On our program last week we were talking about the calling of a husband to love his wife even as Christ loved the church. We were looking, at that time, into Ephesians 5:25-27, where we learned that as Christ has loved the church and gave Himself for the church, so a husband is to love his wife. A husband, then, is to look upon his wife as the call to set aside his self and his pride, and he is to approach her with that self-denying love of Christ, to lead her, to direct her, to counsel her, in such a way that she grows up into Christ her Lord.
We concluded by saying that that love will desire that the wife believe that she is treasured by her husband, even as the church is left with the feeling that she is treasured by God, that God’s love treasures the church to such an extent that He gave His own Son to die for us—not because we were worthy, but only for His own name’s sake and out of the abundance of His grace.
Today we want to continue in what the apostle Paul is teaching us concerning God’s word to a husband. In Ephesians 5:27 we read that the purpose of Christ’s love to the church was the following: “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” And, if we back up to verse 26 again, here is the purpose for Christ’s love, or this is the goal for Christ’s love for the church, “that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” In other words, the love of Jesus Christ for His church, His people, has a purpose or a goal. Christ has a goal for his wife.
If, therefore, we are to conform ourselves to Christ as husband, then we too must have a goal, we must have an aim, for our wives. Our aim for our wife will be that she grow in personal holiness and in spiritual maturity. That must be our goal.
Now we need to pause to let that biblical truth sink into our hearts and souls, because that is a truth that we do not ordinarily consider or think about. If I am to be as Christ, then I must have a goal for my wife; there must be something that I want her to have.
What do you want your wife to have? What do you want your wife to be? You want her to be a trophy—always having a perfect figure? What urgings and what pressures do the women in the church feel from men? What pressures do girls (teenage girls) experience from men? What do the men of the church, the men of Jesus Christ—those who are to lead the church and be the soldiers of Christ—want the women of the church to be?
The world makes it very plain what it wants women to be. Men of the world want women to be seductive and available. What do you want your wife to be? What do you want your daughter to be? Well, the wonderful grace of God that conforms us to the image of Jesus Christ means that we will have a clear goal, a heartfelt goal. We will want our wives, our daughters, the women in Jesus Christ in the church of Christ, to be holy in Christ. We will want them to grow in beauty, in the beauty of Jesus Christ. We will want them to be spiritually vibrant and spiritually beautiful.
The goal is that they be conformed to Jesus Christ, not to ourselves. Our longing for the wife, then, is not that we get her to do all of our personal preferences. Yes, a woman is to please her husband. She is to be the spiritual helpmeet of her husband. But our goals and our longings for our wife must not be based in our selfish and senseless human heart. No, our goal must be that our wife be inwardly beautiful in Jesus Christ. We would, then, covet before God that our wives and daughters be adorned with His grace. The Christian man, the Christian husband, desires that his wife be modest and kind and tender and faithful and beautiful in the grace of God—a woman of prayer, a woman of good deeds in Jesus Christ.
When you are conformed to Christ as a husband, you will have a very clear goal for your wife. You will want your wife to live in the glory of being the daughter of the King—to live as one who is chosen and precious in Jesus Christ and, therefore, in the words of Scripture, faithful in all good works. And to the Satanic influences of this world, to the influence of television and movies and music and magazines, influences that desire them to be conformed to the world, to be seductive, suggestive, defiant, brazen—to these influences and to the world and to the Devil, we say as Christian men: “Get your hands off my wife, my daughter, and the blessed daughters of the church!”
There is a beauty in Jesus Christ. Christ’s wife is beautiful in Jesus. And we want our wives to shine in the beauty of Jesus. We love them with that purpose in mind. Listen to God’s Word. Listen to what God says to husbands: “Husbands, be as Christ.” And here is Christ’s purpose to His bride: “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
Why did Jesus die for us? Christ died that He might make us, His church, holy and clean in His blood. “The washing of the water by the word” is a reference to baptism. And baptism is a sign of the wonderful grace of God in the blood of Christ that we who were dirty and soiled and broken and foul have been cleansed in His blood from all of our sins.
Still more. Not only was Christ’s purpose to cleanse us from our sins, but He had an eschatological purpose as well, that is, a purpose that pointed toward the end of time, toward the goal of all things. Christ’s purpose in loving us, His church, is that He might present us to Himself as a splendid, a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle in the last day. You could put it simply this way: Christ’s purpose was that we be glorified. Christ’s purpose was that by His grace sinners be transformed to be glorious, to be arrayed in royal garments, to possess an eternal beauty, to come to a point where there will be no disfigurement, no stains. The love of Jesus for the church has a goal that the church be presented glorious at the throne of God, that the church, in His arms, be taken into the banquet halls of eternity, into the garden of eternal love, and there be with the Father forever.
Now, dear brother, dear husband, what goal do you have for your wife, the wife who is sitting next to you now, perhaps, listening to this broadcast? You had dinner with her. She sits at the table with you with all those kids. She is at your side in church. What is your goal? You say, “Hmmm. I didn’t know I was supposed to have a goal.” Do you think Christ gave you a wife for no reason? Christ is working. Christ is leading His bride, His church, to take away all of our wrinkles, to make us a splendid bride, one day to take us into heavenly splendor. As Christ loved His church, husbands, so you are to bear a unique responsibility for your wife’s spiritual growth. When you get married, you must be a spiritual leader.
Young men who are not married, you need to have some spiritual guts. You need to have a life with God. You need to be a man of prayer. As a single man, you are not supposed to be out there floating in waves of irresponsibility. But you prepare by becoming a man of God. A Christian girl is looking today for spiritual leadership. In fact, many Christian girls cry out to God, “Where are the young men who show spiritual initiative, leadership, passion for Christ? Where is the guy whose interest is higher than a good meal and a hockey game or jet-skiing or a car? Where is that guy?”
They are in the church under the preaching of the sovereign grace of King Jesus. That is where they are.
If we are to be conformed to Christ as men of God and as husbands, then we must feel a responsibility for the growth, for the maturing, for the spiritual growth of our wives. A married man ought to feel the weight of responsibility.
You say, “Oh, yes. The responsibility of maintaining the home and patching the roof and paying the insurance and making the repairs and changing the oil.” Yes, but also the responsibility to foster and to nurture growth in Jesus, to bring God’s daughter closer to Him, to be the means of God to accomplish that.
You do not need, first of all, a house paid for before you get married. You need to be a man of prayer. You do not need chiseled features from working out, chiseled features of muscles that make chills go down her spine. No. You need a heart that is impassioned by the love of Jesus. Your vision, as a married couple, must not be the house, the car, the vacations. But it must be that you stand as a couple and as a family in that great day of Jesus basking in the light of the King, knowing His heart.
Then, husbands, our behavior will indeed be that of sacrificial service. That will be our behavior both as a husband and as a wife. For Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Love, as I said last week, is not just talk. Oh, yes, talk is necessary. For we, as the church, need to be told that Christ loves us. That is what the Scriptures are. That is what the preaching of the Word in the church is all about. And that is a good husband. Through the Word, and through preachers, Christ proclaims His steadfast, faithful love on His elect church. He will never remove that love. That is why Christ is such a great husband, a perfect husband. And now we, as husbands, must mirror Christ. We too must speak to our wives of our love for them.
But our love to them must not be speech alone. It must be behavior. Love must be expressed in sacrificial, humble, kind, thoughtful behavior. That is the key whereby the grace of God brings change and growth to our wife. When the Scriptures say to us, “God’s grace will give you to forbear and forgive,” that does not mean (as we also said last week) that then your marriage is in a stuck position and that the Scriptures are simply saying to husbands and wives, “Well, it looks like we’re going to have to live like this.” No. But forgiveness and forbearance and the refusal to become bitter and resentful—all of that leads and becomes the foundation to the wonderful power of God’s grace to bring about change in behavior.
What a change there was in the prodigal son, from a thoughtless, self-centered young man to a humble servant of the father. That prodigal son, when he was at home and then left his father, was unbearable to be around. He thought of nobody but himself. He lived and used everything for himself. What changed him? Was it the threat of his father: “Listen, shape up or you’re out of this house”? No, what changed the prodigal son, by God’s wonderful grace, was the knowledge of his father’s unbroken and unbreakable love.
What will change your spouse? You say, “Rev., I can’t live with this nagging, this bickering, this badgering.” One of the most powerful instruments of God’s grace to bring change in our spouse is to lay down our life one for another. To be loved in a sacrificial way, as Christ died for us dirty sinners, for us unfaithful, selfish, foolish, proud, arrogant sinners. By grace He forgave us. And His grace moves us to be like Him. Christ won His church by dying for her.
And so, look at what He did. Husband, you too will win the heart of your Christian wife by a sacrificial love for her. Pursue conformity to Christ. Track it down. Lay hold of that truth and do not let it go—no matter what swirls around you. Let these words be branded upon your soul: “Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. I must love her as Christ loved the church.” Do you think that was an easy thing? That required all the infinite power of the perfect God. God will honor that type of obedience to Him. And you will find that His grace that brought life out of death in your own heart is also able to bring love out of hate. You say that your marriage has descended to bitterness? The grace of God that has brought life out of death in your heart is able to bring love out of hate and victory out of failure.
Marriage is about forgiveness and forbearance. And marriage is about change—to be conformed to Christ. It is about growing up into Christ. Marriage is intended that we grow up into Him. That is the purpose of everything. All of God’s works have one goal—that His church be like Christ.
That is the purpose of God for your marriage, so that after ten, twenty, thirty years of marriage, there will be more beauty and more delight. And should you live and grow old together, your marriage will become deeper and more vibrant in Jesus Christ. And should your wife die before you, you say to her as she closes her eyes in death, “I will meet you on the other side. And together we will be arrayed in Christ’s glory, the very glory that we were pursuing together on earth.”
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy holy Word and pray that it may indeed enter into our hearts. As we stand before the mirror of Thy Word, we see that we are sinners and that we do not have this of ourselves. We come, O Lord, empty and broken and ask that our Savior, by His grace, might fill us with His grace and give to us but one holy desire: to be like Him. We know, heavenly Father, that the issues of marriage can become so difficult and twisted, and it seems sometimes to us that it cannot be sorted out. We pray, then, that we may return to the simplicity of Thy Word and that we may hear that Word each day as a husband: Love as Christ, and love with a purpose—the purpose of our wife’s spiritual good. In Jesus’ name, Amen.