The Christ-like Husband
Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Ephesians 5:25-27
Well, we have a wonderful text to turn to this morning, one that intimately affects every one of us in life whether we're involved in marriage or not, and I invite you to turn to the book of Ephesians 5. I'm going to open by reading our text for this morning to set it in our minds and then we will examine it as we go along over the next 50 minutes or so. Ephesians 5, I'm going to start at verse 22. We covered verses 22 to 24 last time but I'll read those to set the context for our time together here this morning. Ephesians 5, verses 22 to 33 will be our text this morning.
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
Now, last time we looked at the biblical role of the wife, today we're going to look at the biblical role of the husband, and just before the service, it occurred to me that I was very grateful for something that is going to make me seem like an unsentimental lout but I trust you'll see why I say what I am about to say. You know, next month, actually Valentine's Day is going to fall on a Sunday and I am just very grateful to the Lord that we are not, in the way that we are progressing through the text, I am glad that we are not dealing with the subject of marriage on Valentine's Day because Valentine's Day could only serve to confuse matters with things that are not helpful for the clarity that we need on this subject. We're able to address this text now without the influence of Hallmark marketing on us, without the pressure of FTD flowers hanging in our minds, or without a chocolate factory trying to persuade us to give some token of affection to the one that we supposedly love. That sentimentality is not helpful and constructive for what we need to see from this passage today and if you like Valentine's Day, go all out in about four or five weeks whenever it is.
But for today, what we want to do is we want to reflect seriously on the text that is in front of us, and there is something very significant and serious that we need to keep in mind as we look at this text today and something that absolutely drives a proper response whether you're in marriage or contemplating marriage, in your life: marriage is intimate. We hardly need to say that. It has the potential to do great good. It also has the power to demolish a life and to make people very miserable in their existence. I rather suspect that we have people on both ends of the spectrum in here today with lots of people in between. What we want to do is we want to harness the design of God and use it for our benefit and to respond to what God has said about marriage here today. But for you to respond properly to marriage, those of you that are married now or those of you that have marriage still in your future, there is something very critical that you must understand as we enter into this topic here today: your response to marriage is simply a symptom, it is simply an aspect of your greater response to the Lord Jesus Christ. God is the one who ordained marriage and you as a Christian are responding, first and foremost, to God in your marriage. It is a vertical response that you make in your marriage relationship. You should not start your thinking about marriage, you should not start your thinking about how I am going to respond or what I think about this married life, you should not start that with what your spouse is like because that will only take you astray. It will only lead you into the wrong kind of thinking. You must see that, first of all, marriage and your interaction in marriage is, first and foremost, a response to the Lord who saved you from your sin. It is Christ who ordained marriage. It is Christ who is the picture of marriage, Christ in his relationship to the church, and it is Christ who commands you and calls you to a particular kind of response in marriage and that is irrespective of what your spouse is like. You must start there. You must start with a sense of responding to a holy God, responding to your loving Savior in how you deal with your marriage before you ever get to thinking about your spouse to begin with. That has massive consequences and will sanctify you and will motivate you to do what is right when sometimes your spouse doesn't seem to give you reason to respond that way.
You know, I can remember multiple times over the course of our marriage where somehow I maybe got a little bit sideways with Nancy who's not here with us today. She made a little surprise visit to Gretchen out in Massachusetts, perhaps listening over the live stream. But there were times in my life where, you know, we have a little disagreement or something and I would get a little bit uptight and resentful about that in my own heart. I used to joke that whenever there was a problem in our marriage it was always Nancy's fault. I want you to know the reality today that whenever there were any difficulties in our marriage, it was always my fault. Nancy's an exemplary wife and so whenever there were difficulties, it could always be traced to something that I had done or a bad response that I had made.
But here's what I want you to see as I say these things, is that in the midst of those times, what motivated me to respond and to fix the situation, to go and to make an apology or to try to set things right, what would motivate me was not so much a human relationship with Nancy but the fact that this is what the Lord wanted. The Lord called me to be gracious. The Lord called me to be forgiving. More often in the situation, the Lord would call me to be acknowledging my own fault in the relationship in order to bring about restoration to the situation. And although there might in the heat of the moment not have been a human motivation that was enough to get me to do the right thing, a sense of duty and love to Christ, a supreme obligation to him and a love and devotion to Christ, was always enough to move me in the right direction and that's the way it is. If your spouse has disappointed you in a way that makes you bitter and resentful and you get kind of settled into those bitter feelings, listen, you must come back and realize that God is commanding you to live a certain way as a Christian in that marriage and that is independent of what your spouse is like, and your love for the Savior who laid down his life for you, your love for the Christ who had secured the salvation of your soul and the forgiveness of your sin, your love for Christ motivates you to do the right thing, motivates you to respond as this passage lays out for you and it is independent of what your spouse is like. You must see that, that you are responding in marriage vertically.
I heard someone say one time, he gave a string of verses which if I had been wiser in my younger days I would have written them down, that there are some, you know, you get into marriage and things get difficult and you get entrenched in your positions and you say, "I'm just not going to change on that." Well, look, you can't think that way and if you get bitter and get sideways with your spouse and you say, "You know, my spouse, I'm not going to love them that way. You know, you don't know what my spouse is like. I'm not going to...you could not love my spouse that way. She is like an enemy to me or he is like an enemy to me and I resent it and I'm angry and blah blah blah, and so don't talk to me about the responsibilities of marriage." Okay, fine. We won't talk about what a Christian should do in marriage, let's just take you right where you're at, what you just described, and understand that Jesus said, "Love your enemies and pray for them." You know, whether it's loving your spouse or loving your enemies or whatever, there are all kinds of admonitions to love that motivate us in this direction. So we understand that God has called you to love and to submit to your spouse in a way that defines the matter for you if you're a Christian, and you respond vertically to God even if you're not willing to respond horizontally to your spouse, and you just do what is right in the presence of God.
Well, last time we looked at the role of the wife and we talked about the wife's duty of submission to her husband and we looked at that and I encourage you to pick up a copy of that message if you missed it. I know the weather kept a lot of people away yesterday or last week, I should say. We have a lot of copies of that message and others out there that I would encourage you to pick up because we need to be familiar with this material so foundational to life, isn't it? Either you were born as a product of a marriage or marriage wasn't a part of the way your family was structured and you suffer as a result of your parents' failure to keep to what God had said. You know, it's just woven into creation this way and so we need to understand what we're looking at. Last time it was wives, now we turn our attention to the men, to the husbands and, men, I trust that you'll listen with an open heart as we go forward. If you won't listen for the sake of your spouse and sentimentality will only take you so far; that's why I say I'm so glad it's not Valentine's Day because sentiment will not carry you like biblical truth will to transform you and make you what you're supposed to be. Men, you need to listen with an open heart today as we look at what Christ says about marriage to us.
Now, having said that and kind of reinforcing what I just said, it's very common when people want to teach on marriage to just jump into Ephesians 5 and go at it like that and that's fine as far as it goes, but look, you and I need to understand that we are approaching this passage, we are in this passage now, not because we want to teach about marriage, first and foremost, we are in this passage because we have been studying the book of Ephesians from chapter 1, verse 1, and gone all the way through it and now this just happens to be where we're at. Why is that important to you as you listen? Why does that reinforce what I was just saying earlier? Well, you've got to understand that Paul is speaking about marriage in a much bigger context as he has been addressing the church, and at the beginning of his letter, he laid out how the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit had acted in concert in order to secure our eternal salvation. The Father chose us. Christ redeemed us. The Holy Spirit sealed us. We are responding to a great work of salvation that the Trinity planned and executed on our behalf, and as we move on, we realize in chapter 2 that we did not deserve that; we were dead in trespasses and sins, dominated by Satan, and under the wrath of God. And yet in his mercy, in his grace, God reached down and did a supernatural work in our hearts to cause us to be born again. Raised us up out of spiritual death, seated us in the heavenly places with Christ where Christ intercedes for us and is waiting to receive us at the end of our earthly service to him.
So we're in a spiritual realm of great profound eternal grace that has been poured out upon us and Christ says, Paul says, I should say, Christ speaking through Paul in chapter 4, verse 1, he says, "As a result of that, I want you to walk in a manner worthy of the God who called you." Then he goes on, chapter 4, chapter 5, chapter 6, and lays out what a worthy walk looks like; how it is that you live since God has done all of these things, therefore you are to live in a particular way and marriage is one aspect of that. So we must approach this from a great context realizing that this is an aspect of responding to a great salvation from a gracious Savior and our hearts, here's the thing, beloved, we are responding to a great salvation as we read this passage. That's the context. Salvation is the overarching theme. God's grace in your life is the dominant thought throughout this epistle and the glory of Christ. As we come to marriage, we're just dealing with a singular aspect of walking a greater worthy life in light of a greater salvation that is unspeakably wonderful that came from the unsearchable mind of a Triune God. Only then can you begin to think rightly about marriage.
So, you see, that's why it's so important for us to understand the context which brings us here today. When you put, and I'm sorry to bang on Valentine's Day like I am today but I've just really got a point that I want to make and emphasize to you here. Think about what we just described, the great eternal counsels of the Triune God, the Lord Jesus Christ suffering on Calvary to redeem you from sin, shedding his blood, groaning under the weight of the sins that he was bearing on behalf of his people, buried in the tomb, then raised miraculously from the dead showing that he is Lord of all and has power over death and sin and hell itself, and realize that that's the context the biblical view of marriage flows out of. Do you see how when you put beside that a dozen roses or a pound of chocolates or, you know, a little sentimental card that's got a button that beeps on it, do you realize how superficial that is by comparison? That's what I want you to see. We need to think about marriage, as we're looking at what we're talking about here today in the text, we need to see it from that perspective and I just want to drive a very big wedge in your thinking from the sentimentality that the world markets about romance in order to get money out of your pocket and into their's, to separate that out and help you see that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about responding to Christ and that's much more significant. That's infinitely more significant.
So I'm not up here today, men, to badger you into buying flowers for your wives or chocolates or whatever. That's not the point. What I want for you men today, what you need to do today, is you need to be mindful of responding to Christ and not getting sucked into sentimentality that is gone by February 16th. You get it, don't you? I can tell the way you're nodding your head, you get it. Good for you. You see, that's the point. So it's only when we are looking at this from God's perspective that we can ever begin to understand it properly.
Now, with that said, let's get into the text. As we get into the text here, Ephesians 5:25 to 33, men, let me just say that your role in marriage is as an overarching observation here, your role in marriage is compared to the role that Christ plays for the church and so all of a sudden you're already up against a lofty standard. You're being brought into a glorious comparison and your model is Christ. You get your cues from Christ about how to respond to your wife, not in getting cues from your wife's behavior or attitudes toward you and how you respond. You look up. You see your crucified and risen Lord. He says, "Live this way in your marriage." And you say, "Ah, yes, Lord, of course. I would be glad to."
So with that said, men, as you're looking at Ephesians 5:25 to 33, what I want you to see, general observation is that love is the controlling thought in this passage, beginning, middle and end. Just look at the text and make a 30,000 foot view observation here. Verse 25, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." Love. Love. Verse 28, "husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself." Three times the verb is used there. Love her, love her, love her, after he said "husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church." Then it ends in verse 33, "each individual among you is to love his own wife even as himself." So, men, here's the thing, as we're looking at this passage that particularly speaks to you either in your present role as a husband or in your future role as a husband, love is the motivating thought in this passage so that we see from the context that whatever else Paul is saying in these nine verses, he is saying in order to reinforce the theme of how you are to love your wife. You should look at your marriage and say, look at your wife, think about your wife and say, "The call of God on my life is to love this woman that he has given to me." And then we ask the question, "Okay, what does that love look like?" And that's what we're going to see as we unpack it here.
Men, this is not about your feelings. This is not about anything superficial or changeable like that. What Paul lays out for you in marriage is to be fulfilled whether you feel like it or not. It has nothing to do with your feelings and everything to do with the fact that this is how you are to be; how you are to act. You are to understand it, you are to embrace it, and then you are to act upon it as an act of your will as something that you are to carry out in your life. And what we're going to see as we go through this passage is four aspects of a husband's love for his wife that you are to understand and embrace and act upon. And, ladies, this has a lot to do for you as well and it does transcend marriage as we go through this. There are kind of two parallel trains of thought that seem to be in Paul's mind as he goes along: on the one hand, he's talking about marriage and husbands and wives, and yet like DNA strands wrapped together, he's simultaneously talking about Christ and believers and the way Christ loves believers and the way that believers respond to him. So it's kind of a mutually self-interpreting illustration. So even those of you who are years maybe away from marriage, you're young and you're in your early years and marriage is far out to you chronologically speaking, there is still rich instruction for you as you say, "Oh, this is how Christ loves me. Oh, as a believer. And, oh, this is how I must respond to Christ." So as we expound this passage, we are expounding Christ's love for the church as we also expound the way that husbands are to love their wives. It's the nature of the illustration that Paul chose to give. So each point here is going to be addressed as though it were to husbands. Understand as we're speaking it, however, that we are also declaring how Christ loved us as believers and gave himself up for us. So we must see those things and I'll do my best to try to keep those things both in your mind as we go along.
Husbands, how are you to love your wives? Four principles. Here's the first one, write this down. I expect you to remember these things and to bring them and sink them into your mind. This is not a time for us to just go through the motions of being in church. This is intended to transform your life and to make you a living illustration of the Lord Jesus Christ in your marriage, so see the lofty standard and respond earnestly and hear and interact earnestly as you hear today. How are you to love your wife? Point 1: you give her a sacrificial love. A sacrificial love. First of all, notice in verse 25 who he is speaking to. He says, "Husbands, love your wives. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her."
Now, men, notice a couple of things: that this is not conditioned on what your wife is like. This is not based on a response where she does her part and you do your part and if she doesn't do her part, then you're excused from doing your part. It doesn't work that way. Christ calls you, men, to love your wives this way and you are to love her like this because it's what Christ commands irrespective of what your wife is like. So you must understand that that is the starting point and, ladies, as I said last week, I'll repeat it here, you know, if each spouse in a marriage simply did, simply lived like this passage calls them to do without worrying what their spouse was doing, if each one did their part, marriage would be great for everybody. And so the way your wife is does not diminish your responsibility to respond here and, ladies, understand that while we dealt with your aspect and role last week, understand that your husband is about to feel the weight of God's word upon his life. Your job today, ladies, as you walk out, you need to understand that you need to be at your very best of loving and encouraging and respecting and responding to him in what transpires in the rest of this day as he responds to this. Don't you dare, ladies, don't you dare go out and scold your husband for not being what this passage calls him to be. Don't you dare do that to him. That's not the right way to respond because Paul here is speaking to husbands and this is what husbands are to be like. Ladies, you keep your mind in verses 22 to 24 and you'll be just fine because your husband may walk out convicted, a little bit discouraged seeing how he falls short. I mean, he's being compared to Christ here, how can he not feel the way he falls short. Well, you take the opportunity to be gracious and loving and if you have a husband like some of you do that emulates these things and pictures these things, then you shower him with your love and affection and gratitude as you go out today. But, ladies, you be gracious to your husbands as you walk out today and don't be looking for points that you can hammer him with later because that's not why this passage was given. It's given to the husbands to respond to and we need to be careful not to read each other's mail when it comes to this point.
Now, husbands, with that, I've done everything I can to condition things for you later, what can we say to you? Ephesians 5:25, the command is for you to love your wives. Verse 25, "Husbands, love your wives." It's a command. This isn't optional. Love your wives. And you say, "How am I to love my wife?" That's a fair question. This gets fleshed out in 24/7 daily life. How are we to live this out then? It's not enough to just leave it in a general admonition. And what Paul does is, watch this, he uses the love of Christ for the church as an illustration of how husbands are to love their wives. And how was it that Christ loved the church? Verse 25, "He gave Himself up for her," laid his life down for her. And why did he do that? Verse 26, "so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." Paul says, "Men, what Christ did for the church was this: he gave himself up for her. He completely sacrificed himself for her. He laid his life down for her well-being under great sacrifice. His hands still bear the wounds of that sacrifice. Those wounds are yet visible above. That's how much his sacrifice was." And why did he do it? He did it to set the church apart, to deliver the church from sin and Satan and death and to set them apart so that we as believers would live a holy life of loving and responding to him; that our well-being would be secured by his sacrifice and in love he did what was best for us even though it was at the cost of his own personal well-being on earth. Paul says, "You think about Christ and realize what he did." Those of you who are single, think about Christ here and realize how much love and affection you should have for him as you see that and yet, men, as we see it, we see, "Oh, there's the pattern that Scripture gives to us in terms of how we are to live." Supremely Christ loved the church. He gave himself up for her. Lay down his life so that the church might be redeemed.
So what do we say about the extent of love? What do we say about what this love looks like? Men, it's a sacrificial love. It's a lot that has at its core, what is at the center of your existence in marriage, the reason for which God created you and put you in this marriage relationship with this woman that you now have, what's at the core of that, what defines your perspective on it, is a willingness to lay your life down for your wife if need be. Not anything less.
So you see, men, and I can speak on this from experience: you are thinking about marriage all wrong if you're thinking about your wife as someone who is there to serve you. You're thinking about it all wrong if you think that she exists and that the purpose of marriage from your perspective is for her to exist for you. Your perspective, your core defining idea about your marriage is, "I exist to lay myself down on her behalf; for her well-being; for what she needs." That's the way you're to think about marriage. Yes, God has given her to you as a helpmeet, but you don't turn her role into marriage into what you demand out of it for yourself. You think about marriage from the perspective, "God has given me into this relationship in a manner that somehow resembles the way Christ was given to the church." What did Christ do? He sacrificed himself. Therefore what do I do in a marriage? I sacrifice myself for my wife. You've got to start there. If you're not starting from that perspective in the way that you define your existence in marriage, you've already missed the boat. You're sinning against God by a self-centered approach to marriage, if you're not starting from that perspective.
This isn't me, this is the Bible. You think I like knowing that I have to go out and respond to this? Well, actually I do. We're glad to respond to anything that Christ lays down on us, but I realize the responsibility of it and don't take it lightly. Men, you must say in your mind, it must be clear in your mind that you lay down your life for your wife because Christ laid down his life for his church. That's where you start. You put her needs ahead of your own and this godly love takes place in the context of the daily routine of life. You sacrifice and it shows when you change your schedule for your wife's benefit; when you talk with her; when you adapt your life to support her; when you remember as Scripture says elsewhere that she's a weaker vessel, and yet she is given to you as a fellow heir of this grace of life. So you give her a sacrificial love and you realize and it's defined in your mind that, "Wow, you know, I'm here to lay myself down for her."
Now, those of you that are single, those of you that are young men looking on the front end, you know, this makes you think rightly about marriage. Is this the woman that I want to love like that? Do I want to lay myself down for her? And suddenly you realize that there is more than external beauty and attraction that goes into your contemplations about how you think about marriage and what you want out of it. "You know, I want to give myself over to a godly woman and make her a better woman through being married to me," is the way you think about it instead of that selfish perspective about, "What can I get out of that?" and all of the things that go into it. And look, I'm all in favor despite what I said about Valentine's Day, I'm all in favor of romance and all of that, especially when you're wired that way and you're especially sensitive. I'm not denying that. I'm just saying that that can't be the controlling feature of it. And, you know, the time will come, young men, unmarried men, the time will come when the affections and the emotions die down like a booming charcoal fire settles down and the flame of all of those emotions, you know, it's not like that forever, and then you'll deal with the question of, "Well, now what?" Well, make sure when you get to the "now what" part of marriage, that you've got a woman that you want to give yourself over in sacrifice to. If you see beforehand that she's ugly toward her parents or unkind to people around her, that she's a back biter, understand that that's the kind of woman that you're going to be laying your life down for and let it affect the decisions that you make. That's why you want a godly woman, not just a worldly woman because you're going to give her a sacrificial love regardless of how she responds to you. Why? Because that's what Christ calls you to and it is independent of what your wife is like. So you give her a sacrificial love.
Now, I'm going to pivot to point 2 here, but let me just say something else. I'm going all kinds of unexpected places here as I preach today. At the end of this message, I am not going to do what is so common, I'm not going to ask you to stand up and make some kind of big emotional public demonstration of how committed you're going to be to your marriage going forward. I think that kind of stuff is just, you know, it's just superficial and foolish. Ultimately when you drive people through these superficial external commitments, you act like everything's a crisis moment, as if a crisis moment and standing up after a 50 minute message is going to change everything. It doesn't work that way. You know that from experience that an emotional decision made at a point in time and, "I'm going to change everything going forward," life doesn't work that way. You don't live that way. That carries on for 36 hours maybe and then you're back to where you were.
So we're not driving toward any kind of climax like that here today, men, just so you know, so you know what to expect. You know, that's a whole philosophy of ministry behind that. What you need to see and where the lasting change for you comes, is when you think deeply on these things and you embrace them, and when you realize that Scripture calls you this way in response to Christ, and it has to settle in and you need to think about these things and ruminate on them and meditate on them over a period of time. That's where the long change comes, where your heart affections and attitudes and priorities and commitments start to shift because this exceeding worth of Christ has been so clear and evident in your mind that your affections toward your wife naturally follow, and you can't generate that kind of deep response to Christ simply by an emotional appeal to stand up at the end of a message. So, just so you know, we're not going there. I want something far deeper for you and from you in this. I want you to see Christ, men, and to love him and to respond to him and realize that your wife is just an overflow of that. That's what this passage is about.
So Christ loved the church and sacrificed for her. Men, whatever it means in your life, however it plays out in the context of your current existence and your current marriage, whatever your situation is right now, your response is and the Spirit of God will help you understand and apply it, your response is, "I've got to sacrifice and love her in a sacrificial way. That's what I'm called to do here." And you start there and work it out. I'm not going to tell you what that looks like. How could I know what that looks like? How could a pastor ever know what that's supposed to look like in your life on Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning? I don't know what that looks like. The whole point is that you take this principle and you seriously embrace it and then you go out and you apply it for yourself.
Now, secondly, you give her a sacrificial love, secondly, you give her a sanctifying love. A sanctifying love. Christ...and I know that some of you men need to hear this directly and personally but I'll try not to point my finger at you as I go along here. We all need this. You give her a sanctifying love. What does that mean? Christ's goal in dying for the church was that he would purify a people for himself; that he would purchase a people and they would be set apart for him and that they would live a holy and blameless life to his glory. Now, that's the pattern that God gives for the husband to think about the way that they are to relate to their wives.
Look at verses 26 and 27 with me again. Paul states the purpose for which Christ gave himself up for the church when he says, "so that He might sanctify her," set her apart, in other words, "having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." Christ died so that we would be living in this life in a morally pure and blameless way. He wants to separate us from sin, not just the consequences, the eternal damnation that sin brings on unrepentant people, not just the consequences but that there would be a revolution, a transformation of character that would take place in the lives of those who are born again.
Look over at Titus 2:14. We looked at this verse when we were meeting in northern Kentucky. Titus 2, just a few pages over to your right after the first and second letters to Timothy. Titus 2:14, Paul echoing to Titus the same kinds of things that he said to us here in Ephesians when he says, Christ Jesus, Titus 2:14, "gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good works." So Christ died for the church in order to separate them from sin, to purify them, and to make them a people that was set apart to live for his glory. That's why he loved us and gave himself up for us.
Now, what Paul is saying is that that is your pattern as a husband. Notice this, men, it's something that you ought to be profoundly grateful for as I am also, and need to be: the Lord Jesus Christ did not love you because you were already pure. He did not love you because you were blameless and were such a great model of moral rectitude that he just had to have you for his own. No, not at all. Christ loved you when you were still dead in sin. Christ loved you when you were a rebel and profaned his name with your life and heart and attitude and everything about you was displeasing. Christ, in that, knowing that you were like that and would be like that, in that condition, Christ gave himself up for you to rescue you from that and to make you into someone new. He loved you and gave himself up for you to sanctify you, to separate you from that prior existence.
Now, what does that say to you about your purpose in marriage? Oh boy, men, do we need to hear this and do you need to hear this. Men, in some ways, in some ways your defining goal and your primary responsibility for your wife is to look after, to pursue, to help her, to establish her moral purity before the Lord; to be an instrument that sanctifies her and increases the purity of her own life. Christ, as he works out his purposes of sanctification in the life of believers, men, is purifying us and making us and conforming us to his image, bringing us more and more away from our prior sinful selves and making us more and more like him. Do you understand then that if Christ's purpose is for believers and you are to be like Christ and Christ has given you a position of authority over your wife that somehow resembles his position of authority over the church, you look at Christ and say, "His purpose for the church defines the way that I relate to my wife and therefore the moral purity, the spiritual growth of my wife, is my primary responsibility in this marriage relationship." I know that most of you never think about it that way. That thought has never occurred to you because you're wrapped up thinking, "I've got to provide financially," and all of that and it's good and necessary and proper that you do, but by comparison to your wife's spiritual condition, that is incidental. A lot of wives have throughout church history, do now and will in the future, flourish under the leadership of a man who has difficulty financially simply because he's a godly man, and she grows and she flourishes under that.
Well, men, understand that when you think about your marriage, you single men, you think about what you want out of marriage and the reason that you exist if you're going to get married, is that you are to pay attention to the spiritual environment that you establish in your home. The loving husband shields his wife from worldly influence. The loving husband fosters an environment that promotes spiritual growth and moves her away from the effects of her sin so that she would be holy unto the Lord. Your wife's spiritual growth somehow should be a defining priority in the way that you order life, in the way that you interact with her, and most certainly in the way that you pray for her. You want a verse to pray for your wife on going forward from this day forward? 2 Peter 3:18, "Lord, whatever else you do in my life, my wife's life, Lord, I pray that you would help her grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." You can't go wrong praying that, can you? We are commanded to do that. It's apparently what God wants from us and if we pray according to his will, Scripture says he hears us.
Men, don't violate her conscience. Don't thrust her into entertainment that glorifies sin and defiles her. And don't you engage it yourself. How are you supposed to have a sanctifying influence on your wife if you're constantly feeding sinful sewage into your mind and heart? How's that going to happen? How are you going to promote her holiness if you're pursuing sin? Tell me, how is that going to happen? You're going to lead your wife in the direction that you're going. You see, it's not just your sin, it's not that you can sin in private in marriage and not have it affect your wife. Your indifference and your violation of the holiness that God calls you to, has a spillover effect on your wife because you're unsanctified in the way that you're living. Well, you see, it doesn't work that way. You can't think selfishly about sin that way. God says you are to be like Christ in this relationship; Christ, the holy one seeking the purity and the holiness and the blamelessness of the one under him. Well then, men, that means that we're called to a lofty standard of holiness that we are to act on, to live on, to embrace and carry out and that we are to be mindful that we pursue that for our wives as well, whatever that looks like in the context of your home, and if you've wronger her, ask her to forgive you. Don't be so proud.
You need to have a sanctifying influence on her, a sacrificial perspective, and a sanctifying influence. That's why God gave you that woman. You say, "Ah, but she's not a godly woman." Okay, well, I wonder why that is but, you know, that just means that you've got work to do. You've got a wife to love like Christ loved the church. Just remember, men, just remember that when Christ saved you, you were an ungodly mess yourself and yet he loved you and gave himself up for you, saved you and started to sanctify you. Well, if your wife is starting from behind, alright, just realize God's call on your life is to have a sanctifying influence on her. And ladies, if you have a man that has been like that, I want you to walk out of this building today and put your arm around them and say, "Thank you for being that kind of man what was just described here." You thank him and affirm him and establish him in that because, ladies, he's just like you, he stumbles. You know, Scripture says we all stumble in many ways. Well, he needs your encouragement. He needs you to follow him, ladies. How is it that if a man is trying to lead you spiritually and God has given that man to lead you and you are to submit to him, how is it that you can be righteous, how is it that you can separate and be antagonistic and go a separate way from your husband who is doing his best to lead you, how can you possibly be righteous doing that? You can't. You are to submit to him. You are to follow him. And if you're not doing that, you're the one in sin.
So all of that to say, ladies, that when you walk out and, you know, whatever your failings of your Christian husband is, you know things that you can affirm, you walk out and you affirm him and you say, "Honey, thank you. I'm glad God gave you to me." My wife says that to me all the time. I don't know if she ever has to go back and confess, you know, "Okay, that was a little...." No, she says that to me all the time. It's very encouraging. And, ladies, that's what you need to do to your husband as well. I know many of you do and I'm grateful for that. Some of you post it on your social media and exemplify that. Well, thank God for you.
Look, I've said a lot of things here and I've said them really strongly. I don't want to overwhelm you with more things that are yet to come. Shouldn't we be glad to walk out of here remembering the fact that Christ loved us with a sacrificial love and that he died to sanctify us because he has created us and he made us and he saved us in order to be a people set apart for him? Of course, that's a great thought for us to carry out. We walk out of here just so grateful to the Lord, remembering that he laid himself down for us and that he set us apart and that changes the whole reason that we exist in life altogether. And then to realize in marriage that, "Oh, that means I need to be a sacrificial husband. I need to have the sanctification of my wife at the core." Do you know what? I think that if we all walked out meditating on those things and applying those to our hearts, this would be a really successful Sunday, and then we can pick it up next week as we finish later on.
But here's the thing as we wrap this up, let me just finish with this story to kind of give you something to think about and hang it on as we go on. I remember many years ago, I knew a new Christian and he exemplified these things in a remarkable way that was far beyond the years of his Christian experience. It was incredible. My friend, Jay, had a wife who was distant and Jay is not somebody that I ever worked with or anything like that. We were just friends in different Christian circles. And his marriage was difficult, to the point that his wife refused intimacy to him. She was cold and hard and stubborn, but he was a new Christian with a new life and a new heart. So what did he do? He just loved her and he said, "I'm going to stick it out with her." He gave himself to her sacrificially and with devotion. Over time, wife not responding but he just kept living this way, God bless him because it's what God called him to do. He is responding vertically to the love of God saying, "Here is the way that I apply it in my life. I apply it and I sacrifice myself and I give myself over to this unresponsive woman." And he did it time and time again over time.
Do you know what happened eventually? That wife of his, Kathy, started to talk with him. He established trust. He built trust over time. She saw this is a new pattern in his life. There is something new. And his pattern of behavior and attitudes toward his wife started to melt her heart and she started to talk with him in a new way. And for the first time, years into their marriage and months after his conversion, for the first time, she opened up and she told him, "Jay, you don't know how men have abused me in the past. You don't know what men did to me before we were married, before I met you, but let me tell you." And with tears streaming down her face, all of that hurt and all of that pain came out as she spoke with him. Jay listened to her, held her as she cried on his shoulder, and over a period of time, that sanctifying love, that sacrificial love that he gave to his wife turned her into a godly woman who was glad to be his wife and was glad to respond to him in every way imaginable. That result, that sanctifying influence that Jay had on his wife never would have happened if he had been angry over the resistance that she had had in the past. It never would have come about, and yet there they are. That kind of patient care ministering to the needs of his wife, his self-centered desires put on hold.
Men, do you know what? I promise you that a Christian woman will submit to a man like that. And if your wife is someone who lacks submission, before you blame her and rebuke her and complain about her, examine yourself first. Ask yourself, "Has my perspective been one to give a sacrificial love to my wife? Has my perspective been one to give a sanctifying influence to my wife?" Work through those things this week and then we'll come back next week and we'll look at the rest of the passage together.
Let's bow together in a word of prayer.
Our Father, supremely in response to this passage, we praise you for our Lord Jesus Christ. Putting aside marriage for a moment, Father, we remember that you saw us in our sin and that you had mercy on us. Lord Jesus, you came to earth with the express intention of saving sinners just like us. You sacrificed for us, Lord. You laid aside the robes of glory, as it were, the prerogatives of deity, in order to come into this world and live as a man who could truly say he had no place to lay his own head. What a sacrifice you gave to us, O God. O Christ, what a wonderful, self-emptying you gave on our behalf in obedience to the Father and yet out of love for us because you would secure our eternal well-being; you gave yourself up in unsearchable ways. Thank you for loving us just like that. We love you in response. And as part of our loving response, O Christ, we bring before you the marriages that are in this room. We bring before you the future marriages that are represented in the lives of our single people yet to be married. And we pray, Father, we ask, O God, we beg that as marriage disintegrates all in the culture all around us, as it is assaulted and attacked and collapses in the world, Father, give us grace that in our private, quiet, godly lives there would be continually rising up a pattern, an example, of what marriage should be. And in that pattern of the way that we as husbands and wives interact with each other, O God, may there be a living spiritual illustration of how Christ loved the church that would attract men to Christ, that would be a testifying evangelistic influence as we go about.
I pray for the wives in here, Father, that they would follow their husbands as you call them to do. I pray that you would have mercy on them when they are frustrated by their husband's ungodliness. I pray that you would strengthen and encourage them. I thank you for the times where Nancy was gracious when I was less than I should have been. Father, I pray for the men in our congregation. I pray that they would look beyond culture, look beyond machismo, look beyond everything and look to Christ and say, "Oh, there is my pattern. Let me, O God, be a sacrificial man for this woman in my life. Let me have a sanctifying influence on her." And not to make excuses for our ungodliness but to make genuine changes that would be in furtherance of what this passage would call us to be.
God, the intimacy of marriage is almost intimidating sometimes. There is no place to hide in it, and yet you intend that for our blessing and we pray that as we respond, Father, we might somehow catch a little bit of the aroma of the blessing that you intended in Eden when you brought Eve to Adam. "Here is your helpmate, Adam. Here is the one to complete you." Father, may that sanctifying grace be evident in all of our lives and may you bless us as we contemplate these things in the week to come. We pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.