Husbands, love your wives 

"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25).

It is obvious from the context and other Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians, that the man, husband and father, has headship and leadership over his family, and especially his wife, "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church" (Eph 5:23).

Marriage removes him from the jurisdiction of his own father into an authority of his own: "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall be joined unto his wife" (Eph.5:31). He stills honours his father and mother, but Providence, in providing a wife, has given him a government and ministry that he must exercise. Therefore, when that time comes, parents have to relinquish and renounce their sole rights, and the man must take up the responsibility that he now has. Not to do so shows a defect in character, and a deliberate ignoring and the refusing of the Word of God concerning this. If that authority bestowed on him is exercised in the Lord, then the wife is to "submit as unto the Lord" (Eph 5:22). Such then, is the dignity conferred upon the man, and the responsibility expected of him.

The roles of husband and wife so clearly delineated here in Ephesians and elsewhere, are always to be interpreted in the light and context of the union of Christ and His Bride (Eph 5:24, 25, 32). Once exercised outside that parameter, the authority becomes authoritarian, and submissiveness becomes servility. As Christ is in a marriage covenant with His people, so the husband and wife are likewise engaged. Christian marriage emancipates men and women from the restriction and narrowness of this relationship in other religious philosophies.

The husband’s responsibility to his wife is summed up in one word: "love." He is to "love his wife." How is he to love?

The Husband is to Exercise 
a Sacrificial Love 

The word rendered "love" is the Greek agapao, which is used here, in order to express a love that is higher than affection or physical passion. It is a love that is totally unselfish. It is akin to the love of Christ, and indeed, has its roots in the personal experience of that love. So it is a love that models itself on the love of Christ for His Bride. What a pattern, and what love! If a husband would only "manifest the same spirit, he would secure the obedience of his wife" (A Barnes).

Christ’s love was a self-giving love. Therefore, a husband is to give his love, not on account of its returns, or to match his wife’s, but in order to accomplish her happiness; her well-being and comforts; her progress in sanctification; her assurance and hope of heaven as heirs together of eternal life. As Christ is "Saviour of the body," i.e. the Church (v. 23), so the husband is her deliverer from fears and failures; her protector in trials and sorrow; her priest to offer worship; her prophet to teach her and her king to exercise a beneficent rule over her.

He is to love her in sickness and in health. As "charity suffereth long and is kind" (1Cor 13:4), he is to love her even in mood swings and upsets. As "Charity beareth all things" (1 Cor 13:7) and "is not easily provoked" (1 Cor 13:5), he must love her even when unattractive traits surface. Swinnock asks fittingly: "Dost thou love grace in rags as much as grace in robes?" The husband should cast a mantle of love over his wife’s infirmities, even as Christ covered our nakedness with His skirt (Ezk 16:8).

Agape love is unselfish in its pursuit, ever giving, ever caring, sacrificing itself for the sake of another: "Charity hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Cor 13:7). It is a working love. The words of Richard Baxter are suitable: "Love is both work and wages."

Agape love is, moreover, a communicating love. To quote the words of Rev. J.W. Alexander on Christian love: "This love, which is a great manifestation

of grace, is too communicative to be always pent up." That is, it is a love that must speak, not only in thoughtfulness and actions, but also with the lips. As Christ tells us by His Word that He loves us, so we by words, must tell forth our love to our spouses. Perhaps men have a reserve about this, particularly after they are married. But why should there be this reticence about declaring what is in the heart? Christ often reminds us of His love, so should not the shadow be the image of the reality? "How can we read or hear of infinite love without love?" (G. Swinnock). Some Christian men will kiss their dogs in company, but never their wives!

How easy for a wife to render subjection if she is mastered by love. How willing is submissiveness if love conquers objections (1 Cor 13:6): "Charity rejoiceth in the truth."

The Husband is to Exercise 
a Nourishing and Cherishing Love 

The apostle says: "For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church" (Eph 5:29). Are not these old-fashioned terms, "nourisheth" and "cherisheth," lovely? As Eve was taken from Adam, and was reunited by marriage into one flesh (Eph.5:31), so the man is to care for the one flesh. It is contrary to nature not for a man to nourish his own body, that is, to care for, protect and nurture. A husband’s love, therefore, is to be a nourishing love.

The actual word, "nourish" means to "nourish much." It has the sense, not only to feed, but to help forward the growth in any way, or to promote the spiritual

welfare and happiness of it’s object. Therefore, the husband cannot deny to his wife what he promotes in himself, for they are one flesh, heirs together of the grace of life. And it is because she is the weaker vessel, he is to nourish her much. Now it is not usual for a man to be interested in recipes, but all husbands should be knowledgeable and adept with this one to prepare for their wives:
A liberal portion of grace;
plenty of the finest wheat;
saturated with honey from the rock;
and a large draught from the clear crystal waters.
Mix with the fingers of love, and give daily helpings!

Of course, the husband is to see to temporal supplies, which is included in the meaning of ‘to nourish,’ but primarily it has a spiritual significance. As a man takes care of his own body, so Christ supplies his own church with every spiritual necessity, and He does so with love. So also, the husband ought to extend the same considerations to his wife, who is one with him. We are to make sure that our wives are "nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine" (1 Tim 4:6). We would be very concerned if the natural appetites of our spouses declined, similarly their spiritual health should always be our loving concern.

But it is also a love that cherishes. To cherish means, "to heat, to soften, to nurture and nurse." And so the husband is to warm her soul, nurture her personality, soften her nature and nurse her through the vicissitudes of life. He is to cocoon her in his loving care, as they lie together in the bosom of Christ. "Charity never faileth" (1 Cor 13:8).

All these truths are patterned for us in the Song of Solomon, for Christ is our model, His love our teacher.


Oh brethren, how far short we fall in our experience and responsibility. How distanced we are from the beauty described in the Scriptures! We may be distanced by ignorance, cultural reserve, by the macho image, by embarrassment, by unthoughtfulness, by lack of appreciation of the partner that providence has directed into our lives. What ever the case may be, we ought to remember the injunction, "Charity doth not behave itself unseemly" (1 Cor. 13:5). And surely, it is unseemly not to exercise the values and principles that biblical love enjoins.

To be lax in this commandment to love denies a life-long blessing to one’s wife, restrains a liberty that should be experienced, and really blurs the view that we should have of the Church and Christ. Surely the one should enlighten the other, for loving one’s wife as Christ loved the Church should deepen our love for the Church and for Christ. We should, therefore, remind ourselves continually what is the principle grace we should exercise in marriage, for "the greatest of these is charity" (1 Cor 13:13).

When one considers that Paul was writing from the position of an unmarried state, the grasp that he had and the insight that was his concerning marriage, really is proof of the inspiration of Scripture. But surely those of us in a married state should be able to experimentally sympathise and identify readily with the truths that he highlighted of Christian marriage. Husbands, love your wives. W