God's Design...(The Role of the Husband)
Written by: MacArthur Jr., John Posted on: 04/01/2003
The following message was delivered at Grace Community Church in Panorama
City, California, by John MacArthur Jr. It was transcribed from the tape,
GTY-43, titled "God's Design for a Successful Marriage" (Side 2) "The Role of
the Husband." A copy of the tape can be obtained by writing, Word of Grace,
P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412 or by dialing toll free 1-800-55-
I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the
original tape was made. Please note that at times sentence structure may
appear to vary from accepted English conventions. This is due primarily to
the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in
placing the correct punctuation in the article.
It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this transcription
to strengthen and encourage the true Church of Jesus Christ.
God's Design for a Successful Marriage
(The Role of the Husband)
John F. MacArthur, Jr.
All rights reserved.
This morning we continue our study of the Book of Ephesians, a study that has
gone on now for many months, and we are in the fifth chapter, and so I invite
you to look with me at that chapter.
The great General Montgomery said to his very young troops one day these
profound words, "Gentlemen, don't even think about marriage until you have
mastered the art of warfare." Some of you are saying, "I can relate to
Why is marriage such a potentiated warfare? Why does it seem to be so tough
to have a really meaningful relationship with somebody? You know, life is
about relationships--isn't it? And the most needful relationship is that one
that occurs between a man and a woman in a marriage, and yet the fulfillment
of it is so elusive. Having a meaningful, lasting relationship with somebody
that gets better, and that gets richer, and more fulfilling, is just very,
very, rare. In fact, we look at marriage, and whenever we see marriage
portrayed it's usually a fighting, unfaithful, discontented, bitter kind of
wrangling thing that ends up in separation, divorce, and so forth.
Well, there is a reason for this. There is a reason that marriage is diffi
cult. There is a reason that people in our world cannot make meaningful
relationships. For the most part, it is hard for them to make meaningful
relationships at any level, but when it comes into a marital situation it
becomes all the more difficult. And the reason is very clear: I want us to
go back to where we ended last time, the first three chapters of Genesis, and
I want to show you why marriage is such a difficult thing. I admit it--it
Let's look back at Genesis 2:18-25, and get a good sight on God's design for
marriage, and then we will see why this thing became so warped and perverted
and has caused the marriage relationship so much pain. Now, in the Book of
Genesis we have the story of the creation, God's creation of man being the
summation of creation. We find, as we come to 2:18, that man has already
been created but God is not done yet,
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man
should be alone. I will make him an help fit for him
(or better "a suitable helper."). And out of the ground
the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every
fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what
he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every
living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam
gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air,
and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was
not found a suitable helper.
Now, you notice in that, that from the very beginning, God designed someone
to be in charge, and someone to help. Someone to be, as it were,
"authority," and someone to be "submission." Someone to be the leader and
someone to be the follower. Someone to take care of the provision and some
one to be provided for. And from the very beginning the man had the role of
the headship, and the woman had the role of the one for whom that headship
was provided. The man was the one who protected, provided, preserved, and
cared for the woman who was "a fitting," or "suitable helper" for him. "The
LORD God (then desiring to give this to man, verse 21), caused a deep sleep
(a divine anesthetic) to fall on Adam, and he slept: then He took one of his
ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the LORD
God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man."
Now, God then provides this suitable helper; the one to aid Adam as he rules
for God in the pure and undefiled world of creation. Adam meets his wife in
verse 23, and Adam's comment is this,
This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she
shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother,
and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one
flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife,
and were not ashamed.
Now, here is a marvelously perfect relationship. Adam had no problem accept
ing her, even though he had just met her. Since there was no sin, there was
no selfishness. There was no criteria on which to negatively evaluate her
because there was no such thought, and so instantly he says, "She is in every
sense one with me: bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh." "And they too,"
says God, "Shall be one flesh." And they were naked, and man and wife and
there was no shame. Why? Because there was no such thing as an evil
thought; there was no such thing as a perverse sexual attitude, and so their
nakedness was absolutely innocent. It was absolutely beautiful. It was as
wondrous as the uniqueness of the relationship in and of itself.
So, that's God's design: an incredible union. Yes, there is a leader, and
yes, there is one who follows the lead. Yes, there is one who has oversight
and responsibility, and yes, there is one who is under that responsibility.
But at the same time, all of that is so beautifully blended in oneness, that
you really don't see that. You see, "bone of my bone; flesh of my flesh;
taken out of me to be one flesh with me." There is this glorious oneness in
the union. The woman's submissiveness is willing and beautiful; the man's
provision is willing and beautiful, so there is no animosity, there is no
struggle, there is no fighting, there is nothing but a perfectly glorious
Backing up to chapter 1, verse 27, again we read a briefer account which was
introducing the broader one of chapter 2, "So God created man in his own
image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."
Now to show you the unity, "God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be
fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion
over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living
thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you
every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every
tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be
for food." And when God was done with all this wonderful thing, verse 31, He
said, "Behold, it was very good."
Now listen, when God gave Adam a helper in chapter 2, the union was so won
derful and so blessed, and so bound together in love that when you go back to
chapter 1, it's described as "them" being fruitful and multiplying, "them"
filling the earth, "them" subduing it, and "them" having dominion. There is
a co-regency here. It doesn't deny the man's place and the woman's place; it
just simply shows that it can exist in such an incredible oneness, such an
undefiled manner, that there is nothing really seen but how they work togeth
er--"they two" literally becoming one flesh.
Now, God's design for marriage is very simple:
1. To Propagate Children
It was to propagate children. We find that, don't we, right here where it
says, "be fruitful and multiply."
2. To Eliminate Solitude
It was basically to eliminate solitude. Genesis 2:8, "It is not good for man
to be alone."
3. To Have Physical Fulfillment
It was for his [and hers] physical fulfillment. 1 Corinthians, chapter 7
says that God has designed each man to have his own wife in order to fulfill
4. To Have Joy.
God designed marriage just to be a situation where you could have joy--pure
joy. Just the fun and the thrill of being married, and the thrill of having
a sexual physical relationship. In fact, Hebrews 13 says, "Let the bed be
undefiled." In other words, God has provided this, and the Bible lifts up
the wonder and the virtue of that physical relationship. Genesis 26:6-9
shows Jacob, and it says that "Jacob was sporting with his wife." That's the
first sport we find anything about in the Bible! We just want you to know
that that is in God's design, part of the wonder and beauty of this "two
becoming one flesh."
So God made this beautiful relationship where woman, who was to be the help
er, was wonderfully supportive to man; man who was to be the head, was won
derfully loving to woman. Her submission was willing, his love was wonder
fully dominating and so the union was beautiful. But something awful hap
pened in chapter 3. We don't know how the solicitation to evil ever entered
into Eve's mind, but we don't believe that it could be internal because she
was pure on the inside--it came externally, as best as we can know. The
serpent approaches Eve, and the serpent attacks in a very vulnerable way--he
by-passes the headship of man--he goes right to the one who is by nature the
follower, one who is by nature the weaker vessel, as it were. He approaches
woman, rather than man, because he feels he'll have a better audience. He
begins to track her down to the place where he provides for her an enticement
to do the one thing God told them not to do: "Eat of the fruit of the tree of
the knowledge of good and evil."
Of course, you remember, that she did eat (verse 6, at the end), she took the
fruit "and did eat, and gave unto her husband." Of course, right here,
immediately in the fall is the reversal of the role--the woman has usurped
the leadership, and the man has fallen to be a follower. The twisting of
God's whole design occurred at the moment of temptation, and from then on
that was the defiling of marriage. If you want to know why marriage is
tough, its because there has been since that act, a flipping of the roles; a
failure to recognize the way God has designed it. And God, as it were, put
that in concrete, when He gave the curse in chapter 3.
Let's go to chapter 3 and watch. Verse 14, God talks about the curse that
comes because of this sin, "And the LORD God said unto the serpent, 'Because
thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast
of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the
days of thy life." So even the animal was cursed, even the snake itself.
Then He goes behind the snake to Satan, who was in that snake, "And I will
put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed (that is the
evil spawnings of Satan) and her seed (and of course that has in mind ulti
mately Christ); He shall bruise thy head, and you'll only be able to bruise
The curse on the snake: crawl in the dirt
The curse on Satan: ultimately your head is to be crushed by Christ
Then He turns to the woman in verse 16, and the curse comes there, "To the
woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow in thy conception." The
wonderful reality of bearing children, the glorious anticipation and joy, and
hope, of having that child will be somewhat mitigated by the pain and anguish
that it is going to cause when that child is born.
Additionally, "Thy desire shall be to control thy husband, but he shall rule
over thee." And here we find something completely reversed: man is going to
now rule over woman. Woman in going to now seek to rule over man. We went
into that text in detail last time to show you that's what it is saying.
Here you find (people listen), the most basic things in human life are
cursed: child-bearing and marriage, having children and living together.
Then one other area, "To the man Adam he said, Because you have hearkened to
the voice of your wife, and eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee,
saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake." It's
even going to be tough to get food. "In sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the
days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and
thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat
bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for
dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." And one other thing God
said to them, "In the day that you eat thereof you shall surely . . . ."
Pain in childbirth, problem in the home, difficulty in getting food, and
death, are all a result of the sin in the garden. And when Adam sinned, his
death and his sin passed on all men, says Romans, chapter 5, for in Adam we
all died, and in Adam we all sinned. The race itself was cursed.
Now, you look at human society today and nobody will deny the pain of child
birth, and nobody will deny that there are weeds growing in the ground, and
nobody will deny that it is difficult for an individual to earn a living and
to provide for his family: he must labor and he must work. But, people don't
seem to want to admit that the reason there is conflict in marriage is be
cause there is a total reversal of roles that came about in the sin in the
beginning and God sort of put it in cement, and the whole human race is
cursed to have to try to make a family when a woman will seek to usurp the
lead, and the man will rule despotically. If you want to know why we have
Women's Lib movements, it's because the curse has kept that particular
depraved reality in existence in the human history. In other words, women
will seek to rule. And the reason we have oppression from men, and the
reason men seek to rule over women is because it is the curse of sin that
Yes, there is chauvinism, no question about it. The world is full of male
chauvinists, they have been around all throughout human history, and that's
part of the curse of sin. And yes there are women who seek to usurp--that's
the curse of sin, we know that, and we don't advocate either one, both are
simply manifestations of depravity, manifestations of fallenness, manifesta
tions of the curse.
So beloved, you see, there are two things needful if you are going to have a
marriage that works:
1. A woman has got to go back to that place of that beautiful submission she
knew before the "fall," and a man has got to go back to the place where his
commitment is simply, in love, to take that woman as if she were one with
him, and render to her every single thing that he would do for himself. In
other words, we need to go back again where women are characterized by sub
mission and men are characterized by sacrificial love, just like it was
before the "fall." Do you want to know why we have got problems in marriage?
Because we have got a cursed marriage to start with. We are dealing with two
sinful people, and depravity will manifest itself in the woman by seeking to
overrule the man, and the man by crushing the woman without love--and we have
that in our society today.
Husbands don't love their wives: they didn't in Jesus' time; they didn't in
the Book of Genesis after the "fall." It is not natural--it's unnatural.
It's natural to love yourself, if we are talking about what is human nature.
It's natural to be self-consumed, self-preoccupied, self-absorbed, and as
long as you are like that, you can't give yourself in love to somebody else.
And men in our society today are no different than they have been in the
past: they suppress women; they crush women down; they make them into nothing
but sex objects, and the women have been abused. There is no question about
that in my mind: men fulfill their part of the curse too. We see a stream of
filthy proliferation of pornography, magazines, and dirty movies, and all of
that stuff which make women into something like an animal, of which there is
no other function than to fulfill the sexual prowess of the man. That's
wrong! That makes the woman into something far less than God ever intended
her to be.
Yes, men have oppressed women--there is no question about it, and women have
sought to override the bounds of their God-given design. But listen
people--we can't expect anything different. Why? Because that's the legacy
of sin, and all we are saying to the world today, all that this pulpit is
ever saying, and all that is ever coming out of the Bible is this: Look, it
doesn't have to be that way! You don't have to have women's rights movements
which go beyond the bounds. You don't have to have macho-male chauvinism
which goes way beyond the bounds! You can have a right relationship where a
woman is lifted up and exalted and allowed to be all that God had ever in
tended her to be, and where a man knows how it is that he is to invest his
life to provide for and to love that woman, so there is a marvelous co-
regency in life that fulfills every need of the human heart--that's all we
are saying. Anybody who doesn't want that doesn't want something that's
So you have got a problem in marriage from the beginning. Do you know why it
is tough to make your marriage work? Because it's cursed--that's why.
Now, if that isn't bad enough, Satan starts taking shots at marriage too! So
you add to the basic curse in the human nature, you add what Satan does and
you are going to have problems. Look what Satan does immediately; look at
Genesis with me: as soon as sin enters the world, Satan begins to attack
marriage. He is going to force marriage to dissolve. He is going to crush
it as best he can, because he knows that it is the only hope of right human
relations. He is going to devastate the world by destroying relationships
at their most important level in the home. Immediately, you come to chapter
four and what happens? Verse 23, "Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and
Zillah "(he had wives from A to Z). Lamech, what are you doing with two
wives? Genesis 3: the "fall," Genesis 4: polygamy! Immediately the prosti
tution of the divine standard "They two shall be one flesh." That's always
been God's standard; immediately he [Satan] introduces polygamy.
Now, that's not enough; we go to chapter 9 and Satan is still at it trying to
corrupt the wonderful union of marriage. In chapter 9, verse 20, "Noah began
to be a farmer, planted a vineyard, drank the wine, became drunk and was
uncovered within his tent." Now, we don't know specifically what he was
doing in there, but he was naked in there, "Ham, the father of Canaan, saw
the nakedness of his father," and the implications is that he really looked
at it for a while. "And then he went and told his two brothers outside."
And here we have introduced for the first time, evil sexual thoughts, and
You know, we said that before the "fall," "Adam and Eve were naked and they
were not ashamed." Why? Because there were no evil thoughts; there could be
no perversion of anything. But immediately after they had fallen in sin,
what was the first thing that they ran out and did? They ran out and found
something to cover themselves up because they were naked and they were
ashamed. Why? Because immediately when sin entered, evil thoughts became a
reality--perversion became a possibility, and here we find it.
Now, I don't know what went on, but I know that Shem and Japheth knew better
than to do what Ham did, they took a garment and laid it on their shoulders;
and they went in backwards so they wouldn't even see their father, and in
backwards stance, covered the nakedness of their father. And they never saw
their father's nakedness. In the next text it says that and because of that
God cursed Ham and He blessed Shem and Japheth.
Satan introduces polygamy in chapter 4, and evil, sexual thoughts in chapter
9. In chapter 16 he introduces adultery. God says to Abraham, "Abraham, you
are going to have a child; you are going to have a son, and that son is going
to be the beginning of the prodigy of a race of people, through whom will
come the great deliverer of the world." God gives this promise to Abraham
(at this time called Abram) who doesn't have a son. And he says to Sarah,
"We can't have any children. Sarah, What are we going to do?" And Sarah
says, in 16:2,
Behold now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing: I
pray thee, go in to my maid; it may be that I may obtain
children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of
Sarah. And Sarah Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the
Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of
Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.
And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when
she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised
in her eyes.
This is adultery! Sexual relationship with someone outside your marriage.
Another way to destroy a marriage. It wasn't long after this that you come
to the 19th chapter of Genesis and you meet homosexuality. Satan has already
introduced polygamy, evil sexual thoughts, dirty words (the words that Ham no
doubt spoke to his brothers), adultery, and now homosexuality. In chapter
19, two angels, in the appearance of a man, came to visit Lot. Verse 4,
"The men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both
old and young" They said, unto Lot (in verse 5) 'Where are the men who came
unto thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them." And
the word "know" is loaded with meaning: it means to have a sexual relation
ship with them. And Lot said, "do not so wickedly (in verse 7)." And the
angels actually went out and struck them blind, and all that did was to make
it harder for them to find the door. They kept beating on the door even
though they were blind, and God finally sent fire and brimstone, and de
stroyed the entire cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Now listen, it is tough enough to make a marriage work with a curse; you add
to that appeal of polygamy, the appeal of evil sexual thoughts and words,
adultery, homosexuality, and it's getting tougher all the time.
Go to chapter 34. In chapter 34 of the Book of Genesis, Satan isn't through
and another thing introduces itself into human life and this is
fornication--sexual relationships apart from marriage. "And Dinah the daugh
ter of Leah, whom she bore unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the
land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country,
saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her." Here you have
fornication and you also have rape--very possibly. Now notice how Satan is
just corrupting the human stream in a rapid fire succession. We aren't even
out of the first Book of the Bible; we got polygamy, evil sex thoughts, evil
sexual words, adultery, homosexuality, fornication, and very possibly rape.
Go to chapter 38 and you find incest--sexual relationship within a family.
Verse 13, to make a long story short, "It was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy
father-in-law goes up to Timnath to shear his sheep. And she put her widow's
garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and
sat in an open place." And that's the way prostitutes did--this is not only
incest--it is prostitution as well. And she sat there waiting for him to
come. Verse 15,
When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot, because
she had covered her face. He turned unto her by the way, and
said, Come, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he
knew not that she was his daughter-in-law.) And she said,
What wilt thou give me, (in other words, she had a price)?
He said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said,
Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it? And he said,
What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and
thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand.
To show you how really bad off he was, "he gave them to her, and came in unto
her, and she conceived by him." Prostitution, solicitation, harlotry, and
incest, all in one situation. And in verse 24 it says, "Tamar played the
In chapter 39, you find Joseph in Potiphar's house, and you find an illustra
tion of evil seduction. We will stop right there. That's about as much as
my mind can handle. Now, listen to me people, do you want to know why mar
riage is tough? Do you want to know why there are so many divorces, so many
miserable people, so many unhappy relationships? Because to start with, the
whole sin thing that started in the garden was the woman taking the place of
the man, in acting independently with Satan, and the man falling submissively
to the woman in sin. God locked that thing into chains, as it were, and
since that time the woman always, by her sinful nature desires to rule a man,
and the man tends to despotically dominate the woman. Add to that the im
pulses of polygamy, evil thoughts, evil words, adultery, homosexuality,
fornication, rape, unequal yokes (such as in the case of Dinah and Shechem
again), incest, prostitution, seduction, and you've got trouble trying to
make a marriage.
If that isn't bad enough, then live in a society that extols all of that
stuff as virtuous, because that's what our society does. You find somebody
who is a virgin, or somebody who is totally committed to their wife, and they
become the object of humor in this society. To our society, polygamy, and
evil thoughts and words, and rotten filthy language. . . .it's getting now so
on television you can hardly stand to turn the thing on. Adultery, homosex
uality, fornication, unequal yokes, incest, prostitution--that's stuff for
comedy shows, that's the stuff we are all supposed to buy. Now, you tell me
this: it would be tough enough to try to make a marriage work under the curse
if you believed that it was right to do it God's way, but imagine what it's
like to make a marriage work when you are cursed to start with and then
everything your society tells you is, "God's way is wrong and this is the way
to really live it up!" And people it is tough living the godly life in this
evil generation. It's tough living in the midst of a perverse nation and
getting your act together in your home--believe me! The only people who do
it, are the people who:
1. Know the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1-3).
2. Are filled with His Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Apart from that you have no more hope of making your marriage work than Ponce
de Leon did of finding the "Fountain of Youth" or anybody else does in
finding the "Pot of Gold" at the end of a rainbow--it'll never happen. Our
society denies the reality and throws the fantasy in front of us. And I
really believe that this is Satan's primary attack, because at the heart of
all meaningful human relationships is that marriage. If you can't make that
work, [then] everything else is miserable--everything! The curse hit us at
the base of our most needed relationship: "It's not good for man to be
alone!" Man desperately needs a helper; man desperately needs someone with
whom he can fulfill his deep drives and needs physically; man needs somebody
who can be his friend. And so Satan smashes man at the very core of his
greatest need, and it's impossible for him to even work out that relation
And then along comes the sick world spawned by Satan himself and tells us
that, "if you really want to live it up: be unfaithful, have an affair here,
and affair there, swap wives, swing, be a homosexual, be gay and be proud of
it," etc., etc., etc. And the confusion gets worse, and worse, and worse,
and meaningful relationships are impossible to find. Just think about the
songs of our culture. I listen to them sometimes and they are so pensive
You hear them sing about the affairs and the wild stuff, but then every once
in a while you hear a song that is very pensive and somebody is singing about
they found the perfect girl, or the perfect lady, or the perfect man, and
they know that this is going to be the right relationship, and it's all going
to be the way we thought it would be. I found the beautiful face, I found
the attractive body, I found the wonderful personality, and I am going to
finally have a relationship that works with no boredom, and no unfaithful
ness, and no breakup, and no pain, and no loneliness, and no leaving, and no
having to start all over again, and it's going to be this way until we
finally die--and it is a pipe dream! It's a relationship that they want, but
there is no way that they are going to have it.
So sadly our world lives with a whole bunch of illusions, a whole bunch of
fantasies. The first fantasy on the one side is that, boy, if you really
want to live it up, you have got to have "supersex" and "supersex" is with
that incredible lady that you are not married to. It's out there, they paint
it on the screen, and it's in the books, and the literature, and the maga
zines, and the records, and everywhere--the fantasy world of that "supersex."
On the other hand, there is that fantasy that somewhere there will be that
perfect person, that wonderful love, that wonderful relationship, that rela
tionship that is so perfect that nothing can ever touch it; and so the two
fantasies in ambivalence sort of go along together, and it is really sad
because the only place you are ever going to find reality is to find it right
here in the Word of God, by knowing Jesus Christ, being filled with His
Spirit, and letting a relationship be what only God can make it. That little
fantasy about the perfect thing will never happen, and all that garbage about
the real sex, and the real fun, and the real living, and the real macho, and
the real "doing your thing" is outside your marriage, is a big lie! But
people in our world aren't willing to listen to God, so they are not going to
know the answer.
We are not living in a fantasy world. I'm not the one who has the illusions;
the illusions are all over the world. The reality is in the Book of God.
Now, beloved, this is why Ephesians 5 is so important; let's look at it now.
Do you want to have a meaningful relationship? Do you want to have a mar
riage where a wife submits lovingly to her husband, to his care, and protec
tion, and headship, and lead, and where a husband lovingly, self-sacrificing
ly gives himself to meet every need of that woman he lifts up and exalts with
all of his heart? If you are going to see that, it is going to be right here
in this kind of relationship where Christ is at the center, and the Spirit of
God pervades the relation--that's the whole point here.
So after having said, "You've got to be in Christ" (in the first chapter of
Ephesians), and after having said in 5:18, "Be filled with the Spirit," he
can now say that it is possible for wives to submit and husbands to love
their wives. And so what I am saying to you is this: that Christian marriage
as God designed it, and as Paul discusses it here is the reverse of the
"fall." Do you see? In a way it mitigates the curse. In a way it takes
away the curse. Oh, what a wonderful thought that is, and among Christians
we take our place in the right relationship to each other--that's what God
I tell you something people, without the two prerequisites of knowing Christ
and being filled with the Spirit--this never happens! This is the greatest
treatise on marriage ever written, and if you take Genesis into account it
makes everything clear. God wants your home to be the way He designed it for
your sake, as well as His glory, but His conditions are simple: you've got to
know and love the Lord Jesus Christ and then you have got to walk in the
I was speaking at a college out here and I told the class--they ask me to
speak to the Philosophy Class on ethics--and I said, "There is no reason
you're even going to be interested in these ethics unless you know and love
Jesus Christ"--and that's true. If you know Christ and you are filled with
the Spirit here's the standard and it is possible people, it's possible. And
do you know what the ultimate tragedy is? The ultimate tragedy is conflict
in a Christian marriage because it denies all the potential in that marriage
that God has placed there. If you are Christians then you have all the
resources necessary to make your relationship all that God intended marriage
to be before the "fall" and as close as we can get to that.
Now, in our last study we talked about the woman a little bit, and we said
that the key was verse 21; let's look at it, "Submitting yourselves one to
another in the fear of God." We said that a woman's submission is initial,
it's basic, it's just God's beautiful design, and she submits to his provi
sion, to his headship (verse 23), "For the husband is the head of the wife as
Christ is the head of the church." To his "Saviorhood" if you will, as a
preserver, Christ even to the church as the Savior as well. So she, in verse
24, is told that as the church is subject to Christ, so is she to be to her
own husband in everything, in a beautiful submission to the husband who is a
savior, a preserver, a provider, a head who cares for her.
We saw how the Scripture is not oppressive, it's not chauvinistic; it lifts a
woman up. It elevates a woman to a place where she is the object of care,
she is the object of protection, she is the object of provision, she is the
object of concern. The husband is to lift her up and exalt her in that way.
Her place is simply to respond to that care and that concern, and to focus
her attention on the home that God has given her--to fulfill the responsi
bility there to her husband and her children.
Then secondly, and for just a brief time this morning and then next time, I
want us to talk about the duty of the husband. This morning I am just going
to introduce it to you, verse 25, "Husbands, love your wives." Stop right
there. Now, the husband also is to submit. Verse 21 is the umbrella under
which all of this passes, submitting the wives to their husbands and the
husbands to their wives by loving them. Now, listen men, we are to love our
wives. Now, keep in mind that this is a mutual submission.
The tendency in the man is to dominate the woman. This is the tendency of
the human nature--to be chauvinistic. That's why we have it because of sin
in the world--men are that way. You know we exalt the macho man--don't we?
The hard guy, the tough guy, you know the guy who comes into the bar and
everybody falls over. The guy who smashes her in the head with a club, drags
her into the cave, and when she is used up--pitches her out. Macho! We
exalt that kind of stuff, and that is so depraved. That is nothing but a
manifestation of human sinfulness. You know you get weary of seeing that
kind of stuff, men who just abuse and use, and tread on the glory of a woman,
and so he [Paul] says here, "Husbands, love your wives." Love your wives!
The word is "agapao, agape" (Greek). It is the strongest, most intimate, far
reaching, comprehensive, fulfilling term for love. "Love your wives."
Yes, there is authority in a marriage. Yes, there is a headship and one who
follows. But he doesn't say, "Husbands, rule your wives. Husbands, order
your wives around. Husbands, subject your wives. Husbands, command your
wives, exercise authority over them, dominate them." No. "Love them!" How?
"Love your wives even as Christ also loved the church." Stop right there.
That's the manner. That's point one in the duty of the husband.
1. The Manner as Christ Loved the Church.
Now, listen to me, how did Christ love the church? How did He love the
church? You say, "Well, I don't love my wife anymore. She's done so
many. . . .I don't love her!" Is that how Christ loved the church? "I don't
love the church any more. Did you see what they did? Those people are
always sinning, they never seem. . . . I don't love them any more. I am
going to find somebody else." Is that how Christ loved the church? Look at
Romans 5:8; I want to show you two passages in Romans--just simple ones.
Romans 5:8, "But God commended His love toward us, (now watch this one) in
that, while we were yet sinners, (and by the way, verse 10 says we were
enemies), while were yet enemy sinners, Christ died for us." Now, listen to
me, how did Christ love the church? He gave the greatest gift for the most
unworthy people, so that the gulf is incredible. He is absolutely holy,
absolutely righteous, knows no sin, is untainted, unspotted, has no personal
understanding of sinfulness; He is without flaw. And yet, the absolutely
Perfect One makes the absolutely ultimate sacrifice for the worst of enemy
sinners. That's how He loved the church.
Now, don't say to me, "Well, my wife, she has gone too far!" There was a guy
who got married and they got in the carriage and they were going out on their
honeymoon. And it was in the early days when they rode with a horse, and the
horse bolted real hard, and the guy said, "That's one." They went a little
farther and the horse bolted again and he said, "That's two." And he went a
little further and he did it again and he said, "That's three," turn around,
took out a gun, walked out and shot the horse dead. His wife said, "What
have you done, what made you do it?" He said, "That's one!"
There are some people who approach marriage, who approach marriage on a "One,
Two, Three" basis. That isn't the way. Listen, if God gave us only "One,
Two, or Three" we would all be in hell--wouldn't we? God commended His love
towards us--God, absolutely holy, righteous God made the greatest most mag
nanimous, most ultimate act of sacrifice for the most vile people. Do you
see? Don't give me any "song and dance" about your wife's problems. Listen,
you are not as far from your wife as God was from sinners, and yet He loved
us. Right? Who are you? Listen, don't you ever forget it--your wife may be
a sinner, but so are you! You are a lot closer than you think, and the
reverse is true also.
Oh, we lose the perspective. You know, we say, "Well, I don't love her
anymore, I just decided that I don't love her." Then if you don't love her
anymore, you are disobedient to the command of God. That's right! You say,
"Well, you know the Lord has (I have heard people say this--this is true) the
Lord brought someone new into my life!" The Lord? Really, that happens all
the time--people say that--"It's God's will!" Somebody said to me the other
day that very statement, "We are getting married, the Lord has brought us
together. And it is so wonderful, our wedding will only be a week after my
divorce is final! God has brought us together!" That's not true, God
doesn't do that. God commands you to love your wife. And if you were the
holiest guy in the universe and she was the vilest sinner, that would never
change the command! Never! It doesn't change.
Romans 8 tells us even more, in verse 35, "What shall separate us from the
love of Christ?" How many [chances] does He give us? Does He say, "One,
Two, Three, bang" to us? "What shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or
peril, or sword?" Verse 38, "I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor
angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to
come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation shall be able to separate
us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Listen, there
is nothing that can separate us from his love, and he says we are to love our
wives like Christ loves His church. There is nothing that separates us from
Man, you are to love that wife--that's a command of God. I'll tell you
something, it's an act of the will. It depends on whether you determine to
do it or not. If you determine that you are not going to do it--you won't.
If you determine you are going to do it--by the grace of God you are going
to love in spite of whatever happens, and you are going to love as Jesus
loves the church, then no matter what happens you'll love. I promise you one
thing: that kind of love is irresistible.
Chrysostom, the great early church father said this,
Have thou seen the measure of obedience? Hear also the measure
of love. Wouldest thou that thy wife shouldest obey thee as
the church doth love Christ? Then have care, thyself, for her
as Christ does for the church. And if it be needful that thou
shouldest give thy life for her, or be cut to pieces a thousand
times, or endure anything whatsoever--refuse it not! Christ
brought His church to His feet by His great love--not by
threats or any such thing, and so do thou conduct thyself
towards thy wife.
A man once feared that he was loving his wife too much, and a Christian asked
him if he loved his wife as much as Christ loved the church? He said, "Oh,
No." He said, "Then you better love her more." Kayto (sp.), who wrote so
much of the Roman law, reflected the attitude of his time and the attitude of
today, "If you catch your wife in the act of infidelity, you can kill her
without a trial! But, if she should catch you, she wouldn't venture to touch
you with her finger--she has no rights." Now, that is the sickening, male
chauvinism that comes out of the curse and the fall. That's the kind of
attitude that is induced by the evil sexual perversions that Satan has
brought in since the Book of Genesis that constantly pull at marriage to
destroy it and damn it. And the only way to counter it is to know Jesus
Christ, to be filled with the Spirit and to make a commitment that you are
going to love your wife no matter what.
Let me give you just three practical things and then I will be done. 1 Peter
3:7, this is directly to husbands: if you are going to love that wife, can I
give you three kind of hints to work on this week?
1. Dwell with them according to knowledge.
"In like manner," 1 Peter 3:7 says, "ye husbands, dwell with them according
to knowledge." Stop right there. I call this consideration. Another word
for it would be understanding or sensitivity. Men, listen! If you are going
to love your wife, you have got to be sensitive and understanding, and con
siderate. You know, you hear women say this all the time, "He never under
stands me. He doesn't know where I am at. He's insensitive to my needs. We
never talk. He doesn't know how I feel. He doesn't know what I am thinking
about. He doesn't really comprehend my hurts." You hear this over, and
over, and over, and over, and it just builds a wall in a marriage. What the
Word of God is saying here is, "Dwell with her according to knowledge. Be
sensitive. Be understanding. Feel what she feels." I know, I work on this
at home with Patricia because I have a lot of things in my mind, going around
all the time, and sometimes it is difficult for me to really be sensitive and
to really reach out in love and understanding and knowledge, and know where
she is, and know where she is hurting, or where her joys are. But I'll tell
you one thing; I have committed my life to love that woman till I die, and I
am going to chase her around heaven for all eternity!
I'll tell you something: I struggle in my own humanness to love her "As
Christ love His Church," and to meet her needs, and to lift her up, and to
care for her as I should. I want to be sensitive and be considerate, and so
Peter says, "You husbands dwell with them according to knowledge." Listen,
it isn't what you get out of your marriage, it's what you give to it that God
is after--that's the whole thing in the Christian life anyway.
The second thing is not consideration, but chivalry. What ever happened to
chivalry? "give honor unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel." I mean,
that's just talking about realizing that physically and emotionally you are
the strength. You know, the guy sits there and says, (you know), "When are
you going to finish the lawn honey?" Or she comes in and says, "Could you
bring in the groceries dear?" He says, "It's the fourth quarter, can't you
get them yourself? Carry one at a time honey." Chivalry, what ever happened
(you know) to opening the door for the wife? Usually, you are fifteen feet
down the driveway and she has got one foot hanging out and the door's opened.
She turns to you and says, "Do you mind if I get my other leg in? Chivalry,
you see, give honor to the wife as the weaker vessel.
Last is communion. Consideration, and chivalry, and communion. This is
beautiful, "As being heirs together of the grace of life that your prayers be
not hindered." Hey, you have got this thing together! The "grace of life"
is a beautiful phrase, it is like hot fudge sundae, (this is the hot fudge)
on top of life the grace (the hot fudge of life) is marriage, and since you
have inherited marriage, do it together, will you? Communion: talk together,
share together. I thank the Lord that my wife is my best friend: my best
friend, my closest confidant, my dearest friend. We commune together, and
there is a spiritual thought here, "so that your prayers be not hindered."
You need to share your spiritual lives together.
God has given us the ingredients to make it work. He can reverse the curse.
In Christ, filled with the Spirit, we make the deep commitment. Men, when we
look at that woman and we determine in our hearts that we are going to love
her as Christ loved the church, we will give the greatest sacrifice [even] if
she is the most unworthy person because that's the way Christ did it. And we
will be considerate, and we will be chivalrous, and we will commune with her
on a spiritual level. Under those conditions I will promise you one thing:
marriage will turn out to be the "hot fudge on the sundae;" marriage will
turn out to be everything God ever made it to be. You will give a legacy to
your children that will have repercussions when they marry also, and you'll
start passing on the right kind of things to the generations to follow--and
God help them if we don't!
Let's pray. Father, we thank You again this morning for the insights you
give us for what You have for us. You made us, and You know how we function
best. We don't want to fight that, but our sin, and Satan, corrupts every
thing. Then we live in a world where every value is twisted, where every
right thing is turned into a wrong thing, and every evil thing is made a
virtue, and God, it is so hard to sort it out. The fantasies the world
throws at us all the time--that we are not really having what we could have.
All the beautiful people were supposed to be longing and lusting for--nothing
but evil enticements by the "Prince of the Power of the Air." God, we are
sorry about that, that women who seek to rule, and we are so sorry about men
who are so despotic in theirs. We know that the only hope for both man and
woman is Jesus Christ and a controlled life under the direction of the Spirit
Lord Jesus, my prayer for this church is this: the world is going to hear our
message, they are going to hear what we say, God, I just pray that they will
see it being lived out, because it doesn't do a bit of good for us to preach
it if the people who claim You don't live it. Lord, help us to realize that
only one thing matters, and that is that we let our light so shine before
men, that they will see our good works and glorify our Father, who is in
heaven. God, You will only be glorified when our life matches our message,
so help us to make of our marriages what they ought to be. Help the men in
our church to love the way that Christ loved the church. Help the women to
be submissive, to care for their husbands, care for their children in a godly
manner, and live their lives for the fulfilling of your divine plan, not that
we may be glorified--no, but that You may be glorified and the world may see
the blessing of those who live according to your standard.
Father, help us to be salt and light in the world, and we know that there is
a price to pay, but the results are glorious. We thank you for the privilege
of being counted as you children. In Christ's name. Amen.
Transcribed by Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
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