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The Making of a Husband

(Reconciliation in the battle of the sexes)

 

The battle lines set.

God's pattern for the making of a Christian husband was initiated in Eden, when Eve was told by God that her husband would rule over her, instead of having the perfect harmony within their relationship that the Fall had destroyed. Because of these events, the method by which all future men would relate to their wives was changed forever. The sin nature had entered into both Adam and Eve, this curse inhibiting them both from the perfection that would have otherwise been. No matter what they did, what methods they employed, life would be a struggle of epic proportion, even if their aim was the perfection of the pre-fall condition. Consequently, the male of the species has had to learn new ways to attain godly relationship with his wife and his wife has had to do things and behave in ways now foreign to her. The battle of the sexes had begun in earnest and would continue forever, until the perfection of heaven overtook them both.

The Biblical view expressed here is not popular nowadays, especially from women with feminist inclinations, or from men lacking in the responsible intent of following what God says in scripture, because it is too hard. What I am going to say here will be resisted or even disparaged by some. However, those who want to seek God's best for them in this life will follow hard after God and His ways, no matter how hard it is. Suffering, as well as joy, is the lot of a true believer, a part of the salvation package revealed in the Bible.

N.T. prescription

God's prescription for marriage relationships is spelt out in parts of three books of the New Testament, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3 and 1 Peter 3. The consequence of these directions given by the Holy Spirit to Paul are quite profound in nature and extreme in difficulty, rather like trying to pick up a slippery eel with oily hands. The thrust of this article will be to explore the nature of the difficulty between men and women and how each might go about achieving what God says He both expects and commands. Paul's likening of the relationship between Christ and His bride ( the church in heaven ) indicates just what a holy and wonderful estate marriage is meant to be. Imagine the perfection of relationship and love. Scripture indicates that earthly marriage is meant to similar. Without the application of the cross to each life that standard can never be achieved. More about that later.

What does God want of us?

So what is God's prescription for husband and wife? It sounds simple! For the wife it is to submit to her husband, as she would to the Lord, and to respect her husband. For the husband it is to love his wife, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Submit and respect for the wife and love for the husband! Why isn't this easy to achieve? Why do so many Christian marriages end in separation or divorce? Why do most Christian marriages not fulfil the objectives set out by God - of unity and peace - so that they can demonstrate God's love and power to the world as a witness to it?

The difficulty is real

As a man who is married, I both see and experience the immense difficulty that men face in being obedient to what the Lord has prescribed. Even after I properly understand it, which is a tall order in itself, I then have to follow God's directions for myself, overcome many sinful desires and selfishness to put my wife first, whilst attempting to lead her, perhaps against her private will, in a world where thoughts of independence may flood her mind. Paul's words in Ephesians leave no doubt as to the enormity of the task. (Eph 5:25 NASB) "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her;" This means that all husbands who want to do things in the way God prescribes for them, have to be able to love their wives as Jesus Christ loved the church. We have to give ourselves up for our wives! The emotional and structural complexity of this is enormous. Leadership and servanthood together - at the same time, along with a unity of fellowship and purpose, just as Christ demonstrated to His disciples. So both man and woman have tasks that seem impossible, and indeed are, without the indwelling Holy Spirit being given full reign over each life, and allowing each ungodly thought, word and deed to be crucified. Without both parties doing their part, marriage can never be what God intended.

Being only one part of the two in a marriage, how does the woman cope with all this? This male writer believes he can see quite well the nature of the problem for a woman and the trauma that she may experience in carrying out godly direction. It would be incredibly terrifying to repeatedly place your own fate in the hands of your husband, when you do not know what they are going to do with it. But in marriage, because of God's commands, it is the only way to go. God offers such obedience in powerful ways. But as the woman quits trying to protect herself and yield to what God has directed through her husband, God brings about His perfection in the marriage. I can see the absolutely incredible blessing to a wife if she is able to do what God says. I believe it is a blessing that is sublime in human experience, one that should be cherished and sought after as a concurrent experience to working out her salvation in fear and trembling. If women were to fully understand the blessing to be had, they would choose their husbands more carefully and then encourage them to do their job as husbands, whilst they themselves follow the godly order and direction that God has provided, even against their sinful nature, using the power that comes with the cleansing of obedience to cover themselves with godly righteousness.

Back to the origins

The answer goes back to the Garden of Eden and what happened to both Eve and Adam. Firstly Eve. By what she decided to do, Eve demonstrated her propensity to be deceived and act independently without the counsel of her husband, who had been told by God that they should not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Knowing that she was vulnerable, Satan tricked Eve into thinking about being like God and knowing things that she was not meant to know. Thus she was deceived by what she heard. Paul confirms this in 1 Timothy 2:14, when his inspired words said, "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." Then she was seduced by her eyes seeing that the fruit was desirable. Thus, desiring to become wise she ate of the fruit and then gave some to Adam to eat. We are not told whether or now Adam knew that the fruit was the one prohibited by God, but is would seem so. After all Adam was made in God's likeness, so would have supernatural knowledge of all things. So even if Eve did not tell him the origin of the fruit or the conversation with Satan, he was still responsible and therefore disobedient towards God. However, Eve should have referred the matter to her husband before she ate, and in not doing so, sinned against God. God made judgements on both Eve and Adam, indicating that they both sinned, and a part of Eve's punishment was that she would now be ruled over by her husband, "...he shall rule over you." So God punished Eve for her not referring Satan's approach to her husband. Some would attempt to absolve Eve of all guilt by referring to Genesis 3:6, which says "She also gave some to her husband with her." But whether Adam was actually right beside Eve or some distance away whilst in conversation with Satan is irrelevant. God's judgement separated out Eve's part in the whole event, indicating that He held her responsible for what she did, by being deceived and not referring to her husband. God is a better judge of what happened that we could ever be. However, we should not be too judgmental about what Eve did, as Satan had demonstrated his extreme cunningness on her innocence. And of course, God's sovereign plans had to be fulfilled.

Adam was no less innocent, although He failed in different ways. Although we are not told whether Adam had given Eve God's instruction about not eating from the tree, he could be criticised for not ensuring Eve knew that, to the point of referring such a doubtful thing to him. Adam was not acting out his Godly headship over Eve as God had commanded. We could also say that Adam could not have been very disciplined about his relationship with God in those moments. Clearly, he should have been there or known what was going on. Although we cannot be sure, one would have thought that he would have known something of what might happen and be closer to Eve at that time. He should have been watching and praying. Then he failed by listening to his wife without asking God first about the eating of the fruit. Adam would have known of God's order of things and that he was directly responsible to God for all that happened in the Garden. So the fact that for a moment, he allowed his wife to dictate to him, without reference to his Father, was a sin of omission that brought about the disaster.

So in different ways, both Eve and Adam contributed to Satan temporarily gaining the upper hand. However, the fact remains that these sins by Adam and Eve changed the course of history for ever, and in the context of our discussion here on marriage, set up a pattern of hardship and disunity of relationship that would take the benefit of the Cross to overcome. Even then, this did not mean automatic success, as each man and woman, both with the sin nature, had to overcome in some measure the effects of the Fall, before they could have the blessed unity that is sometimes assumed within a marriage of believers.

Marriage in our times

And so to marriage in our times. The wife should be able to expect her husband to love her, protect her and give himself for her, whilst he is leading her according to direction he receives from God, for that is the New Testament prescription. Although she is still directly responsible to God for her own actions and for her own decisions about salvation, confession and other important aspects of the faith, she is in this incredibly blessed position of having a human being here on earth to lead, protect and keep her. Conversely, the husband should expect that his wife will willingly submit to his leadership and respect all that he does in attempting to live under the authority of God.

His support differs from that of his wife. Whereas his wife has him to oversee, lead and protect her, he does not have any direct human support to watch over him. However, his support comes in a different form. His wife is meant to be a helpmate to him, respectively supporting and complementing him in his daily God-given tasks. The husband has to submit to God in similar ways to which his wife submits to him. If he does so, he also is protected and cared for and loved by God. So both partners have their own means of support, and both have an authority to whom they must submit.

The sin nature effect

The tension comes in any marriage - being built into marriage from the time of the Fall - comes when the wife or husband do not submit as they should and go their own way. As Isaiah puts it, (Isa 53:6 NASB) " ...........Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." The cause in both cases is the same. The sin nature born into each is the cause. None of us want to do what God wants. The sin nature in each of us causes independence and self-centeredness to rise up and destroy the good intentions that we may think can overcome by the strength of our flesh. But the power of sin is great. So are our own needs and desires and before we know where we are, we have enmity, trouble, disunity and eventually, if these things are not brought under God's control, the tragedy of separation or divorce. And even if couple stay together and live with degrees of enmity and disunity, the full blessings of God cannot be upon them, nor can God use them fully in being examples of godly love in this world.

Although the primary responsibility for these things belongs to the husband, both parties need to try to do what God says, even if their spouse is struggling to do so, or just plain not interested. God has His ways or protecting either a husband or a wife where their spouse is not submitting their respective authorities ordered by God.

Answers ?

So what is the answer to this dilemma? I don't pretend to know all the answers, but as a man in the process of becoming a better husband, I can suggest some ideas. Obviously the husband has to be led of the Lord, otherwise his wife will not see him as being Christ to her, and lose faith in her husband to lead, making it more difficult for her to respect and submit to her husband. The husband must be so close to the Lord as to have all the love and guidance he needs to support his own life and be able to support and lead his wife in similar ways.

The respective scriptural commands - husband love your wife and wife submit to and respect your husband are not qualified in any way. Even if a wife does not respect and submit, the husband must still love his wife. His love does not have to be earned by the wife - it is a given. Likewise, if the husband does not love his wife as he should, the wife should still respect and submit to her husband ( providing he is not suggesting ungodly activity or violence is present) Respect and submission do not have to be earned by the husband as I once heard taught - they are a given.

One piece of scriptural advice that seems to provide some guidance is found in Luke. (Luke 14:26 NASB) "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Hate his wife? Yes - according to Jesus. What sort of hate? Did you not say he had to love his wife? How can he hate and love at the same time?

As I understand the scripture the husband is to so live by his guidance from the Lord that he will hate all other opinion, which includes his wife's. Of course he will listen to all his wife says, taking all the things she says into account, as he petitions to God for direction. (as God will also guide wives in godly direction, especially in cases where the husband is not close to the Lord ) He will then, as he considers all that has been said, seek God's direction. A tall order for husbands! When I really contemplate that is what God expects of me, I feel it is the most difficult and responsible task a man could ever have. ( It should be noted that following these directions maintains the godly order of authority and responsibility given by God in Ephesians 5. God, husband, wife, children. As difficult as this may be to uphold sometimes, it is still God's perfect plan and should be followed. It helps to remember that God's wisdom is far above ours and that our humility and obedience to these things is a prerequisite for our receiving the daily provisions of the Holy Spirit in full )

However, as you will recall, had Adam asked the Lord about his wife's suggestion to eat of the fruit, then Adam would not have been caught in Satan's trap. I know of at least one couple in Washington U.S.A that lives that way and the wife says that her husband's love for her has increased as he has committed his life to hating both her's and all other advice when compared with the wisdom he can receive from the Lord.

For Wives

How can the wife contribute? Firstly she must realise that he husband too is learning something that is foreign to his sinful nature and that he will make mistakes as he learns to do God's will and be guided by Him. She may even suffer from the outcome of some of these mistakes. However, scripture indicates that she must trust God to deal with her husband. If she does not trust God with her husband, her disobedience brings further difficulty. Furthermore, if she tries to take control (over her husband) she is in rebellion against God. She needs to fully accept that God has placed her under the leadership of her husband. In effect she is actually submitting primarily to the Lord and not primarily to her husband. Her submission to her husband is the secondary process. She is only submitting to her husband because the Lord has said to do so. If she has any difficulty with this or her husband she must take it up with the Lord.

Furthermore, a wife who continually usurps authority over her husband makes it very difficult for her husband to do his job, as he needs her help-mating and her respect as a part of doing what God requires of him. Just as it is her husband's job to be obedient to all the Lord says to do, so must she also, comply with God's scriptural requirements, even if her sin nature rebels against it. Peter's advice to wives in 1 Peter 3:4 is useful. "..let it (your example) be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."

Husbands should...

For the husband and wife, the actual methods of doing these things are lifelong, sacrificial, very painful, but in the end rewarding. Flesh screams at being crucified. Nevertheless, crucifying the flesh and self is God's method, and always, but always, relates to the Cross of Christ. Romans six is the key Biblical chapter. Paul says there that we are already dead to sin - so that part is fixed. It is only by both husband and wife bringing each fleshly habit to the cross, and having it crucified there, do they grow in Him. (Actually of course - by faith - it is already crucified there, but mostly our faith is so weak and our belief so poor that the work of Christ is actually complete, that our flesh continues to operate as it should not - some other articles on Galations 2:20 and the fullness of God will appear soon on this site to take up that issue)Another couple who have successfully passed through this process with God have told me that, " we know of no other way to have gotten to the place we're at, other than through the cross, and through obeying the currently despised "chain of command" involving husband's headship and wife's obedience etc. In effect, we have been doing for years exactly what you are saying here.. We have been led to liberty and have a good solid marriage."

Problem - the flesh

The sins of the flesh and the sins of self, are a veil that Tozer says separates us from God and from each other. He calls it an inner veil woven with the fine threads of the self - life. He says, "they are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies their subtlety and their power. The self sins are self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them." (Tozer page 45 of The Pursuit of God) This is a subject in its own right and fuller explanation cannot be given here. Perhaps one day!

All husbands and wives are in this situation whether they know it or not - i.e. all husbands and wives who are really trying for full obedience in the Lord. They need to remind themselves that they are in the conflict begun in Genesis. Not their fault! But it is their liability. Because of the incredible responsibility placed on each husband I am tempted to suggest that the wife has the easier task. However, that would be underestimating the effect of the fall on the female of the species. The will to do things her way is just so strong that it brings strong tension to even the best of marriages. One wife has said that submitting to her husband in the early stages was like stepping off a precipice and counting on God to catch her. Similarly, the husband's propensity to please his wife, or give in to his wife rather than do the hard work of listening to the Lord is his downfall, along with the difficulty of really believing and acting as though his sin and self is dead from Jesus death on the cross and His resurrection. Without faith it is impossible to please God and without faith we get nothing. So it is our responsibility to learn how to operate in the fullness of faith and of the Holy Spirit.

Personal

I am hoping that by sharing my thoughts on this subject that it will clarify them for myself (it has) and may begin to help those thousands of marriages that will ultimately fail unless they follow God's commands more closely. If this brief explanation will help someone in just a small way, then the few hours taken to write it will be a great investment in His kingdom - remembering, that through our afflictions and being comforted we may be able to comfort others.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer.." (2 Cor 1: 3-6 )

Husbands and wives - team up and do it together.

If you spouse won't, you do it anyway!

 

January 1st 2000