The following is my sermon “The Role of Christian Husbands – Part 1” from Ephesians 5:25-33.
THE ROLE OF CHRISTIAN HUSBANDS – PART 1
Lord’s Day, January 12, 2014
Lighthouse Bible Church
As you can see there are three verses for wives, while there are nine verses for husbands! In other words, there are three times more for the husbands to take heed than the wives, though this does not mean that wives should turn off their hearing now that we’re on husbands. No, all the ladies need to pay close attention too. I mean how else are you going to hold your husband or future-husband accountable if you don’t know what he is called to do biblically?
What I want to do today is not to jump immediately into verse 25. Rather, I want to give you an overview of the context – sort of like a bird’s eye view. That’s because I don’t want us to miss the whole forest because we’re simply looking only at a particular tree. Hence, before looking at the text in detail with all the nuances, I want us to get the big picture.
With that in mind, let me make a few preliminary observations from the context. I will make four observations to be exact.
I. The primary point of this passage or section is not about marriage, or about the roles of wives or husbands. Rather, it is a depiction of the redemptive relationship between Christ and his church.
That is, the redemptive relationship between Christ and the church is depicted or likened to marriage between husband and wife, and the church being the bride to Christ.
This section of Ephesians is typically known as a “marriage text” in the Bible. I have heard numerous sermons from this text, especially, at weddings, yet some have ignored a major theological theme here, namely the redemptive relationship between Christ and the church. In fact, Paul even states in verse 32 that “this mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” – as if in case you and I miss the whole point of the passage.
Hence, if we would to simply look at this section as a mere “marriage text” or if I would to simply give a pep talk on marriage from this text, then we missed the whole point of the passage. Then that would be no different than what a secular marriage therapist would say, a Mormon would say, or what Joel Osteen would say. Thus, the fundamental question is: What is so Christian about the sermon on the role of Christian husbands? What is so Christian about telling the husbands to love their wives? If not, then this is no different than finding a book on marriage at the “self-help” section of your local Barnes and Noble or from a “marriage guru.”
So, the million dollar question is what makes a sermon about marriage uniquely and distinctively Christian? I want you to know that preaching that is empty of any exegesis of the text and empty of any Christological emphasis, yet full of moral advices is what we call “moralistic preaching,” and it is dangerous. Such preaching is dangerous because in this undiscerning culture when average church-goers do not think biblically and theologically, such preaching is often pass as “Christian preaching” when it is not. Just because someone stands in the front and quotes a few Bible verses or mentions Christ here and there do not constitute or qualify as Christian or biblical preaching.
A biblical preaching is when the bulk of the message is driven by an exposition of Scripture, out of which there is a significant doctrinal emphasis from the text, and from which there are implications and/or applications. So, when a message is largely a moral pep talk about how to improve your life, your marriage, so on, is not a biblical or Christian preaching. Please listen to what Martyn Lloyd-Jones said in regards to what I just said over fifty years ago:
I am increasingly convinced that so much in the state of the Christian church today is to be explained chiefly by the fact that for nearly a hundred years the church has been preaching morality and ethics, and not the Christian faith. It is this preaching of the ‘good life’, or being ‘a good little gentleman’, and of viewing religion as ‘morality touched by emotion’, as Matthew Arnold put it, that has been the curse. Such men have shed the doctrines; they dislike any idea of atonement, they dismiss the whole notion of the miraculous and the supernatural, and ridicule talk about re-birth. Christianity to them is that which teaches a man to live a good life.
II. Although the primary point in this section is about the redemptive relationship between Christ and his church, there are clear implications for the role of Christian husbands. In other words, although the husbands’ role is not the main point here, it is an important implication that flows directly out of a rich Christological truth. This section contains both doctrinal implication and practical applications.
III. Like the role of Christian wives, the role of Christian husbands depends on the redeemed relationship with Christ. That is, if the man is not spiritually regenerated, he cannot fulfill the duty of a Christian husband, namely to love his wife as Christ loved the church.
I say “namely, to love his wife as Christ loved the church,” because there is a clear distinction of the role of Christian husbands from non-Christian husbands. It is one thing to be the primary provider and protector for family, but to love the wife as Christ loved the church is something else. If the duty of a Christian husbands is simply to be the provider for the family and protector for the family, then that’s no different than what a Buddhist could do, what a good Muslim could do, or what an atheist husband could do. Again, what makes the role of Christian husbands unique? Again, what sets Christian husbands fundamentally different from non-Christian husbands is the commitment to love our wives as Christ loved the church. In fact, this particular command to love our wives is not given to just anyone but only to Christians, for whom this letter is written (1:1).
Since Christian husbands are to love our wives as Christ loved the church, don’t you think it is important that we need to know how Christ loved his church? Furthermore, we need to know what kind of love this is.
IV. Redeemed love is the particular kind of love and particular motive to love our wives.
When a person becomes a Christian, all faculties and aspects of his/her life will go through transformation, including his/her understanding of love. As a Christian, such love is now redeemed. He/she is no longer driven with selfish love, a pure physical or sensual love, or lustful love, but now it is love that is radically different than what he/she knew or ever experienced. It is redeemed love that God gives to his elect. Hence, before you can be motivated to love, you need to first know and learn what this type of love is.
Again, we’re back to Point 1, aren’t we? That is, we cannot understand the duties of Christian husbands and wives unless we understand the truth about Christ and his church.
When I’m doing premarital counseling, I always ask the couple to define love and describe love. You can guess why right? That’s because the problem is often about descriptions and demonstrations of love. In fact, this is where even those that have been married for sometime would have conflicts. For instance, because I love my wife, I may get her a DVD on how to lose weight as a woman. That’s how I would demonstrate my love for her. But my wife may interpret my demonstration of love to something else or disagree with how I show my love. You follow what I’m saying?
Sometimes our demonstrations of love may be unwise and unsound because we may have unsound definition of love. So, with that, let me at least begin with the definition of love in this section. But before we do that, let me inform you what the text does not say about love.
First, it is not the romantic love though that is not unimportant. Second, it is not erotic or lustful type. Men, you don’t have to become like the dude Fabio on the front cover of romance novels to love your wife. Third, it is not phileo type – i.e., fond of something or having affections, as in I love my dog, I love sushi, I love surfing, etc.
Rather, the love that is mentioned in this section is agape love! Six times the verb “love” is mentioned in this context: twice in verse 25, three times in verse 28, and once in verse 33. And they are all agape love.
Let us at least get our feet wet this morning with verse 25. We examined four overall preliminary observations. Now, let me begin with a few specifics. First, to whom is this section specifically addressed? It is to husbands. In fact, in Greek this address is vocative, which means in this letter the author is making a special attention or call to a particular group, namely to husbands. It is like saying, “Husbands, listen up!” Or, soon to be husbands, listen up! Or, those who want to be husbands, listen up! Or, husbands that no longer want to be husbands, listen up!
Furthermore, based on the surrounding context, this reference is not to just any husbands, but Christian husbands. That is the operative word.
So, we’re forced with a very important question, that is: What is a Christian? I don’t believe that everyone who walks into the church understands what a Christian is. So, we need to learn to articulate this answer biblically. Don’t worry, you don’t need a systematic theology book to help you. I’ll simply show you from Ephesians. With that in mind, please go with me to Ephesians 1.
According to Ephesians, a Christian is:
- a saint and faithful in Christ Jesus (1:1b),
- one who has been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3),
- one that God chose before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless (i.e. justified) before him (1:4),
- one that God predestined to adopt him as a son (1:5),
- one that experienced God’s redemption through the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of sin, according to God’s sovereign grace (1:7),
- one that God reveals the mystery of his will (1:9),
- one that has obtained an inheritance (1:11),
- one that believed the gospel of salvation after listening to the message of truth (1:13a),
- one that has been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (1:13b),
- one that has clear evidences of God’s grace from his/her former life (2:1-5),
- one that belongs to a church and actively serves the members within the church (2:19-22) – just to name a few.
Those are just a few descriptions of what a Christian is. Although these are various descriptions, there is one common denominator, namely it is God who turns a person into a Christian. The Bible teaches that no matter how high the standard of morality a person lives by, cannot live up to God’s perfect and holy standard. Also, no matter how religious a person is, he/she cannot earn God’s salvation. The Christian doctrine of salvation is that God alone saves the person.
So, at the onset of Ephesians 5:25, we’re faced with a very important question: Am I a Christian? This is so important since the assumed notion is that husbands here are Christian husbands.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in the Spirit in Marriage, Home & Work: An Exposition of Ephesians 5:18 to 6:9 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995), 19.