In the previous article we saw husbands and wives as “equal” but “different.” We focused on the idea that husbands and wives are equal – they are equal before God, equal in salvation, and equally important to God’s kingdom.
But they are different. The idea is that God created men and women with differences in design and assignments. What we will look at now is assignment to a husband. The issue is that a husband should pursue God’s direction versus his own thoughts or his flesh. Nor should we as husbands respond to the views of our culture.
A Husband’s Biblical Role
We saw in the two previous articles that God designed male leadership. That took place in creation with Adam, and it was God’s calling through the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The basic idea here is that a husband has three things to know about his calling and his role:
1. He is playing the role of Christ in marriage – Ephesians 5:23.
2. As the “leader” in marriage his calling is not control – not being the “boss” or “lord.”
Instead, his leadership is initiative and service – Ephesians 5:25-28.
3. Doing these two things are his responsibility and accountability before God.
A husband plays the role of Christ.
Ephesians 5:23-24 (NAS)
The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church,
He Himself (Christ) being the Savior of the body.
1 Corinthians 11:3 and 9 (ESV)
I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband . . . .
Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
The idea here is that Christ is our “Leader,” and God has called husbands (and pastors and elders) to provide leadership, performing His role.
Husbands are not in control of wives.
It is interesting to see two examples that are the same as the husband – a leader, but not in control.
1. Christ is our Leader, but He does not try to be in control of us (John 3:17, 8:15-16, 12:47-48).
Rather, He loves us and serves us; and His love and service lead us to bow ourselves before Him.
And so a husband loves and serves his wife, and it is part of God’s way of getting her to be her husband’s “suitable helper” (Genesis 2:18).
2. Pastors (and elders) are church leaders, but they are not in control of the people in the church – they are not “lords” (1 Peter 5:1-3).
So, as pastors serve the people (Ephesians 4:12), their service leads the people of the church to obey them (Hebrews 13:7, 17).
So as Christ serves us and causes us to boy before Him, and as pastors serve us and cause us to submit to them, so husbands serve their wives and it is part of what causes a wife to submit to him. (Her obedience before God is also what causes her to submit to her husband – Ephesians 5:33, Colossians 3:18.)
Matthew 20:20-28 is a good story of how Christ is a servant and He calls on leaders to be servants:
Matthew 20:25-28 (NAS)
Jesus called them to Himself and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and their great men exercise authority over them.
It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,
and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Husbands have responsibility as leaders taking initiative.
One of the stories that help us to see God’s calling for a husband to take initiative is Genesis 3:1-9. In that passage, Satan reached out to Eve, not Adam. Part of the issue is that Satan knew that Adam as the leader, and so attacking humanity was to approach the non-leader (Eve) to sin.
So in Genesis 3:1-6 Eve saw three good reasons to eat the fruit that God commanded them not to eat. So she ate it and then gave it to Adam. Adam was there while she was focusing on the fruit, but he did not take an initiative toward her sin. He did not tell her not to eat it, despite that God had ordained him on it in Genesis 2:15-17.
The point is that Adam was the one judged by God – not Eve. In verse 9, God was reaching out to Adam, not Eve, despite the fact that she was the original sinner. Some verses that emphasize this same thing are Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. In those two passages a “single man” and Adam himself are described as sinners – not Eve or a woman, and not even a man and a woman – just a man as a sinner.
The point here is that husbands have the design to be God’s leaders, and they also have a responsibility and accountability before God. They are to take initiative toward leadership. They are not in control, meaning that the wives are responsible before God, but the husband is to take leadership in marriage.
He is to “die” to his wife.
As Christ dies for us, a husband is to “die” to his wife. He is not to live for himself, but to live for her.
This is a form of love. In the Bible, “love” is not a feeling that we might have. Rather, “love” is a behavior that we do as God’s calling. A passage most helpful to this is 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a.
- In verses 13:1-3, if we do dramatic things but do not have love, we are nothing.
- In verses 13:4-8a, there are descriptions of love. The point in those verses is that the “love” we are called to do is not our feelings. Rather, it is choice, and behavior. It is doing what God wants us to do whether we have the feelings or not.
So Romans 12:1-2 calls us to “sacrifice” ourselves before God. It is due to His mercies toward us:
Romans 12:1-2 (NAS)
I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice,
acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
So one thing a husband needs to do is to discovery how to “die” to his wife. That is, he needs to know what means “love” to her. Instead of doing what seems like love in his mind, he needs to know what means love to her, and he then pursues her feelings of love versus his ideas of love.
And so he does not live for himself. He lives for God. And living for God, he lives for his wife. His leadership toward her is taking initiative in different issues – getting the two of them to go God’s way.
Tom Clark is a Family Life Ambassador with the Family Life Ministry and on the Advisory Board of the Virginia Christian Alliance.