The Lord’s Day
September 3, 2006
God’s New Family: An Exposition of Ephesians (LI)
Household Rules: Marriage and Family (6)
“Love Your Wife (3)”
Dr. J. Ligon
Amen. If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with
me to Ephesians 5, as we continue to study through this great book of the
Apostle Paul, and especially this section in which God gives His household rules
for marriage and family. The last two weeks as we’ve been focusing on husbands’
command from God to love their wives, we continue that this morning and this
evening. A number of the husbands in the congregation have said to me, “Come on!
Let up!” We spent two weeks on Paul’s exhortation to Christian wives; we will
end up spending four sermons on husbands, so ladies, please just make note of
that. I haven’t let the men off lightly.
But we’re looking at Ephesians 5:25-27 this morning.
Let me just remind you of what we’ve seen already. We have said in this
passage that Paul’s argument is easily outlined in three points: He gives a
command and two illustrations. He gives a command in Ephesians 5:25, and
then immediately, before he even finishes this twenty-fifth verse, he starts
giving an illustration, or an analogy, to Christian husbands to explain what it
is he’s asking them to do.
Now, the last two weeks, what we’ve done is we’ve
given a general introduction to this exhortation to love your wives, and then
last week we gave specific–10 or 11 specific applications for what it means for
a Christian husband to love his wife, practically.
This week what we’re going to do is come back this
morning looking at the first analogy in verses 25-27, and then we’re going to
look at the second analogy that occurs in Ephesians 5:28-30 tonight.
The first analogy, again, that of Christ’s love for
the church: “Husbands, love your wives the same way that Christ loved the
Secondly, “Husbands, love your wife in the same way
you would take care of your own self.” And there’s an extension of the analogy
in that particular illustration of how we are all part of Christ’s body, so that
as Christ ministers to us, He’s ministering to His own body, and husbands are
being asked to remember that in a real sense when you are caring for your wife,
you’re caring for yourself, because God has made you to be one flesh with her.
It doesn’t mean that her personality has been subsumed into yours; it doesn’t
mean that she has been brought into the Borg; it means that she is to be cared
for as if you were caring for your own self. And so we’ll look at that analogy
Now, today, before we read the passage, I want
you to know ahead of time what four particular things that you should be looking
for, because as Paul gives this analogy, this illustration of loving Christ in
the way that Christ has loved us, he draws attention to four specific things.
First of all, he draws attention to the church.
He says ‘Husbands, the way I want you to love your wives…look closely…is how
Christ loves the church.’ So we have to think about the church first.
Then, notice at the end of verse 25, how is it
that Christ loved the church? He “gave Himself for her.” So what’s he
pointing you to? He’s pointing you to the atonement. He’s pointing you to the
cross. So he says ‘Husbands, as you love your wives and you’re trying to figure
out how it is that God wants you to love your wife, remember the church and
remember the cross.’
Then, thirdly, he says ‘Why is it that Jesus
loved His people, gave Himself for His church?’ Look at verse 26: In order
to sanctify the church. So you have to think of the church, of atonement, and
of sanctification, if you’re going to love your wife like Christ loved the
And then, finally, you have to think of….what?
Glory. Look at verse 27. You have to remember what the church will one day
be, what your wife will one day be in glory, if you’re going to love her like
Christ loves His people.
Now let’s look to God in prayer before we read His
Heavenly Father, we thank You for this word. It
has been a humbling study for me personally, and no doubt it has been humbling
for many of the Christian husbands in our congregation. I thank You for the many
Christian wives who have spoken to me words of praise about their husbands in
these last weeks. It would be so easy to criticize, O God, because the Christian
husbands of this congregation, no matter how much we aspire to being what You
call us to be, we are sinners and we fall short of the glory of God, and we fall
short of serving our wives. So encourage us and strengthen us as we hear this
At the same time, O God, I would ask Your
especial blessing on those here today who are listening to this word who are not
yet a husband or a wife, or once have been a husband or a wife, or are in
situations of estrangement with husband or wife. You know their hearts. You know
their situations. Apply Your word to them in a special, encouraging, comforting
and helpful way. Meanwhile, O God, grant that all of us would pay close
attention to Your word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
This is God’s word:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave
Himself up for her; 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 should
be holy and blameless.”
Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired,
and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.
In this passage, the Apostle Paul says that God
expects Christian husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church, and
that means that Christian husbands are going to have to love their wives in
light of at least four grand realities that Christ Himself in His work of
redemption draws our attention to: We’re going to have to love our wives in
light of Christ’s love for the church; we’re going to have to love our wives in
light of Christ’s work on the cross; we’re going to have to love our wives in
light of Christ’s sanctifying work in His people; and, we’re going to have to
love our wives in light of the glory to come for the church, and for all
Christian women. So let’s work through these things together.
I. Loving our wives in light
of Christ’s special love for his bride, the church
The first thing I want you to see is right there in verse 25. When the
Apostle Paul calls Christian husbands to love their wives, he gives them an
analogy, an illustration to help them appreciate what it is that he expects of
them…what it is that God is asking of them…and you see it at the end of
verse 25: “…just as Christ also loved the church….” So if Christian husbands
are going to love their wives as God commands, it means that they are going to
love their wives in light of Christ’s special love for His bride, His church.
They’re going to love their wives in light of the delight that Christ has for
You know, if you look at these verses, verses
25-27, there are several verbs which stress all that Christ is doing and has in
store for His bride, the church. We’re told first of all that He loves His
bride, the church. We’re told second of all that He gave Himself for His bride,
the church. We’re told, third, that He is sanctifying the church; and fourth,
that He has cleansed the church. And then, we’re told that He has in view a day
in which He will present her to Himself perfect, spotless, pure, without
blemish. And so what we’re being given by the Apostle Paul is the picture of the
Lord Jesus Christ caring for His church from eternity past all the way into
eternity future. From the beginning to the end, He has a delight, He is consumed
and preoccupied and concerned for the everlasting well-being of His bride.
And you know, young men, there are so many young men
in this congregation that have fathers that they can look up to and say, ‘You
know, that man has shown me how to love a women. That man has shown me how to
love my wife.’ But even if you don’t have that, you see what the Apostle Paul is
saying here. He’s saying ‘Young Christian man, you don’t know how it is that
you’re being called to love a woman, and you can’t look at your own father to
see a good example of how to love a wife? Well, let me give you the best example
that was ever given: the Lord Jesus Christ, in the way He loves His people…His
bride, His church. Yes, young Christian man, you have an example, and that
example is the Lord Jesus Christ. You love just like Christ loved the church.’
And, you know, we have hymns that remind us of
these truths. Take your hymnals out and turn with me to 347. We sing this
hymn all the time, and when we sing it, no doubt we are thinking of the church
and the attributes of the church; and I want you to look at stanzas 1 and 4
especially, because they emphasize some of the ways that Christ loves the
“The church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is His new creation,
By water and the word.”
[And listen closely, now!]
“From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood, He bought her,
And for her life He died.”
So, He came, and He lived, and He bled, and He died for
her. It’s giving us a picture of how Christ loved the church. But, notice, it
goes on…stanza 4:
“The church shall never perish;
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end.”
So that His whole concern has been to defend, to
guide, to sustain, to cherish, to nourish, to bless His people, His bride, from
the beginning. That song, that hymn, is giving us a picture of how Christ loved
the church; and so, the next time you sing it you can not only, husbands, think
of how Christ has done that for you and for every believer, but you can think
how Christ is calling you to do that for your wife.
Now, this means, of course, that we must come to
have the same kind of love for the church that Christ has for the church, if
we’re going to love our wives the way that Christ loves the church. And we
sing about that, of course, when you turn a few pages forward to No. 353. It’s
one of our favorite hymns. It’s probably the oldest hymn written by an American
that is still in common use in most churches today. It was written by Timothy
Dwight. It’s called I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord. And look at the first
couple of verses, or stanzas:
“I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode;
The church our blest Redeemer saved
With His own precious blood.
“I love Thy church, O God;
Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye,
And graven on Thy hand.”
Dwight is saying how much he loves the church, how
much he loves the people of God. And, husbands, if we don’t have a love for the
church, it will be difficult for us to conceive how great Christ’s love for the
church is, and it will be difficult to implement the kind of love that Christ
has for the church in our love for our wives.
And of course this just reminds us again of the
importance and the applicability of every aspect of Bible teaching. You
don’t think about it, do you, that when you’re hearing a passage preached on the
church, as when Derek was preaching through Acts 6, that that’s not just a
passage meant to teach you, Christian husbands, about what the church is
supposed to be like. It’s a passage that’s also meant to teach you how you’re to
take care of your own wife, because every passage of Scripture applies to the
totality of our lives, and teaches us in various ways how we are to live out
this glorious calling, the way of righteousness, the way of Christ, the way of
His kingdom. And so when we hear Bible exposition about the church, Christian
husbands, that’s not just important for us to learn so that we know what the
church is like and so that we know how God loves the church, but it’s also
important for us to learn so that we know how to love our wives.
If we’re going to love our wives like Christ loved
the church, we’re going to have to understand how much Christ loved the church,
and we’re going to have to come to share in Christ’s love for the church, if
we’re going to live up to this exhortation to love our wives as Christians. And
that’s the first thing that we learn in this passage: Christian husbands are
called to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the church.
II. Loving our
wives in light of Christ’s work on the cross, his atonement
But the second thing is even more astounding, and I want to admit to
you before we even get to it that this is something that I don’t believe had
ever crossed my mind, however many times I had read this passage, and reading a
quote from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones brought it to light, and so I want to give him
In Ephesians 5:25, again, the last few words of the
verse we read: “…and gave Himself up for her.” You see what the Apostle Paul
is saying. He’s saying that husbands, Christian husbands, are to love their
wives not just generically in the way that Christ loved the church, but they’re
to love their wives in light of the way that He gave Himself up for her. And
what does that mean?
It means loving our wives in light of the cross.
It means loving our wives in light of the sacrifice of Christ. It means loving
our wives in light of the self-giving sacrifice of Christ on the cross. It means
loving our wives in light of the atonement.
You see, the Apostle Paul is saying that Christian
husbands, in order to love their wives like Christ loved the church, must love
their wives in light of Christ’s work on the cross; in light of the atonement.
That is something that had never crossed my mind. I
don’t know how I had read this verse so many times and that had never hit home.
I must have read this verse 150 times in the last twenty years, and it never
dawned upon me until Martyn Lloyd-Jones asked this question. He said, “What is
it that the Apostle Paul is asking us to do here?” And he goes on to say, “He’s
asking us to see marriage in light of, in the context of, the atonement.” He
says when you start thinking about marriage and you start looking in the
bookstore and the library for books on marriage, where do you go? Well, you go
to the section on Ethics, or maybe you go to the section on Counseling
or on Self-Help, or on Marriage and Family. But, he says, you know
what? In God’s library that’s not where you find the instruction on marriage.
It’s right there. You see it on the shelf. It’s under The Doctrine of the
Atonement. If the Christian husband wants to know how to love his wife, he
has to go to the cross. He has to look up at the cross and see the Son of God
and Savior of sinners loving His people to the death, bleeding and dying,
bearing shame and scoffing rude, for His people. That’s how a Christian husband
is to love his wife. It’s a profound, profound thing, my friends.
Now, of course I need to stop right now and say
that when we look at the cross, the first thing that we are to see is
this matchless display of the love of God on our behalf. The first thing
we’re to see is God acting on our behalf, accomplishing something outside of us
which we cannot contribute to, in order to save us from our sins and redeem us
into His family.
The cross is first and foremost about what God has
done on our behalf, something that we could never do for ourselves. The cross is
first and foremost about God’s glory. It’s a matchless action that cannot be
repeated. But having seen that great work of God’s love and that great work of
God’s redemption, the Apostle Paul himself is telling Christian husbands here to
look at the cross and learn how to love your wife. The Apostle Paul is saying
Christ lived and suffered and died for His bride; so, Christian husband, you
live, and if necessary, suffer and die for your wife’s good.
So when we look at the cross, we not only remember
what Christ has done for us, but as Christian husbands we look at that cross and
say ‘How Christ has loved His people! God grant that I would aspire to and
desire and in some measure love my wife the way that Christ has loved His
You know, one of the tender moments on the cross in
those Seven Last Words, is when the Lord Jesus Christ, in the bearing of the
sins of the world and enduring the unmitigated wrath of God, looks down to His
mother and to His dearest friend, John, and He says ‘John, take care of her.’
Here He is bearing the sins of the world, and He’s thinking about His mother
being taken care of when He’s gone. And this is precisely the kind of care that
Christ has for all His people, and this is precisely the kind of care that a
Christian husband is to have for his wife.
III. Loving our wives
with a view to her growth in grace, her sanctification
And then, thirdly, we see in verse 26 that Christian husbands are to love
their wives in light of the Bible’s teaching on sanctification. Why is it
that Paul says in verse 25 that Christ has given Himself for the church? Well,
look at verse 26: “…that He might sanctify her….” In other words, the
Apostle Paul is saying ‘Why is it that Christ has done all this? So that one day
His church will be completely holy; so that one day there will be not the
tiniest remnant of sin or imperfection in all of His people. This is why He’s
done it. He has done it for the sanctification, for the cleansing, of His
Notice again verse 26: “So that He might sanctify
her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” In other words,
Paul is saying Christian husbands are to love their wives, and that means loving
our wives with a view to her growth in grace and to her sanctification; and
that, of course, means that Christian husbands have to care about growth in
grace. They have to care about sanctification.
How often have you seen the spectacle in the course
of your Christian life of a woman who is zealous to read the word, zealous to
study the word, gathers often with other women to study the word, prays
diligently for her children…and a husband who isn’t even interested in going
to church? A husband who has to be coaxed to come to church? And the Apostle
Paul is saying ‘Christian husbands, that’s not the picture. You’re the one who’s
supposed to be nourishing and cherishing and encouraging your wife’s growth in
grace. You’re the one to love the Bible and to instill into your wife and your
family a love for the Scriptures, a love for the study of God’s word, a concern
to live as a citizen of God’s kingdom. You’re to take the lead. Your wife isn’t
supposed to have to drag you along in that. She ought to be able to lean on you
from time to time when she’s tired and worn out in those things. She ought to be
able to count on your leadership and ministry in that area.’
He’s saying, “Christian husbands, you need to care
about your wife so much that you are concerned about her growth in grace.” When
you see her being pulled in a thousand directions with all her responsibilities,
and being drained dry with all the pressures that are on her, you’re thinking,
“Lord, how may I serve and nourish and cherish this woman, so that she is grown
up in grace, built up in grace? So that she becomes holier, so that her
character is formed to be more and more like her heavenly Father?” The Christian
husband has that concern, that desire. A true Christian husband has that
concern, that desire. A true Christian cares about his wife’s holiness…his own
holiness, of course, and his wife’s holiness…and it’s on his agenda to be a
help and an encouragement to her in growing in grace, so that she can face the
things that she’ll be called to face in this life.
IV. Loving our wives
in light of/with a view to glorification, their future glory
And then, finally, the Apostle Paul says that
Christian husbands are to love their lives in light of their future glory.
Look at verse 27. He points to the church in all her glory, and he says:
“…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.”
You see what the Apostle Paul is saying. He’s saying
‘Christian husbands, you want to know how to love your wives? Well, you love
them in light of Christ’s love for the church; you love them in light of
Christ’s work on the cross; you love them in light of Christ’s purpose to
sanctify His church; and you love them in light of the ultimate goal that Christ
has for the church.’
And what is that ultimate goal? That one day in
glory she–His bride, His church, His people, the children that He has bought
with His own blood–will be presented from every tribe and tongue and people and
nation…a multitude that no man can number…before Him at the marriage feast
of the Lamb. He will be the Bridegroom, and collectively His church will be His
bride, and His church will be perfect. And that is what He is aiming for. That
is His ultimate goal for His people. And the Apostle Paul is saying ‘Christian
husbands, you need to love your wives in light of that goal that Christ has for
the church: His goal of glorification; His goal of the future glory of the
And this is so important. It’s so important for
so many reasons.
First of all, it’s important because as we live
together in this fallen world as redeemed Christians, husbands and wives, we’re
living together with imperfect people, in both our homes and in our
congregations. And you know, sometimes we look at the church and what do we
think? “You know, this church is a mess.” That’s what we think. And then
sometimes we look at one another in our marriages, and you know what we think?
Well, a lot of times we think, “You know what? You’re a mess!” Sometimes we look
in the mirror in the morning, and we think, “You know…you’re a mess.”
And we are a mess.
And the Apostle Paul is saying ‘Christian husbands,
let me take you to a picture. It is a picture of My people no longer a mess, My
people perfected, My people glorious. Now, that wife that you’re called to love
and to serve…you see her now with her weaknesses and her fears and her
imperfections. But one day you’re going to see Me stand her before Me, perfect.
Don’t ever forget that picture.’
You know, I think the greatest earthly picture of
that that we can ever see occurs here at First Presbyterian Church 20 or 25
times a year: weddings. It’s when a father walks his daughter down the aisle
in a beautiful white dress, and presents her to her bridegroom. And I get to
look into the eyes of those fathers, and they’re thinking to themselves ‘You
know, I had so few years with this precious woman…20 and some change,
maybe…and now I’m handing her over to another man. And I’m saying, ‘Son, you
care for her and love her. I’ve done the best I could to care for her and love
her. You do your best. You live and give and bleed and die for her best.’’
And then in God’s mercy that relationship may last
for 30 or 40 or 50 or, if God grants, 60 or even 70 years. And then there
will be another presentation. But at that presentation all the weaknesses
will be gone; all the imperfections purged; all the sins cleansed. Those
husbands, as they think of the self-doubts that their wives face and fight, the
inner struggles, the anxieties, the fears that so often vex them, and quench the
fulfilling of this great potential that God has placed in them…suddenly, on
that Day, all of those things are gone! And she is how her Creator intended her
to be in the first place! And all the powers of her abilities, and all her
capabilities unhindered by any encumbrance, and there she will be in all her
glory before her Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend. And you’ve had the
privilege of walking along her side, and, hopefully, helping her towards that
great goal, so that you can stand there and give account: ‘O God, You gave to me
this woman for these years, and I have done my best to nurture her, to ready her
for this day when she would be united with her real Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus
The Apostle Paul is saying ‘Christian husbands,
remember, that Day will come, and you will give an account. You will stand there
and you will say, ‘Lord God, You called me to love and serve this woman. I’m
giving her back to You, and I have done my best…sinful, stumbling, though my
service may have been, I’ve given my best to her, so that she may be given back
And it’s all our desire, isn’t it, to hear, “Well
done, My good and faithful servant.”
That’s what the Apostle Paul is saying to us, and
it’s so important for us to hear, because here we see the imperfections and we
feel the pains of those imperfections; and the Apostle Paul is saying don’t
forget what she one day will be. And you love her now in light of the glory that
her Savior is going to produce in her.
Let’s look to God in prayer.
O God, this is a thing such as to humble us to
the dust. Who of us are sufficient for it? But give us, O God, deep, deep in our
hearts, an aspiration to love our wives like this. May it be an encouragement to
them. May it be a witness to the world.
O God, we also ask this morning, we plead this
morning, that You would grant by Your grace patience in our wives, for they know
us. They know what we’re like. They know how we’ve failed them. And yet, O God,
by Your grace, grant them patience with us so that as we stumblingly and
haltingly and with fault attempt to serve them, they would see the desires of
our hearts to do them good.
And, O God, grant us the grace to serve them in
this way. We do not have the power in ourselves to give ourselves, to die to
ourselves like You’re calling us to do in this passage, but that’s exactly what
You call us to do. So, command what You will, O God; but give us the grace to do
what You command. And we’ll give You all the praise and the glory, for we ask it
in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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