Husbands and Wives
Christian husbands are bidden (Ephesians 5:25-33) to love their wives. The whole of the exhortation is somewhat too long to quote fully, but we will give one verse: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).
Now look at the foundation of this exhortation.
Why should a Christian husband, according to this precept, love his wife?
Because it is his duty, or because conducive to his happiness, or because it is what she has a right to as his partner in life?
None of these grounds is named, or even alluded to. But this is the foundation of the precept. Christ loved the Church as His mystical body, and gave Himself for it. Therefore as the believing husband holds to the believing wife as her natural head, the same relative position which Christ holds to the church as her spiritual head, he is bound to love her for Christ’s sake and after Christ’s example. Christ and His Church are one; she is His own flesh which He nourisheth and cherisheth. So a man and his wife are one flesh. When, then, he loves her he loves himself; and to nourish and cherish her is to nourish and cherish his own body, as Christ does the church.
Is not this noble gospel ground full of the sublimest and deepest truth?
Is it not a spiritual, heavenly and holy view of Christian marriage, and does it not baptize that social tie as with the very spirit and love of Christ?
What a sanctity it throws round the marriage of Christians!
How it elevates it above all worldliness and carnality, and brings down upon conjugal love the pure breath of heaven, more than reinstating it to what it was in Paradise in the days of man’s primeval innocence!
Now take, as a counterpart, the precept to Christian wives:
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church; and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”
This precept, perhaps, may be less palatable to those to whom it is addressed, for no wife minds how much her husband gives her of his love, but she has not always the same pleasure in giving him her obedience. But let her like it or not, the submission and subjection of a wife to her husband are here inculcated as one of the precepts of the gospel.
But on what high, holy and spiritual ground it is placed. How the precept is based upon and connected with the glorious gospel doctrine of the headship of Christ and the church’s subjection and submission to Him as such.
When, then, a Christian wife seeks not her own will but her husband’s, when she submits to his desires and wishes (and of course the apostle assumes that as a Christian man these would be in harmony with the gospel), her very submission is her glory as well as her happiness.
Is it not so in our submission to Christ?
Is it not our glory and happiness to know no will but His, and to yield to Him the obedience of love?
Thus ye Christian wives, when you submit yourselves to your husbands in love and affection, you do so after the example of the church. There is no loss of dignity or position in this, no giving up of your rights. When you can respect and love your husband as a Christian man as well as a Christian partner, and you can walk together not only in conjugal but spiritual love, as he will require nothing from you which you may not safely and scripturally yield to him, so will it be your pleasure as well as your privilege to walk with him as his equal in Christ, but now subordinate in present position.
By J.C. Philpot