“Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25a). On the one hand it is such a simple statement, a simple command. Simply love. On the other hand there is not a husband in the world who would say that he has mastered it. Behind the simple command is a lifetime of effort, a lifetime of growth. How is a husband to love his wife? What is the kind of love that he owes her? I am tracking here with Richard Phillips as he explains in his new commentary on Ephesians.
A self-sacrificing love. A husband’s love is self-sacrificing. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Every husband knows that he is called to love his wife to such a degree that he would willing to die for her. But God calls for far more than this. “It is easy for men to think of dying dramatically—and bloodily—for our wives in some grand gesture. But what Paul specifically has in mind is for husbands to live sacrificially for their wives. This means a dying to self-interest to place her needs before your own. It means a willingness to crucify your sins and selfish habits and unworthy character traits. I remember a husband who told me he had always thought that if a man came into the house with a knife to attack his wife, sure, he would be willing to die defending her. ‘Then I realized,’ he said, ‘that emotionally and spiritually, I am that man who assaults my wife and threatens her well-being. What God calls me to do is put my own sinful self to death’.” Exactly so. You would die for your wife, but will you live for her?
A redeeming love. A husband’s love is, like Christ’s love, redeeming. Christ “gave himself up for [the church], that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” “If we follow this progression we see the Christian gospel in terms of Christ’s preparation of a bride for himself.” Christ is actively sanctifying his people through the word to cleanse us from sin and make us holy. Paul now says that a husband is to see this as his model for the way he relates to his bride. “As Christ’s love redeems us for glory, a husband’s love ought to be directed toward the spiritual growth of his wife. Notice, too, that this ministry is associated with a husband’s words. The Greek word used here is thema, which signifies actual words, rather than the more common logos which speaks of a message in general. This makes the point of how important a husband’s words are to his wife. Far from badgering or tearing down his wife with his speech, loving husbands are to remind their wives of God’s love and minister for their blessing and increased spiritual maturity.”