Here, too, foundations are shaking. Many husbands simply refuse to take their God-ordained place - - refuse to be home anymore, to take part in raising the children, or to love and nurture their wives. Culture seems to point men away from their God-ordained position. Times are changing, and no one seems to know what the role of the husband is. We pray for good husbands.
The Word of God - - the Bible - - is our only authority here. What is the husband's duty in marriage? This: "Husbands, love your wives" (Ephesians 5:25).
We may be tempted to think that the calling of the husband is "Rule your wife." Over and over the Bible calls women to submit to their husbands. It would seem, then, that the husband's calling is, "Rule." But this is not the case. The Bible says, "Husbands, love your wives." So the husband who is always telling his wife, "Submit, submit, submit" is a foolish husband. He does not know how to be the head of the wife because he does not know how to love her. God's Word is, "Love your wife. This is how you rule her."
Is this not how Christ is head of the church and rules the church? Let's not forget the comparison that the Bible makes between the husband/wife relationship and the Christ/Church relationship. This is the great pattern for our marriages. So the question becomes, "How does Christ rule the church?" The answer is, "By the sweet, irresistible power of His grace, through His Word and Spirit." That is, by love! (Psalm 110:3)
The idea "love" has been so prostituted that we hardly know what it means anymore. Sometimes we think that love is something that "gets you," or you "fall into" and "fall out of," or that it is simply "animal passion." The Bible says, "God is love," but also that "love is of God" (I John 4:7-16). God's love is His almighty arms embracing, binding, and holding us to Himself through His Holy Son Jesus. Between a man and a woman there is no real love if they do not love in Christ. There may be concern, passion, even a desire for the other's good; but there is no love. For husbands, the Word of God is this: "Exercise towards your wife an intelligent, purposeful affection, that joyfully wills and seeks her spiritual good, even at a great cost to you. This is the love of God's Son for you."
Comparing our love with Christ's, we may say that the characteristics of a husband's love must be:
SACRIFICIAL, SELFLESS. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." This is the mystery of the gospel: The Son of God gave Himself to death, to bear the burden of the Church's punishment, so that she might live. Love is selfless. "Love seeketh not her own" (I Corinthians 13). This points out the difference between love and lust. This also points out the duty of husbands.
UNCONDITIONAL. Christ's love for the Church was not based on some foreseen goodness, nor does it depend on a loveliness that She can present to Him on Her own. Christ's love was and is unconditional (See Ezekial 16). (This is the Reformed faith!) This does not mean that a young man may marry a spiritually unlovely woman. Rather, it means that the husband, after marriage, may not say, "She is not lovely anymore; I will not love her."
TENDER. Ephesians 5:29 teaches the husband to "cherish" his wife. The love of Christ for the church is a tender, gentle, love. Sometimes husbands complain about "unfeminine" wives. Husbands must be asked, "Are you tender with your wife?"
CLOSE. An error the husband may fall into is to think that he loves his wife because he provides well for her, but that he is rarely home with her. Then friction results and the husband is surprised. He should have known: love comes close to and dwells with the wife. I Peter 3:7 calls husbands to dwell with their wives. Christ comes close to His Bride. He speaks to Her, often. He loves Her!
NURTURING. If there is true love in the husband's heart, he will also want his wife to be healthy. He will care for her physically; he will provide for her spiritually. He will have the greatest concern for her relationship to God! She is "his own flesh" and no man ever yet hated his own flesh, "but nourisheth it and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church" (Ephesians 5:29).
This points out that husbands who love their wives will have conscious goals in their marriage. The purpose of the love of Christ for the church is the church's perfection. He said, as it were, "I will perfect my church. I will give myself for Her so that She may be cleansed, separated from the world, consecrated to God." Christ did that by His death on the cross and now does it by "His Spirit and Word" (Ephesians 5:26). The husband's goal for his wife will be her holiness, her purity, a close relationship to her God!
This is effected by the Word of God. Husbands, comfort and encourage your wives, by the Word; teach and instruct them, by the Word; call them to holiness, with the Word; guide and direct them, by the Word.
In that way, the husband is the spiritual leader in the home. Do husbands see to it that the Word of God is read in the home, regularly? Do they see to it that prayer is offered often? Do they ensure that their wife learns to pray? Do they pray with their wives?
Husbands, this, this beautifies your wife! This will make her appealing to you! This is the adornment that is of great price in the sight of God (I Peter 3:4).
Husbands, how do we fare? Is our love a selfless love, an understanding love, a gentle love? Is our goal a holy wife, nurtured up in the knowledge of God and comfort of Jesus Christ? When we measure ourselves up to the standard of Christ, we are weak, poor, husbands. Yet that is the standard. "Love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). Can you do anything but confess, "God, I am a sinful husband: be merciful to me"?
The possibility of being a good husband is only through faith in Jesus Christ. Looking to Christ, the husband of the Church, and trusting in His work on the cross, is our salvation for all our failures as husbands, for all our miserable dealings with our wives.