The Role of a Man as Husband in the Marriage Relationship

  1. The Husband in God’s Divine Order: In the same way that God is the head of Christ in His relationship to the Father, and Christ is the head of man in our relationship to him, so is the man the head of his wife in the marriage relationship; 1Co 11:3.  As the Spirit of God filled Jesus and set the course of His life, and the Spirit of Christ fills the true Church and sets its course, so does a husband’s spirit fill the home and set its course.  And just as Jesus could not have accomplished what He did apart from the Holy Spirit of His Head who led Him, and the Church cannot accomplish its mission and purpose apart from the Holy Spirit of its Head who leads her, so too is it essential for the happiness of a home that the head who leads it likewise be full of the Holy Spirit that it may become all it is intended to be.
  2. Headship is not Superiority: Although the husband is the spiritual head of his wife, this does not mean he is somehow better than her because of his position in the relationship any more than the Father is better than the Son because of His position in their relationship—each of them is equal in importance and necessity as they fulfill their divinely ordained roles, and it is only the curse of our sinful fallen nature that considers one role as “better” than another when each is essential; cf. Gal 3:28.  If either the Father or the Son did not fulfill the roles of their divine relationship, what would be the outcome for their creation?  If either husband or wife do not fulfill the roles in their marriage relationship, what will be the outcome for their creation?
  3. The Primary Responsibility of a Godly Husband: As the primary responsibility of a wife is to submit to her husband, so the primary responsibility of a husband is to love his wife; Eph 5:25, Col 3:19.  Husbands are to love their wives not only in fondness and affection, but “just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for her”.  As much as Christ’s unfathomable love can be fathomed and emulated on this earth, so are husbands to fathom and emulate that love to their wives.  All that Christ is to us in our doubts and fears, sorrows and pains, joys and triumphs, so are husbands to be to their wives.  In all the ways that Christ demonstrates His love to His people in his care and provision, gentleness and mercy, grace, and strength, so are husbands called to demonstrate their love to their wives.[1] Because of the oneness of the marriage covenant it is understood that of all a man’s duties and calling in life, there is none higher than that to his wife; cf. 1Co 7:32-33.[2]
  4. Learning to Love His Wife Teaches a Man About His Own Sin Nature and Christ’s Love For Us: Even if a woman was completely lovely and always perfect in her submission it would be hard enough for a man to love her as he should because of the selfishness of his own sinful nature.  Unfortunately for him though, women also have a sinful nature that is not inclined to submit.  Interestingly, the ways that women tend to sin against their head by failing to submit to him—their grumbling, complaining, being discontent, desiring the things of the world, and resisting the command to be fruitful—are the same ways that men tend to sin against their head by failing to submit to Christ; cf. Exo 16:2-3, Num11:4-6.  The natural response of a husband’s fallen nature to a sinful wife’s rebellion is to stop loving her and treat her harshly, but that is not how Christ treats man for his sinful rebellion against Him.  If a husband is to fulfill his marriage vows and experience the blessings of the covenant he has entered into with his wife, then he must learn to love her as Christ loves us—unconditionally and in spite of her faults.  Just as a godly wife must learn to submit to her husband even when he is unreasonable (1Pe 2:18,3:1-2), so must a godly husband learn to love his wife even when she is rebellious.
  5. A Godly Husband Gives Himself Up For His Wife’s Sanctification in Holiness: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).  In this same way, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, so is a husband to love his wife even when she is unlovely and give himself up for her; Eph 5:25.  This giving up of himself is not for her vain, worldly pleasure, any more than Christ’s giving up of Himself was so that the Church could continue in her sins.  It is for her sanctification, that she might be holy and blameless, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, truly beautiful and adorned with those ornaments of a gentle and quiet spirit that are precious in the sight of God; Eph 5:26-27.  We must never forget that as the head of his wife it is the responsibility of the man to lead her, but he also has a head, Christ, and he can only lead his wife righteously insofar as he is also following the leading of his head.  Where he is to lead his wife is where Christ is leading him: into a kingdom of righteousness.
  6. A Godly Husband Bears With the Weaknesses of His Wife: Just as Christ bears with the weaknesses of the Church as His Bride and is not embittered against her for her failures, so is a man to bear with the weaknesses of his wife and not become embittered against her for her failures; see Col 3:19.  In loving his wife as Christ loves the Church, he is to be as patient and long-suffering with her as Christ is with him. Cf. Col 3:12-15 as well as the fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5:22-23.
  7. A Godly Husband Honors His Wife: Just as Christ grants honor to His Bride the Church as a fellow heir of God (Rom 8:17, Gal 4:7), so is a husband to grant honor to his wife as a fellow heir of the grace of life; 1Pe 3:7.
  8. A Godly Husband Exalts His Wife: Just as the Father by the exercise of His power raised up Jesus from the lowliest of servants and glorified Him, seating Him at His right hand to reign with Him (see Phil 2:5-15), and as Christ by the sanctifying power of His word raises the foolish and weak and base and despised things of the world that compose His Church (1Co 1:27-28) and glorifies her to reign with Him, so is a man by the exercise of his power and the grace of his words to raise his wife from her humble service to his right hand to reign with him, and present her to himself in all her glory.
  9. A Godly Husband Grants Authority to His Wife: Just as the Father gives authority to the Son to reign with Him over what He entrusts to Him (see Mat 28:18), and Christ gives authority to the Church to reign with Him over what He entrusts to it (cf. Mat 16:18-19, 18:15-18), so is it proper for a man to give authority to his wife to reign with him over what he entrusts to her; cf. Pro 31:16.  Hence children are not only to obey their father, but also their mother; Eph 6:1-2.
  10. A Godly Husband Cares For His Wife: Just as Christ loves the Church as His own body, nourishing and cherishing it, and as a man loves his own body, nourishing and cherishing it, so is a man to love his wife, nourishing and cherishing her, for she is part of him through their covenant relationship, just as the Church is part of Christ through its covenant relationship to Him; Eph 5:28-30.  “Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.”  Matthew Henry.
  11. A Godly Husband Desires His Wife: Thus just as Christ’s desire is for His Bride (Song 7:10) so that He anticipates all that she needs to please Him and present herself to Him in radiant beauty, and listens to the prayers of the Church as it seeks to do this very thing, and provides for her those things necessary for her happiness and joy as she serves Him, so does a husband do for his wife.
  12. A Godly Husband Provides For His Wife: As the head in the marriage relationship, the man is responsible before God for the care of his wife, and ultimately through her for the care of their children.  As such it is his responsibility, not his wife’s, to provide for their family.  “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1Ti 5:8). “There is wrath and impudence and great disgrace when a wife supports her husband” (Sirach 25:22, NRS).
  13. A Godly Husband is Ultimately Responsible For His Children: Although the husband gives authority to his wife over their children, he is still ultimately responsible before God for their discipline and spiritual well-being; Eph 6:4, cf. Col 3:21, Heb 12:7,9.  In the day of judgment, it is he, not his wife, that God will hold accountable for their souls.
  14. A Godly Husband is the Spiritual Head of the Home: As the head of his wife, the husband is the spiritual leader of their home and it is his responsibility, not his wife’s, to take the lead in the spiritual instruction of their children, in prayer, and in family and corporate worship; cf. 1Ti 2:8-15.
  15. When One Marriage Partner is Not Fulfilling Their Role: For a truly blessed marriage and happy home, both husband and wife must continue to fulfill their roles even when the other is failing to fulfill theirs.  This is the nature of a covenant and the “for better and for worse” terms that are agreed to for which God will hold each accountable according to the blessings and curses of their covenant relationship.  Because one party violates the terms of the covenant does not mean that the other party is then free to do so.  The righteous response to evil inflicted upon us even by a spouse is not to return evil for evil, but to follow the example of Christ and entrust ourselves to God; cf. 1Pe 2:21-23, 1Co 4:12-13.  Thus we are to overcome evil with good and leave room for His wrath.  For it is He alone who is able to judge the thoughts and attitudes of each person’s heart, and He who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Rom 12:17-21).  God oversees the terms of the covenant and will punish each party that violates its terms.
  16. The Secret To Maintaining Peace in a Christian Home:  Therefore in times of “worse”, it is important for both husband and wives to heed Peter’s summary of marital relations especially in regard to their discourse which can quickly spiral out of control in such situations: “To sum up, all of you (both husbands and wives) be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.  For, ‘The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.  He must turn away from evil and do good, he must seek peace and pursue it’” (1Pe 3:8-11).

 


1. Every husband should understand that when a woman places her hand in his and thus becomes his wife, she has taken her life with all its hopes and fears, all its possibilities of joy or sorrow, all its capacity for development, all its tender and sacred interests, and placed it in his hand, and that he is under the most solemn obligations to make that life happy, beautiful, noble and blessed.  To do this he must be ready to make any personal sacrifice.  Nothing less than this can be implied in loving as Christ loved His Church when He gave Himself for it.  J.R. Miller.

2. Christ gave Himself for His Church; the husband is to give himself, to deny himself, utterly to forget himself, in simple and whole-hearted devotion to his wife.  In the true husband who realizes all that this divine command involves, selfishness dies at the marriage altar.  He thinks no longer of his own comfort, but of his wife’s.  He takes the storm himself and shelters her from the blast.  He toils to support her.  He denies himself that he may bring new pleasures and comforts to her.  He counts no sacrifice too great to be made which will bring benefit to her.  J.R. Miller.

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