With a 50% divorce rate in America and many more marriages in shambles, we are in trouble as a culture and as a church in America. It is time for the church of Jesus Christ to stop pointing her finger at the nation and at the government and begin taking some responsibility for correcting this problem using the authority of God’s word.
As teachers of the word of God, we must be prepared for people in our modern culture to be initially shocked by what the Bible teaches regarding marriage and the husband’s responsibility to his marriage. There is a lot of role reversal in today’s marriage, in the culture and in the church when viewed according to the standard taught in the word of God.
It is my prayer that you will take seriously what the Bible says about marriage and specifically what it says about the husband’s role in marriage. Let me encourage you to take immediate steps to implement it in your marriage. Let me reassure you that God is more interested in your implementing those changes than you can possibly understand at this time.
Jesus attempted to reach His generation during a similar time of cultural marital crisis with the same Biblical teachings on marriage that we study today in Matthew 19:4-6. He began by asking this question: “Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female (Gen.1: 26-27), and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh (Gen.2: 24)?’” Jesus was saying that the cultural problem of divorce was related to the problem of Scriptural teaching on marriage (“Have you not read?”).
The Bible teaches that marriage is more a spiritual covenant or contract than it is a legal contract. Marriage is a divine institution for man and not a human institution for God. This is why the bride and groom exchange wedding vows before God and invited guests. This is a covenant with vows that are not to be broken – “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matt.19: 6)
This principle was stated in the first wedding ceremony of human history as recorded in the Bible (Gen.2: 18-25). Moses wrote about this wedding between Adam and Eve, “For this cause [marriage union based on Gen.2: 23] a man (ish) shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife (ishah); and they shall become one flesh [monogamy math is 1+1=1].” (Gen.2: 24)
Notice that during the wedding ceremony the groom becomes (ish) and the bride becomes (ishah). The reason is explained by Paul in 1Cor.11: 8-9 which was based on Gen.2: 18-25. When the bride becomes ishah, she becomes bone of the groom’s bone (ish) and flesh of the groom’s flesh (ishah) as they cleave and become one (Gen.2: 23-25). This led Paul to remind his generation of these Biblical teachings on marriage during his own time since they were facing similar marital problems (Eph.5: 22-33).
The ish and ishah concept of Gen.2: is interpreted by Paul as, “husbands (ish idea) ought also to love their own wives (ishah idea) as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.” (Eph.5: 28-29).
The Christian husband has certain Biblical responsibilities to his marriage. These are outlined in the word of God. We will discuss several of them in this lesson.
One responsibility of the Christian husband to his marriage is to understand that he has been promoted from rulership authority to headship authority as a result of the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Prior to the fall of Adam (Gen.2: 17-25), the husband was a fellow joint heir of the grace of God with his wife under his headship authority. After the fall (Gen.3:6-19; Rom.5:12), the husband was demoted to ruler (mashal) [to have dominion] over his wife as part of her curse due to her participation in the fall of Adam. “He shall rule over you” (Gen.3:16). Rulership can be harsh and even violent. Many husbands still live in the concept of rulership and do not understand that it is not scriptural for Christians in marriage. (The Christian husband is the head of the marriage and not the ruler of the marriage). By not understanding the difference, even Christian husbands can become involved in marital or even family abuse. By the end of 20th century, 1 out of 5 families reported experiencing violence in the home. 1 in 4 teens are reporting violence while dating which further indicates a misunderstanding or ignorance or even a refusal to accept proper roles. Today, 20% of the American population thinks that it is sometimes acceptable to strike a spouse. It is never acceptable! However, spousal abuse can take several forms.
Let me give you three examples by which you may recognize the spousal abuse of rulership.
- The “Control freak” abuser: This type person will threaten or act out in violence by hitting, kicking, throwing, or even slamming objects in front of you as a fear tactic in order to control you.
- The Verbal/Emotional abuser: This type person is the name calling, belittling, threatening to leave, cut you off financially in order to make you fearful and to control you.
- The Physical abuser: This type person is the pushing, slapping, punching, or destroying your favorite possessions (even animals) to make you fearful in order to control you.
DO NOT ACCEPT ANY OF THESE ABUSES. LEAVE IMMEDIATELY, TELL A CLOSE FRIEND AND GET HELP, AND GET COUNSELING. This is not the function of a Christian husband’s headship. In fact, the husband is commanded to not embitter (pikraino/ present, passive imperfect) his wife.” (Col.3: 19). Pikraino means to treat harshly or critical so as to crush her spirit to make her submit.
Once a husband believes the Gospel: that Jesus Christ died as his substitute for the imputation of the penalty of Adam’s sin, that Jesus was buried and raised from the dead on the third day to give him eternal life (1Cor.15: 3-4; Rom.1: 16; John 5:24), he is promoted from ruler (mashal) to head authority (kephale) over his wife by the saving grace of God (Eph.2: 8-9).
“For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.” (Eph.5: 23)
Peter taught that the Christian husband is restored to his original status as: “fellow heir of the grace of life” (1 Pet.3: 7).
The Christian husband’s headship authority is connected to the divine chain of authority as outlined in 1 Cor.11: 3, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” [Rank in the divine chain of authority is from top to bottom – God to Christ to Christian husband to wife].
Under headship, the subordinate is never considered inferior since both are fellow heirs of the grace of life in Christ. It refers to order, responsibility, biblical roles, and divine protection. You are always protected by the next rank in the divine chain of authority. This principle was taught once again in the marriage of Abraham and Sarah as referred to in 1 Pet.3: 1-6. Sarah applied this principle in the Pharaoh incident of Gen.12: 10-20. Her husband (ranked authority) failed her, so she appealed to the authority over her husband, the Lord. Abraham and Sarah were only 21 generations from Adam and Eve in the genealogy of Luke 3:34-38. Yet, this same principle applies to all those marriages in between as well as to all the thousands of marriages from Adam down to today.
The Christian husband is commanded to love (agape) [unconditional and sacrificial relaxed mental attitude love]. “Husbands love (agapao) your wives, just as Christ (kathos) [kata and hos is used to intensify this comparison] loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph.5: 25)
In your workbook, write how Christ demonstrated His love for the Church?
“But God demonstrated His own love towards us (church), in that while we were yet sinners (our worst condition), Christ died for us.” (Rom.5:8)
This is what is meant about the Christian husband loving his wife unconditionally and sacrificially. Love, being commanded by God can be difficult for a husband who doesn’t understand the resources that God has provided which enables him to do that very thing – Love Unconditionally. However, Headship love would never withdraw his love to teach his wife a lesson, where Rulership would! Listen Christian husband, if you want to understand how far your unconditional love is to extend, read the Book of Hosea.
Paul instructed the Christian husband that besides responsibilities of headship and unconditional and sacrificial love, he also has the responsibility for nurturing and cherishing his wife. Paul introduced nurturing and cherishing as part of natural as well as spiritual reasoning: “For (gar) [reasoning] no one ever hated his own flesh [natural reasoning of self], but [in contrast] nourishes (ektrepho) and cherishes (thalpo) it, just as Christ also dies for the church [spiritual reasoning of wife].” (Eph.5: 29)
Consider these three things:
- Husband, the mental attitude sin of hatred will hinder loving, nurturing, and cherishing your wife.
- Husband, nurturing is providing for your wife’s spiritual growth and development as a Christian wife.
- Husband, cherishing is fostering your wife with tender care. (1 Cor.7:3-5, 33).
Have you noticed that I have not spoken about providing a wife with things such as food, shelter, and clothing (1 Tim.5:8). It is true that I didn’t give much print to those things. The reason is because husbands tend to use providing those things as an excuse for ignoring all the other responsibilities to marriage.
The Christian husband is instructed to love, nurture, and cherish his wife because loving, nurturing and cherishing fulfills the original cleaving of marriage (Eph.5: 31 quoting Gen.2: 24).
At this point, you might be thinking, “How can God expect me to be held to the standard of Jesus Christ?”
God will never ask of you anything that He will not provide for you by grace (Gal.5: 16, 22-23; 1 Cor.13: 4-8) [filling ministry of indwelling Holy Spirit]. This principle can be illustrated in the marriage of Abraham and Sarah as recorded in Romans 4:17-21. Pay attention to the following verse because it can be applied to your marriage as well: “And (Abraham, the husband) being fully assured that what He (God) promised, He (God) was able also to perform (for them as a couple).” (Romans 4:21) [Faith cycle, see glossary].
No matter how your earthly marriage has turned out, our heavenly marriage is eternal: “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.” (2 Cor.11:2)