The lordship of Christ should be on display in a Christian marriage. But how can spouses live this out? Expounding on the husband’s leadership role in a godly marriage, Alistair Begg explains how a bridegroom should love his bride sacrificially, exclusively, and gently. This kind of selfless love is critical for a healthy marriage. Not only that, but it is also an example to a watching world of Christ’s perfect love for His own bride, the church.
The following message by Alistair begg is made available by Truth for life. For more information, visit us online at truth for life dot org. I invite you to turn with me to the new testament and to colossians and chapter three. And let’s just read from here initially and then a couple of other passages to set a wider context, Colossians three and verse 18, wives submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children obey your parents in everything. For this pleases the Lord Fathers do not provoke your Children lest they become discouraged. And then let’s turn back to Ephesians and to chapter five and read again A similar exhortation by Paul when he writes to the church in Ephesus Ephesians five. And from verse 22, wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as christ, is the head of the church. His body and is himself its savior. Now as the church submits to christ. So also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands love your wives as christ loved the church and gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her. Having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word so that he might present the church to himself in splendor without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it just as christ does the church because we are members of his body. Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife And the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound. And I’m saying that it refers to christ and the church, however, let each one of you love his wife as himself and let the wife see that she respects her husband. And then finally in 1st Peter and in Chapter three and here is peter on the same theme. First peter chapter three in verse one. Likewise, wives be subject to your own husbands so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by the conduct of their wives. When they see your respectful and pure conduct, do not let your adorning be external. The braiding of the hair and the putting on of gold jewelry or the clothing you wear. But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s side is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by submitting to their own husbands as sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord and you are her Children. If you do good and do not fear anything. That is frightening. Likewise, husbands live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. Amen May. God bless to us. The reading of His word and our text tonight is just as short and as clear as our text this morning, This morning. In the 18th verse, wives submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord. And tonight husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Or as J. B. Phillips paraphrases the second half of that. Don’t let bitterness or resentment spoil your marriage. We are in this position in studying in familiar territory because and I say this for the benefit of some who may just have come in this evening. We paused for a couple of weeks, a few weeks in our studies in second Samuel, out of a concern for the well being of our Children and the parental exercise of control by the parents of these same Children, so that we might be clearly together in our desire to see them understanding the bible and being conformed to the image of jesus. And that then led us to a consideration of the family itself, setting the understanding of God’s specific instructions for the physical family in light of his spiritual family, namely the church, which has caused us to think significantly about what it means to be the church to be members of the church and so on. And we saw this morning and it’s important that we remind ourselves of this evening that our understanding of these specific instructions either here in colossians or elsewhere as we’ve read it. These understandings directly as it relates to marriage must be viewed in the context of the Gospel, must be understood in light of God’s ultimate purpose in seeing men and women conformed to the image of his son. And that is why, for example, in Ephesians five Paul speaks about this immense mystery which is usually mentioned when that passage is read at the services of a marriage. And he says, and I am talking about Christ and the church, which of course should cause people to say, but I thought we were here for a wedding, why would he be talking about christ and the church? Well, because marriage has to be understood in those terms, and as we said this morning, the chief end of marriage is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. It is that same emphasis which caused Martin Lloyd jones in one of his books, to actually in one of his sermons, which then of course, was eventually in a book to say to his congregation, preaching along these lines, how many of us, he asks have realized that we are to think of the married state in terms of the doctrine of the atonement books on marriage are found in a library under ethics, but he says they do not belong there. We must consider marriage in terms of doctrine and that doctrine primarily of the atonement of the seeking love of God for rebels, whom he woos and wins to himself and who and upon whom he pours out his spirit and who he loves with an exclusive affection that says, Lloyd jones, which is really that speak in the bible, that gives us our bigger context. Now, with that said, let’s just be very honest about things as we must be and recognize that we may embrace that we may affirm it. We may say yes, of course, we believe the bible to be authoritative and clear in this regard. And yet we live our lives in the mainstream of a contemporary culture, which seems to pay scant attention to that and in many cases is actually opposed to it. Men and women in coming into our homes, in meeting us in common conversation, in accepting an invitation to dinner or in engaging with us in a sporting event. If we are very honest, many of them who do not share our convictions and our faith could be forgiven for concluding that we have no higher view of marriage than that, which is common in our culture. They could be forgiven for concluding that I’m not suggesting that they would be right in concluding it, but I’m saying they could be forgiven because our contemporary view of marriage is vastly different from what we have just read. It is a union that is based, if you like, on fluctuating human experience, the kind of thing you used to do in the first flush of love when you had fastened your affection on some girl and you picked up one of those dandelions and you and you walk down the road with it blowing on it. She loves me, she loves me not she loves me, she loves and hoping desperately that it would end up at the right point. You know, that’s so much the view, isn’t it? She loves me. I love her. Maybe I don’t. Maybe she does. Maybe we stick, maybe we leave. Maybe we twist, maybe we turn you say, But wait a minute. That’s not what we believe. Now. I didn’t say it’s what we believe, I said are pagan friends could be forgiven for thinking it is what we believe, because of the way we are tempted to behave in other words, to make our own adjudication on these things, not on the strength of the instruction of the bible, but on the shifting shadows and changing affections of passing time. And recognizing then when we turn to a section like this, that we are dealing with the divine will and we are dealing with the divine word and that the express reality of what is involved is as from the very beginning of creation, that the two shall become one flesh. They will become one flash. In other words, it is seeing something that is vastly different from just a kind of mutual engagement with one another. It’s something vastly different from hooking up. It is very, very different. In fact, it has little to do with a contractual obligation. It has everything to do with a divine covenant. And that is why the marriage ceremony itself and the way marriages approached and the vows that are made by both husband and wife in marriage is important. It matters how it takes place. It matters where it takes place and it matters among whom it takes place. Because if you think about it, the marriage bond is number one exclusive right? It is that there will be one man and one woman, there will be a man and his wife. It doesn’t involve anybody else. None of this nonsense about nonsense about two and three involved in the process of contemporary thought, secondly, it is publicly acknowledged. You say, well, how would it be publicly acknowledged? Well, because the person leaves leaves, where leaves their house, leaves, their family ceases to be what they wear and becomes something absolutely different. I came on a marriage the other day with my Children, we were in Utica new york, not my Children, my grandchildren, three of the grandchildren. And we came on a wedding. And it was out in the, in the square and I turned, I turned to Sue and I said, you know, years ago, this would have been a treasure trove. Because in Scotland. One of the things that happened when the bride and groom and the wedding party left the church was that they threw money out of the windows. Now this is Scotland understand Scottish, people don’t throw money away, not by nature, but they threw money out of the windows. And so it was a phenomenal afternoon when I was riding my bike home from school and I came on the presbyterian church just around the corner from my home and the cars were there. Oh, I parked the bike and I waited. I didn’t care how long the service lasted. I waited and then the small crowd assembled and eventually they shared their joy and marriage and their largest and it was very, very clear what had happened. They had been in their home, the man had come from his home, the wife had come from her home, they had come into the church, they had now been united with one another and they were going away entirely differently. We understood that that was what had happened. It was something far more significant than often what we see now. So that the nature of it is exclusive. It is publicly acknowledged. It is absolutely permanent and he will cleave to his wife, she will cleave to her husband. The picture is sticking with it. It’s super glued together and it is Consummated. Consummated by sexual intercourse. That is biblical marriage. Did you hear that young people, Did you hear that teenagers as you as you listen to all the voices in your ears, understand this and understand this truth that God who made you knows how it works and how it works properly and the disaster that accompanies it. When we decide to try it in our own, this is the word of God, it is valid, it is permanent, it is universal. And when it entered upon as God intends, as we said this morning, it is an advertisement for the christian faith and how we need this advertisement for the christian faith. Do you realize that it was in 1964 when I was 12 years old That the sex information and Education Council of the United States of America was set up to deliver sex education in schools and in 1964 it’s supported ideas such as merging or reversing sex roles, liberating Children from their parents and abolishing the traditional value a government organization established so that Children may be impacted in this way. Goodness Gracious! How Long is it since I was 12? It’s what, 57 years, half a century Are you surprised by where we are today? You shouldn’t be 1979. The gay Liberation Front manifesto reads, we must aim at the abolition of the family. Founded on the archaic and irrational teachings of Christianity, make no mistake about it. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places. And the absolute point of contact in contemporary culture is right here in the realm of sex and marriage and family. You have to be dead not to know that. And you have to be of the most naive of people, not to take seriously our real need to cry to God to revive the church in the midst of these years. And so that it might be that our marriages, our homes, our kids are an attractive alternative, are an adventure that is labeled following jesus. Now, at the time of paul’s writing, there were in existence both judaize stick and greek and roman codes of ethics that related to family living related to church, like related to the life of the house. And so it is no surprise that Paul himself, given that kind of framework, would under the direction of the Holy spirit be providing if you like the rules or the codes or the framework for marriage within the context of the gospel. And so when you think about that, and you think about the people living in the contemporary world, that the greek or roman world, who knew what it was that the husband was supposed to be this, the wife was supposed to be that and they would say yes, well this seems to make absolutely perfect sense, but what they wouldn’t get is what is at the heart of what paul is saying because the heart of what paul is saying is that the execution of these principles is under the lordship of jesus christ. That jesus christ is Lord, he is Lord as creator of the universe. He is Lord as the one who has redeemed his people from our sins. He is the Lord who reigns in heaven, he is the Lord who will return again. He is the Lord who will reign in a new heaven and a new earth. And so the lordship of jesus christ is then to be on display, not simply in the church as it gathers, but it’s to be on display in the home life of the members of the church. That’s the hard part. You can get away with a lot here on a sunday or whatever day you want to be together and quite frankly so can I, but I have to go home, I said to somebody tonight, I don’t know whether it be better to have no wife than to have a wife and you have to preach on the role of her husband. Okay. You don’t think I get up here like you get a free pass. No, I go home and I came from a home and so do you because at home for better or for worse one is oneself. Yeah, I’ve been greatly challenged just recently crossed we came out with a wonderful new copy and abridged version of the reformed pastor by Richard Baxter which was written in the 17th century. The original book is hundreds and hundreds of pages. It’s just very hard to read. And so this individual has done as a great favor by reducing it in quite masterful way. And Baxter’s exhortations are based on acts chapter 20 verse 28 which reads pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock. Now first of all to yourselves. Now In doing that, we have to take seriously what the Bible is conveying earlier this morning. For some of us, we noted that for the wife to submit to her husband in this way is somewhat necessarily conditioned if you like. And conditions significantly by the demand which then follows here in verse 19. So wife’s you submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord and husband. You love your wives and don’t be harsh with them. This is the this is the two pieces if you like of the puzzle. That’s why we read first peter three. That’s why we read Ephesians chapter five. So you have submission and you have love. Now we might ponder why it is that these things are set in juxtaposition to one another in this way. I think it may be because if we are honest, we understand the particular susceptibility of each member in marriage, namely the susceptibility of the wife to chafe and push back under the leadership of her husband and the susceptibility of the husband to seek to abuse his leadership role in giving direction to the family and seeking to love his wife. Now again, I’m going to keep saying this because it is so vitally important that these admonitions are not culturally bound. They are permanently valid. And the counter cultural element to what paul is writing here, countercultural in his day before we even think about it in our own is what he has to say concerning the love that a husband is to show all of those ethical codes, whether greek or roman or judaize stick would all have very clear building blocks for how the family should fit together. What would be so striking to people who were familiar with these kind of ethical demands was what he says here, This is what husbands are to do husbands, you are to love your wives to love your wives, You who are the beloved of God up there in verse 12, put on then as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. That’s the same verb actually a gap pile. It’s agape You who are beloved are to put on love in verse 14. And if you want to really know where the where the hit will come, why don’t you put it on in relationship to your wife at home? Now let’s just say, let’s just acknowledge that he puts this both positively and negatively positively to love your wife means that we must do sacrificial e sacrificial e the model. The measure of a husband’s love is to be jesus love for his people couldn’t. We have made it a little harder husbands love your wives as christ, loved the church. When paul writes in Philippians two, in that amazing passage about christ, who did not think equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself of no reputation in that context, paul makes these exhortations in humility count others better than yourselves. Look out for the interests of others rather than your own. And remember when you’re tempted to say, but I don’t want to do that. That your example is jesus who was prepared to give up himself Sacrificial e even to death on a cross. So in other words, the love, the love that a husband is to give to his wife is actually extending the love that he has for himself to embrace her as well. We have to think that out, because this comes back again to the Genesis two passage, doesn’t it? That in some profound way, a man’s wife is part and parcel of his living frame. Yes, she has a unique personality, Yes, she is a separate entity, and so on. But somehow, in a way that is both mystical and yet real. This reality that exists between us is like nothing else in the entire world, and the closest thing that we can come to. It is when we think in gospel terms in atonement terms, in terms of the union of christ with his people. This, of course, has huge ramifications for all of our fiddling around with divorces and separations and trying to find excuse clauses and escape clauses to run away from things as if somehow or another. We just have joined in in a casual relationship with each other, which if it goes south on us, we can always break it up and move on to somewhere else. Oh no, you can’t. Oh no, you can’t. And the reason that jesus makes an exception is so that we would understand that he is not providing loopholes in every other area that we try to contrive. That’s why he says you’ve got one shot at it. And this is it one flash one flesh some kind of mystical reality. Now, what do we mean when we say that we love as we love our own flesh? Well, listen to this. No one unless he is psychotic or at least unbalanced hates his own body. True. I mean, you don’t get up in the morning, take your shaving razor and try and cut yourself with it. And if you cut yourself, you go, that was a mistake. Then you call for your wife. Could you please help me So, could could you please submit by getting me all right? That’s what she says that in order or suggested with this? Leave that alone for now no one unless he’s psychotic or at least unbalanced hates his own body for her husband, not to love his wife, who has become one flesh with him is not simply to be a poor husband. It is to be a dysfunctional christian that pretty well says it, doesn’t it? Now, if you want it more quaintly in the 19, in the 19th century, and whether you do or you don’t, you’re about to receive it. This is Charles hodge married love is as much a dictate of nature as self love, and it is just as unnatural for a man to hate his wife as it would be for him to hate himself for his own body. A man may have a body which does not altogether suit him. Okay, He may wish it were handsomer, healthier, stronger or more active, but still it is his body. It is himself, and he feeds it and cherishes it as tenderly as if it were the best and most lovely in the world. So a man may have a wife whom he could wish to be better or more beautiful or more agreeable. Still, she is his wife, and by the constitution of nature, and the ordinance of God, a part of himself in rejecting her or abusing her. He violates the laws of nature as well as the laws of God sacrificial E and also exclusively for her husband to love his wife in this way involves sacrifice, and it also recognizes the exclusive nature of what’s going on in the same way that the love of jesus for the church is an exclusive love. So the husband’s affection for his wife is also to be marked by exclusivity. In other words, the relationship I have with my wife I sustain with no one else and neither must any one of us. Richard Baxter. I mentioned him already in the middle of that big book. He gives directions both the husbands and wives. He says it is our common duty to maintain these things. And he says to help to keep conjugal chastity and fidelity and to avoid all seemly and a modest conduct. Boy, if that isn’t a kind of uh let’s have anybody under the age of 112 is looking for a dictionary in relationship to those words. The idea of Conjugal chastity and fidelity being a common duty and the notion of unseemly and a modest conduct. It’s so, it’s almost it’s amazing, isn’t it? I mean, the entire advertising world is based on unseemly and a modest conduct. I said, I said that with great respect to all the advertising people here. I don’t mean to throw you all under the bus, but we can go from um Baxter in the 17th century two. Ah there men’s health magazine In 1996. You see why it’s important to keep keep files. Can you believe this? Listen to this. This is men’s health, 1996. He’s writing to men, whoever he is. The key is to make your mind monogamous, when you have promised to drink only from one spring, it’s water will be sweet. Surely when a woman knows that she is it for you, that she is the alpha and omega of your erotic world, she will be emboldened by it. So whether you want 17th century Baxter Or 20th century men’s health, let’s be absolutely clear that the exclusivity of the marriage bond is not up for debate or for options and it is imperative that we recognize this. I know that you’re not impressed by most of my quotes, but this is this is from I think this is Mhm Baby. I’m down to my last teardrop this time by that little lady who was involved with Glen Campbell for a while. I can’t remember her name. Doesn’t matter. But it begins like this. They said, they said, your love, Life’s in trouble in a magazine I read when the one you love is hanging off of his side of the bed. Okay, that’s that little lady, this is Charles bridges, tender, well regulated domestic affection is the best defense against the vagrant desires of unlawful passion. Now, you don’t need me to interpret that for you. This is biblical. You can read it in first Corinthians seven for yourselves in the first five verses. And in the time that I have been in pastoral ministry, it is not an uncommon story to discover that the seeds and the roots of Dick Lantian, not simply in the physical realm, but in the entire notion of a one flesh union within marriage can be traced to a downright selfishness in relationship to that very area of life. So men’s health gets it, The 17th century gets it. And if we’re honest we get it too. Now I spent too long on that, just a word or two on the negative side, husbands love your wives. How shall we do it while we will do it? Sacrificial E we must do it exclusively and we mustn’t be harsh with them. The basic verb here means to make bitter or to make sour. Hence the paraphrase that I quoted earlier from J. B. Phillips don’t allow bitterness or resentment to spoil your marriage. It’s an important word, isn’t it? Because if we’re not alert to this or even if we are alert to it, but tempted to disregard it, it is possible for us as husbands to cultivate amongst other things that we would like to be rid of. A harsh tone, a harsh tone fueled by bitterness, a sour nous which may stem from a sense of disappointment, often a disappointment with ourselves that is disguised by explaining how disappointed we are with everything else. And everyone else. I’m disappointed with life. I’m disappointed with expectations. I have unrealistic ideals for my wife and how she should be. And before we know it, suddenly we have slipped into a tone that is certainly not conducive to anybody saying wow, look how these people love each other. Now, this requirement of course is necessary. CS lewis if the home is to be a means of grace, it must be a place of rules. The alternative to rule is not freedom, but the often unconscious tyranny of the most selfish member in the house. Oh, and may I say not in a shy way, Oh no, no, not me, I did it my way. Yeah. There’s a problem for sunglasses. Her husbandly role of loving our wives is not to be exercised harshly selfishly but lovingly, which will mean at least in part being prepared to put my wife’s interests ahead of my own, being prepared to recognize that I don’t need to have the last word in every conversation And recognizing that we come to this as husbands, as do our wives in verse 18 in the awareness that the framework is laid out in such a way that entering into it by God’s help, we may rejoice in it. It’s a biblical framework. It’s a permanent framework. It’s a universal framework. And one of the reasons that we need the big family to help us with our we family is because of our own personal blind spots, our own personal blind spots. We all have them. We don’t really want to deal with them. And so we are adept at hiding them until somebody might be prepared to come along and point them out to us this kind of thing, This is just from a novel. Um I made a note of it a long time ago and this is an observation that is being made by a character in the novel the wife a real relationships based on trust and understanding the sharing of little things, moments of happiness and laughter, realizing you’ve both just had the same thought or were about to say the same thing. James and I that’s her husband in the novel. James and I shared nothing except for the same space. And even that less and less often I grew to realize that his emotions were without substance. His obsession was with himself not me, he’d be telling me about some big contract, he’d signed some export deal to the U. S. And I realized he was watching his own reflection in the window as he told me playing to his own imagined gallery posing for photographs that weren’t being taken. He was in love with the idea of me but I was just another trophy in a life that was all about him. Oh you say there you have it. Huh? Yeah, well we all have it if we’re honest, I’m loathe to tell you this. Maybe I told you before, in which case it won’t matter because I’ve already done it. But talking in terms of blind spots, I can’t forget it’s a long time ago now and a long way away from here. I was out playing golf with somebody and in the course of the conversation and just routine conversation, he said to me, Alistair, can I say something to you? Which is usually that’s not usually going to be something like, hey, you’re the finest person I’ve ever met. So you gotta be prepared if you’re going to say yes to it to be prepared for it. And so I said, yeah. And he said, well, I gotta tell you this. You’re awfully hard on your wife. I said really? He said, yeah. He said, you finish your sentences when you are in the room. Her personality is quashed when you are out of the room. We all realize who she is, what she has and what she means. He said, I’m telling you that because I care about you and I care about her. And I tell you I don’t share that with you to impress you. It pains me yet I say to you again, I don’t know. It would be easier to have no wife or to have a wife And have to deal with Colossians three in verse 19. Well, let’s pray our gracious God, We thank you that as we make our journey down the pathway of life that we have a shepherd who loves and cares for the sheep, that we have one who when we wander and stray woos us and brings us back that we have one who when we’ve made a royal mess of things, it comes to pick us up to restore us, to forgive us to enable us to get up and get on And Lord, as we think about what it means to live out. The principles of your word, not just in the big place in the crowd, but in the small place in the kitchen, in the bedroom, Lord, who is sufficient for these things. Save that you come by the Holy Spirit to quicken us to renew us to help us. And thank you that when we read these exhortations, they are not there as some list of that which we should strive to become, but that they are the very out workings of those who are your beloved, Who are learning progressively to put on love and learning to do so at the places where it demands the most takes. The most often hurts the most and yet reveals often the most of your work of grace within our lives. Help us Lord to this end. Thank you for the promise of your grace in jesus name. Amen. This message was brought to you from truth. For life where the learning is for living, learn more about truth for life with Alistair begg visit us online at Truth for life dot org