We return today to our study and discussion of the profound passage on marriage in Ephesians 5. It was especially in commemoration of Mother’s Day last week Sunday that we were looking at the gift of a wife as the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of God, explains that for us in Ephesians 5:28-30. Today we would like to build upon and continue in the thought of that message. Please reread the passage before we continue this discussion.
We were talking last time about the fact that the calling of a husband is to nurture and cherish his wife. He is to do that because God has united him to his wife as one body. Marriage is to represent the intimate union of the Lord and the church, which is the theme that runs through the whole passage on marriage in Ephesians 5. A believing husband, understanding the profound truth that marriage exists first of all for God’s purpose, first of all to be a picture of Christ and the church, will understand that he is united by God, irrevocably and inseparably, to his wife. He is, therefore, to love her even as Christ loves His church.
How? The Word of God is answering us. God says to us, “You must nurture and cherish your wife.” Last time we looked at those words. Now, let us continue and answer the question: How does a husband actually do this? How are we to nurture and cherish?
The Bible answers, first of all, with these words: “As the Lord the church.” In other words, the calling of a husband with respect to his wife is to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ. That means that you must take the Lord’s nurturing and cherishing of His church as the pattern for your life with your wife. That is the word of God. As Christ nurtures and cherishes His church, so you must nurture and cherish your wife by having a conscious purpose to develop your wife emotionally and spiritually before God. Notice, you are to do this to your wife. Not only to the soul of your wife, not only to the physical life of your wife, not only to your wife’s spirit, but to your wife. “So ought men to love their wives.” You love your wife – everything that makes her a wife, her whole being. She is not just your wife in physical terms or in terms of her soul or her spiritual state, her body or mind. No, in terms of her whole being, the totality of her body, emotionally and spiritually, she is to be the object of your nurturing love. This nurturing and cherishing must include of the whole of your wife. You are to seek prayerfully that she develop spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
That is to be carried out in specifics. It involves you, as a husband, in the conscious effort to assist her spiritual development. If you are to nourish and cherish your wife as the Lord the church, you are called of God to lead your wife in her spiritual development. Get a hold of that, as a believing husband. I pray that young men, unmarried men, are hearing the words of this program. I pray that you are inviting such young men to listen with you to hear this word of God. We must get a hold of that!
The husband is called of God to involve himself in, to see as his purpose, his wife’s spiritual development. Now, granted, a wife shall answer to God for the state of her soul. No wife shall ever be able to hide behind her husband for her failures toward God. Romans 14:12 says, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” But every husband has the peculiar responsibility towards his wife because God has constituted him as the head of his wife. See Ephesians 5:23: “For the husband is the head of the wife.”
Husband, do you daily and specifically pray for your wife? If you do not, you are not nurturing and cherishing her as the Lord the church. For one of the main channels by which God causes the child of God to grow is prayer. Thus you, as her husband, are to bring her to the throne of grace. You are appointed of God to pray for her. Do you, daily, pray for her and with her? It is amazing how many men do not pray with their wives. They eat with them. They live with them. They do many things with them. But what about the most intimate bond of spiritual union – prayer? It is as a man earnestly prays with his wife that she enters with him into the presence of God – that secret holy place. There she learns to pray as she hears you pray, as she hears you wrestle with God for His blessing upon the household, upon the children, upon the church, and upon her. There she learns intercessory prayer from her head, her husband.
I ask you, husbands, do you, with some regularity, study with her and speak to her of God’s Word? Do you read the Scriptures with her? When God opens that Word to you, do you share that Word with her? Is it natural for you to converse with your wife of the deepest, most intimate concerns of your soul? If not, husbands, I do not care what we are hiding behind in terms of natural reserve and shyness or saying, “I don’t have the time.” God says to you and to me that we are to nurture and cherish our wives. What is that if it is not the concern and the leadership as her husband to lead her in prayer and in the study of God’s Word?
I speak to you, husbands and fathers whose wives are mothers of small children. When, of necessity, your wife is cut off from the public means of grace in the care of the children, that is, when of necessity your wife cannot attend church because of the care of the children, do you intentionally and consciously labor for her spiritual development? Do you come back home from the service and tell her more than just a sentence or two of what the word of God that you heard was about, that you were privileged to hear? Do you tell her the little tidbits of information of the church life that you picked up – not gossip, but the fellowship of God’s people, so that even though she is cut off from going to the house of God, she feels part of God’s people? Husband, if your wife is a true saint of God, then she is going to feel like David did when he was cut off from the temple and, as he said in Psalm 84, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord. When shall I appear before God?” Do you take that into account when she has to stay home and care for the children? Do you nourish her and cherish her in terms of conscious labors for her spiritual development?
But there is more. There is also the emotional and physical well-being of your wife. That is your calling from God, too. Yes, God says to the wife (and it is a word that all of us need to hear, but we need to hear it as wives), “Be careful for nothing. But in everything with prayer and supplication make your requests known to God. And the peace of God which passeth understanding shall keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” The Word of God says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.” God speaks directly to you, wife. And he says, “Now you are accountable to Me for your spiritual state of peace of soul. You are also responsible for your fitfulness and nervousness. But at the same time, husband, you are to nurture and to cherish your wife. Do you seek to shield your wife from unnecessary emotional pressure? Do you seek to guard her from those things to which she is especially vulnerable? Some wives have emotional structures with weak points. Some here, others there. Some in this area, others in that. But a man who, according to I Peter 3:7, dwells with his wife according to knowledge seeks to know those weak points in the wall of her emotional structure and he will stand there to fortify it – not with irate impatience, but nurturing and cherishing her. That means that you will make a conscious effort to assist her emotionally in all the demands of her time, as well as physically. We nurture the wife by having a concern for her total good – spiritually, yes – but emotionally and physically also.
But more. A husband’s nurturing and cherishing of his wife is performed by the conscious development of the marital relationship of husband and wife. Let us go back to the pattern. Who took, and continues to take, the initiative in the union of Christ and the church? Do we? Does the church seek Christ first? No! As the poem, which I love, has it: “I sought the Lord, and afterwards I knew it was He who sought me.” Who continues to sustain the relationship of the church to Christ? Do we? No, Christ does by His continual intercession and Spirit. That is the Scriptures. Read the Scriptures. Our Lord takes the initiative, for it is by grace. And our Lord sustains the union, for it is by His faithfulness. That is how the Lord nurtures and cherishes the church.
Husbands, as the Lord the church, so nurture and cherish your wife. We are responsible to work at it, to work at the good of the union of our marriage. You are responsible, husband, to maintain and to nurture your marital relationship. You may not ignore the problems. You may not sulk off in your self-pity. You are responsible. You are the head of your wife. Take time, says God, to communicate with her about other things than the demands of the family. It is bad enough when a couple do not take time to discuss the needs of the family. But it is worse when they really talk only when there is a problem, and then, in that problem, they cut and hurt each other. Talk with her. Speak what is on your heart – your frustrations, your work, your aspirations. Talk with her, not because you think it is going to do any good or that she is going to change. Do it because this is the way Christ nourishes and cherishes His church.
You might say, “But she’s not interested.” That is no excuse. That may or may not be true. Let us say that it is. It does not take away the word of Christ. Husbands, how are you to act? As Christ to the church.
I am so glad my Lord opens His heart to me, to the church. I am so thankful that the husband of the church, our Lord Jesus Christ, tells us His secrets and gives to us continual access to Him through prayer. He says, “Come boldly. Pour out your heart before Me.” He opens to us His Word. Does your wife have to say to you, “Can I have a moment sometime this week to squeeze out a drop of what I’m thinking about and struggling with?” Nurture and cherish her. Show her, as the Lord’s representative, something of the quality of our Lord in His love to His church. Does she just get three minutes to unburden herself and then nothing but negative reactions from you? Sit down and talk with her about the areas of misunderstanding and tension in your marriage. There will always be such areas, so long as we are in the flesh. Husbands, nurture and cherish your wife.
Still more. This nourishing and cherishing will manifest itself in the spirit of I Peter 3:7. You will dwell with her according to knowledge, giving honor to the wife as to the weaker vessel. That means that you are to know something about your wife. You are to know about her duties in the home, her weaknesses, her struggles and hardships. Then you are to dwell with her according to that knowledge, honoring her as the weaker vessel, taking her into consideration. Do you consult with her about her feelings on matters of the household and mutual life of the family? Or do you simply say, “I’m the head.” Is that the approach you take? Yes, you are the head, but she is your body. And you are one together before the Lord. So, her feelings and her wants are to be important to you, and you are to see them as the feelings and wants of your own body. It may even mean that for your wife’s sake you give up much of what you want, for her good. Love seeks the good of its object. Nurture and cherish her in the knowledge of how you respond to her.
Do not be bitter against them, says the Lord ( Col. 3). Husbands, do not be bitter. Husbands, your wives sometimes give you reasons to be bitter. Yes, wives sometimes do things which make their husbands very angry and bitter. Husbands, says the Word of God, when you see those things, sins, weaknesses, do not react in bitterness. But it is an occasion to nurture and cherish her as the Lord the church. What does Christ do? He says in Revelation 3 that as many as He loves He rebukes. And then He tells us how to bring that rebuke – in the love of His Word.
How does He deal with you, husband? When everything in your conscience condemns you, and as you stand before God in your own prayer and would shrink away from Him – does He not, in mercy, restore you? The Lord is my shepherd; He restoreth my soul. You sing Psalm 23, do you not? Do you believe that? Does your wife see that in you? That is not seen in bitterness, in the silent treatment or volcanic eruption, when your eyes are bulging with the wrath of man. But it is found in correcting her, in rebuking her. And forgiving her. How beautifully that is written in Ephesians 4:31, 32: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Husbands, nurture and cherish your wives.
You must remember that words hurt. The Proverbs say that words can be as a wound going down to the deepest part. Words spoken in haste and bitterness can wound for weeks and crush a wife’s spirit. Nurture her in the Lord.
Then, in a wonderful way, the promise of God is realized. “Ye are the salt of the earth.” God’s beautiful grace is seen in you. And more. The union of Christ and the church becomes seen and glorified in your marriage. You want that, do you not? That is the goal of your marriage, is it not? O God, from my union to my wife, may Thy glorious union of Christ and the church be seen, at least a little bit.
Nurture and cherish her, then. Do not be distant. Do not refuse to communicate. Do not plunk yourself down in from of the television for hours on end without being with her.
And wives. Pray for the husbands. You see the awesome responsibility God has placed upon your husband. He cannot do that of himself. Pray for him.
Husbands, deny yourself. Nothing has with it the call to discipleship which is self-denial quite like marriage. Teach that to your son. Teach specifically what it is to be a husband and what it is to deny yourself. Tell him that. Your son has the same nature you do which is proud and arrogant. Do you want that proud and arrogant nature rampaging over some dear daughter of God some day? You have to teach him what it is to love a wife. He is not going to learn that from the world. He has to learn that from you.
The cord and nerve of self-love has to be cut if we are to be in marriage. It has to be cut by the grace of God so that you do not live for yourself, your pride, your pleasure, your lust and self, but unto God. That is why marriage is used of God for sanctification in Christ because day after day, running across marriage in the family, there is the call “Crucify self.” How we live in the home and with our wives is the test of our sanctification. Sanctification is the word which means holy living unto God. You want to know where the test of a holy life unto God is? It is not found, first of all, in your life in the office or with the guys or on Sunday as you are fellowshiping in the church in the narthex. That is not where holiness is found. You know where it is found? In all of those other areas you can fool people. But it is found in your home. Specifically it is found in your marriage. Everything else can be a bluff. It is hard to bluff there.
To be this kind of a husband we have daily need to be before God in prayer. For it is by His grace, through searching the Scriptures, and according to the faithfulness of Christ, that our marriages become havens of rest, a shining light to our children.
What are our children learning about marriage from us? In this way of your nurturing and cherishing a wife, the children grow up to reject all that the world is throwing at them, reject it as vanity and void. And they say, “I don’t believe a word of what the world is showing us concerning the use of the sexual nature and relationships between men and women. I see in my father and mother what is good and upright, virtuous and well-pleasing to God. I see that in my parents. I see the beauty of Christ and the church. I see the good of a Christian marriage.” And God is glorified.
Husbands, God speaks. Love your wife as your own body. Nurture and cherish your wife as the Lord the church.
In humble, dependent obedience we may live in the assurance of the blessing of God all our days.
Let us pray.
Once again, Father, we have heard the things of Thy Word which, for us, are impossible. But we immediately remember that when we are brought to our inabilities, our Lord is the One who says, “With Me all things are possible.” Bring us daily to Thy throne that we may contemplate the mysteries of Thy grace, of Christ and the church, in order that arising from that place of prayer we may put into practice that which our own souls have learned of Thy mercy and tenderness as the Husband of the church. Amen.