The Calling of Husbands and Wives (1)

June 27, 2004 / No. 3208

 Dear Radio Friends,

          In the first half of his message, Rev. VanOverloop will talk about the calling of a husband.  How, Rev. VanOverloop, do you explain the biblical duty of a husband?

          “I would follow the Word of God found in Ephesians 5, which emphasizes that the calling of the husband, as a Christian, is to love, to learn to love.  It is not feelings and emotions.  But it is an understanding of his wife to be a gift from God that he appreciates.  And that his love for God is evident in how he loves, looks at, takes care of the wife that God has given to him.”

          It is rather striking that when the apostle addresses husbands in Colossians, he brings that warning:  Be not bitter against your wife.  Now you just talked about the call to love.  How does that temptation towards bitterness fit in?

          “It fits in tremendously because it is always easy for a man, who is made differently than a woman by God purposefully and deliberately, to look at the woman that God has given to him and, because she does not think the same way and does not talk the same way and does not act the same way, to get frustrated, bitter.  That is why, I believe, the contrast to Colossians 3 (be not bitter against her) is the passage in I Peter 3:7, which says ‘dwell with her as a man of understanding.’  Instead of frustration, live with her understanding that God made her to be different and made her to be a very delicate vessel, precious, honorable, to be kept carefully and cherished.  He must dwell with her as a man of understanding.”

Rev. VanOverloop, pastor of Byron Center PRC.

          The calling to give a message on the responsibilities of a husband, of which I am one, is awesome and frightening.  First of all, because there is simply the responsibility to bring the Word of God.  Secondly, to know that in presenting that calling according to the Word of God, I stand condemned and in need of forgiveness in the same Savior whom I am to represent towards my wife.  Therefore, there is a conflict, a struggle of emotions and feelings when one goes through a message that presents such a calling.

          We deal first with the calling of a husband.  And we do that knowing that in both Ephesians and in Colossians the Scriptures give the responsibility of the wife first.  We will deal with that of the husband first.  We do that because it is Christ’s love for His church, for us, that precedes our love.  And it is in every marriage ceremony that the husband is asked to state his vows first.  The beautiful thing about that is the fact that the wife accepts her God-given, humble calling, of an attitude of submission, only because first her husband has said to her, “I promise and vow before God Himself to love you.”

          So, before we deal with the calling of a wife, we deal first with the calling of the husband.  We do so on the basis of Ephesians 5:25 where that calling is stated very simply:  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”

          In our western civilization, where most marriages are preceded by dating, we know a love that is not the kind of love that is commanded us here in the Word of God.  Most of us, even at the age of thirteen, look at the man and say, “Oh, I love him.”  But it was not agape.  It was philos, it was an emotional love, a love that emphasized feelings and emotions.  They saw things in common, delighted in them.  But it was not this.  And that is what is interesting.  This text does not give husbands a choice.  This text is a command from God — Love!  We may look in a mirror and say, “How do I work up that emotion?”  It is not an emotion first.  It is a decision, an obedient decision.  It is looking at God who gives the calling and obeying and deciding, morning by morning, to love the wife that God has given me.

          So this emphasizes that love is first of all not emotions and feelings and it is not just simply giving in and being nice.  Those are actions that proceed from love.  But love is something more than that.  Love is an obedient decision to know and enjoy the presence of a beautiful bond of perfectness.  This is derived from Colossians 3:14, “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”

          What is there in your God-given wife that is perfect?  When we are dating we can list a lot of them, right?  But reality comes over the course of five-ten years, and we look and we see not perfection but habits and idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies.

          Knowledge and enjoyment of the presence of a perfection and of a bond that unites two who are perfect.  What does that mean?  It means this.  Love is the exercise of a God-given faith that looks at a fellow saint and a wife because agape is commanded to be between all of us, every child of God — a faith which looks and sees her the way God sees her.  You look at that wife and you see someone who was loved by God.  That is why He chose her.  He did not choose her in order to love her, He loved her from eternity.  That is why He elected her.  God sees her as someone that He loved so much that He gave His only begotten Son unto death for her.

          Faith realizes that the one whom God looks at that way is one against whom He will hear no charge brought.  You can complain in your mind and soul.  You can be bitter.  But God will not hear any of your complaints.  That is why your prayers will be hindered (I Pet. 3:7), because you are not looking at her the way God looks at her.

          To know and enjoy the bond of perfectness is, secondly, an exercise of a faith that looks at her as if Christ is looking at her — seeing Christ in her performing a work, a perfect work, a work regenerating her, a work that evidences itself in her sorrow for sin, her faith in Christ, her seeking, hungering, and thirsting after righteousness, her childlike awe and fear of Jehovah.  Love is knowing and enjoying what God is doing in your life and delighting in it.

          It is seeing your wife as God’s gift always, not just sometimes.  When her moods are not great and she is ready to be delivered and weary of that pregnancy; when she is tired of dealing with little kids all day, she is God’s gift to you, given in perfect wisdom and given in infinite love.  She is the perfect, God-ordained, God-created, God-designed companion for you.  In vain you look at others and say, “I wish she was a little more like so-and-so.  Why can’t you be like….”  Do not ever do that.  You see her as God’s perfect gift.  So that even her sins are God’s gift.  She has to answer to God for them.  She must repent of them.  She must challenge herself and exercise herself in sanctification to be rid of them.  But when she sins, they are God’s gift.  And your calling is to respond to Him.

          The love of a husband must be like that of Christ.  Five things I want to point out rather quickly.

          First, sacrificial, self-denying, selfless giving of one’s self, striving to reflect God’s giving of His Son because He loved, striving to reflect Christ’s giving Himself.  God is not calling you as a husband to do something He does not do.  Do you know that here in Ephesians 5:25 is the second time that we read that God loved and gave?  The first time is in verse 2, “Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath give himself for us an offering and a sacrifice.”  He loved us and He gave Himself.  Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:  and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  You say you love.  Then it is not so much that you give gifts and flowers but that you give yourself.  That is how Christ and God love.  As Rev. Bruinsma spoke in the last messages, love seeks not her own.

          Secondly, to love as Christ means to love unconditionally.  When it is more with the emotions that we love, then we say, “I love you because your eyes are so beautiful and your lips are so soft and your mind is so sharp.  I love you when you’re nice.”  No, no.  Unconditional love means I love you because God loves me.  I decide to love you.  And really, honey, it has nothing to do with you.  I tell my daughters (and I have many daughters — a church full of them), “you seek a man who will love God more than you and for God’s sake will love you (not for your sake).”  And, dear ladies, Christian wives and women, you cannot be loved more than when your husband says, “Honey, I love you for Christ’s sake.”  Her failure to love, her failure to submit, never revokes Christ’s command — no more than the love of our Lord Jesus Christ is altered, diminished, or revoked when we fail to return His love.

          Thirdly, Christ’s love is tender.  Here in Ephesians 5 the word “cherish” is used.  It comforts.  It makes her feel warm.  That is what the idea is literally.  What is so interesting about that is that it is not, “I make her warm,” but “I make her feel warm.”  The warmth and the cherishing is not what I think I am doing but it is when she is experiencing it.  That is when she is cherished.

          Fourthly, to reflect Christ’s love means we nourish.  We seek her good, we seek her betterment, we seek to supply her with spiritual encouragements, psychological encouragements, emotional and physical.  We want her to grow, to develop.  We want her inner beauty to be brighter and more beautiful tomorrow than what it is today, and more today than what it was yesterday.

          Fifthly, like Christ’s, our love means that we are close.  It is not, “I bring in a check, I work hard all day, don’t you know I love you?”  No, love like Christ’s is to be with her.  I Peter 3:7, “Dwell,” live, abide in the same house with her.  I Corinthians 11:11, “Neither is the man without the woman; neither the woman without the man,” so that even when you are not next to her you are not forgetting her, you are not without her.  When you are at work, she is there, she is with you.  That is the nature of love, the nature of Christ’s love.  Do you hear Him say to you over and over, “I am with you, I will never leave you, I will never forsake you”?  Husbands, so love your God-given wives.

          That love is to be expressed as Christ expressed His love for us.  We express it.  That means we tell her.  It is not, “Honey, I told you on our wedding day.  How many times do you think I have to tell you?”  No, it is telling her until she is embarrassed by how many times you tell her.  And it does not make any difference, my dear fellow male saints, what your background and training was, what your nature is and personality.  Does the Lord who saved you ever get ashamed or embarrassed to tell you how much He loves you?  Never.  Listen to the words in the Psalter, which versify the Psalms, and notice how many times you see the word love.  Abide in His love.  In His love abiding.  God wants us, His children, living every day not doubting but assured of His love.  That is the kind of love we must give to the wives that God has given to us.

          Now, how do we tell her?  There are many different ways.  There are words, touches, there are kind deeds, affectionate expressions.  God wants you to tell her you love her in a way in which she appreciates.  Be aware of that.  If you love her, then it is not, well, this is how I would feel good if someone told me that they loved me, so that is how I am going to tell it to her.  I am fond of using this example:  I love roses, especially those velvety red ones right when they are in a bud (although I saw an orange one last week that was just gorgeous).  Now Sue likes those, but she has a preference for bright daisies.  You know where I am going.  If I tell her that I love her with roses, that is my way.  But if I love her enough to want her to know, then I must tell her her way.  Do you know how your wife prefers to be told that you love her?

          Finally this.  To love as Christ means that you look at her as something to be cherished and nourished.  Now I want to use the figure of I Peter 3:7, often misunderstood because the focus that we are likely to put on this text is how in the wide world is a woman weaker than a man — a weaker vessel — and we miss the whole point.  The whole point of that passage, when the apostle says, “Dwell with her according to knowledge as unto a weaker vessel,” (that is the literal word order), is that you realize that this wife that God has given to you is like a vase, a precious vase, not the thick cut-glass that you might dare to toss to another guy with good hands, but this is a vase that is so valuable because it is thin, so easily broken.  And all the cuts on it make it glimmer and glow with an extra beauty that the thicker cut-glass will not do.  This wife that God has given to you is something that you value as delicate, as precious.  Dwell with her as a man of understanding, knowing that she is that kind of a vessel.  So often the attitudes that she may have toward you now are because of the way you treated her in the past.

          My conclusion is this:  Let us commit ourselves every Sabbath, every day, maybe today, to changing the patterns that we have set and established, no matter how hard it may be because we have been married so long and we have followed these patterns so long.  Remember this:  God is greater than any problem (as Rev. Bruinsma taught us).  Remember that in Christ we can do all things.  Remember that grace is greater than any sin.

          Husbands, love your God-given wife by appreciating the work He is doing in her.