“Marriage’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”
Like everything else in creation (Rom. 11:36), marriage serves the ultimate purpose of glorifying God. In its purest form, marriage is a shining reflection of the steadfast love initiated by Christ and reciprocated by His church. Paul drives at this glorious reality in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Ephesians. He makes clear that marriage beats with a gospel heart and only runs on all cylinders when God’s glory is the chief aim.
But what does that look like for husbands? How does the husband glorify God in the marriage covenant? In a long sentence that runs for three verses, Paul begins to answer that question as he presents Christ as the heavenly prototype for every earthly husband. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). Now, the mere comparison between the husband and Christ is enough for pause. Husbands are called to depict Christ in marriage, which is a picture of the very reality of redemption. That is no small task. In fact, that is a staggeringly solemn calling. So how is it done?
Years ago, I heard a pastor preach on the subject of marriage. I will never forget the frustration I felt when he said, “We are told to love our wives as Christ loves the church. I do not even know how to do that, but I pray the Lord will show me!”
I wanted to stand from my seat and shout, “Keep reading!”
Paul tells us exactly how to love our wives the way Christ loves the church. The answer is threefold: sacrificially serving your wife (Eph. 5:25), passionately promoting the sanctification of your wife (Eph. 5:26-27), and compassionately caring for your wife (Eph. 5:28-30).
These features richly define what it means to love your wife the way that Christ loves the church. We can only say we are truly loving our wives when we are sacrificially serving, spiritually leading, and caring for the bride God has entrusted to us.
There is no room for compromise in any of these three areas, and each one deserves ample time for emphasis. But for this article, I want to primarily focus on promoting the wife’s sanctification. The need for such seems to be extraordinary today.
To do so, we will highlight three truths that are made evident from these verses.
The Call to Love Your Wife is a Call to Disciple Your Wife
Mark it down, brothers. If you are called to be her husband, you are called to be her primary discipler. Titus 2 ministries are great, ladies’ Bible studies can be helpful, and the local church plays an essential role in your wife’s discipleship. But God calls you to bear the bulk of that load.
Paul uses theological truth to drive home this practical point.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 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” (Eph. 5:25-27).
Christ gave Himself for the church so that she might be holy (Titus 2:11-14). Likewise, we as husbands are to share in the same interest for our wives. Her holiness is my priority. This does not mean we are called to produce holiness in the life of our bride. Only God grants sanctifying grace. Rather, we are called to promote holiness in the life of our bride. We encourage righteousness and discourage sin. We seek Christ-likeness in her and reject worldliness in her. We prompt her to build altars and smash idols. That is, after all, the goal of every discipler in every context.
Discipling Your Wife Starts with Your Discipleship
An obvious implication of the call to disciple your wife is that you cannot disciple your wife if you are not following Christ personally. It has often been said that a discipler, first and foremost, must be a disciple. The case is no different for the husband: he cannot fight for his wife’s purity when he is not fighting for his own. If you will prioritize your wife’s sanctification, you must start by prioritizing your sanctification.
The discipling husband must pursue Christ from the waking moment of the day. He must dive into God’s Word and mine out every nugget of truth he can. He must continually commune with God in worshipful prayer. He must confess, repent of, and mortify his sins. He must understand that sanctification is impossible apart from grace. He must trust the Spirit to continue His sanctifying work in his life. He must seek God’s face continually. He must see his labor at the workplace as an act of heartfelt worship. He goes to church. He forges friendships with faithful brothers in the body of Christ. He reads reliable books on theology and Biblical studies.
Dear brother, this is where it must start. Follow Christ. Follow Him daily. Feast on His Gospel and glory in His Son. And when you relish in the beauty of Christ and the joy of your salvation, you can lead your wife to do the same.
Discipling Your Wife Means Emphasizing the Supremacy of Christ
A third truth that we must observe in the call to disciple our wives is the very object of her discipleship: Christ. While your wife must submit to your headship, she owes her supreme submission to the Head of the church.
Christ is supreme in everything (Col. 1:16), including your marriage. This truth necessitates that I am not the end for my wife, but a means to an end. We exist to point our bride to her ultimate Bridegroom.
To ensure this in the life of his bride, C.T. Studd asked his wife to add this little saying to her daily prayer life: “Dear Lord Jesus, you are to me dearer than Charlie could ever be.”
Husbands, you will have done your job when your wife loves Jesus exceedingly more than she loves you. By the way, she will only love you better for it. Christ is supreme, and He is worthy of the best of His daughter’s love. Remember that the Lord did not merely give you His daughter so that you might meet her emotional and material needs. His design is that you might spiritually lead her to love Him with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength.
So let us teach our wives about the loveliness of Christ! Teach her Biblical theology. Teach her systematic theology. Walk with her through her Scripture reading. Confess sins together. Pray with her. Worship with her. Lead her. Show Christ to her through your living.
A Word of Encouragement
Brothers, God is faithful to enable you to perform your sacred calling. In a world that lacks discipling husbands, by God’s grace, be the exception. Step out, start somewhere, and start today. Love your wives. Disciple your wives. May God be glorified in your marriage.
For further reading
In the last seven years, Nick White has fulfilled the roles of a church planting pastor in Boston, Massachusetts, and a senior pastor in New Hampshire. He possesses a Bachelor of Theology degree from a small Baptist college and is also certified in Expository Preaching by The Academy for Expository Preaching in Dallas, Texas. Nick is happily married to Chelsea and is a father to two daughters, Grace and Abigail.
January 19, 2024
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