christ. I am not certain if you have noticed this, but women like to be loved It is crazy–it works every time! Women like to be loved. Go into a greeting card store–is it primarily men or women milling around crying–which one? Women love to be loved–they are natural receivers of love. Only a woman who’s been abused, neglected or harmed has a hard time receiving love. That is why a man has to be so careful.
So when the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives,” it does include the heart–there are feelings involved. I still adore my wife. I still think about her with emotion. Sometimes I actually feel like a junior high kid on a ride at the fair, that somehow I was given Jean! Love does include emotion and joy (described by the word delight). But in the Bible, love doesn’t just feel things, love does things, love obeys, love actually sacrifices.
Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus Christ died for us–His love compelled Him to act. Love in the Bible is not merely sentimental–it is action, giving, sacrificing behavior. God’s love does things, forgives people and restores people. God’s love is powerful and it changes people when they encounter it. Learn it now, singles. Biblical agape love is sacrificial action to benefit another. God loves because it is His nature to love. It’s His nature to initiate sacrificial actions to benefit others.
There is much more in this passage–you can check it out online in our exposition of Ephesians 5. Verses 26 to 27, the godly husband will seek to have his wife be sanctified and ready for Heaven. And every godly husband will function as one with his wife. Verses 28 to 31, but husbands are commanded twice in this passage to love your wife. What does that look like? I want to be very practical.
Love means husbands die to self by sacrificing themselves, providing security
First Men love by treating their wives as the most IMPORTANT person on the planet
Is she your pre-occupation? Your delight? Your treasure? Do you think about her and do everything with her in mind? Husbands, are you her number one fan? Not like the bachelor who put this ad in the paper—”Idaho bachelor wants wife. Must be interested in farming and own tractor. Please enclose picture–of tractor.”
Partnership occurs when men are willing to live out an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. Again, Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” You see, there are three kinds of love–there’s “if” love, “because” love, and “anyhow” love. “If” love is conditional love–“I’ll love you if…” Then “because” love is the give and take love–“I love you because… (you do things and give me things).” But “anyhow” love is unconditional–“I love you anyhow, no matter what you do or don’t do…”
Want your marriage to change quickly and radically? Simple–do three sacrificial acts for each other every day–not take out the trash, but die to self . . . vacuuming, sacrificial repairing the home, unexpected flowers or cards and more. For the believing husband, it is always women and children first in the lifeboats on the Titanic. On this sinking planet, after Christ, she is rescued first, sacrificed for first, thought about first in everything.
What’s the measure of your love for your spouse? How much are you willing to sacrifice? Will you inconvenience yourself? Will you prefer your spouse’s needs over your own? Here is a test–when you are watching your team in the Super Bowl, and your wife needs to talk to you, will you talk to her? With the TV off and the remote out of your hand? This test is unfair, because no godly woman would ever interrupt her man watching his team in the playoffs.
But do you love your spouse with anyhow love? Will you believe the best about her regardless? So how far does the tape measure stretch when it comes to sacrifice? Is fast food okay when she’s had a hard day? Do you clean up the sink after you’ve shaved? Are you willing to completely provide for your family so your wife can work at home? Have you ever planned a romantic getaway when things have been truly tense in your lives? Do you fix the things that need repairing around the house? Men, when is the last time you got a sitter, made a reservation at a restaurant, and just listened to her? Song of Solomon teaches this is not merely for courtship, it’s for marriage. When was the last time you intentionally planned something to show your wife you love her? How much personal sacrifice is involved when you express your love? The greater the sacrifice, the greater the love.
Q – Today, ask her, “Honey, in your heart, do you believe that next to Christ, you are the most important person to me?”
And remember, the love Paul commands is present tense, ongoing, continua. Husbands, your wife will not believe you love her like you did when you were winning her, until she sees you steadily, regularly, consistently sacrifice for her benefit over time–present tense. Does your wife want to renew you for another season?
Second Men love by INITIATING God’s will into every aspect of their lives
Ephesians 5:26, “That He might sanctify her, having cleansed her with the washing of the water of the word.” In the New Testament, “sanctify” means set apart for God’s special use. Husbands are to think of their spouses as God’s special property on loan to you. Men, God’s design for you is to set your wife apart as your most important ministry. Your target is for her to grow more like Christ. You do that by washing her with the Word of God. That means you initiate bringing up or living what God thinks in every issue, every problem, every struggle, every future, every crisis and every blessing. What does the Bible say?
You initiate God’s will by saying things like . . .
“Honey, the Lord wants us to trust Him with this crisis–let’s pray.”
“Dear, God wants us to use our money as wise stewards, so let’s make sure we live by a workable budget and know how we are spending His money. How about I set up a budget, then let’s talk about how to make it work for us.”
“Sweetie, I think the Lord wants us to love those rotten people.”
“Sugar, let me take a more active role in disciplining and spending time with Tommy right now. He really needs some fatherly attention.”
“Baby, how about I watch the kids today, so you can have some time with the Lord or with your friends.”
“Toots, we are at an impasse, so I want to apologize first for my attitude and my words. I know for a fact that I am responsible to get us back on tracK here and also know I contributed to this difficulty between us.”
Sanctification means being as concerned for your wife’s spiritual growth as you are for your own. It means treasuring and encouraging the relationship she has with the Lord. Marriages are made in Heaven, but so are thunder, lightning, tornadoes and hail–so it takes work, prep, and planning. Here is the main breakdown in Christian marriage–it is Christian men who do not pursue the Lord themselves and therefore cannot spiritually lead their wives nor kids. Men, if you’re not applying the Word and seeking answers in prayer, you’ve nothing to offer your wives–there’s no shortcut.
Some of your wives have been praying for you to take the lead. They’ve been giving you gentle reminders–that entire set of MacArthur commentaries for your birthday . . . hint, hint. Pushing you to join the Training Center—but you missed the hint, didn’t you? For most marriages, the issue is not a wife’s unwillingness, but a husband’s neglect of his own walk with God, and ultimately lack of desire.
A couple is in marriage counseling and the wife was complaining that her husband didn’t love her. The husband protested and said, “But dear, I have given you a beautiful house, a new car, all the clothes you want and more. And she said, “That’s true, but you’ve never given me yourself!” Face reality, men–you used to sacrifice all for your grades, to make the team, to win that gal. And you still will give hours to make that sale, get that promotion, and achieve the bonus. Isn’t Christ more important than all those?
Get serious about growing, applying the Word of God, praying enough to experience answers to prayer, seeking to be a witness to the lost around you, worshiping God with a passionate heart, growing deep in theology and knowing God intimately. A first step for some is to apologize to your wife for neglecting your heart before the Lord and not leading your family spiritually. But don’t say it unless you plan to change. It’ll probably require accountability, an achievable plan, a change of schedule that you’ll fight to maintain, and the kind of endurance that gets up after you fall and fail repeatedly.
Q Ask her, “Dear, are you convinced that I want God’s will over everything in our lives?”
And singles, friendships are the same–do you want God’s will more than anything?
Third Men love by cultivating an environment of GROWTH and SAFETY
Ephesians 5:28 to 30, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself, for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.” Nourish can be translated to make grow or to feed. Cherish can be translated to tenderly care for and protect. What does this remind you of? Gardening! None of us can make a plant grow, but we can create an environment for the plant to grow in. We cultivate the soil, plant the seed, water, fertilize, check for bugs and pull weeds.
Husbands are to sacrifice to make your home an environment that encourages growth in Christ. Nurturing and cherishing means being as concerned for your mate’s physical and emotional well-being as you are for your own. Are you, husbands? One of the problems with husbands is their goal orientation. On vacation, men have a goal to reach. That’s why they start with the gas tank full and everyone’s bladder empty, and will drive until the tank is empty and everyone’s bladder is full. But God help the child whose bladder is full before the gas tank is empty. Men are generally goal-oriented.
When courting, men work hard to woo their future wives. They give focused attention until the wedding. After the wedding, a subtle transition occurs. They got their goal, they won their wife. Now they have a new goal–what? Their career. Within six months, there is less courting. Then when the kids come, it can disappear. Wives say, “He’s changed. Before we were married, we talked till midnight. Now he grunts, rolls over and snores. All he wants is food, sex and the channel changer.” The fact is, he got his goal–marriage, kids, and now he’s moving on. But godly men, to cherish is focused attention–it’s adoring continually. You don’t move on.
You can see this in couples where one spouse will do things that bring refreshment to the other spouse–like buying an ice cream cone, arranging a night away from the kids, or trying to help relieve the pressure of work. Cherishing your mate also includes things like planning for the future–whether it’s a vacation, life insurance or a will. It could mean providing some home protection or not allowing her to be alone in a dangerous place.
Nourishing your spouse means letting their strengths shine while balancing their weaknesses, enjoying the ways your spouse is different from you, encouraging your spouse to minister in the area of his or her giftedness. Remember when you were courting and you’d get excited every time you discovered something new about them? Enthusiasm about the way God made your spouse cultivates a healthy spiritual environment.
I love tomato soup–and I enjoy it, the right way! Tomato soup is to be served plain, with crackers, but with nothing in it. If served with a sandwich, it should be grilled cheese. Jean, on the other hand, corrupts her soup by putting vegetables in it–and she’ll eat it with any kind of sandwich, disgusting. But that is the thrill of discovery, of difference. It’s sick, but thrilling. Jean loves word games–I still don’t know how to spell. Jean loves jigsaw puzzles. Who ever invented those had serious mental issues. Yet, I confess, I’ve never to this day met anyone who is more of a selfless servant and helper than my bride.
Husbands lead by dying to self through sacrificing themselves in everyday ways–always introducing God’s Word through your actions and words, and creating an environment of growth and safety in their home.
Q – Ask your wife, “Are you convinced I want you to grow and serve; and to protect you from all harm?”
Marriage does not have to be a three-ring circus–you know, it starts with the engagement ring, then the wedding ring, and ends up with the suffer-ring. But it will take work–and the work is the labor of faith, depending on the Spirit and following His Word.
A Godly husbands WORK at marriage 24/7
I know of a husband who thought he’d conquered the problem of trying to remember his wife’s birthday and their anniversary. He opened an account with a florist, provided them with the dates and instructions to send flowers along with an appropriate note signed, “Your loving husband.” His wife was thrilled by this new display of attention, and all went well until one day when he came home, kissed his wife and said offhandedly, “Nice flowers, honey. Where’d you get them?”
Husbands, your wife does not fit into a compartment. “Let’s see, from 6 to 7pm on Wednesdays is wife time. No, next to Christ, she is your passion 24/7 and you go after that relationship, not merely when she has a need, but before, during and after. Men are the ones who are to cultivate the relationship. You are responsible for the health of your marriage. Christ expects you to lead–you take the steps to grow, get help, get discipled, to serve, resolve financial issues . . . you.
Feel the punch here, husbands–take it like a man! The love you have for your wife only becomes believable when it is ongoing. It is only God’s love when it is dependable and faithful. There will be lapses, mistakes, hurts–but you get it back on track.
B A godly man is most EVIDENCED in his marriage
How do you know a man is truly spiritual? Not by his teaching ability, not by how well he leads a meeting, nor his vision for ministry or the hours he works. But the true test is the way he treats his wife when no one else is around. Nowhere is our relationship with Christ better proven than in our relationship to our wives. The elder, deacon, discipler, lay leader who lacks in love for his wife is guilty of spiritual fraud.
Single men, the proof of your spirituality is not in your convictions about the doctrines of grace or how many Sproul books you’ve read, but in your ability to love others–especially the opposite sex, without defraud, without impurity and without building a wall of emotional pain between you and a sister in Christ. The philosopher Socrates said, “By all means marry–if you get a good spouse, you will be happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher
C A godly man works most at DYING to self
Let me remind you what dying to self is in marriage . . .
When you are forgotten and neglected or purposely thwarted and you don’t sting or hurt to the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy being counted worthy to suffer for Christ–that is Dying to Self
When your good is spoken evil of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence–that is Dying to Self
When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder and irregularity, impunctuality or any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured it–that is Dying to Self
When you are content with any food, any offering, any clothing, any climate, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God–that is Dying to Self
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or to record your own good works, or to itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown–that is Dying to Self
When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances–that is Dying to Self
When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart–that’s Dying to Self
The godly love of a husband dies to self.
D A godly husband LIVES BY certain key truths
In addition to the study of God’s Word, faithful prayer, seeking to be filled with the Spirit, a godly husband . . .
Requires himself and his wife to leave their parents and cleave to each other
Doesn’t wait to obey God’s Word, regardless
Makes certain they apply the Bible to their trials and tests
Seeks the counsel of older, godly men for him and older, godly women for her
Makes time to cultivate undistracted communication
Arranges life so that he loves his wife more than his kids
Seeks to make certain he loves God more than his spouse
Pursues obedience in finances, service to the church, and witness to the world
Desires to have their marriage be a witness to the lost
NEVER entertains thoughts of divorce–never speaks it
Keeps his desires focused on his bride, and no one else
Desires to honor God above all things in life and marriage
There are two times in life when a man does not understand women—1) before marriage, and 2) after marriage. So . . .
E A godly husband TURNS to Christ, then DEPENDS on the Holy Spirit
Men, look up here. If you say the Bible is impossible, you are right. Your sinfulness has to be forgiven and your corrupt nature must be transformed. That is why Christ came. He took the punishment you deserve for your sin–and when you hate your sin in repentance and when you place your life, your all, on Christ by faith, He will transform you. Only then will you have a new nature. And as you depend upon the Holy Spirit, He can empower you to live His Word.
You can make progress in being the husband He wants you to be, but you must cry out for forgiveness, cry out for a new heart, cry out for Him to transform you–do that today. Let the love you have for your bride, the affection you have for your children, and the massive failure of your sins drive you to the cross to find forgiveness and a whole new beginning. A godly husband turns to Christ, then depends on the Holy Spirit. Let’s pray.