Societies and cultures throughout the world have their concepts of what a man should be and how he should behave. Unfortunately, these concepts are rarely based on the truth of God’s Word, the Bible. Commonly accepted behavior for a man or husband is often influenced by earthly ideas and sinful human flesh.
Our concern as Christians, however, is only for what God desires us to be. The clearest and best portrayal of what our Creator God intends for a man or husband to be is found in the Word of God, the Scriptures. The Bible gives us the principles for acceptable behavior and the example of the life of Jesus; both show us how to live in a manner that is pleasing to God.
GODLY LEADERSHIP STARTS AT HOME
It is vital to recognize that ALL Scripture concerning the Christian’s life is intended to be lived out in the home first. For instance, the Bible instructs us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32). This is to be applied at home in our relationships with those closest to us first.
Often, however, we try to behave in a Christ-like manner in public places, with those whom we see only occasionally. Yet at home with those we are comfortable with and not as concerned with impressing – we may allow our sinful or fleshly nature to rule our behavior or attitudes. The Bible calls this hypocrisy.
One of the things that marked the Pharisees of Jesus’ day was their hypocrisy. They appeared very religious, moral and righteous in public. But their inner attitudes and behavior were really very sinful. Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs” (Matt 23:23-28) because they had an outward appearance that hid the sinful attitudes they held in their hearts.
It is much easier to be kind to those whom we might only see occasionally in public places. We may not be truly forgiving or tenderhearted toward them, but we can pretend we are for a short time. But when we live every day with someone, it is much harder to pretend. The attitudes that are truly in our hearts begin to show.
No one is perfect in his behavior all the time. God understands that we can be weak and may sometimes fail (Rom 3:23). We should not come under condemnation and give up trying to live as the Scriptures instruct. The Bible gives us clear help and instructions for how to grow in godly behavior and become more Christ-like every day.
If we are truly Christians – followers of Jesus Christ -we will no longer live in a way that serves our own fleshly desires. Instead, the Bible tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh” (Rom 13:14). When we do this, we will not “give place [opportunity] to the devil” (Eph 4:27) to work through our lives to hurt us and others.
It is very important that all men- especially those who are leaders in the Church – understand and practice Scriptural principles. We should not just hear the Word -we should do what it says (Jas 1:22- 25). And the first and best place for a church leader to practice what the Bible teaches is in his home, with his own spouse and family.
The Apostle Paul gave a very dear exhortation to Timothy about the qualifications of elders and deacons (church leaders). These qualifications are all directly related to how the leader lives in his home.
Open your Bible and read 1 Timothy 3:1-13, especially verse 5. A person who has learned to behave righteously and keep good relationships with those in his home will also know how to be a wise and godly leader in the church. A person must first function as an elder (or deacon) at home; then he will have learned how to also rule well in the church. It is dear, then, that the principles of Scripture that should be applied to behavior in the church should also guide our behavior and relationships in the home.
Let us now examine the portion of Scripture that most clearly addresses the biblical role of a Christian husband: Ephesians 5:22-33.
THE GREATEST COMMAND:
TO LOVE OUR WIVES
Ephesians 5:22-33 gives husbands and wives commands that are essential to having a God-honoring and healthy, nurturing marriage relationship. This article will look specifically at the commands given to men in order that they might fulfill their God-given role as husbands.
Ephesians 5:25 states the most crucial and foundational part of a man’s responsibility to his wife: He is to love her. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved … Church and gave Himself for Her” (Eph 5:25). This verse clearly shows the most important responsibility of the Christian husband to his wife is to love her.
Just as love is the “greatest” of the Christian virtues (1 Cor 13:13), so is love the greatest key to a healthy, fruitful and lasting marriage. The husband is told three times in Ephesians 5 (vs 25, 28, 33) that he is to love his wife. This triple-repeated emphasis in one section of Scripture makes it very clear that a husband is to love his wife!
It is when the wife knows that she is truly loved that she will more freely respond in godly submission to her husband’s headship (Eph 5:22-24). However, a husband’s love for his wife should not be based upon her response. He should love her in obedience to God’s commands, and leave her response up to God.
But how does a man love his wife? How is the biblical kind of love in Ephesians 5:25 shown from a man to his wife?
A CHOICE – NOT A FEELING
Many people mistakenly believe that love is just a special kind of feeling you have for someone you like. Love does involve our feelings. However, true love goes far beyond just what a man feels for his wife. Real love involves a choice of the will, and results in actions that demonstrate that love.
Scripture tells us that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Eph 5:25). How then did Christ love the Church? How did He demonstrate His love? Verse 25 says that Christ “gave Himself for her [the Church]”. Christ loved the Church by the example of His selfless death. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8; see also John 15:13).
Christ gave up His physical life when He died on the cross for the Church. But He also gave Himself in that He died to His self-life. He laid aside His own desires, comfort and pleasure in order to serve a higher calling.
Scripture reveals that Christ came to obey the Father’s will and word (John 5:19, 30; 14:31) and to serve the Church (Matt 20:28). Christ lived only to obey God the Father’s will and for the benefit of the Church. Christ did not require anything from the Church except that she, too, learn obedience to God.
As a result of Christ’s selfless love, the true Church chooses to love Christ and submit to Him. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In that same way, when a wife is loved by her husband she will more readily respond with both love and submission.
In order for a husband to truly love his wife in a Christ-like way, he will also have to lay down his self-life. Putting his own wants and desires behind the needs of his wife may be very hard to do. It takes much more than romantic feelings for a husband to love his wife in such a selfless way. But a husband is to lay down his life if he truly desires to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. But what does that mean?
Philippians 2:3-8 helps reveal the self -sacrificing kind of love required for a husband to love his wife: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Believers are exhorted to let the mind of Christ be formed in us (v.5). We are also told not to focus on our own selfish desires, but to instead consider the needs of others first (vs.3, 4). What better place to practice this kind of godly behavior than with our spouse!
A DEEPER KIND OF LOVE
Jesus was truly God (v.6), but He did not hold onto His “position”. Rather, He emptied Himself of His privileges (2 Cor 8:9) in order to become a servant for our sakes (Phil 2:7). He chose to walk humbly and obey the Father, even though it meant dying a painful and horrible death that He did not deserve (v.8).
Why did He do this? Because of His great love for us, His Bride!
This is the same kind of selfless love a husband is to have for his wife. This type of love goes far beyond feelings. It must be rooted in a heart-felt desire to obey God and be shaped into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18).
A man’s “feelings” are usually based on what he wants. But the kind of unconditional love a man is to have for his wife is not based on what the husband wants. It is a selfless love that goes beyond human desires. It is a much deeper kind of love that is not possible for a husband to give unless he first receives it from his Heavenly Father and His Son through the Holy Spirit.
There are four basic words for love in the Greek language (the original language of the New Testament): storge, eros, phileo, and agape.
Storge is a family love, like one would have for a brother or sister, or parent to child. It describes a strong bond between two people based on relationship.
Eros is love based on physical desires. It is the kind of emotion that may attract a man and woman to each other. The Greeks used this word to describe a sexual or romantic kind of love. This type of love is important in marriage, as it provides a way to express and grow in your oneness as a couple. God designed this expression of love only for marriage (Prov 5:15-18; 1 Cor 7:3-5). But Eros is essentially a selfish kind of love.
Phileo is a friendship love. It is the kind of love to be found in the Church. This word shows a desire to give love to someone because you enjoy them or receive pleasure from the relationship. It too, is still somewhat selfish.
Agape is a radically unselfish love. Unlike both eros and phileo, agape love is based on the character of the one doing the loving. It is an unearned, unconditional kind of love that goes well beyond simple emotion or attraction. This is the kind of love God has for you and me. And this is the same kind of love God commands husbands to have for their wives.
Agape love begins with and comes from God. This kind of love forms the foundation of the marriage covenant. A married couple’s love may be tested by failure, disappointment, difficulty, sorrow or temptation. It is at these times (and other times as well) that we must draw from God’s unconditional love – first for us, and then given through us to our spouse. We must make a choice with our will (not our feelings) to allow God’s love to enter our hearts and be given out to our spouse. We must pray for God to help us love as He loves; and pray for Him to teach us how to love in such a selfless way. When a husband obeys God’s word to love his wife as Christ loves the Church, he can fully expect God’s supernatural power and love to be released into his marriage.
LOVE- MORE THAN ATTRACTION
Fleshly, worldly love is always seeking to get, not to give. A person may feel a desire to love based on physical appearance, intelligence, talents or wealth. But these feelings are very temporary; they do not last. And when the feelings or attraction go away, one thinks that they are “no longer in love” and may end the marriage. Or if a husband has strong feelings for a woman other than his wife, he may think he is “in love” with her and may even want to leave his wife. This is NOT the kind of “love” God commands for marriage.
The love a Christian husband has for his wife might involve some initial attraction. That is normal and right. But that is not love; that is simply attraction. The husband who loves a wife for her appearance or for what she can give him is loving with a worldly, fleshly love.
Agape love (selfless and committed) looks to give. A godly husband puts his own desires, preferences, likes and dislikes behind the needs of his wife. He must be willing to live sacrificially in order to serve and bless his wife, and truly love her.
In Ephesians 5:28, 29, husbands are told to love their wives as their own bodies. A man cares for, protects, feeds and shelters his body. A wife is “one flesh” with her husband (vs.30-33) and should be treated with the same concern, care and respect as a husband would give his own body.
MARRIAGE: A SACRED COVENANT
When a man chooses to marry, he is making a covenant commitment to his wife before God. This is a “heavenly contract” that is not to be broken. A man is committing to love and care for his wife, just as Christ does the Church. This is a serious responsibility that should not be entered into lightly.
This covenant is not based on feelings. It is normal to have romantic feelings or attraction to a spouse. But these feelings may come and go throughout a lifetime of marriage. What is permanent and unchanging is the deep and genuine commitment to our spouse – no matter what may happen in life.
This covenant commitment is the basis of real, lasting love. God does not love us on the basis of His feelings or how well we are performing – No! Christ has committed His love to the Church no matter what happens. Husbands are commanded to love their wives in that same way (Eph 5:25, 28, 33; Col 3:19).
ASK FOR GOD’S HELP!
Wives, like husbands, are imperfect and may not always be easy to love. A husband may be tempted to become frustrated, angry or impatient with his wife. He may not have feelings of love for his wife, or may not desire to love her. He may feel that loving his wife as Christ loves the Church is an impossible task!
At those times, remember that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who was given to us” (Rom 5:5). God has given husbands the ability to love their wives in every circumstance through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a man’s privilege and responsibility to let God’s love flow through him to his wife, especially in difficult times (Col 3:19).
It is also helpful to find, talk to and pray with another Christian man who understands how to love his wife. A man is not a good husband just because he gets married; it can take many years of loving, sacrificing and praying to become the kind of husband God wants you to be. A husband will fail and make mistakes, just as a wife will. It takes time for the character and nature of Christ to be worked into our lives. God is loving and patient; turn to Him often to ask for His help as you grow in becoming a godly husband.
A GODLY GUIDELINE FOR LOVE
A good and godly way for husbands and wives to practice loving their spouse is to study 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 often. Read this passage daily, and pray for God to help you love your spouse in this selfless way.
Perhaps you could choose one key phrase each week to work on, such as “love is… kind” (v.4). Each day of that week, practice extra kindness toward your spouse.
If you experience weakness or failure in loving your spouse, be quick to apologize. If you get impatient, admit it to them and ask for forgiveness. Pray together with your spouse, and together ask God to deliver you from your weaknesses and knit your hearts in love for one another.
Love for a spouse should be reflected in actions as well as words. Husbands must learn to be sensitive to their wives. They must take the time to listen to them, and respond with words of comfort or encouragement.
A husband should take the time to help his wife with household chores, or with the children. The caring for the home and family is the responsibility of both the husband and wife.
There are many ways for a husband to show love, concern and care for his wife. This is something a husband should work on daily. Remember, a husband is to care for his wife as much as he would care for his own body (Eph 5:28, 29).
THE GREATEST PRIVILEGE AND RESPONSIBILITY:
The biblical principle of headship and authority in the home is vitally important for a husband to understand. It is essential for a good marriage and happy family. And a home in scriptural order is one of the key requirements for leadership in the Church (1 Tim 3:2-12).
Ephesians 5:23 clearly shows the husband as the head of the family: “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is Head of the Church; and He is the Savior of the body.” Unfortunately, the biblical meaning of headship is often misunderstood and abused. Let us examine the true meaning of headship.
SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY: A GOD-APPOINTED SERVICE
Sin entered the human race at the Fall (Genesis 3). The chaos and brokenness resulting from sin caused a need for right order to again be established. Thus, God has appointed that specific authority (rulership) be given to certain people. Because this order of authority is from God, it is therefore good (see Romans 13:1-7). But what people do with that God given authority and power is not always good.
God places people in positions of authority for the good of those they serve: to protect them from harm, guide them with wisdom, and rule well over them to keep order and peace. Consequently, God strongly disapproves when people misuse their authority and power for their own selfish gain.
Whether it is in government, at a job or in a marriage, those who do not carefully and wisely use their authority will come under judgment. Each man, as a husband or a citizen (or leader) of a nation, will give an account for how he has used the authority God has given him.
The authority given by God is on temporary loan from God to mankind. He releases to mankind particular authority – within clearly defined scriptural limits -for the purpose of keeping order while we come into full and total submission to God. Once all of mankind is in full subjection to God at the “end of the age”, there will be no need for the same system of authority that we now have on earth. All authority will be back in God’s hands (1 Cor 15:20-28).
In the meantime, God has set up a system of authority for people to follow. One position of specific authority established by God is that of a husband in his home.
THE HUSBAND’S AUTHORITY
God has given authority to the husband to be head in his home (Eph 5:23). This authority is always to be used for the best good of the wife and children. It is NOT to be used to serve a husband’s selfish desires. A husband is not a dictator or tyrant, whose every wish is to be unquestionably obeyed. His wife and children are not his slaves, nor his possessions. They belong to God, and the husband is charged to carefully and lovingly “rule over” his household as a good steward (Luke 12:42) of what belongs to God.
This authority God has loaned to husbands does not give them rights. Instead, a husband is given the privilege and responsibility to lead and care for his wife and children in a Christ-like manner. Please open your Bible and read Philippians 2:1-8. Review what it means to be Christ-like in attitude and behavior.
Christ our Savior is the model of a husband’s authority (Eph 5:23- 29). He was a servant Who washed our feet (John 13:1-17); He showed great love, patience and endurance; He was faithful even when those He loved were not; He even took upon Himself the punishment that we deserved (Rom 5:6-10; 2 Cor 5:21). This is how much Christ loved us, and how He exercised the authority given to Him by God!
Scripture requires a husband to love and serve his wife and children in that same Christ-like spirit of servanthood and self-sacrifice (Eph 5:25). This can at times be very difficult, since we are still people in the process of being shaped into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18). We often fall short of Christ’s ideal model. We need much encouragement, prayer and effort to be a husband that fulfills Christ’s standard.
But remember: a husband has the wisdom, power and grace of God abundantly available to him! God commands us to do only what He will make possible through His grace. God commands husband to love their wives in a Christ-like way; BUT He also provides everything a husband needs in order to fulfill that command! A husband needs only to turn to the Lord daily, and ask for and receive what he needs from the Lord.
HEAD OF THE WIFE
Ephesians 5:23 states that “the husband is head of the wife.” The word “head” should not be interpreted in a hierarchical way. In other words, men are not superior to women, nor are women inferior to men. Rather, the word “head” in this verse signifies source and nourisher of life. Christ gave Himself for the Church (Eph 5:25) and is now working to bring the Church to her full potential (vs. 26, 27). So, too, should the Christian husband imitate Christ. The husband as head is not to domineer or suppress his wife. Instead, the husband is to serve the best interests of his wife. He should lead and encourage her development and growth so that she becomes all that God desires her to be. That is true, biblical “headship”.
The original Greek word used for “submit” (Eph 5:22) supports this view of life-giving and supportive headship. The word is hupotasso. Its root meaning is a military term, “to draw up in order of battle; to form, array or marshal both troops and ships“. The word implies soldiers set up in proper order under a commanding officer. It is not about superiority or inferiority; rather, it is about each person fulfilling his or her appointed role for the good of all.
This is not only how a husband and wife (and family) should function. It is also how the Body of Christ is to function (Eph 4:11-16; 1 Cor 12:4-27). Each member serves the other, supplying what the Spirit has appointed them to give, with God as Lord over all.
SUBMISSION: FOUNDATION OF A HUSBAND’S AUTHORITY
How can a husband be a source and nourisher of life”? Most would assume that the first and primary role of headship is authority – but it is not! For the Christ-like husband, the first part of headship is submission.
“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor 11:3). The first step in fulfilling the biblical role of a husband is to receive and submit to Christ’s headship in your personal life. The only way for a husband to be a truly effective head of his wife and children is to live and function in daily surrender to Christ.
Christ’s authority while on earth began with His submission to God (John 5:19, 30; 12:49, 50; 14:10). Christ continues as Lord of the Church, fulfilling God the Father’s will until the consummation of the Church age (1 Cor 15:24-28). Christ’s servant role is the model for the husband’s role in his family. Just as Christ’s authority comes from His submission to God, so a husband’s authority grows out of his submission to Christ.
As mentioned previously, the issue of headship and submission does not in any way imply superiority and inferiority. Otherwise Christ, Who is submitted to God the Father, would be inferior. But this cannot be because Christ is fully God, just as our heavenly Father is fully God.
Christ serves the Church as its Head and Source of Life. Likewise, the husband is to serve the well being of his family. The Christian husband exercises authority over his wife and children as a personal representative of Christ. This great privilege of headship carries with it great responsibility.
The husband is to provide loving understanding, self-sacrificing, patient, God-honoring leadership to his family. As he prayerfully leads his family, he cannot follow his own fleshly desires. Instead, the husband is to sensitively and obediently follow God’s will – then, with grace, apply the principles of God’s Word in his family.
This requires a husband’s obedience to God from his heart, in everything from daily activities to big decisions – even when he doesn’t want to obey God or His Word! True biblical headship requires that a husband first surrender his will to God’s will. Even Jesus did this in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-44; Mark 14:32-36).
The more completely a husband is submitted to the Lord and His will, the more effective he will be as a husband and leader. He will become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He will have more fruit of the Spirit evident in his life (Gal 5:22, 23; Eph 5:8-10). He will be more Christ-like in everything he does. As a husband submits to the Lord, he takes on more of the character of Christ in his own life.
THE NEED FOR PRAYERFUL HEADSHIP
God has established His order for marriage: the husband is to provide Christ-like headship and his wife is to submit to (come under) his loving authority (Eph 5:22-33). This is the order God has ordained, and it is the only order God honors and supports. It is simple in concept, yet challenging to practice every day in marriage!
At times, things may be difficult between a husband and wife. The husband may become selfish or uncaring in his role as head. Or the wife may be reluctant to submit to her husband’s authority. [Note: “The Biblical Role Of A Christian Wife” (page 30) instructs wives on true, biblical submission.]
For the husband whose wife is unwilling or reluctant to submit, the first thing he should do is pray. A husband should pray for his wife, and seek for God’s wisdom, grace and patience. God may bring correction to the husband for an improper attitude or desire. Or the Holy Spirit may bring conviction and change to the wife’s heart. Prayer frees God to work in you, your marriage and your spouse! Prayer is always the first thing to do when there is conflict in a marriage.
Likewise, when the wife submits to her husband’s authority in faith, patience and trust in God, it is God Who takes responsibility for the husband. As the wife does what is right in God’s order for marriage, God is free to work in her, her husband and the marriage (see 1 Peter 3:1, 2).
God does not expect husbands and wives to accomplish His order by their own striving. God established the order for marriage. Thus, He will make available all His grace, strength, wisdom, patience and love to any couple desiring to live in obedience to Him.
WHAT HEADSHIP PROVIDES
When a husband provides Christ-like headship to his family, with a heart of service and sacrifice, God can use him to accomplish His purposes.
HEADSHIP BUILDS UP AND EDIFIES
A husband’s Christ-like headship will edify and build up the members of his family. His words and actions should model the love and encouragement of Christ.
As a husband honors his wife and treats her with courtesy and respect, the children learn the principles of godly headship. A husband’s love for his wife helps release her to respect, love and trust him in return. She will also more readily submit to his leadership.
A Christ-like husband also understands the importance of his part in raising the children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4, nas). The Lord has placed both a father and mother in the home. They are to both act as the Lord’s hands and voice to teach and train the children He has given them. Disciplining and instructing children as the Lord would do is an essential part of the husband’s role in edifying the family. The training of children is not to be left only to the mother. The husband is required by the Lord to take part in the process (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21).
Remember, husbands: The Lord does not strike us in anger; instead He lovingly corrects and teaches us. If we do not respond, He may also use firm but loving discipline to correct us. But He is always patient and wise. He does not provoke us to anger (Eph 6:4) or use unkind words or abuse us. Christ’s authority always has an element of gentleness (Ps 18:35; Matt 11:29; Gal 5:23; Eph 4:2). He always affirms His love and acceptance of us – even “while we were still sinners” (Rom 5:8). This is the model for how we are to love, instruct and discipline our children.
HEADSHIP GIVES DIRECTION AND GUIDANCE
The headship of a Christian husband will also give direction and guidance to his family. In order to do this, a husband must be submitted and sensitive to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Through his obedience to the Word and surrender to Christ’s lordship, the husband is equipped and enabled to set godly and practical priorities for his family.
A husband must be flexible. Sometimes he needs to coax and encourage; at other times he must command. But he does all in order to direct and center his family upon Christ.
Certainly, a husband will not have all the wisdom or good ideas for his family. His wife, children and the counsel of others will also contribute to what is good for his family. But the husband must consider all this input, and prayerfully determine what is best for his family to do under the guidance of the Word and the Holy Spirit.
A good husband should not have to make every decision or direct every detail in his home. His wife should help manage the home; that is right and proper according to Scripture (Prov 31:10-31; 1 Tim 5:14). In a well-ordered home, the wife will contribute a great deal to the function of the home. But a husband must guard against neglecting his responsibility to give sensible direction and help. He must never let his wife perform all the tasks and carry the entire burden for the home and children.
A husband’s neglect of responsibility can happen if he is gone too much away from home. Though it may even be ministry responsibilities that cause his absence, this is neither right nor scriptural.
The husband’s first priority is his relationship with God. His next priority is his relationship with his wife and children. His marriage and family come before his ministry responsibilities or his job. A good husband does, of course, need to work to provide for his family (1 Tim 5:8). But he must also take the time to love and care for his wife, and instruct his children in the home. Neglecting a wife and children for ministry in the church is NOT according to God’s plan or the principles of Scripture. A Christ-like husband will work hard to properly balance his time among all of his God-given responsibilities.
PERFECT MODELS OF HEADSHIP
The Spirit-led husband will serve his family by humbly accepting the privilege and responsibility of headship in his home. He will make every effort to provide for the needs of his family: spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically and socially. He will use his God given authority to teach, direct, encourage, plan for and serve his family.
God is our perfect model of fatherhood; Christ is our perfect model of a husband. They both gave Their all and Their best for us; a godly husband must do the same for his family.
THE GREATEST LEGACY:
Most of what you have already read in this article could fit into this category of Spiritual Leadership. Love, biblical headship and service are all ways of leading spiritually in your family. But there are still a few important things to note.
A HUSBAND’S ROLE AS ENCOURAGER
It has been well stated that the role of the Christian husband is modeled after the Person, Character and Ministry of Christ. Let us look at one of the primary functions of Christ’s ministry to the Church:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such tiring, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:25- 27).
Christ’s example gives the husband another dear priority in marriage: encouraging his wife’s spiritual development. A husband should desire his wife to have a personal relationship with the Lord that is strong, active and growing. A godly husband will recognize that his wife’s fulfillment as a woman, wife and mother will be realized only as she knows and walks with God daily.
In marriage, a husband is “one” with his wife (Eph 5:31).His words and actions can either encourage his wife’s spiritual growth, or hinder it. The husband is certainly not his wife’s “god” or “savior”. Her heavenly Father is her God, and Jesus Christ is her Savior. But a husband can have a significant part in leading his wife spiritually.
This does not mean a wife is spiritually inferior to her husband. Women are oftentimes more sensitive to spiritual things than men are. Women have spiritual gifts and ministry capabilities, just as men do. Both men and women are spiritual beings; both are created for relationship with God.
HONORING THE WIFE
“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them [wives] with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet 3:7).
In the day when Peter wrote these words, women were considered inferior to men. In both pagan cultures and heathen religions, women had no rights and were unimportant except as child-bearers and laborers.
Christ’s life and teachings completely reversed this. With the entrance of Christianity, women were now considered equal with men in terms of salvation and relationship with God (Gal 3:28). It was now recognized that, like men, women have ministry gifts given by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the Church (Acts 21:9; see also Joel 2:28, 29 with Acts 2:17,18). Wives are described in the Bible as “heirs together (with the husband) of the grace of life” (1 Pet 3:7); this places women at an equal level spiritually with men. This is still true today.
Unfortunately, some try to cite the “weaker vessel” portion of this verse in an attempt to make women appear morally or intellectually inferior. The word “weaker”, however, refers only to lesser physical strength and thus greater vulnerability of the wife. Husbands are instructed to “dwell with them with understanding”, because wives are less strong physically and thus more vulnerable.
Husbands are further commanded to “give honor to the wife”. A wife is a valuable gift from the Lord, and should be considered more precious than riches or fine jewels (Prov 31:10). A husband should value his wife, and reserve a special place of honor and love for her alone in his heart. A husband should honor his wife by treating her with courtesy, gentleness, respect, kindness and love.
Also in 1 Peter 3:7, the term “vessel” is used to describe the wife. The biblical meaning of this term indicates something or someone used by God for His glory. It is important to remember that God desires to be glorified through women as well as through men. A husband needs to help his wife become a “vessel for honor” (2 Tim 2:21) whom God can use for His glory.
The importance of a husband’s spiritual support of his wife is clearly seen at the end of 1 Peter 3:7. If a husband does not work at understanding and honoring his wife, his prayers will “be hindered “. The word “hindered” means “to cut in, to interrupt, to have an obstacle thrown in the way”.
This interruption or obstacles in a man’s prayers can mean two things:
- The interference of Satan and his ways into a marriage, through the disunity that results from a husband’s failure to adequately care for his wife.
- God’s potential resistance to those who violate the principles of His Word (Ps 66:18; Prov 1:28-30, 28:9).
In addition to a husband’s prayers being hindered, his ability to spiritually lead his family will also be hampered. It is difficult for a wife and children to submit to and follow someone who does not love them or care for them. Godly spiritual leadership begins with caring for and loving those you lead. This is true both in the home and in the Church. This is how our heavenly Father and His Son initiated the plan of salvation (John 3:16) and how They continue to lead us (Eph 5:1, 2). This is the only way to lead others spiritually.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO LEAD
There are many ways for a husband to live each day as a spiritual leader in the home. The Word of God has hundreds of verses that describe how to love and properly relate to other people. (For example: Matt 6:14, 15; Rom 13:8; Gal 6:2; Col 3:9.) The many Scripture verses that teach us how to relate properly to others should all be studied and practiced, especially with those in our homes.
Also, as you pray daily for your family, the Holy Spirit will show you how to be a better spiritual leader and more effectively meet the needs of your family.
In addition, here are a few simple examples of practical ways to spiritually lead in your home.
LEADING THROUGH INTERCESSION
The most powerful and important thing a husband can do for his wife and children is to pray for them. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jas 5:16). Much is accomplished through a husband’s daily work of prayer for his family.
As a husband seeks the Lord, his heart will become more aligned with the will of God for his family. He will know better how to set priorities and determine what direction his family needs to go. He will be able to lead with joy and confidence, because he will know what God wants him to do.
Jesus is continually making intercession to God on behalf of His Bride, the Church (Heb 7:25). Jesus is praying according to the will of God for us. Romans 8:26, 27 assures us of that, and promises that the Holy Spirit will lead us even when “we do not know what we should pray for as we ought” as we pray for our family.
Jesus prays continually for us. A husband will follow Christ’s example when he prays regularly for his wife and children. Though a husband may have many other ministry needs to pray for, the prayer needs and concerns of his wife and children should come first. Remember, God’s order requires that the family be of higher priority to a husband (or wife) than the ministry.
As a husband prays for his family, God will move to bring about His highest good for their lives. A husband’s prayers, and God’s work in hearts because of them, will make a great difference in ensuring a fulfilling marriage and children who walk in God’s ways.
LEADING THROUGH EXAMPLE
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). There is tremendous power in leading by example. Christ taught His disciples in this way (John 13:15;1 Pet 2:21). The saints and leaders of the Bible also set examples we can follow (1 Cor 10:11; Heb 6:12; 13:7).
We are told in Scripture that we are to imitate good. “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).
It is far too easy to tell our family what they should do, but fail to show them how to do it by our example. Yes, a husband needs to teach, instruct and encourage from God’s Word. But he must not just “preach”; he must also live the truth by example to his family.
It is especially harmful to children when a parent says one thing, but does something quite different. The Bible calls this “hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1; 1 Pet 2:1). Children become confused about what is expected of them. Should they do what they hear their parents say, or what they see their parents do? A husband’s contradictory behavior will certainly not build trust or respect from his wife or children.
If children see their father pray, they will learn to become praying people. If children see their father study his Bible, they, too, will understand the importance of the Word of God. If children see their father serving others with Christ’s love, they will also learn to serve others.
The Bible exhorts parents to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov 22:6). A large part of spiritually training children is in setting a godly example for them to imitate.
A husband is exhorted to model Christ-like behavior in all of his actions and relationships (Eph 5:1-7). If he will draw upon God’s grace, power and wisdom, he can truly grow in his ability to be a Christ-like example to his family.
LEADING THROUGH PRACTICAL INSTRUCTION
We have learned that a husband is to set the overall priorities and direction for his family. One of the top priorities is to lead the family spiritually through very practical means.
Deuteronomy 6:6, 7 gives some insight as to how this can be accomplished: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
This passage instructs us to use every opportunity, at every moment, to communicate the truth, wisdom, love and life of God to our family. This can be done through:
- Regular times of family prayer and Bible reading. Encourage each family member to participate in some way. Even small children can pray or recite a small portion of Scripture. Everyone can join in a worship song together. All will grow in grace and faith as they learn to minister, share and pray.
- Praying together at meal times or before bed;
- Memorizing Bible verses as a family;
- Receiving communion together at home;
- Reminding our children often of God’s great love for them as we give them a hug.
Even in the normal course of daily life there will be many opportunities to communicate God’s love and truth to family members. A husband can:
- Pray with and for his wife each morning;
- Pray with the children as they leave for school, or for a need they might have;
- Talk to his children about God’s love for them, and His great plans for their lives;
- Tell them some of the fascinating stories of Scripture, or of a miracle God has done in his life or in another’s life. Testimonies are a powerful way to build your family’s faith!
A husband should pray and ask the Holy Spirit for creative ways to communicate the love and truth of God to his family. He can ask the Lord to help him become an effective spiritual leader in his home. God will answer!
Becoming a godly and spiritually mature man is never an easy task. The demands of ministry or a job, stress, fatigue, personal weakness or lack of discipline often conspire to defeat a man’s best intentions.
Yet there is no higher calling or greater privilege for a Christian husband than to shepherd the “flock” that God has given him in his wife and children. As great as the task may seem, God’s grace is sufficient even in weakness (2 Cor 12:9). What seems impossible with man is possible with God, for you can confidently say: “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
Even if you feel that you have failed in your responsibilities as a husband, don’t give up! It is never too late to start again because God’s mercies are fresh and new every day (Lam 3:22, 23). If we confess our failure and inadequacy to Him, He is quick to forgive us and to help us begin again (Ps 51:10; 1 John 1:9).
Husband, be assured that God has made available to you everything you need to have a marriage and home that is filled with His presence, joy, love and blessing. You have been charged with a great and wonderful responsibility – and opportunity – to represent the Lord to your family, and to care for them as He would. Receive this charge with joy, and receive from the Lord all that you need to accomplish it in His strength and power. Amen!