The Calling of a Husband

Grab your Bibles and turn with me to Colossians 3. We will make it through one verse again today. I heard last week that it provided some entertainment value for some of you that we are moving so slowly. Don’t get too used to a verse per week. But these are important topics.

As we said last week instead of looking at an entire paragraph of Scripture, which is our normal practice, we are doing here topical expositions. So we are explaining one verse, one main truth, and examining that topic in detail from multiple texts in their context.

Last week we examined the role of a wife and her biblical priority. We saw that a wife worships Christ in her marriage through her joyful, willing submission to her husband. A godly woman finds freedom and liberty in trusting the Lord and not herself, being willing to let God bring about his plan in her life through her husband. We discussed what submission is and what it is not.

Heard comments from many non-wives in the body about how a message not specifically addressing them was convicting. Joyful submission challenges each of us. For husbands it raises the bar on our leadership to be godly.

I’m praising God at how his word works as we seek to strengthen and shore up our body in the fundamentals of the Christian life as he is rooting out wrong thinking and replacing it with truth and conviction.

Now this week we will see that a husband worships Christ in his biblical leadership within the marriage relationship.

Today we are just scratching the surface. I will leave much unsaid, but we are going to frame things up over the next 45 minutes or so to ground our perspective in a theological overview of a husband’s leadership. 

Many of the finer points we tackle in our men’s studies together. But today is an overview, a high-level look. This is the other half of God’s incredibly wise and perfect design for marriage.

It’s worth noting up front, I found it easier to prepare to preach to wives last week on their role because I haven’t failed as a wife in the way I’ve failed as a husband. This entire message indicts my character in so many areas.

So I preach this message today as a man striving in these things, but needing to hear them again. I think all of us can relate that if you compare yourself to sinners of the worst nature you can feel pretty good about yourself.

But when you compare yourself to Jesus it puts us back in our proper place of needing his grace.

4-Part Overview of a Husband’s Leadership

  1. The husband’s burden of biblical leadership
  2. The husband’s blueprint for biblical leadership
  3. The husband’s barriers to biblical leadership
  4. The husband’s blessing through biblical leadership

4-Part Overview of a Husband’s Leadership

  1. The husband’s burden of biblical leadership

Marriage is burdensome. 

Perhaps the word burden sounds like a negative word to use in describing marriage. But a burden is exactly what Paul had in mind when he did that little pastoral Q&A session with the Corinthians regarding marriage and singleness in 1 Corinthians 7.

He says in v. 28 of that chapter to the single, “look if you want to get married, get married. But eyes wide-open you need to understand that you’re asking for it… literally you’re bringing on trouble.” Almost sounds like the jokes we were making earlier. What’s the trouble? Concern. Burden. 

Here is apostolic testimony that the burden of marriage is real. And for this reason, Paul actually instructs those who are content in their singleness by urging them to stay that way. Look, if you are content being single, then keep it that way:

1 Corinthians 7:32–34—32 But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided…

In the rest of the section Paul applies the same teaching to the women as well. Women, once married, have a whole new set of burdens relating to her husband, and likewise a husband relating to his wife. For the husband the burden is that of biblical leadership.

A burden by definition is a weighty obligation—something that you must do that carries great significance. Burdens can be a joy to bear, but that doesn’t change that it is both a required and weighty. This means that it is not optional. As one mentor used to say to me, a husband’s role cannot be ignored, subcontracted, assigned or transferred.

In fact, if you are a married man than the question is not whether you are leading or not. In fact, by nature of being a married man you are leading. By virtue of the position God has placed you it is one of leadership. So, the question really becomes how faithful to Christ is your leadership?

A husband’s God-given responsibility is to lovingly lead, care, protect and provide for his wife. This is the burden of biblical leadership. It covers the full gamut of physical care and protection to spiritual care and protection. The marriage relationship is one of companionship, friendship, mutual encouragement, intimacy, and fellowship in Christ for believers. And within that relationship, the burden on the husband is to be out in front leading.

But we need to start with the leadership priority here.

Because you could sum up all of a husband’s leadership responsibilities and put them under one prevailing action… love. Love is what compels and drives a man to sacrificially act in his wife’s best interest for the glory of God. Love gives him the moral character to be a redemptive influence in her life. Love instructs him in how to prioritize caring for her needs.

It’s Paul’s starting point in the passage before us today.

Colossians 3:19—Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.

As with the instruction to wives, Paul knows that if a husband is believing and obeying his instructions in 3:1-17 he will be a godly husband because he is treasuring Christ above all else, he is killing sin as he sees it for what it is, and he is putting on the Character of Jesus in his inner person (compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience), and he is marked out by peace, gratitude, and the word of Christ dwelling richly within him. 

Like a pinch of seasoning then, this is the custom-tailored word of counsel to husbands.

You get one positive and one negative. One warm-fuzzy and one cold-prickly. Do love and do not get bitter. And so, we learn by what is said and what is not said here. As with the instructions to wives, here are two areas that are critical for a husband to obey, and also the most necessary places to instruct him.

Love we will explain further in a few minutes when we travel over to Ephesians 5. But for now, loving means I give up myself for your sake and well-being. My life for yours. Not merely in the vow to take a bullet for you if it ever came to that, but the daily death of self in the path of obedience to this commandment. Marriage tests this for a man. 

As Stuart Scott writes:

Since marriage is the closest of relationships, it provides the greatest potential for self-denial and obedience to the relational principles in God’s Word.

The greatest potential for self-denial and obedience to the relational principles in God’s Word. I like that he states things positively here. But the corollary must also be true then, that marriage provides the greatest potential for failure in self-denial and obedience to these same relational principles.

Sin is a reality in every marriage.

And so, Paul gives not only a positive instruction, but also a negative which assumes the presence of sin. Paul doesn’t tell husbands not to make their wives bitter. The verbal concept is not to let yourself get into this state.

Bitter means sour. And bitterness in a relationship is when things get sour. They take a turn for the worse. The opposite of course is sweetness. We use words that describe physical tastes and then apply them to relationships and we all know immediately what we are talking about. Generally, bitterness takes place in the course of time.

Few men marry women who make them feel sour at every interact. No, in the start there is exhilaration and sweetness. And then in the course of time due to sin, a husband may begin to sour on his wife. Examples from the rabbi’s teaching about divorce.

What happens? It’s been said before. When we first met I loved me and she loved me. Sounds like fireworks to me. 

A man who is in love with himself and views marriage as existing for his own benefits and satisfaction will sour on a wife when she is no longer meeting his desires in the way she once was. The relationship becomes unpleasant.

Boy don’t we try to dress up bitterness sometimes? 

Just consider a bitter husband is the man who no longer twinkles when he speaks about his wife. He has a list of grievances and unmet expectations that he rehearses to himself. He thinks or says things such as:

  • She is a nuisance that I have to deal with.
  • Consider all that I do for her, and then she treats me like this.
  • Had I known she was going to be like this I never would have married her.

What has happened? Things have soured. The relationship has become bitter and unpleasant.

I’m ashamed that I have had to repent of this sin.

It is humbling because an embittered husband is a selfish husband who views marriage through the lens of his wife existing to help him get what he wants out of life. This is idolatry. His wife then is a tool to accomplish the goal of gaining his idol. A husband is to be a sanctifying influence in the life of his wife, but an embittered husband desires his wife to worship him, not Jesus.

And so, in that little flock in Colossae whom Paul had never seen face to face, but heard reports of, he had a burden to see the marriages strengthened there. He knew this was critical for a husband’s understanding of his burden in marriage.

Men this is where it starts. By reprogramming your thinking to conform to God’s. You resist the notion that you deserve more in marriage and own the fact that much of your struggle in marriage is actually a struggle with dying to yourself in obedience to Jesus.

But this is the calling of a husband.

This is the burden—you have been yoked with a woman who you are now responsible for loving. And God is so faithful. This is a great burden, and He who called you to it is faithful. So, it’s possible and He will enable you to do it by the grace that is in Jesus Christ.

4-Part Overview of a Husband’s Leadership

  1. The husband’s burden of biblical leadership
  2. The husband’s blueprint for biblical leadership

Most of us don’t know what it looks like to lead a wife. We have some foggy concepts and maybe phrases. But when it comes to making specific application of the principles that’s where it can get a bit dicey.

The problem is that practical application of biblical principles is best learned through modeling (i.e., hands on experience of watching someone). Ask any tradesman how he learned his craft. Rarely from merely reading a textbook. No, it was hands-on modeling and demonstrating and feedback.

God’s design of course is that boys would learn from watching their fathers. So, by the time they get married they have nearly two decades of life-on-life training to be a husband. But few of us in the room have that for ourselves.

It’s good to recognize then that this is challenging. But you know what’s comforting? These believers in Colossae were in the same boat. First generation Christians. And so, will everyone who the Lord saves and adds to our fellowship who wasn’t raised in a Christian home. See how that works? 

We will be ready to meet them where they are at and come alongside them in these things and show them how the grace of the Gospel transforms married men into godly husbands. 

So, let’s get an idea of biblical leadership in marriage.

Our pattern isn’t James Bond or Prince Charming. It isn’t from worldly notions of romance or the types of elicit behavior that is often portrayed as the goal in marriage. 

Our example in marriage is actually a single man who is technically engaged but has never been married. Of course, I’m speaking of Jesus himself. And Paul is going to put some meat on the bones here about our mandate to love and enrich our understanding by connecting it theologically to the relationship with Jesus Christ and his betrothed, the church.

Turn with me to Ephesians 5:25.

An incredibly familiar passage. We don’t have time to do a full exposition through this passage, but I want to draw out some points from this text as we see the husband blueprint for biblical leadership.

Critical note is the grammatical dependence upon 5:21

Ephesians 5:22–33—22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 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. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 

We discussed wives last week and verse 22. I’m going to skip over these verses except to comment on v. 23 that states that the husband is the head of the wife. We will discus that further in a few minutes, but this means that the husband is the one leading in the relationship. So Paul here briefly mentions the role of the husband, and now he gets to the responsibility:

(25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 

My friends, particularly the men, if you want one truth to captivate your heart and see the grace of God transform your marriage it is this right here. I praise God for this verse. I stand before you as a man that struggles to stay focused and struggles to obey God.

And so a simple truth like this is what my heart needs. Because it instantly snaps into focus what I’m called to and it burns up everything else. That single statement renders us speechless before God in making a defense for any failure in our love for our wives.

Meditate with me and let God speak to you as we unfold this passage.

Paul says love just as Christ also… this is a comparison. It means that you learn from the template and model that was established for you to follow. You take your queues from Jesus who demonstrates and defines love. Do you see how powerful this is?

She’s ungrateful (doesn’t matter). She doesn’t reciprocate (doesn’t matter). She doesn’t forgive (doesn’t matter). You take whatever hang-ups that you have in loving your wife and it is now an opportunity to demonstrate how much you love Jesus by loving someone even at their worst.

Do you want to be a redemptive influence in your home? Then you model this kind of love. Husbands this is your calling. That in the home your wife, and if God has given you children would see and learn about Jesus and his love for them by experiencing your love for them.

That sounds nice, but what does it mean? Well let’s think this thing through together for just a minute. Very simple question. Christianity 101, how does Jesus love the church?

  • Sacrificing. Hebrews 10:10 he gave himself as a sacrifice. That means he died as a substitute. His life for mine
  • Initiating. 1 John 4:19—we love because He first loved us.
  • Patiently. 1 Timothy 1:16—Jesus displayed perfect patience Paul says.
  • Jealously. 2 Corinthians 11:2—Paul is jealous for the purity of the church with a godly jealously. That’s the jealousy of Christ. He want the church’s devotion and purity.
  • Intimately. John 17:24—I want them to be with me where I am. Fellowship and relational closeness and proximity.
  • Unconditionally. Luke 23:34—Jesus prays that the Father would forgive them before they’ve even asked for forgiveness.
  • Exclusively. Matthew 16:18—one bride whom he is committed to and promises to build. No other loves. He is singularly devoted and committed, no mistresses no other interests)

Can we admit collectively how earthy our view of marriage and love is?

My love is so pathetic when compared to Jesus’ love for me. Makes me think, Lord if you should mark iniquities who should stand, but there is forgiveness with you that you may be feared. Amen!

This is why I loathe marriage seminars that miss the real issues. See loving a wife isn’t complicated. And it also isn’t anything you can do in the flesh. Biblical love, which is the fundamental prerequisite of biblical leadership, comes from  

We have such earthly views of marriage. Keeping score whether it is who has served more, or who has sacrificed or who has sinned. If God treated the church in that way, then we are condemned in our sins.

(26) so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 

Grammatical this is the purpose that Christ gave himself up and the question is how it applies to us. Husbands this is not saying you are to wash your wife in the Word. Paul isn’t giving a command here, he is commenting on what Christ has done (having cleansed… so He might present).

Christ cleansed his church by the washing of water with the word. That’s referring to salvation. He did it to have a spotless church one day. Jesus saves and sanctifies his church. That’s his job, not our job.

So, what’s the implication for a husband. If we follow the model of Jesus then our love is be a sanctifying love. You have the desired goal and outcome that your wife is godly. You pray about her godliness. You encourage her godliness. You spend time thinking about what truths she needs to be shored up in.

Biblical leadership means this is a priority for a husband. If you are a married man, this is your job. So biblical love is sanctifying, it is also caring.

(28) So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 

Wow. Well it’s hard get more convicting and humbling than that one—not love yourself so that you can love others, but rather you already love yourself so much, just do to her what you do to you and you will be okay.

To nourish a wife is to provide for her needs, to give that which helps her grow and mature in favor with God and man. To cherish her is to use tender love and physical affection to give her warmth, comfort, protection, and security… As Christ provides for His church, so the husband provides for his wife and family.

Just think for a minute with me husbands, how easily do you naturally love yourself? I mean I love myself. It is no work on a daily basis to…

  • think about my own burdens
  • think about how to relieve my burdens
  • think about my own desires, dreams, and preferences
  • think about how I want to grow and advance and develop

You know what is work? To consider others. To love a wife like you love yourself means that you are putting her first. Everything from recreation, to preferences to burdens and priorities, the call is to value her in the same way you value yourself.

How would your marriage look differently if your energy that you put into caring for your wife matched the energy you put into caring for yourself?

A husband’s love is sanctifying, caring and enduring.

(31) FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Boys in the room and young men. If you want to prepare today for your ability to lead tomorrow than grow in the area of sacrificial love. A good place to start would be with your siblings if God has given them to you, and then look for ways to give up to bless others.

Girls in the room, and unmarried women. If you are seeking a husband, look for a man who is sacrificial. And a note on that: not just sacrificial toward you when you are first meeting and dating. I’m talking about a man who serves sacrificially even those whom he doesn’t receive back from.

Those of you who are married, take some time to contemplate where your love is lacking to meet the biblical definition laid out here. Resolve in the grace of Christ to begin repenting and changing in this area. If you can’t see where you need help, then ask your family.

Isn’t God’s design here so great for marriage? He calls a wife to follow her husband and then calls the husband to lead selflessly with his wife’s best interest in heart.

4-Part Overview of a Husband’s Leadership

  1. The husband’s burden of biblical leadership
  2. The husband’s blueprint for biblical leadership
  3. The husband’s barriers to biblical leadership

For those of you that were hoping that we would come to this point and talk about your wife, you are mistaken. Contrary to what you may think, your wife is not a barrier to your leadership. She isn’t holding you back.

Your greatest barrier is your own personal character, particularly in the areas of pride and selfishness. Allow me to demonstrate this. Turn with me to 1 Peter 3:7 briefly. Every husband would benefit from committing this verse to memory and meditating upon it frequently.

1 Peter 3:7—You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

Peter gave the wives instructions in the previous six verses here, which we looked at this past week. Let me demonstrate for you the threats of selfishness and pride here.

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman;

This is hilarious. At least I think it’s hilarious.

It is self-evident that men and women are different. At least until the past five years in the United States that was a given that didn’t need to be explained or defended. But have you ever felt that in a marriage relationship there is a struggle to get on the same page and understand one another?

Here specifically Peter charges husbands to figure it out. Peter was married (1 Corinthians 7). Men, it’s gonna take some effort here. Our married, apostle-friend Peter is giving us some marriage advice. But do see the selflessness and humility required here?

Live with her in an understanding way… dwell together. Husbands are to be considerate of their wives. What’s a husband’s default? Her perspective needs to conform to mine. Sure, if we are talking about a biblical principle we want to bring our wives along in areas they may need to mature. Peter is talking about willingly laying down your preferences in and priorities in life in the care of your wife. 

But Peter is saying here that husbands seek to understand how God has designed your wife in the uniqueness of her individual personality, and then care for her and order life in such as way as to be considerate of how God made her, not try to conform her into what you want.

Some of you are thinking. Have you met my wife? Hey man that’s your job to figure out. No, but seriously live with her as someone weaker. This doesn’t mean she is morally weak or intellectually weak. Same morality. Same intelligence. What’s the weakness then? Constitution and strength. Speaking in general terms men typically have broader shoulders than women—physically and figuratively.

Women generally tend to be more nurturing so there is a tenderness. Think fine china vs. Tupperware. What’s Peter addressing here?

At times a husband is tempted to try to mold his wife into a masculinity by getting her to think or act the way he does. Instead show her honor as a woman. She deserves nurturing and cherishing and tenderness.

Don’t try to fix her by fashioning her into how you would make her, but embrace her for the way God made her. I’m not talking about not addressing sin when that is necessary, or even encouraging her to maturity, that’s a given. I’m talking about accepting her.

There is another temptation that men have in this area…

and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

Peter is aware that as men we tend to exalt our own perspectives. She’s emotional and I’m not. She’s fearful and I’m not. She gets really into ________, but I don’t see what the big deal is.

We judge people. We assess our strongest area and look down on them. And the first place this can happen is in a marriage.

Peter says honor your wife. 

Show her dignity and respect from the heart. That’s the manner that you live with her. You believe that God has put you together as much for her sake as for your own. You’re not dismissive of a her perspective, but a listening learner who cares. God’s plan for a husband is that he would enter into his wife’s world and minister to her where she is at as a person without personal expectation.

Men who aspire to lead in the church, this is where it starts. Competency and a demonstrable faithfulness in sacrificial love and skill in shepherding at home. Like the young adult who wants to start a business and can’t consistently wake up on time or clean their bedroom is a man who wants to lead, but hasn’t yet learned how to apply these principles in his home.

There are other barriers and challenges to a marriage for sure. Your wife may be spiritually immature. She may be resistant to your leadership. She may be unwilling to accept correction or be unteachable. Love, be a learner, live understandingly, and show her honor. This is not natural for any of us, but in the grace of Jesus Christ it is possible.

4-Part Overview of a Husband’s Leadership

  1. The husband’s burden of biblical leadership
  2. The husband’s blueprint for biblical leadership
  3. The husband’s barriers to biblical leadership
  4. The husband’s blessing through biblical leadership

A rich blessing for the man, his wife and those around him.

Your Spiritual Life

Your entire spiritual life depends on your obedience to this instruction. Woah. Overstated. I skipped the purpose clause in 1 Peter 3:7… you know why you obey that verse. So that God doesn’t ignore your prayers. Just a tangible manifestation of God being opposed to the proud and giving grace to the humble. You can’t reject the grace of marriage by exalting yourself over your wife and expect to simultaneously have intimate communion with God.

As I’ve sinned against God in these areas of my marriage I’ve had to wonder how many prayers I have prayed largely in vain due to undealt with pride in marriage. That’s humbling.

Your Home Life

A man who obeys Christ in these things is a man who fears the Lord. And while your flesh tells you that pursuing hobbies and toys and career success will bring you satisfaction and joy, the Bible paints a different picture.

Instead, the home becomes a place of great satisfaction and joy:

Psalm 128:1–4—1 How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways. 2 When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, you will be happy and it will be well with you. 3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table. 4 Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the LORD.

Thriving produce is the imagery… fruit, vines, plants all growing and budding and bearing fruit. There is growth and health and satisfaction. Look if you want a thriving home life then it starts with tending it, beginning with cultivating your marriage through sacrificial love.

Happy wife happy life? A thriving wife is typically an indication of faithful leadership in the home. And it trickles down into the children as well. Love their mother well.

Your Ministerial Life

Just like with a wife who will become useful to the church by mastering the calling in Titus 2, so here the home is the perquisite to ministry in the church.

1 Timothy 3 is clear that a proving ground for a man’s leadership competency is his ability to shepherd his family. Greatest challenge in your ministry life will not be meeting with someone every other week over a cup of coffee for discipleship. They don’t have live with you day in and day out. They don’t see your weaknesses like the people in your home. And you don’t have to deal with them at that level.

The home is mostly private. It doesn’t result in immediate payoff for the flesh to sacrifice in. But if you want to see usefulness to Christ in the church it will come through your ministry at home. Not first. Not without.

We could keep going, but our time is gone. Those are some great blessings: your own spiritual life, your home life and your ministerial life in the church. I say blessings because you don’t obey Christ to get these things, but in his kindness he gives them to you as you walk in the path of obedience.

Well men, here it is. This is the calling. 

4-Part Overview of a Husband’s Leadership

  1. The husband’s burden of biblical leadership: loving, humble, servant leadership that protects and provides and cares for physical and spiritual needs.
  2. The husband’s blueprint for biblical leadership: the Lord Jesus Christ himself in the way he sacrifices for his precious bride and then continually nourishes and cares for her.
  3. The husband’s barriers to biblical leadership: primarily pride and selfishness. There are so many other challenges, but these are the greatest threats to your marriage and your biblical leadership.
  4. The husband’s blessing through biblical leadership: a thriving relationship with the Lord and a fruitful marriage and home life.

And God who calls us to do it is faithful. That means he is faithful to give us the grace to grow in these things. He is faithful in your failures. And he will continue to sanctify you as you come to him in humility and ask him for grace. It is his will for you to carry this out and you will to the degree that you depend upon his Spirit.

And the testimony of this is so rich. Christ-like husbands who love their wives demonstrate the value of Jesus Christ to those around them. What a privilege that he would give us an opportunity like this to reflect him to other around us.