By God’s grace, every Christian marriage is about more than marriage.Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, (Ephesians 5:25-26)
The purpose of human marriage is to point away from itself to the ultimate marriage made in heaven: that of Christ, the Bridegroom, and the church, His bride. Marriage, in other words, is about God’s ultimate purpose “to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). This is why Paul offers specific instructions for husbands: so that their marriages might display the union God intends.
In marriage, the husband’s primary objective is not to make sure his wife is physically and emotionally sustained. That is part of it, of course—but his ultimate objective should be that his wife will be prepared to meet Jesus.
To that end, the word that Paul uses for “love” here, agape, is important: it expresses self-sacrifice and self-abasement. It’s about what we give, not what we get. It’s about what we owe, not what we’re due. It’s not about seeking what’s good for you; it’s about giving yourself up for what’s truly good for your wife, so that she might be “holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). This was the purpose for which Christ gave His life for His church; and, as a picture of this, it is what a husband is to give himself up for and pursue for his wife.
But if you are a husband, how do you love in this way in the day-to-day reality of life? One practical step is to look for the absence of “NAG-ing”. That is, you must renounce neglect, physically, emotionally, and spiritually—and, if career, club, or church responsibilities interfere, you may need to re-evaluate your commitments. You also need to renounce abuse, which, while including more egregious sins, also encompasses belittling your wife, talking down to her, treating her with disregard, or acting as if she’s really fortunate to be married to you. And finally, you need to ensure you never take your marriage for granted, which can become so easy as time goes by.
Yet as helpful as such practical reminders are, the ultimate yardstick for, and motivation to, love is the cross-shaped love of Christ for His bride. Without a clear view of how Jesus loves His church, our best intentions will flounder, and our failures will crush us. So we must look to Christ, who, although He needed no one and nothing, came and gave Himself up in order that we, in our need, rebellion, and emptiness, may be caught up in His embrace, welcomed into His heart, brought into His family, and considered a part of His bride.
Devotional material is taken from Truth For Life Daily Devotional by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company. Used by Truth For Life with written permission.