Wives Submit (Ephesians 5:22-24, 33b)
Husbands Love (Ephesians 5:23-30, 33a)
- Sacrificial Love (Ephesians 5:25)
- Sanctifying Love (Ephesians 5:26-27)
- Self Love (Ephesians 5:28-30, 33a)
[Note: This was originally 3 sermons … One for each of the 3 types of love mentioned above.]
We continue today to look at the role and responsibilities of the husband in the marriage relationship. And just to clear the air a bit, I want to share with you my qualifications for speaking on such a topic. I don’t have the marriage experience some of you do. I don’t have a degree in psychology of counseling.
But I do have the necessary qualifications. Do you want to know what it is? This past week, my wife told me that I am the perfect husband.
I’m joking. I mean, I’m not joking about what she said. She did pay me that compliment. Of course, she qualified it by saying that I’d been a perfect husband for two days. I don’t know how long I can keep that up… But it’s easy when you’re married to the perfect wife.
No, what I’m joking about is my qualifications. Although my wife did compliment me in that way, nobody is the perfect husband, just like there is no perfect wife, perfect children, perfect parents, perfect church or perfect job.
So this morning, I am not qualified to share with you how to be a better husband. But thankfully, we have something with us this morning that is qualified to instruct us, and that is the Word of God. If God says, we can trust it.
So we’re going to continue to look at God’s instructions to husbands today from Ephesians 5.
Ephesians chapter 5:22-33 is the longest and most detailed passage in the Bible on the roles and responsibilities of the husband and the wife in the marriage relationship. And in these twelve verses, 2 ½ are devoted to talking about the wives, which leaves 9 ½ for the husbands.
This means, men, that simply by looking at the verse ratio, our responsibilities are much more vital for the health and success of our marriages.
In fact, I didn’t say it last week, but a good case can be made from Scripture and from experience, that about 85% of the problems in marriage are a direct result of a husband’s failure to fulfill his responsibility. Let me say that again in a different way. Men, if your wife is not the kind of wife the Bible tells her she should be, most of the time, it is your fault.
And, as I hinted last week, it is also our fault that the culture is the way it is. The degeneracy and sinfulness and ignorance that is so prominent in our modern culture is due, in large part, to men failing in the home to be spiritual leaders.
In saying all of this, I’m not trying to discourage you, or overwhelm you, because really, the task we are supposed to perform is not that hard. It’s actually quite simple. It just takes a little self-discipline to do it. Just because it is simple to do does not mean it can be neglected, however.
This whole section of Ephesians 5:22-33 deals with the separate roles and responsibilities of the husband and the wife in a Spirit-filled marriage.
According to Ephesians 5:22, it is the wife’s role to submit to her husband, as we discussed previously.
And now we come to the husband’s responsibility as the head. This vital responsibility, as found at the beginning of Ephesians 5:25, and mentioned a total of six times in the next several verses, is simply to love your wives.
Command: Love Your Wives (Ephesians 5:25a)
Ephesians 5:25. Husbands, love your wives …
This is the command for married men. Men, you are to love your wives. Now if I were to ask for a show of hands, I’m sure most of you men would say, “Yeah, I love her.”
And if I were to ask you how you show your love, maybe you say, “Well, I tell her.” Or “I spend time with her.” Or “I take care of her.”
And these are all good. These are all fine. But the kind of love Paul commands us to show to our wives goes way beyond this.
The love Paul mentions here is agape love. Agape love is unconditional love. This means, men, that if your wife chooses not to submit to you, even though she is supposed to, you still need to love her.
There is no condition she must meet for you to show her this kind of love. Most of us said some sort of vows at our marriage ceremony. The traditional ones say, “I take thee to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”
In other words, no matter what happens, you promised to love your wife. Those vows were a statement of unconditional love. But all too often, we allow conditions to creep in.
“Well, I’ll love her if she loses that 30 pounds she put on since marriage. I’ll love her if she just wouldn’t nag me as much. I’ll love my wife if she always is a good cook and always looks pretty, and lets me hunt and fish as much as I want.”
I heard of a couple that didn’t know if they should get married or not, but finally decided to because they reasoned, if it didn’t work out, they could always get a divorce. When I heard that, I had to wonder what they would say in their vows.
If they were honest, the vows would have to go something like this: “I promise to have and to hold you until I want to have and hold somebody else; for better, but if you get worse, we’re done; for richer, but if you spend all my money, I’ll sue you; in sickness, as long as you don’t complain too much and it’s only a cold or you have a light fever; to love and to cherish until I don’t feel like it anymore; until divorce do us part.”
Sadly, although most people don’t blatantly think this way, this is the way love is approached. It’ll be good while it lasts, but once the feeling is gone, it’s over.
But the love God commands the husband to have for his wife here is not a love that comes or goes with feelings. It has no conditions. Not even the condition of feeling like it. Rather, this love is an act of the will. Agape love, because it is unconditional, is a decision, a choice to love, even when we don’t feel like it.
Now don’t get me wrong, emotional love in a marriage is good. Emotional love keeps a marriage exciting. But emotional love is not always present, so it cannot be counted on to keep our marriage going. For a lasting marriage, we need agape love. The decision to love our wives no matter what.
The greatest example of this is the kind of love God has for us. Agape love is Godly love. Agape love is one of God’s primary characteristics. We read in 1 John 4:8 that God is love. And God unconditionally loves us. He did not wait for us to become a good person, or to draw near to him, or to seek Him. But he initiated the process and loved us while we were yet sinners. God chose, as an act of the will to love what is unlovable. Agape love is Godly love.
But because Godly love is unconditional, it is also risky. If you place no conditions whatsoever on the object of you love, if you love those who are inherently unlovable, then there is a danger, a risk, that they might not choose to love you back.
This is what has happened with God. God loves the whole world. Every single person. But not everybody chooses to love Him back. God put Himself on the line for each and every person, but most people reject Him, spit in His face, and turn their back on Him.
The most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
And then, only three verses later we read, but “men loved darkness rather than light.” In other words, they did not return God’s love. Agape love, unconditional love, Godly love, is a very risky love, because there are no guarantees that you will be loved back.
C. S. Lewis, talking about Agape love, puts it this way. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.” He goes on to say that the only place you can be safe from the pain of true love is hell.
Now with this kind of an understanding about agape love, it becomes clear why so many of us husbands miss the mark. Our world revolves around conditions. Everything is conditional.
And more than this, everything we do is based the potential risk-reward ratio. Most of life is low risk, low reward. That is where we spend most of our time and energy.
High risk, low reward endeavors are those kinds of things that will cause bankruptcy and destroy lives. Gambling is high risk, low reward.
Low risk, high reward are once-in a-lifetime opportunities. Things that are almost guaranteed to give a good return. An example is the offer of salvation. Blaise Pascal, a Christian French philosopher developed what is called “Pascal’s Wager.” Essentially, he said that believing in Jesus for eternal life has no risk, but the possibility of infinite reward.
But the final combination is where love is. High risk, high reward. It is very risky to put your heart on the line. To initiate a relationship not knowing if the other person will chew you up and spit you out or not. But this is love. It is risky, but if it works out, there is no greater reward.
This is the kind of love God has for us. This is the kind of love husbands are to have for their wives. And it is a very difficult kind of love to have on our own.
But remember, we are in a section talking about the effects of being filled with the Spirit. And in Galatians 5, we read that the very first and overarching fruit of the Spirit is love—agape love. So men, this kind of love which we are to have for our wives is a result of being filled with the Spirit. All the more reason to seek to be filled daily.
But let’s move on. Paul goes on to give us a description of this love. Look again at Ephesians 5:25.
Christ’s Love for the Church (Ephesians 5:25b)
Ephesians 5:25b. … just as Christ also loved the church
Husbands, how are to love our wives? Just as Christ also loved the church.
Those words just as come from the Greek word kathos, and they mean exactly as, in the same way as. When it comes to how we should love our wives, our model, or example is Jesus Christ and His love for the church.
I heard of a man once who really loved his wife, but he also wanted to please God, and he was scared that he loved his wife too much. He didn’t want to make an idol out of her. So he went and talked to his pastor, and this wise pastor took the man to this passage and had the man read it.
Then the pastor asked the man, “Do you think that Christ loves the church too much?” “No,” said the man.
“Do you think that you love your wife as much as Christ loves the church?” “No,” said the man again.
“Then,” said the pastor, “you need to love your wife more, not less. You have not loved your wife as much as you should until you love her as much as Christ loves us.”
And that’s the way it is men. Your role in marriage is to love your wife just as much as Christ loves the church. So our problem men, is not in loving our wives too much, but I would say that every single one of us—including myself—loves our wives too little.
How can I say that? Well, the next several verses show us the extent of Christ’s love for the church by explaining the three characteristics of his love. And we will see that this love is a radical, all-encompassing love.
These three characteristics will reveal that when it comes to loving our wives, we have a long way to go. So what are the three? Well, it is so vitally important that we understand them, that we are going to deal with them one at a time, beginning with Ephesians 5:25.
The first characteristic of Christ’s love for the church that we men are to imitate with our wives is that it is sacrificial love.
Ephesians 5:25 says that Christ gave Himself for her.
You know, when Christ came, there were a bunch of things Christ could have given to us. I have sometimes looked at the financial pressures many of us face in our homes, or the financial pressures this church faces, and thought, “God owns everything in the universe. Why couldn’t He, when we first become a Christian, just deposit a million dollars into our bank accounts?”
Or, when you have car problems, or you lose your job, or you can’t go on the family vacation you’ve always wanted to, couldn’t Jesus just plunk a car down into your driveway, or just give you a new job, or beam you and your family to the Caribbean?
Of course, God could do all of this. So why doesn’t He? Because He’d rather give us something better. What could be better than all of that? Well, look at the verse.
He gave Himself. Christ knew that it was better and more valuable to give Himself to us, than to give us all these other things. And you know men, I would say the same is true with your wives. More than a nice house, a nice car, a large salary and expensive vacations, your family wants you.
They want your support. They want your love. They want your encouragement. They want your presence. They want you to talk to them, and spend time with them. They want you to give yourself to them.
Men, I know that sometimes, we’re not real emotional people, but I want to read to you a letter from a lonely woman. And as I read it, I want you men to ask yourself, could this letter have been written by my wife?
“The kids are in bed. There’s nothing on TV tonight. I ask my husband if he minds if I turn the tube off. He grunts.
“As I walk to the set my mind is racing. Maybe, just maybe, tonight we’ll talk. I mean, we’ll have a conversation that consists of more than my usual question with his mumbled one-word answer or, more accurately, no answer at all.
“Silence—I live in a world with continuous noise but, between him and myself, silence. Please—oh God, let him open up. I initiate (once again; for the thousandth time). My heart pounds—oh how can I word it this time? What can I say that will open the door to just talk? I don’t have to have a deep meaningful conversation. Just something!
“As I open my mouth—he gets up and goes to the bedroom. The door closes behind him. The light showing under the door gives way to darkness. So does my hope.
“I sit alone on the couch. My heart begins to ache. I’m tired of being alone. Hey, I’m married. I have been for years. Why do I sit alone?”
Very likely, this husband had a good job, they lived in a good house, had a good car, and had food in the fridge. And while this was good, for women need security, what they really want is a husband.
Someone to be there for them. To talk with them. To spend time with them. To be affectionate. To provide leadership.
That is how far Christ was willing to go for His church. He gave Himself for her. We know that although Christ was God, He came to earth in a lowly position, He lived a life as a servant to all, and at the end of his life, He suffered and died on the cross for us. And now He intercedes for us in heaven at the right hand of God the Father.
That is how Christ sacrificially gave Himself for the church. But let’s look in more detail on some of the things He did for us and how we, as husbands, can imitate Christ to our wives with sacrificial love.
First, although Christ was God, he came to earth as a servant.
Philippians 2 paints the picture in a poetic fashion. And we’ve looked at that before, but let’s turn over there to see it again.
Starting in verse 6. “Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”
Christ went from the greatest height to the lowest depth for us. He went from being the King of the Universe to a humble slave. He gave up all of his power and prestige so that he might serve.
It’s a pale illustration by comparison, but it’s like Robertson McQuilken. He was the president of Columbia Bible College when he and his wife learned that she had Alzheimer’s disease.
So in March 1990, he resigned with these words:
“My dear wife, Muriel, has been in failing mental health for about eight years. So far I have been able to carry both her ever-growing needs and my leadership responsibilities at CBC. But recently it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me and almost none of the time I am away from her. It is not just “discontent.” She is filled with fear—even terror—that she has lost me and always goes in search of me when I leave home. Then she may be full of anger when she cannot get to me. So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full-time.
“…This decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel ‘in sickness and in health…till death do us part.’ So…as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of debt. Duty, however, cannot be grim and stoic. But there is more; I love Muriel. She is a delight to me—her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of that wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual distressing frustration. I do not have to care for her, I get to. It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.”
That is sacrificial, servant-hearted, Christ-like love. McQuilkin gave up his position and his power so that he could serve his wife.
That is what God is calling us to do. As Christ gave himself up for us, so we are to give ourselves up to our wives. Does something in your life need to go so that you can better serve her?
Your leisure time? Your recreation time? Your time out with the guys? Your 8 hours of sleep? Maybe you need to quit your job and find one that is not so demanding or stressful. Maybe you need to get up earlier or stay up later, to help you wife with some housework, or to take care of the kids so she can relax, or so that later, the two of you can spend some time in God’s Word together.
For each one of us, servant-hearted, sacrificial love is going to look different, but it must be done if we love our wives as Christ loves the church as an act of service. But Christ’s love for the church is more than just an act of service.
We also know from Scripture that He suffered and died for us.
Christ experienced extreme agony and suffering on the cross in our place. I think that we all too often forget that it was us or Him. But Christ loved us so much that He willingly suffered and died so that we do not have to.
And men, this should also be the way we should behave toward our wives. We need to protect our wives and stand up for her at all costs. Defend her. Be willing to lay down our lives for her if necessary.
That is what Christ did for us. And actually, men, whether or not you realize it, this is what you agreed to do when you got married. Most of us men, when we got married, did not realize that once we said “I do” there was no more I. There was no more “me.” There was only “we” and “us.” At marriage, the two become one.
A lot of men joke that when they got married, their real life ended. But Biblically, this is no joke. This is the way it should be. True marital love claims everything. “Marriage is a call to die, and a man who does not die for his wife does not come close to the love to which he is called.”
Men, have you died to yourself? Have you given up all you have and all you are for your wife? Unless you do, you will never have the kind of love Christ has for the church. He served. He suffered and died.
But Christ’s love goes even beyond this. He not only came to serve us and die for us, but now, as our risen Lord, He is seated and intercedes for us at God’s right hand.
In Hebrews we learn that he always intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25). When we sin, we can be confident that Jesus is right there telling God, “Yes, I died for that sin too. My blood covers it.”
When we have a need, or a request, we can take it to God in the name of Jesus. This means that we can take it to God as if Jesus sent us with the request. And of course, God gives to His Son what His Son asks. Even when we are not praying to God, Jesus is before God on our behalf.
Men, this is also the way we are supposed to sacrificially love our wives. When you pray, how much of your prayer time is spent praying specifically and earnestly for your wife?
All too often, if we even pray, we never remember to pray for our wives. And if we do, our prayer requests barely get past the apathetic “God, bless my wife in all she does today.” Men, that’s not intercession!
Intercession is specific and energetic prayer. It is knowing your wife’s needs and desires and requests and praying about these repeatedly to God. It is having a list, and passionately taking this list to God out of love for her.
Christ’s love is a servant love. He suffered and died for us. He intercedes for us. That is how we also should love our wives.
Men, how many of you love your wives in the same way? Are you willing to give up everything you have, everything you are, everything you have worked so hard for, if it will benefit your wife? Would you be willing to give up your job, your career, your leisure time, your recreation time, your friends, your car, your hobbies—everything—for your wife?
Men are told by this world to do whatever it takes to get on top; to climb the corporate ladder; to get more money, more power, more possessions; to be number one. But God calls us here to forget all that, and love our wives.
Now obviously, loving your wife means providing for her by having a source of income and giving her a nice place to live, and a car that runs well. Most of the time, it is not an act of love to say “Well, I’m going to quit my job so I can spend time with my wife.”
No, when you love your wife as Christ loves the church, it means that you look our for her needs and her interests before your own. You care for her before you care for yourself. You make her your number one priority.
Tradition says that Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, captured a young prince. The young man’s life was in jeopardy, but Cyrus was a fair man. So he asked the prince, “What will you give me if I release you?”
“Half of my wealth,” the prince replied.
“And what if I release your children?” Cyrus questioned.
“Everything I possess,” the prince said.
Once more Cyrus asked, “And what will you give me if I release your wife?”
Without hesitation, the young man replied, “Sir, I will give you myself.”
Cyrus was so taken back by the man’s devotion to his wife and family that he released the prince without harm or payment. On the way home the prince remarked to his wife, “Did you notice how ruggedly handsome King Cyrus was?”
“No, I didn’t. I only had eyes for you, the one who was willing to sacrifice everything for me.”
No husband can say he truly loves his wife until he is willing to sacrifice himself for her. As someone has said, “You can give without loving, but you cannot truly love without giving.”
Men, are you willing to make such a sacrifice? It is what Christ did for us, and what we are called to do for our wives.
Sometimes it begins with simply giving them some words (but it doesn’t end here!). Cliff Barrows gave the following as the Twelve Words to help make your marriage work:
- I am sorry.
- I was wrong.
- Please forgive me.
- I love you.
Let us move on to the next aspect of love that we are to emulate in Jesus.
Sanctifying Love (Ephesians 5:26-27)
Ephesians 5:26a. … that He might sanctify and cleanse her …
The word sanctify in Greek comes from the root word “holy.” So if you have trouble remembering what sanctify means, we could invent the word “holify” to help us remember it better.
To be holy means to be set apart, to be cleansed, to be purified, and so to sanctify—to holify—something, is to cleanse or purify it. And that is what we see here in the context as well. Paul says that Christ’s goal in loving the church is that he might sanctify and cleanse her.
Christ’s goal for the church is that we would be sanctified, cleansed, purified, refined… holified. He wants this for us because He loves us. His primary desire for us is not to make us happy, but to make us holy.
Men, is that your desire for your wives…to make her holy? “Well, it’d be easy if I had the right woman.” Let me tell you, your wife is the right woman. Christ doesn’t care who comes to Him for eternal life. He doesn’t care what their background is. He doesn’t care how much sin they have in their lives, or—on the other hand—how self-righteous they think they are.
He takes everyone and anyone, just as they are, and pours out His love upon them. And that is what he wants husbands to do for their wives. No matter what she is like now—love her with the intent of making her holy.
Even if the two of you don’t get along very well right now—even if the two of you are not happy right now. Paul says, “Who cares? Men, sanctify your wives as Christ sanctifies the church.” Nobody has a perfect wife. It’s like Michelangelo with the stone—and ladies, I’m not calling you block of stone—all of us have flaws. The goal is to create a work of beauty in spite of the flaws. That is what it means to sanctify. That is what Christ does for the church and what husbands are to do for their wives.
In 1501, a young apprentice sculptor trying to make his living in the world, set foot into Florence, Italy. Having very little money, his first goal was to find a piece of marble suitable for sculpting. But since there were many wealthy and famous sculptors in the city, good pieces of marble were hard to find and very expensive.
So finally, he had to settle for an old, discarded piece of marble which he found in a scrap heap behind the recently completed cathedral.
Several other sculptors had already looked at this piece and rejected it. It had several obvious defects. One sculptor had actually bought the piece, and attempted to carve a statue of Hercules out of it, but a defect in the stone had caused a large chunk to break off from one side. So, he threw it in the scrap heap, where it had been sitting for ten years.
But this young sculptor had no other options. So he had it carted off to his work place. He sat and looked at it, and studied it from all angles. And as he did, the shape of the stone began to form an image in his mind. He realized that if he worked around the defects and the large gouge on one side…he could carve a statue of a man.
If he turned the man’s head just so, and raised one arm of the man to his shoulder, had the man lean toward one side, he could carve a beautiful work of art. And so that is what this young sculptor did. He began to chip away, bit by bit. And three years later, in 1504, he unveiled the 14 ft, 3 inch statue which has forever been one of the masterpieces of the artistic world.
The young man was Michelangelo, and the statue was “David.” (Picture in Power point—David shorts).
Michelangelo took a piece of marble, flawed and useless by most standards, and through vision and a loving touch, converted it into a beautiful work of art.
Men, like Michelangelo, you are the ones responsible for bringing forth the true and inner beauty of your wives.
You are the ones who need to look at her, and see into her heart, looking past her flaws, so that you can make her into a masterpiece—a beautiful work of art.
Men, husbands, what is your goal as far as your wife is concerned? When I first got married, I just wanted my wife to be happy. And that is what I told her. That is what I prayed for. I read verses like Deuteronomy 24:5 which instructs men who get married to not work for a year so they can make their wife happy.
I also read the warnings in Proverbs about the dangers of living under a roof with an unhappy wife. Proverbs 21:9 and 25:24 say that it is better to live on one corner of the roof of the house than to live with a contentious woman. And I didn’t want that. I wanted Wendy to be happy.
But the problem is that in our culture, we have a poor understanding of what makes a person happy, and what true happiness is. I thought that to make my wife happy, all I had to do was take out the trash, mow the lawn and get the oil in the car changed.
Some men get really extreme, and give up Monday Night football to go on a date, or give up a week of hunting to help their wife remodel or redecorate the home—all to make her happy.
The problem, you see is that we have equated happiness with appeasement. We are not really trying to make her happy, we are just trying to appease her, so that we can be happy. We want to avoid the womanly wrath, and so we do just enough to keep her content. This is not trying to make her happy, this is trying to manipulate her.
And that is what Paul is describes next as the king of love that Christ has for the church, and therefore, the type of love we must have for our wives. Out of love for her, we do not try to manipulate, but rather minister to her. We are to sanctify her with our love.
So you say, “That’s great. But how do I do that?”
Well, I’m glad you asked. Paul is glad you asked. Look at the rest of Ephesians 5:26.
How to Sanctify
… with the washing of water by the word,
You know what we have here men? Spiritual leadership in the home as we saw in verse 23! Headship! Sanctification happens in one way only! As we get into the Word. As we lead our wives in the study of the Word.
Paul says with the washing of water. In that culture, women who were betrothed to their husbands most often underwent a time of cleansing after she was betrothed, but before she was married. A prenuptial bath was part of this process. That is probably what Paul has in mind here (cf. Ezek. 16:6-14).
But in relation to the church, he does not mean physical water. He is not talking about physical baptism here or anything of the sort. Baptism doesn’t save us. Baptism doesn’t cleanse us. Baptism is symbolic. So I don’t think Paul is talking about baptism here.
He is using a word picture to help us understand. All of us know that if something is dirty, it needs to be washed. After we eat dinner, the plates and cups and utensils are gathered, and put back into the cupboard, right?
No, they are washed! Same thing with clothes. As clothes are worn, they get dirty, and start to smell, so we have to wash them.
But how about us? We are sinners and sin has stained every part of us. The problem is that sin is a spiritual stain. It cannot be removed by mere physical water. I don’t care how many showers you take, what kind of soap you use—or even if the water was blessed by a priest. Physical water will never make you clean.
For spiritual stains we need spiritual washing which requires spiritual water. And that is what Paul is talking about here. He says that Christ sanctifies and cleanses us with the washing of water, and what is the water? Paul tells us right there at the end of verse 26—the word.
Whatever the washing is in verse 26, it is done not with water, but with the word. The way we are sanctified and cleansed is by submerging ourselves into the Bible.
We have freely received eternal life by faith in Jesus Christ. God has freely forgiven us for all our sins, past, present, and future. But we still need daily cleansing by the Word of Christ so that we can have fellowship with Him and victory over sin. This is what Jesus taught in John 13 when He washed the disciples’ feet. He who is clean needs only to wash his feet. You see, though all of our sins have been forgiven, we still need that daily cleansing and washing with the Word for fellowship and intimacy with God and victory over sin.
It continually amazes me how people can wonder why they never gain victory over certain sins in their lives, but at the same time, never seem to want to get into a serious study of the Word of God!
Ephesians 5:26 tells us that the Word cleanses and sanctifies you! You’ll never beat sin on your own, but as you immerse yourself in the Word, those temptations and obsessions and desires and addictions start to get scrubbed away.
Now you may be interested to know here that the Greek phrase Paul uses for word is not logos. That is the more common term, but Paul uses the less common one here. The term he uses here is rhema.
Now some of you have come across this word before if you have friends who attend some of the other churches here in town. They may have mentioned it as a way that God speaks personally to them. They believe that occasionally, they have received “rhemas”—a word from God. Kind of like He whispered in their ear.
They get this idea because while logos refers primarily to the written word, rhema tends more to refer to the spoken word.
And so they say, “See? God speaks a word to me.” Well, the problem is that they haven’t done an adequate study of this word in Scripture to see how it is used. Nearly always, it is used to refer to a small phrase or saying that is specifically applied to a certain person, situation or circumstance.
And frequently, in context we discover that this small phrase or saying came directly to a person from the Bible. And not just out of thin air either. Generally, it came from Jesus, or by a preacher like Paul or Peter. Speaking and applying a small portion of the Bible—a rhema—to them.
So in other words, logos primarily refers to all of the written revelation of God which we know as the Bible. Rhema refers to shorter sections of the Bible—sometimes a single verse or a short phrase—spoken, explained and applied to a person to help them in a specific situation. Rhema refers to the taught or preached Word of God while logos primarily refers to the written Word of God (cf. Eph. 6:17; Rom. 10:8, 17; 1 Pet. 1:25).
I don’t want to say much more about this here, but just as a heads up, when we get into the Spiritual armor in Ephesians 6, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God we’ll talk about this a little bit more because the term used here is also rhema.
Anyway, it is through small portions of the Bible being applied to specific situations in our lives that Christ sanctifies us.
Which means, men, that this is also how you should work to sanctify your wives. You minister to your wife by taking portions of the Bible and explaining it and applying it to her.
But the Question still remains. Why should you do this? Well, why does Christ do it for the church? What is the reason He does this? We see the answer in Ephesians 5:27.
Why Sanctify? For perfection.
Ephesians 5:27. … that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Christ does this for us because—in all honesty—He’s not quite happy with us and the way we currently are. He wants a perfect and shining and glorious bride!
Have you seen that Subaru Outback commercial with Crocodile Dundee? He is driving the groom to a wedding, and they are late, but—not to worry—they’re in an Outback. Well, as they’re speeding along on these Australian roads full of potholes and mud, they don’t notice a car stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire.
Next to the car is the bride—all dressed up for the wedding. But the two men are talking and don’t even notice her. As they speed on by, the car hits a big pothole filled with mud, which sprays up all over the beautiful bride, and they get to the wedding on time.
She, of course, is late for the wedding, and when she arrives, her hair is in shambles, and her dress is torn and covered with mud. Dundee looks at the groom, who is horrified, and he says in that outback Australian accent, “Ah, the outdoorsee type. Good choice.”
But the point of me bringing this up is that this bride came to her wedding in shambles. She is not the kind of bride Paul describes here in verse 27.
Christ wants a glorious church—that means radiant and shining, like the sun. An intense splendidness. not having spot. The word for spot is interesting in Greek. It can also mean stain, and the Greek word is spilon. A tablecloth or a piece of clothing becomes stained when you “spill on” it. Spilon—spot, stain.
Then Paul says, not having any spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Wrinkle could also be translated as flaw. In other words, Christ wants a bride who is perfectly clean, with no stains, no wrinkles, no loose stitches in her dress—nothing wrong at all.
And also that she should be holy and without blemish. She is beautiful. She is clean, her hair is done just right, she doesn’t have any blemishes.
That is what Christ wants for Himself. Incidentally, this is the purpose of election as well, as we saw back in Ephesians 1:4. We have been chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless. Christ wants the most beautiful bride ever. He wants a perfect bride. And men, so should you. You should want a perfect wife.
Do you think that sounds a little selfish? Well, it kind of is—but that’s okay—as we’ll see next week in Ephesians 5:27-30.
Men, think about your own wives for a minute. It’s not wrong to want the perfect wife. But do you know what? If she is not perfect now, it’s your responsibility to sanctify her with the word so that she becomes glorious and without blemish.
Now obviously, I’m not talking about physical appearances here.
In our world, men desire so many things in a woman, most of it revolving around their looks. Ironically, we men sometimes take pride in the fact that “we’re the logical ones in the family” but judging a woman based on her physical looks is the most illogical thing ever!
Physical beauty is fleeting. It lasts but a moment. And besides that—it is shallow and empty. The beauty that lasts is a beauty that comes from the heart. An inner beauty that only gets better as she gets older. 1 Peter 3:3-4 talks about this in detail.
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward — arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel — 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
The amazing thing about this kind of beauty is that whether or not your wife has it now, you can develop it in her. Physical beauty fades with time, but the inner beauty can grow and develop within the lives of every woman, until she is more beautiful at the end of her life than ever before.
Every woman, if she has a husband who loves her enough to help sanctify her, can become glorious.
The purpose to loving your wife is so that she will become perfect. I’m going to get extreme here. Men, if your wife is not the way you think she should be, it’s mostly your fault! You don’t love her enough.
You see, we have it all backwards. We think, “Well, I would love her more if she changed this, or did that.” But God says here, “No, you love her more, and she will change this, or do that.”
Now obviously, women are not completely off the hook. You ladies have minds and wills of your own, but I would venture to say that if your husband truly loved you the way that Christ loves the church, you would do anything, change anything, and go anywhere for your husband. Why? Because you know he loves you and has your best interests in mind.
That’s the way it is with Christ and us, isn’t it? If we truly understand how much He loves us, and gave Himself for us, and has our best interests in mind, we will do whatever He wants.
What if Christ treated us the way some of us treat our wives? What if He took one look at us sinful human beings and said, “You’re not good enough yet to receive my love. Why don’t you start serving me more? Why don’t you start reading your Bible more? Why don’t you start praying more? Why don’t you start witnessing more? Why don’t you get rid of all of the disgusting sin in your life? I’m not going to love you until you do all of this.”
Or Jesus could say, “Well, I love you now, but you better watch out. If you mess up—you’re done. I’ll go spend time with my buddy—the Holy Spirit—until you straighten yourself out.”
Wouldn’t that be horrible if that’s the way Christ treated us? Thankfully it is not.
He does not try to override our wills. He does not threaten us or pressure us into obeying him. Rather, He loves us into obedience.
He pours out so much love upon us that only the blind and the ignorant and the most wayward of us will choose to disobey him—as we all do at times. But hopefully, these times of disobedience become less and less frequent as we mature in our Christian walk.
That is what sanctification is. It is learning to obey Christ because He loves us and we love Him in return. Some people think of sanctification as a list of things we have to do. Obey the Ten Commandments, obey all the commands in the New Testament, attend church, read your Bible, pray every day, tithe 10%, be a witness, and so on.
But sanctification is not accomplished by doing things. It is accomplished by understanding how much Christ love us, and as a result—loving Him back. That is how sanctification happens.
As we see how much He loves us, and as we see how much he cares for us and serves us, we want to change for Him. We want to obey Him. It’s a pleasure to do what He wants.
Tony Evans tells a story of a man and a woman who were married. Their marriage was miserable. Every day, before he left for work, he gave her a list of twenty five things he wanted her to do for him that day. She did them, but she hated every minute of it. She hated him too.
Finally, he died, for which she was glad. One year later, she fell in love with and married another man who had no lists. He just loved her—for free. He just cared for her—for free.
She was cleaning up the house one day, and she came across a few of the old lists from the first husband. As she read them, she smiled, because she noticed that she was doing everything on the lists the first husband demanded for the second husband, and loving every minute of it.
You see? This woman was being loved by her second husband. The second husband’s love sanctified her, so that where there was hateful obedience before, now there was only loving service.
Men, do you want something about your wife to change? Love her as Christ loves the church. Sanctify her with the word of God. Then she will become a glorious and perfect bride, as the church is becoming for Christ.
I just want to point out, by the way, that the sanctification Paul is talking about here is progressive. We will not become perfect in this life as long as we are in these sinful bodies.
We will not become perfect and without spot or wrinkle until we are glorified—or completely sanctified—in heaven (Rev. 19:7-8; 21:2). Men, it’s the same way with you and your wives. Neither of you will ever become perfect in this live—so love one another graciously.
Here are some practical ways we can sanctify our wives with the Word.
- Be sure that your wife has enough time in her daily schedule for personal Bible study and prayer. This may require you to get up earlier or rearrange your schedule so that you can watch the children during this time.
- Spend time with her regularly (at least once a week) in Bible study.
- Encourage her to ask you for help in answering any questions she may have about Bible doctrine or application.
- Ask her to memorize a portion of Scripture together with you and hold one another accountable.
- When you make important decisions, try to use Scriptural principles and then explain to her from the Bible why you made the decision.
- Commend her for any and all Biblical character traits which she possesses (reverence, self-control, discretion, love, joy, peace, hard work, etc.)
- If she wants to do something, or when she wants something, and you disagree with her, give her Scriptural reasons for your decisions.
- Always be alert for the smallest indication of spiritual growth and maturity in her. When you see it—praise her liberally.
- Never criticize her except on Scriptural grounds. Encourage her to do the same with you. And when you do, learn how to restore her according to passages like Matt. 18:15, Luke 17:3 and Gal. 6:1 when she does sin.
- Encourage her to be faithful in attending a church where both of you can sit under the faithful teaching and preaching of the Word. Lead by example here.
- Encourage her in other opportunities to study the Scripture (on her own or with others).
- Provide Scripturally based music for her to listen to.
- Provide her with Bible study tools (and teach her to use them if she does not know how). Concordances, word study tools, and commentaries are a few examples.
- Learn how to relate the Scriptures to life and the life to Scriptures. Talk about them whenever you can (Deut. 6:7).
- If your wife enjoys reading (and has the time), invest in Biblically sound books, biographies and novels.
- Make the dinner hour an enjoyable time for discussing Biblical truths and personal applications of Scripture based on the events of the day.
- Determine which areas in her life she desires to change most and why she desires to change them. Use these areas as springboards to search the Scriptures together for God’s answers. When you start to see changes, praise her. Also share with her changes you would like to see in your life.
Men, this is a daunting list. Especially if your wife has more Biblical knowledge than you do. This is often the case in today’s culture. But it doesn’t matter. It is your responsibility to seek your wife’s sanctification. Pick a few to focus on—and then love and sanctify your wife through these ways.
Ask yourself: “Is my wife more like Christ because she is married to me? Or is she like Christ in spite of me? Has she shrunk from His likeness because of me? Do I sanctify her or hold her back? Is she a better woman because she is married to me? Is she a better friend? A better mother?”
Some challenging questions. Men, will you rise to the challenge? The reward is a glorious bride—without stain or wrinkle, holy and without blemish.
Ultimately, we do this simply by showing our wives that we love her. If you’re thinking, “But I don’t feel love for her,” that is American culture talking. We think that love is a feeling, but it is not. Sometimes love is a commitment. Love is loving the other person even when you don’t feel like it.
And you want to know what? Feelings follow actions. Did you know that? If you don’t feel love for your wife, most often you can generate the feelings by acting loving toward your wife.
Psychologists tell us that if you don’t feel happy, the best way to get happy is to smile. Did you know that? The action of smiling will often result in a feeling of happiness.
And not surprisingly, this is a Biblical principle as well regarding love. Revelation 2:4-5. Keep your finger here, but turn over there real quickly. The apostle John is writing to a church which has lost its first love.
They no longer love Christ the way they once did. Now John there is talking about the church’s love for Christ, but since Paul is equating this relationship here with marriage, we can apply the instruction John gives to the church.
In Revelation 2:4 Jesus tells Christians who have lost their first love to go back and do the first things all over again. To do the things they did when they were in love with Jesus. Jesus says, “So, you don’t feel like you love me anymore?” Now if most modern counselors were giving advice, they would say, “Well, you must have just fallen out of love. You should go find somebody new.”
Through the pen of John, Jesus says, “Hey. If you’ve lost that loving feeling, here’s what you need to do. First, remember how great it was to feel in love. Remember how it felt like you were soaring in the clouds. Remember the excitement and the joy! Remember how it took your breath away. Do you long for those feelings again? Yes? If so, then also remember the sorts of activities you did back then, and go back and do them again. Performing the activities that you did when you were first in love with Jesus will help revive the feelings of love as well.”
The same principle can be applied to our marriages. If you have fallen out of love, you need to go back and do the things you did when you were first in love. These actions will help revive love in your marriage. So take walks in the park holding hands. Go out to dinners. Have long talks about nothing. Do you remember what you did back then? Start doing those things again—whether you feel like it or not. As you do the things you did at first, the feelings you felt back then will follow.
So back to Ephesians 5. Husbands, as you love your wives, whether you feel like it or not, there are four areas in which you can do loving things for her. And since we’ve kind of got a theme of p’s today, I’ve got four more. Here are some things you can do to show your wife you love her.
- Providing—money, house, food
- Protecting—difficult phone calls, not complaining about her, defending her name and reputation as a wife and mother and woman
- Practical—fixing doors, mowing lawn, grilling food, paying bills, doing yardwork, taking out garbage, putting the toilet seat down, clothes up off the floor…
Now Paul is not done in his explanation of the husband’s role in marriage. The command is to love, and we have seen our position as the spiritual head, we’ve seen the picture we are to copy as Christ, we’ve seen the purpose—to bring our wives to perfection, and now we look finally at the person we are actually loving when we do this.
We turn now to look at the final type of love Jesus Christ has for the church and which men can have for their wives. It is self-love.
Self-Love (Ephesians 5:28-30)
In this passage, Paul will clearly call us husbands to a form of self-love. Now before we look at the text, it is important to talk about this difficult concept of self-love.
In 2 Timothy 3, Paul wants to warn the believers in Ephesus, and especially their young pastor, Timothy, what the end times will be like. What character traits men and women will reveal.
And so he says in 2 Timothy 3:1-2, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves…”
Self-love is a sign of the end times. And I think that we live in a day and age when self-love has never been higher. Everything we do nowadays is for the purpose of making our own lives better, making ourselves look better.
We work out and eat healthy—yes, so that we can live longer, but also so that we can look better for longer. We use Botox to get rid of wrinkles, and have liposuction to get rid of fat. We can change our features through plastic surgery and change our eye color with special contacts, and chemicals to change the color of our hair, or chemicals to keep our hair intact.
We have the nicest cars to drive in, the nicest clothes to wear to work. We boast and brag to others about what we have done and what we have accomplished and we paint ourselves in the best way possible. When we don’t have too much to boast about, we resort to criticizing others and demeaning others to hopefully drag them down to our level so that we can look better.
All of this is a result of self-love. But today, we don’t really call it self-love. We call it self-esteem. It has been taught on the television and in our schools and through marriage counseling sessions that the best thing we can do for ourselves in develop a healthy self-esteem.
The father of the self-esteem movement was Carl Rogers, the past president of the American Psychological Association. His whole message focused on the need to actualize the potential of the self. He wrote of unconditional self-regard.
This message was spread and popularized and entered into our homes in books and magazines and television shows. There were even self-esteem seminars to attend and tape sets you could listen to. Thomas Harris was the creator of the “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” campaign. And this message was even found in some songs. The title of one song was, “I Ain’t Much Baby, But I’m All I’ve Got.”
Christian psychologists have largely embraced this idea, and have even defended their views with passages like Matthew 19:19 where Jesus tells us to love your neighbor as yourself.
But some Christians have always cringed at the thought of thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. They have argued that what we need is not self-esteem—a healthy picture of who we are by ourselves—but rather a Christ-esteem—who we are in Christ.
And they are right—because that is what the Bible teaches.
And I find it interesting, that once again, the world is trying to catch up. I found this article in the October 14, 2002 issue of TIME magazine. It’s called, “Lacking in Self-Esteem? Good for you!” Researchers are starting to discover that “self-esteem isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…[it] can be just as high among D students, drunk drivers and former Presidents from Arkansas as it is among Nobel laureates, nuns and New York City fire fighters….[and] people with high self-esteem can engage in far more antisocial behavior than those with low self-worth…”
So is self-love wrong? In most cases, yes. But there is one case where Scripture encourages us to love ourselves.
In Ephesians 5:28-33, Paul tells men three times that if they love their wives, they are loving themselves. The reason, we learn in verse 31 is that when a husband and wife get married, they become one flesh. The two become one.
So the only Biblical way a man can practice self-love is by loving his wife. When he does this, he loves himself, because she is one with him. The two are one. She is part of his body, and he is part of hers.
Paul’s instructions here are very similar to the second greatest commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18; Matt 22:39). And of course, the nearest and closest neighbor to all husbands is their wives. She is so close she is part of us.
So that is how Paul can command us to self-love here and not contradict the Bible. The self we love is really our wife.
Let’s see how this is carried out in more detail. Beginning then in Ephesians 5:28.
Ephesians 5:28. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.
Paul does not command us husbands to love ourselves, and to think highly of ourselves, and to look after our own interests. Rather, these types of things so clearly endorsed by the self-esteem proponents are clearly prohibited by Scripture (Rom 12:3; Php 2:4, 21).
No, Paul calls us men, as he has already done several times and in several ways in this passage—to love our wives, and now we are to love our wives as ourselves. Look at Ephesians 5:28. Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies.
Now this does not mean that we are to love our wives in the same way we love our own bodies. It does not mean that we should take an inventory of how we love ourselves, and then love our wives in that way. No, I think Paul is saying that we should love our wives as part of our own body. Men should love their wives because they are their own bodies.
You see what he says next in Ephesians 5:28? … he who loves his wife loves himself. In other words, when we love our wives, we are actually loving ourselves.
Now we are great at loving ourselves, right? We do the things we enjoy, some of us work out to keep our bodies fit, we make sure we are well fed. We take care of our own bodies.
When we are hungry, we eat. When we are thirsty, we drink. When we are tired, we sleep. When we are in pain, we go to the doctor. When we cut ourselves, we wash the wound and bind it up. When we see a dangerous object coming toward us, we put up our hand for protection.
We take care of our own bodies. Which is exactly what Paul goes on to describe in Ephesians 5:29.
Ephesians 5:29. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it
Paul first says that no one ever hated his own flesh. This means that nobody ever intentionally damages their own body, or hurts their own body. In other words, men, as we’ll see in a bit, since you and your wife are one flesh, if you hurt your wife, you are hurting yourself.
This is a strong passage against the physical abuse of women by their husbands. If you hurt your wife, it’s as if you hit your own finger with a hammer. It should hurt you.
One of my Greek teachers said about this passage that when a male strikes a female, at that moment he becomes one of the lowest things on the face of this earth. And I will agree with him. But I’m going to go even further. Not only is an abusive husband the lowest thing on the face of the earth, he is also insane. He might not realize it, but in hurting his wife, he is actually hurting himself.
There’s a movie called “Fight Club” that illustrates this well. It turns out that the main character in the movie is schizophrenic. He has two personalities. And in the movie, he doesn’t know it, but these two personalities often fight against each other. They hit each other and kick each other and beat each other up. But really, he’s beating himself up.
I also saw last week a commercial for the Late Show with David Letterman where I guess they were going to have Stupid Human Tricks. Apparently, they find men and women who can do some pretty stupid, but amazing things. I didn’t see the show, but from the commercial, it appears that they were going to have a man on the show who could kick himself in the head!
I dare you to try that sometime! Try to kick yourself in the head. I would say it’s impossible, but this man is apparently able to do it. And so also, some men are able to kick themselves in the head when they fail to love their wives adequately. Men, you may be the head of the wife, but if you don’t love her, according to Ephesians 5:29, you might as well be kicking yourself in the head.
And this isn’t something that only the Bible recognizes.
A West German Insurance company discovered that men who simply kissed their wives goodbye every morning lived on average, 5 ½ years longer than those who did not, and earned on average 20% more than those who did not.
Men, your lives are at stake! Your jobs are on the line! Do you love your wife…or do your hurt her? If you hurt her, either physically or emotionally, or spiritually, this means that you actually hate yourself, as we saw in verse 29.
But loving our wives goes beyond just not hurting her. There are many men who never hurt their wives, but who nevertheless don’t love her as Paul instructs here. It is not enough just to not hurt her. You also need to show positive love toward her. That is what the rest of Ephesians 5:29 talks about.
Ephesians 5:29. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it …
The word for nourish could also be translated “to feed.” Primarily, it is used in reference to nurturing or raising children, and so carries the idea of the maturing process. So here, in relation to our wives, men are called to nurture, feed and bring our wives to maturity. To provide for her needs—both spiritually and physically.
Make sure that you are sustaining her by being the breadwinner in the home—the one who provides food and clothing and protection. But also make sure, as we saw last week, that you are the sanctifier in the home—the one who provides spiritual guidance and direction. Both are included in that word nourish.
But Paul also calls men to cherish their wives. The word cherishes could be translated “to take care of.” It is a colorful word which literally means “to soften or warm with body heat.” It is used this way in Deuteronomy 22:6 to describe a bird sitting on her nest to provide body heat for the eggs, and in 1 Thessalonians 2:7 for how a nursing mother tenderly cares for her newborn child.
So in regard to husbands, that is what we are to provide for our wives. Husbands are to provide a secure, warm, soft place for the wife to live in. Of course, this means that you have to be home enough to do this. Many men today are the breadwinners for their home, but their wives and children rarely see them. They are absentee father. Always at the office or on the road or out carousing with the buddies.
That is NOT cherishing your wife. You spend time with what you cherish. You are careful and gentle with what you cherish.
This word also has lessons for how we treat our wives. If a bird was not careful with the eggs, they break. So it is also with our wives. A wife will easily break if we are cruel and unloving with our words or actions. By being aloof, we shove her out into the cold. By being angry, we crack and break the delicate shell.
To cherish our wives then, means that we will protect her. I’ll tell you what. In today’s society, our families, our marriages, our children, and our wives are walking in a minefield. There is potential danger at every step of the way. So we, as husbands, need to act as both the point man and the bomb squad.
By being the point man, we lead the way into the dangerous minefield. Walking carefully, and looking for hidden mines. When we discover one, it is our task to make sure our wives stay away from it, and if necessary, we need to—like a bomb squad—do what we can to defuse and disarm the bomb.
There are too many landmines out there to talk about all of them, but let me just list a few today that we need to be very careful of.
There are numerous spiritual dangers we need to protect our wives from. Every major newspaper in the United States carries a section on astrology. Millions of people seem to think that their lives can be influenced by the arrangement of the stars and planets. Several years ago, there were over 200,000 astrologers in the United States—who knows how many there are now?
Then there are all of the occultic practices which abound in our culture. We have Ouija boards, crystal balls, and Tarot Cards. People say, “But they work!” Yes, of course they work. The Bible never says that they don’t work. Instead, the Bible tells us that they do work, but we should stay away from them because they are the work of Satan and his demons.
Let’s not forget all the moral dangers. The topics we discuss around the dinner table need to be carefully monitored. The innuendoes, the off-color jokes. The things we allow onto our television sets and the things which come through our radios and stereos. The things which appear on our computer screens and coffee tables and book shelves.
The scary thing about a lot of this is that most of it has been “baptized” and is ushered down the aisle and into the pulpits of most churches in America today. Pastors now tells off color-jokes from the pulpit. People are allowed to get up and share what they call “prophecies from God” but which really are no more accurate than astrology and sometimes come from the same source as Ouija boards and Tarot Cards.
I could give you example after example. But most of you know about it and have encountered some of it before.
The point is this. Satan has hundreds of ways to get his lies spread into our minds and into our homes. Contrary to this, God only has one way to get His truth into our minds and into our homes—and that is through the Bible.
I don’t know why God set it up this way, but all this means is that, as husbands and fathers, we need to be all the more diligent and careful to protect our wives and children from the onslaught of forces intent on deception and destruction. It is very likely that if we live in this world at all, for every minute we spend in Biblical instruction, our wives and our children receive five or ten minutes of spiritual attack.
Therefore, men, we need to protect them as if we were protecting our own bodies. We need to be alert to the dangers, and be skilled enough with the Bible to defuse the bombs which the enemy has laid.
That is what Paul is calling us to here in Ephesians 5:29.
Men, love your wives as you love yourself. Not only does this mean that you won’t hurt her in any way, but positively, it means that you will nourish and cherish her. This means that you will provide for her and protect her.
And when you do this, you are loving yourself. In other words men—this is important—when you love your wife in this way, you are loving yourself, which means that you will benefit from this kind of love shown to your wife.
I’ll tell you what men. You show me a great man, and I almost guarantee you that if you look into his personal life, you will find an even greater woman. And if you dig even deeper, you will most often find that this woman felt loved and valued by her husband.
Marriage is a symbiotic circle. Do you know what that is? It is mutually beneficial to two parties which would normally be at one another’s throats. Did you know that there are a certain species of fish which sharks will allow to swim freely in and out of their mouth and gills? There are reefs underwater where sharks go to sit on the bottom of the ocean with their mouths open and allow fish to swim inside their mouth and gills to clean it. It’s like an underwater dentistry office or a drive through car-wash. The sharks get clean teeth, the fish get a good meal and everybody is happy.
That’s a symbiotic relationship. It is mutually beneficial to both parties. Nature if full of these relationships. In Australia there is a Butterfly which secretes a type of honey. It lets ants swarm all over it and eat the honey in exchange for protection from other predators and parasites. That’s a symbiotic relationship.
One time when I taught this previously, a man came up after the message, and said, “Pastor, have you heard of the book “Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus”? When I said that I had, he said, “Well, based on your analogies in this sermon, you should write a book called, “Men are butterflies. Women are sharks.” That is NOT what I am trying to say.
All I am saying is that one of the results of sin is that men and women are at each other’s throats. But if a husband takes the initiative to love his wife, and nourishes and cherishes her, she in return gives to him whatever it is that makes some men great. Maybe it’s encouragement or respect which a husband doesn’t get a work. Maybe it’s honest feedback or ideas on a project before it is presented to the boss.
A husband benefits when he loves his wife. When you love your wife, you value her and give her dignity. And when this happens, she does more for you than anything else you can get. She will serve you and support you, and you will become the greatest of men. But it all starts with your love for her.
And as Paul has done so frequently in this passage, he ties in his instructions to the husbands with how Christ treats the church. Look at the rest of Ephesians 5:29-30.
We are to love and care for our wives just as the Lord does the church. 30For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
One of the reasons Christ cares for us and watches over us is because we are His body. When Jesus pours out His love upon us, it is like He is loving and caring for Himself.
Ephesians 5:30 in the NKJV says that we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
This is a common theme in Paul’s writings. We’ve already seen this truth back in Ephesians 4:12 when we talked about God’s Blueprints for Church Growth. Remember how God has given to each person a certain spiritual gift which they are to use in some sort of ministry within the church? The reason God gave us these gifts, according to Ephesians 4:12 is so that the body of Christ would be built up.
God gave gifts to the church because He loves the church and wants it to grow and become strong. You can see this truth developed more in 1 Corinthians 12.
We are to love and edify our wives just as Christ does the church.
Let me just close today men with some practical ways that we all can love our wives in a self-loving way.
- Verbally communicate your love to her. Frequently tell her you love her. The words “I love you” should be the most commonly heard words around the home.
- Satisfy her needs—whether they are physical, emotional, intellectual, social, recreational, sexual and spiritual.
- Protect your wife. Don’t let her do more than she is physically able. Don’t let others criticize her or expect too much out of her.
- Help her out with some of her chores and responsibilities. Men, you too can hold the baby, do the dishes, vacuum the house and go shopping!
- Sacrifice your time for her. Instead of reading the newspaper or watching the news, talk to her. What she says is more important than what the sports writer says.
- Let her share your life. Tell her about your struggles, your hopes, your dreams and your feelings.
- Never compare her with other women—especially with your mother.
- Demonstrate to her that apart from your relationship with Jesus Christ, she has first place. Show her that she comes before business, your children, your parents, your house, your hobbies, and your recreation.
- Be tender, respectful, courteous and chivalrous. Do not make jokes or cutting remarks about her. Do not correct her in public in a way that will make her look foolish. Always speak to her and treat her in a courteous way. Treat her as if she were a valuable jewel rather than a garbage can.
- Express large doses of appreciation and praise for what she does. Observe her attempts to please you. Never laugh at or belittle the things she does for you. Thank her for her insights, ideas, questions, prayers, character, opinions, cooking, cleaning, and caring for you and your children.
Men, if you do some of these practical things in loving your wives, you will discover that it also benefits you. As you love, nourish and cherish her as Christ does the church, you are actually loving yourself as well.
As we men love our wives as Christ loves the church, we will not only be helping our wives become who God wants them to be, allowing them to flourish and grow, we will also be helping ourselves become who God wants us to be, servant leaders in our home. And together, such loving marriage will be a testimony to the watching world about how Christ loves and gives Himself for us. This will draw them into a relationship with Jesus, which will also result in better marriage relationships for all. These are worthy goals, and nothing should keep us from it!
NOTES on Ephesians 5:23-30
 Gary Smalley, Hidden Keys of a Loving, Lasting Marriage (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 67ff. See also, Hampton Keathley III, “Love Your Wife Sacrificially” at http://bible.org/docs/nt/books/eph/eph5-25f.htm. Accessed 10/23/02.
 Gary Chapman, Five Love Languages (Chicago: Northfield, 1995), 136.
 C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves in The Inspirational Writings of C.S. Lewis, (New York: Inspirational Press, 1960), 279.
 Patrick Morley, Seven Seasons of the Man in the Mirror (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 114.
 In Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991), 33-34.
 Hughes, 35.
 Hampton Keathly III, p. 3.
 Tony Evans, Tape, 2002 GES Conference, Titus 2:11-14, at about 33 minutes.
 Lou Priolo, The Complete Husband (Amityville, NY: Calvary, 1999), 162.
 Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991), 38.
 John Stott, A Vision of Holiness: Galatians 5:22-24, Preaching Today Tape. Tape #94. (Carol Stream, IL: Preaching Today).
 Wayne Mack, Strengthening Your Marriage (Phillipsburg, NJ: R&R, 1997), 31.
 Zig Ziglar, Focus on the Family Tape. “Keeping Romance in Your Marriage” CS11511, 1997.
 The extra words here in the NKJV are a reference to Genesis 2:23.
 Mack, 42.