Grace For The Journey
In my post I noted that marriage is an institution created by God. It is His idea. We also noted that marriage takes more than two people. It takes three: Husband, Wife, and the Lord. We pick up today in our verse-by-verse study of the third chapter of Colossians, reading again in Colossians 3:18-19, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.”
The text consists of two main teaching points, the first for Christian wives and the second for Christian husbands. We are looking at “God’s Plan For Marriage” which consist of a wife, who is to demonstrate biblical submission to her husband and a husband who is to demonstrate faithful adoration to his wife.
Yesterday we addressed the role of the Christian wife in; we turn now to the role of the Christian husband from verse 19, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.” That’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it? Love your wife and do not be bitter toward her. In Roman society it was not uncommon for men to rage against their wives and demonstrate remarkable anger and bitterness; always ready to explode, like a can of soda that has been shaken and suddenly opened.
Men may become bitter towards their wives when they fail to understand them. Sometimes a man’s wife is merely offering help, caution, or warning, but men may be too self-engrossed or too self-focused to appreciate their loving counsel.
Paul says, “Love your wives.” In the parallel text of Ephesians 5, he elaborates on the kind of love a husband is to show his wife. He says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Jesus Christ demonstrated a sacrificial love. He loved the church and gave Himself for the church. He died for the church. Christian husbands are to love their wives sacrificially – to the point they are even willing to die for their wives. That’s a deep, real love. And it is a love made possible by the new life we have in Christ.
It is so important to recall the greater context
Of Paul’s teaching here in Chapter 3.
These two commands for wives and husbands
Are commands couched in the context of the new life in Christ.
Paul is addressing those who have already dealt with their most basic, fundamental problem: the problem of sin. He is writing to those who have “put off” the old self and “put on” the new. He is writing to people who have been converted; people being renewed daily in the image of the One who created them.
When Paul is writing here about the matter of marriage, he is not writing to just anyone. He is writing to Christians. He is writing to Christian wives and Christian husbands; those who are “seeking those things which are above” and “setting their minds on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).
He is writing to those who have “died” to their old selves (Colossians 3:3), those for whom “Christ is their life” (Colossians 3:4). He is writing to those who are regularly “putting to death” (Colossians 3:5) sins such as, “fornication, uncleanness, lust, evil desire,” and “putting off” sins cut as anger, wrath, malice and filthy language” (Colossians 3:8).
Paul is writing to Christian husbands and wives who are putting on, or “dressing” themselves with “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering” (Colossians 3:12); “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another even as they have been forgiven in Christ” (Colossians 3:13).
He is writing to Christian couples who, “above all things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection” or completeness in marriage (Colossians 3:14). And he is writing to Christian husbands and wives who “let the Word of God dwell in them richly” (Colossians 3:16).
The context of all those preceding verses are vitally important to understanding what Paul says about marriage in verses 18 and 19. I found it curious how many commentators wanted to make this section of this letter independent from what Paul had written in the prior verses, but it is not.
Our relationships with one another
Are dependent upon living as those
Who have been raised up with Christ.
Having minds that are set on the things above
Instead of the things that are on earth
Is not about neglecting the things here on earth.
That would result in people that are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. It is rather having a proper view of life in the present because of having heaven as our destination (2 Peter 3:14).
Proper relationships in the family and in the workplace are dependent upon us putting off the old man and putting on the new. Each of us are to “consider the members of [our] earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed” and put aside “anger wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech.” The old self is dead, so we should quit dragging around its corpse with its lying and evil practices. Instead, we are to put on the new man and “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other.” We are to follow the example. We are to let the Word of God richly dwell within us and encourage and teach one another accordingly. Paul summed up his general exhortations in living the Christian life in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” That command includes everything we communicate and all our actions and behaviors.
It is on the basis of these general commands to all Christians that He now gives instruction to the various members of a family and in the work force starting with the most intimate relationship and working his way outward in three sets: wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters.
The Importance of Marriage
Paul begins with the marriage relationship . . .
For it is not only the foundation for the family,
But it is also the foundation of all of society.
If marriages decline so does the rest of society,
And tragically we are seeing that happen
In our own time in our own society.
As America continues its flight from God and godliness, it increasingly promotes sinful perversions and abominations.
The so-called sexual revolution of the 1960’s is the direct precursor to the homosexual revolution of our current times. Both are predicated on the false basic premise that the “pursuit of happiness” enshrined in the preamble of our Constitution means that there should not be restrictions on the hedonistic fulfillment of one’s desires. That those desires are sinful before God and detrimental to themselves and to society are irrelevant to the mind entrapped by sin. As hedonistic selfishness gains a greater influence on society, its demands progress from tolerance, to acceptance, to equality, to superiority. Constitutional freedoms of religion and speech are trumped by rights made up by legislation to allow the practice of sexual perversion with impunity.
We have already seen from our previous study that God established marriage in Genesis 3 so only He can define it. We also saw from Ephesians 5 that marriage is to be a picture of Christ and the church, so any advocation for marriage to be between anything other than a man and a woman is a perverse evil. Those promoting such perversions need to repent and turn from their sin and receive forgiveness and freedom from sin that is in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are in serious danger of the Lord turning away and leaving them condemned in their sin for eternity as explained in Romans 1:18-32..
God is also the only one
That can define the role
Of the husband and the wife.
Those advocating roles different from what He has declared are also promoting perversion and evil and need to repent. Sadly, there are many professing Christians that do not fulfill the role God has given them within marriage either due to ignorance, immaturity, or selfishness. It is time for them to become wise, walk in maturity, and become selfless in serving their spouse according to God’s design. While that will appear to be scary to some, it is the only way to glorify God and have a truly fulfilling marriage.
I already talked about the role of the wife in last Thursday’s post, so I will not repeat that here expect to encourage wives to fulfill that role of being submissive to and respecting your husbands as is fitting in the Lord. Ladies, do not fall for or continue in the mindset of feminism that has had such a negative effect on our society. You can have a much better life and marriage by living it God’s way than their way.
Today I am going to address the specific role of the husband in marriage, however everyone else reading this post also needs to pay attention.
- Wives need to know how to encourage their husbands to fulfill his role.
- Unmarried men need to know God’s expectations if they do get married.
- Unmarried women need to know what qualities they should be looking for in a husband if they get married.
The Role of Husbands
Paul makes two commands concerning husbands in verse 19. “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them.” There are additional instructions in other passages, some of which we will look at, but these two are contrasting and all encompassing. If the husband will do these two things, then the commands to the wife will be easy for her to fulfill. It has been generally observed, and I think accurately, that what women desire the most is to be truly loved and what men want the most it to be genuinely respected. It is not hard for a woman to genuinely respect a man that truly loves her, and neither is it hard for a man to truly love a woman that genuinely respects him. Those are the very commands God gives to each to fulfill.
However . . .
Fighting against this happening
In the marriage is the curse of sin.
Men and women are both innately selfish so instead of giving of themselves freely, they seek to get from the other want they want. But . . .
True love cannot be gained by manipulation
And neither can genuine respect
Be gained through oppression.
Like two leeches they seek to gain life from the other but only manage to suck the life out of the marriage leaving a shell of what could and should have been. However, when a husband and wife set aside their old sinful ways and walk in the newness of life that comes with following Christ, then there is a basis for each to fulfill their God given roles within the marriage and God can be glorified in and through them.
I cannot stress enough to you husbands
That you must walk with Christ if
You are to fulfill your role in your marriage.
The first of Paul’s commands here is that you are to love your wife.
This is not a reference to either being physically attracted to her or a fond feeling of affection, though both of those should also be part of a healthy marriage. The love commanded here is agapaô . . .
The love that arises from the will
And sacrifices itself for the
Best interest of the one loved.
This is the love Jesus has for us. This is the love that we are to have for one another. This is the love a man is to have for his wife. This love is contrary to the sinful bent of mankind because it seeks to give instead of get.
Ephesians 5:25-33 gives further description to this love. In that passage the husband is commanded three separate times to love his wife. Verse 25 commands, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” That is complete sacrifice. And that is the kind of love we are to have for our wives – a sacrificial love. Until you have died in the place of your wife, you have not loved her to this extent. That means that every husband still has room to grow in his love for his wife.
Verses 28-29 commands and explains, “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one every hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.” Here there are two examples given: 1) The first is to love her with the same consideration you give to yourself. Treat her with the same kind of care you give to your own body, and lets face it, everyone seeks to treat their body with the utmost care. Even when we vigorously exercise it is for the good purpose of keeping out body fit. It takes time, money, and thoughtful planning to do all the things that are part of caring for our bodies – feeding it, cleaning it, exercising it, making it look good, health care for it and pampering it to make it comfortable. Husband, do you give that kind of consideration to your wife? 2) The second example is harder for Christ is the example and His care for the church is complete and sacrificial. His care for the church is actually better than our care for our own bodies because He does know what is best while we guess at that. Yet that is still the example set for a husband to follow in loving his wife.
Paul also points out the pragmatic aspect of this too – this kind of love is not only a sacrificial love, it is a serving love. A husband is to care for his wife because she is part of him. We may not understand all of what it means in the quote from Genesis 2:24 repeated here in verse 31, but there is definitely some aspect in which the two individuals have become one flesh in marriage. In marriage the husband is part of the wife and the wife is part of the husband. So even from a more selfish point of view, for the man to love his wife is really to love himself – as Paul states at the end of verse 28.
Think about that a moment men. Is there anything that you could do for your wife that would not ultimately come back to you for your benefit? Certainly there are some exceptions in women that are so self-centered that they are not fit to live with, but in general, is it not true that if you treat your wife well, she will also treat you well? If you give consideration to her, she will also do the same for you. If you lead her in all godliness, she will be a more godly woman. If you love her as the scripture says here, she will be much more easily able to fulfill her role in submitting to your leadership and showing you respect. If you demonstrate sacrificial love to her, she is much more apt to sacrificially love you too.
Love your wife as Christ loved the church – have sacrificial love. Cherish her as you cherish your own body – have serving love.
Paul’s third command to love your wife is in verse 33 – “Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself.” The arguments here are really the same. Everyone loves themselves. We do what we can to build ourselves up in the eyes of others. There is no lack and has never been a lack of self-esteem in the human race. Instead it is just the opposite. Humans are by nature self-centered and proud. We love ourselves.
The Bible uses that fact as a prod to get us to understand that we need to love others. The general command given by Jesus in several different passages is that you are to love your neighbor as yourself. Here Paul applies that directly to every husband. You are to love your wife as you do yourself. The type of love that the Bible is teaching here is a sanctifying love. Instead of focusing on ourselves and seeking to build ourselves up, husbands are to have the kind of love that will lead them to do all they can to build up their wives and help her become all that God wants and needs her to become.
Let me now give you a couple of examples to prod your thinking about applying these commands in practical ways.
1) Your wife calls you to dinner and you find that she is actually serious about making the family diet more healthy, and if it tastes like it looks you will be losing a lot of weight very quickly. What is your reaction? A) Grateful for her service to you and care about your health, B) Irritated you didn’t get something you like C) Making plans to go out and get a burger later
2) You have been planning an event with your friends for sometime – fishing, hunting, watching an important game, etc. and when the day arrives your wife has the flu. She looks and feels like death warmed over. How do you feel about the prospect of staying home and taking care of her and the kids? A) What an opportunity to prove how much I love her. B) Why is God punishing me? C) Maybe her mother can come watch her and the kids?
3) Your busy reading the paper or watching your favorite sporting competition and your wife sits down and says, “honey, I have a problem.” Do you A) Get excited that she thinks so highly of you that she wants your help, B) Want her to go away and come again some other day, or C) Get a chill running down your spine that you could be in trouble?
4) You have listened to your wife’s problem and given her a very intelligent and logical solution, but she keeps talking about it. Do you think: A) Why doesn’t she just thank me and leave me alone now, B) Uh oh, she’s a bit dense today or C) Wow, this problem has really affected her. I wonder how else I can encourage her and let her know that I care?
Gentlemen, to love your wife the way Christ loved the church, to love her as your own body, to love her as you love yourself will require you to sacrifice yourself for her. Let me quickly add here that this includes the idea of protection. You place yourself in harm’s way in order to keep her safe. There is a price you will have to pay in order to love her in the manner God commands. You will have to be humble and learn to put her best interests over your own, but isn’t that what we are called to be as Christians anyway? Philippians 2:3-4 commands us to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Back in Colossians 3:19 we also find that Paul commands husbands to not be embittered against their wives.
The word embittered is pikrainô. The root of the word means “to cut, prick due to being sharp, pointed.” In reference to smell or taste it is disagreeably pungent. The word is used in Revelation 8:11 in reference to the waters being made bitter. It can also refer to a sour stomach as it does in Revelation 10 when John’s stomach was made bitter from the little scroll he ate. The noun form is used in James 3:11 as a contrast to sweet water, but more often the cognate forms are used metaphorically in reference to attitudes that are bitter, sharp, harsh, angry, jealous. Peter wept bitterly after denying the Lord (Matthew 26:75). Those lacking wisdom have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in their hearts (James 3:14). The unrighteous have mouths full of cursing and bitterness (Romans 3:14) and a root of bitterness causes trouble and defiles many (Hebrews 12:15).
Why would Paul have to warn husbands to not let such bitterness rise up in their lives against their wives? This command is the contrast to the command to love. If the husband and wife are properly fulfilling their roles he will not become bitter against her, but if either fail to do so, then bitterness could rise quickly. Paul’s command is to keep that from happening.
Even a man that generally does walk properly with the Lord can respond sharply to the wife he claims to love if he is caught off guard, over stressed, or momentarily selfish. A man who is not diligent to walk with the Lord can easily turn against his wife and become harsh or even respond in anger if he is not getting what he wants. That can happen even when she is trying to do the right thing but is misunderstood, but it is nearly a given if she is disrespectful or he senses she is trying to manipulate him for her own advantage.
Bitterness may be sharp, but it does not have to expend itself all at once like anger. It can also burn slowly over a long period which is why a root of bitterness can cause so much damage. It continues to fester and smolder for longer periods causing damage long after the initial spark that set the fire going has faded away. Such behavior ought not to be and so Paul warns against it. Love should and will prevent it, but at those points when love is lacking or he finds his wife especially irritating for whatever reason, he is to heed the caution and not allow bitterness into his life.
Paul contrasts wrong and right behavior and attitudes in Ephesians 4:31-32 saying, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Bitterness is an attitude and action of the old man and so it should be put away from you as you walk in the new man. It should not even show up in your speech much less your actions. You are not even to let an unwholesome word proceed from your mouth but only such words as are good for edification according to the need of the moment that it might give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:31). There is no room in the Christian husband’s life for jokes and comments that disparage his wife.
Peter’s command to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7 is helpful in preventing any bitterness from arising. “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman’ and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” An “understanding way” is literally, “according to knowledge.” Your wife is to be your life study. Yes, she is very different from you because she thinks very differently than you. You both should praise God for that. It is your responsibility to study her and learn how she thinks, reasons, and why she feels the way she feels. Her reasoning and emotions do not have to make sense to you, but you do need to strive to recognize them and respond accordingly. Too often men make it a one-way street demanding their wives figure them out and change accordingly, but it is actually a two-way street with the greater responsibility placed upon the man. Older women are to teach the younger women how to love their husbands (Titus 2:3-5), so they do have a responsibility to learn about you, but the greater responsibility still lies on you men to do this. Why? Because you are the man and she is the woman who is a weaker vessel.
Feminists recoil at Peter’s statement here that women are weaker vessels and there is much debate about exactly what Peter means by the statement. However, Peter points this out as a reality and why men need to take on this responsibility. I do not think this is a reference to women being weaker physically. While women generally lack the upper body strength of a man, they often show much greater physical stamina. Hence the old adage that a man works from rising to setting sun, but a woman’s work is never done. Like the Eveready Battery Bunny she keeps going, and going, and going.
Nor do I think that this refers to general intellectual ability since women often prove themselves to be equal to and sometimes even superior to men in various fields of study. My personal opinion, for which I think I can make a scriptural case, is that this refers to her emotional makeup which can lead her astray. Paul states in 1 Timothy 2:14 the reasons he did not allow women to teach or exercise authority over a man was the order of creation and that it was Eve that was deceived, not Adam.
The husband then needs to take on the responsibility to strive to understand his wife and live with her accordingly, granting her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life. She is in no way his inferior. The husband and wife simply have different gifts and God given roles.
There are a couple of other roles that husbands have in the marriage that I want to mention briefly.
The first is leadership.
The Bible states in Ephesians 5:23, “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.” It adds in 1 Corinthians 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.” The man has a responsibility to lead his wife as her head. This is not license for him to do anything he wants at her expense, but rather to take the responsibility to direct his family in the ways of the Lord, for Christ is his head. Men, you are under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and that is regardless of whether you even profess faith in Him or not. Notice in 1 Corinthians 11:3 that the statement that “Christ is the head of every man” is without qualification. The Lord Jesus is your creator and He will hold you accountable and judge you for how well you have followed His commands in leading your family. An additional sobering truth is that a leader has the responsibility for the decisions made in the family including those made by his wife or children.
That leadership will encompass many areas of life, but a primary one is leading in holiness. In Ephesians 5 the example of the love of Christ is that He sacrificed Himself for the church so that He might sanctify her. He wanted her to be all that she could and should be, without spot or wrinkle, being holy and blameless. Husbands are responsible to love their wives with the same goal in view. He is to lead her into holiness. Husband, what are you doing in lead your wife into holiness? The priorities and example of your life will answer that question – your own church involvement, personal Bible study, family devotions, personal integrity. All of these are part of it plus your encouragement for her to take the time and be involved in her own personal devotions and in ministry for the Lord.
Your example is even more important if your wife is not a Christian. Your walk with the Lord and how you treat her should do one of three things: 1) Attract her to salvation in Christ; 2) Drive her away because of her rejection of Christ – again be sure it is Christ in you that drives her away and not you; 3) She thinks you are a fanatic but she stays with you anyway because she knows no other man would treat her as well as you do.
Leadership also encompasses an element of protection from the physical danger and moral evils that exist all around us. Decisions regarding even things such as where you live, the jobs you do, the friends you keep, the activities you participate in, and even entertainment choices will have major influence on the way in which you live. If you do not lead your wife into holiness then you will be leading her away from it, and that will wear even on a godly woman. Protect her from evil influences by your godly leadership.
The last responsibility I want to mention this morning is being a provider.
The Bible states in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household , he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” The context of this verse encompasses not just your wife and children, but also widows in the extended family when necessary.
Providing is not about how much money you make,
But rather about your own trust in the Lord
To do things His way knowing that
He is the one that actually provides.
Jesus’ promise in Matthew 6:33 is crucial to being a godly provider – “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” God will provide the food, shelter and clothing you need and by which you should be content if you put Him first. And remember that 1 Timothy 6:8 makes it clear that we can be content in just having food and covering. If these truths do not direct your efforts to provide, then you will be caught in the trap of materialism and coveting will lead you into all sorts of evils.
There are couples that live together but remain unmarried because it gives them a financial advantage in taxes or income. There are many more that purposely disobey God’s commandments and compromise their moral convictions in order to take or keep a job. There are even more that fail to keep the priorities God has set for the family in order to pursue gaining lots of stuff in the false belief that is what it means to be a man and provide. Many men who work 60-70-80 hours per week consistently and unnecessarily and often have their wife working too in order to have a big home, luxury cars, fancy meals, exotic vacations, and lots of toys and gadgets.
What your wife and children need is you,
Not the abundance of stuff you can provide.
Live in a smaller home with less stuff, drive an older car, eat simply, and provide your wife and family with what they really need – your sacrificial, servant-minded, and sanctifying love, time, and godly leadership. That is the true role of a husband.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”