Covenant Godly Living: (4) Covenant Fathers Part 2

September 29, 2002 / No. 3117

Dear Radio Friends,

Last week we began a study of a very important verse in the Bible on marriage, Colossians 3:19, where we read, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” Short, straight-forward.

We saw that a husband has been given by God a wife for life and that he is to be the head of his wife, that is, the one who is responsible for her and for the marriage.

Today we are going to continue by looking now at the call of God as to what a husband is supposed to do, namely, husbands, love your wives.

Now, what does that mean? What is love? Young girls listening, what is love? Is it an emotion that gets hold of you and sweeps you up and gives you a feeling? Is that all that it is? And men, what is love? Shall we simply say, “What we need around this house is a little more love and things would be better”? Is that the way we talk? Well, what is love?

There are two passages of the Word of God that will give us the answer. The first is found in the same chapter as our text, Colossians 3:14. There we read, “And above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” To love your wife means that you love her with the love of God. Now, the love of God is not a natural commodity, that is, it is not something that grows deep down in your own heart. The love of God is a wonder. The love of God is something that has to be given. It is a gift to you. We read in I John 4, “He that loveth is born of God, for God is love.” You must be born of God. God must create this love in you by a miracle of His grace. He must put in you the life of Jesus, and then that love must be nurtured and instructed through the Scriptures. Love is not identical to a human passion. It is not found in the hormones. That is lust. It is not centered in self. Love is not the overwhelming desire to own another person, to possess and then to tyrannize that person.

The Bible says that love is a bond of perfection. Now, what does that mean? A bond, of course, is a union, it is a cleaving together, a holding together. The Bible says that love is a union in perfection or holiness. We read in the Bible, “God is love.” The triune, covenant God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – they love each other. They are bound together in holiness, in purity, in delight of the truth, in perfect, shameless acceptance of each other. You see, God’s love is not “dirty.” But God’s love is to be joined and tied together in the holiness of Jesus Christ.

Love is, therefore, a holy affection for God. It is the tender lovingkindness toward others in the love of God. It is a delight in God and a delight in others.

Husbands, love your wife with God’s love, that is, stick with her in holy affection. Guard your heart, man, against sexual sins, pornography, the magazines, imagining other women, lust. Is the love in your heart at its very center the love of God?

Love is knowledge. Jesus loves us, we know that. And that love is always knowledge – He knows us. Therefore, to love your wife, husbands, means that your call from God is to know her and to learn how to express your love to her, to learn her language of love. Maybe you wanted to express your love to her and you bought her some flowers, you came home with this beautiful bouquet of flowers and you came in as she was changing the diapers and the other kids were hanging on her legs and she said, “Oh, how nice.” And she set it aside and did not pay a whole lot of attention to it right then and there. And you were hurt. And you say, “Oh, how cold. Here I bring her this beautiful gift.” Well, maybe it would have been better that you had expressed your love that night by emptying the dishwasher or being a help to her in some other way. Not maybe. That is the way you should have done it.

Or you want to show your love to your wife and you say, “I’m going to give her a hug.” And she responds, “Not now, leave me alone, I’m too busy.” And you are hurt again and say, Oh, boy, this is a hard woman to love. Maybe, then, you should just leave her a little note on the nightstand when you get up and leave for work in the morning.

The point is, you have to learn her and you have to learn to love her in the way that gets across to her.

The second passage which will teach us about love is Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Now, that says everything. That says it all, does it not? How are we to love our wives? As Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Maybe you say to me today, “But I didn’t really have a good example of how to love a wife. My heart was torn in divorce.” Or, “My parents didn’t know the Lord.” Or, “It’s my makeup. I don’t communicate, I don’t really know how to express love. I don’t know how to love.”

Is it not true that when every Christian man gets married he thinks that it should not be too hard to love, but he finds out rather soon that, due to his sin and the sin of his wife, that he does not even know how of himself to love? Then listen. Listen as God speaks. Believe in your heart that God speaks to you now. Love her as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.

I do not know the state of your marriage at this point. I do not know whether you are getting along or whether there is tension and distance in your marriage. I do not know if this morning you went to church bickering all the way in front of your kids or if you went as you ought to, with reverence in your heart to worship the Lord as a family. I do not know these things. But I do know this: at this moment God has prepared His Word for you and for me. Here it is: “Love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” That applies to every husband listening at this very moment. God is saying that to you now. You want to know how to love your wife? Then open your Bible, get down on your knees, and learn of the mystery of how Christ loved the church, how Christ loved you, and then go and do thou likewise.

Doctrine determines life. Yes, it does. How you understand God and how you understand Christ and how you understand the love of Christ will determine how you set about living with your wife. If you do not love your wife, if you do not show reasonable expressions of love for your wife, do not walk around saying, “Oh, I love God and the Reformed faith and the sovereignty of God.” Do not say that, because you do not. If you know God and you know the love of Christ, you are to love her as Christ loved you.

How do you know that love of Christ deep down in your heart right now? That will determine how you are going to love your wife. I would like to interject here the great need of the church of Jesus Christ to stand fast in doctrine. This is a great burden, a great need in the church. Stand fast in doctrine. I know that immediately, whenever the church wants to insist on truth, people say, “Oh, how cold. Will you please be relevant?” Listen, the most relevant church is that church which holds fast to the truth of God’s Word. That is a relevant, in-touch church. We must know the love of God in Jesus Christ. We must be rooted and grounded in the truth of the Scriptures. Doctrine determines life.

Do you accept in your church the idea that the love of God is conditional, that is, God loves those who first love Him? Do you say, “Oh, well, let’s not get hung up over these points of Calvinism. We all know that God is great and it’s all going to turn out in the end, so, yes, it doesn’t matter if they say that the love of God is conditional.” Do you accept in your church the idea that the grace of God is resistible, that is, that God might want and would desire, but He cannot until man first accepts Him? Do you believe in your church a conditional covenant, that is, the bond of fellowship is a conditional fellowship? God will not be a covenant faithful God unless you, first, by your faith make an agreement with Him. Do you believe that?

If you believe any of those that I have just mentioned or anything similar to it, then, and I do not say this in gloating, I say this in weeping, then you have to say goodbye to the marriages of the church. No, you have to say goodbye to the marriages of your sons and of your daughters in these evil days because doctrine determines life. The truth of the Scriptures is that the love of God is changeless. The covenant of His grace is unconditional. His grace is irresistible. He abides faithful. That is the way He loves. He loves faithfully. He loves particularly. Love your wife as Christ loved the church. That is particular love. God loves enduringly. God loves sacrificially. God loves forgivingly. God loves faithfully. Do you believe that? Alright, now go love your wife that way. The foundation of marriage is laid for a little boy and a little girl in catechism class, in the doctrines of the church.

Let us apply that.

…as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. That means that the love for a wife must be sacrificial. Remember, husbands, you are to walk before God and be perfect. Therefore, you must love as Christ loved. And you must be willing to love her sacrificially. Christ gave Himself for the church. You must be willing to die to yourself.

By nature, we live for ourselves. And we look at that wife and we look at her as something for ourselves. We want to pride ourselves in her beauty or we say she exists for our ease, she is there to make my life pleasant. That is the way you think by nature.

Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the church. You have been made a husband in order that Christ can teach you the dynamics of discipleship. What are the dynamics of discipleship? “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself” (Matt. 16:24). Love for your wife will mean that you will subjugate your feelings, your wishes, your dreams, your desires, and you will give yourself for the good of your wife, that God might be everything to her. Is that not the heart of it? God nowhere said that you have to give your wife a home with seven bedrooms. God nowhere said that you have to give your family a car for each child and member. God nowhere said that you have to clothe your wife in the latest and best. But God did say that you are to give yourself for her. And that is what she needs. She needs to rest in your love. She needs to know that you will listen to her, that you will pray for her, that you will protect her, that you will calm her fears with God’s Word.

Secondly, we are to love our wife in the way that we take the initiative. As Christ loved the church…. Christ did not wait for the church to love Him. If Christ had waited for us to love Him, where would you be?

That means that you take the initiative as a husband. You do that. You do not sit looking at her on the fifty-yard line, both of you coming fifty yards and saying, “Well, all right, I will if you will.” You are not in competition with that woman. The question is not, “Who is going to give in?” The question is: Are you going to be the head and are you going to love as Christ loved the church? Do not compete with her. You go and you initiate the reconciliation. You do that by the love of God. God sent forth His Son. And He says, “Now you go to her.”

If Christ had waited for us to love Him,
where would you be?
Are there any things in marriage concerning which you said, “Well, first she has to do this, and then I…”? Is this the way you talk? Are you going to wait her out? How dwelleth the love of God in you?

Thirdly, the love of God will be exclusive. Christ loved His church and gave Himself for her. Marriage is an exclusive bond. You cannot put a third party in there. There is no room for a third party. You are to love her, the woman that God gave you. The book of Proverbs says, “Let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; … why wilt thou be ravished with a strange woman?” Marriage is an exclusive bond.

Finally, that love for your wife will be enduring. Will Christ forsake His church? Will God alter the vow of His covenant? Will He set His bride aside? No! Listen. The Scriptures tell us that the whole universe holds together on one absolute truth. Do you know what that one absolute truth is that holds everything together right now? It is not some principle about thermo-dynamics or whatever it may be. This is what holds the whole universe together: but evermore the love of God is changeless, still shown to those who look to Him in fear. The love of God is the one unchangeable, sustaining truth. God has loved His people.

We live in a culture where the message is repeatedly conveyed to us: I love you, because…. I love you until…. I love you when…. I love you if…. Now, listen, men of God. Listen, women. Listen, children and young people of God. Every disciple of Jesus Christ, right now in this present culture, who seeks to exemplify the Lord’s love in Christ, will repeat to his spouse in word and in deed, “Honey, I love you – period! No strings attached. No condition. Unreservedly. And I promise to show you and to express to you that kind of love each and every day. Why? Because, in the midst of a sinful, selfish, self-centered, unloving, and unlovely world, God has loved me. And I will love you as He loved me.”

Love your wives and be not bitter against them.

That warning is not just pulled out of the air. It is a sin to which husbands are prone – bitterness, resentment, and dealing with their wives in a harsh way. It can happen this way. You had a hard day and you come home crabby. You are carrying the office on your shoulder, or that employee gave you a hard time. And she greets you at the door with her needs and the problems with the kids and you snap at her and you stomp off and go into the living room. Or you told her how to keep a checkbook. You told her what to say when the realtor called. You told her what to do when the red light comes on in the car. You told her to put your books by your chair. And she didn’t do it. And you say to her, “That’s the dumbest thing anyone….” And you go on and on. Then, after the argument and the explosion, you think, “Well, she doesn’t meet my needs. She doesn’t fill the bill.” And you sulk and you feel sorry for yourself.

Or, it can happen this way. She, in love, admonishes you. As a wife, seeking to show honor and respect to you, she confronts you with respect to your sin. She says, “Honey, this is wrong.” And you resent it. You try to bulldoze right over her. You shift the blame and turn it upside-down on the weaker vessel and say, “Well, you know, it’s really your fault. If only you would… I would not.” Stop it.

What happened? What is the source of all the ruckus that I have explained here that can happen so easily? Do you say, “Well, she….” No, that is not the source of it. What happened, man? This is what happened. You did not remember in your soul that you are her husband, her head, who is to love her as Christ loved the church. That is the problem. The problem is with you. You have to lead her. You have to be patient. You have to think of her first. You have to behave like Jesus Christ. And be not bitter against her.

That means you will confess your sins. Do not pile them up. Husbands and wives, do not pile up your sins against each other, not confessing them. That is just like a messy house. You put something down and say, “I’ll get to that in a little bit.” And you keep doing it. At the end of the month you can hardly move through the house. You say, “Look at this mess. We don’t even know where to begin! How did this happen?” That is the way it happens with sin. And that is why, before the sun goes down, you must confess your faults and pray together. I believe that. That is true, and eternity will verify the words that couples who pray together stay together.

Still more. You want to be a husband? Listen to the word of God in Colossians 3:12-14: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on love.”

You want to be a husband? Then put those things on and God will bless you in ways that He alone can show you. And God will say, “I see My covenant reflected in that man, in that husband. And I will be with him and I will honor him.”

Let us pray.

Father in heaven, apply Thy word to our heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.