The Christian Family Pt. 2: The Duties of Husbands (Ephesians 5:22-33)

The Christian Family

Text: Ephesians 5:22-33
Title: The Christian Family Pt. 2: The Duties of Husbands
Date: February 12th, 2023
Location: Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, Washington

22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 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. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.


Father, we thank you for the mystery of marriage that has been revealed in Christ. We ask now for your Holy Spirit to cleanse us by the washing of water by the word, that as your Word is preached, we might be made glorious, without spot or wrinkle or any defect, and so renew us now, for we ask this in Jesus name, Amen.


What are the duties of a husband? That is the question we will be answering this morning as we continue our series on the Christian family. And another way of framing this question could be to ask, “What is God going to hold husbands accountable for on judgment day?”

  • Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
  • And so, when every man who was a husband on earth stands before Christ, what is he going to be held accountable for? That is the question before us as we consider the duties of a husband. What does God require of husbands in His Word?
  • There has been much confusion about this as of late, both in the church and outside it, and this is because many people have bought the lie that men and women are not essentially different, that sex is a social construct and determined by the individual rather than assigned to them by God. This is of course a lie.
  • And then there are Christians who might not go that far, but who think that in marriage there is no hierarchy, no difference in authority, no difference in role or responsibility between husband and wife. We call this egalitarianism, and it also is a lie.
  • And so to get at the truth we must turn to the Word of God, the source of truth, for there we can learn how to do marriage God’s way.You can try to have an egalitarian marriage, you can try doing marriage the way of the world, but it won’t be a happy marriage (at least not for long), it won’t be a good marriage, and it certainly won’t be a Christian marriage. So what are the duties of a husband according to God’s Word?

The answer is quite simple and is given to us in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it…”

  • The whole duty of a husband can be summarized in these words, “Love your wife like Christ loved the church.” The duty of a husband is love.
  • But what exactly does love look like?
  • Remember when Jesus is asked, “what is the greatest commandment,” how did he answer that question?
    • Matthew 22:37-40 says, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
    • So Jesus engages in a kind of summary of the entire Old Testament. The Jews count 613 unique laws, all of which can be summarized under the 10 Commandments, and Jesus further summarizes those ten commandments into two: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
    • And so Ephesians 5 is just applying that same principle to husbands. Which means there are 613 other laws that can teach you how to love. Some might be more relevant for marriage, and others less relevant, but they all have something to teach us about what love is and does.
    • So think about it like this, your chief duty as a husband, is to love your wife as yourself. And if you do that successfully, you will have fulfilled the entire law towards your wife.
      • Now because we are sinners and often very stupid, we need to be given specifics. We don’t know what love means. We need to be told in greater detail how to love our wife.
      • How many of us have thought we were loving our wife, only to find out later, that she didn’t actually want the complete works of Jonathan Edwards for her birthday. We think, love my wife as myself, I would feel loved to be given many old books, therefore I will give them to my wife. Golden rule, right?!
      • OR, reverse the roles, how many men would feel loved by receiving flowers from your wife. Flowers are pretty, but I don’t need any flowers in my life, I would prefer a good steak, an old book, a new tool.
      • Men and women are very different, we give and receive love in very different ways. And so part of learning to love your wife means studying the specific woman God has given to you, because not all women are the same.
      • Husbands are commanded in 1 Peter 3:7, to “dwell with our wife according to knowledge.” That means, knowing how to love her, how to make her feel loved.
      • And so for those of us who need specifics, Scripture gives us some details to help fill out that definition for love, and we will consider just a few of them this morning in our text.
      • So what are those specific duties?

The Duties of Love

Verses 22-24

22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 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. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

  • Now, next week we’ll have a sermon on that text and the duties of wives, but for now just notice that the husband is the head, as Christ is head of the church, meaning the husband is the principle and source from whence the wife comes, and because of this there is a certain hierarchy of authority that follows.
    • Just as woman was taken from Adam’s side, so the church was taken from Christ’s side, when blood and water flowed from Jesus bosom on the cross, the church was being born. The feminine proceeds from the masculine as river from font. And Paul is saying that the woman is subject because she proceeds from the man. And the church is subject because she proceeds from the Lord Jesus. That is the logic of headship and it is grounded in creation (see also 1 Tim. 2:12-13, 1 Cor. 11).
    • Notice also, that a husband does not choose to be the head, nor does the wife allow her husband to be the head, he is the head, whether he likes it or not. He can be a good head or a bad head, but he is head regardless.
    • When you got married, this is the role God assigned to you, whether you knew it or not. And the choice before you is simply: will you embrace that divinely assigned role or kick against it. Cause either way, the husband is head, and the wife is body, and God will judge you as such.
    • So the first duty we might gather from this text is this:
  • 1) A husband is required by God to embrace his headship.
    • This means you are now responsible for your wife and answerable to God for her actions. The head is responsible for what the body does.
    • And here we must make an important distinction between what we might call guilt vs. responsibility.
    • When Eve ate the forbidden fruit, she was judicially guilty before God and deserved to die for her sin. And in that moment before Adam also ate, he was not guilty for Eve’s sin, but he was responsible for it. Meaning, if Adam had not also eaten the fruit, he would not deserve the death penalty, but God would have held him accountable for not stopping his wife. That is the essence of being responsible.
    • This same principle applies to fathers and children. Deut. 24:16 says, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” Guilt is assigned to the child, but responsibility to both.
    • And we know this because there are countless instances where God judges fathers for the sins of their children. Whole households are judged as a unity because of the actions of one person, this is what we mean by “covenant responsibility.”
      • For example: Think of Eli and his sons in 1 Samuel 2. Eli’s sons were committing fornication withthe women at the tabernacle, and Eli does not discipline them. He tells them to stop, but he does not restrain them. And so God says to Eli, “Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?”
      • And then two chapters later, Eli and his sons die.
      • Eli was not guilty for his sons’ fornication, but he was responsible for it as their father and superior, and the same applies to a husband and his wife.
    • So when we say that a husband is responsible for his wife and children, we are saying that he is answerable to God for their actions. He might not be judicially guilty for every particular sin, but as head, the husband is responsible for what the body does.
    • You can’t say to God, that wasn’t me who kicked the cat, that was just my leg. In the eyes of God, the husband and wife are a unity. Husband is head, and wife is body. There is distinction of guilt between husband and wife, but the head is responsible for all that the body does.
    • And if that seems un-equal, asymmetric, or like a double standard, that’s because it is. Those with more authority and power are judged more strictly. The Bible says teachers are judged by a higher standard than students. Older children are judged by a higher standard than younger children. In a similar way, the husband has more responsibility before God than the wife just as the head must answer for all the body does.
  • So the first specific duty of a husband is to embrace his God-given headship, to not abdicate this role to his wife, but to take responsibility for his marriage, his children, and all that they do. This is where love starts. Love starts with taking responsibility in the eyes of God.
  • We see more specific duties in verses 25-26.

Verses 25-26

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

  • There are a number of duties here, the first is to give ourselves up for our wife. That is what the head does.
    • Christ died for sins he did not do. Jesus took responsibility for the church’s actions. And this is how a husband exercises authority, by giving up his selfish desires to seek the salvation and good of those under his care (this is why he called the savior of the body).
    • The example of Christ undercuts all the excuses that we might come up with. When our wife sins and does something distasteful, we want to distance ourselves, we want to say that was you, I had nothing to do with it. But that is not how Christ exercises headship.
    • Christ goes to the cross, he bears the shame, he identifies himself with sinners, though he himself is perfect. Jesus was so secure in his identity as Son of God, that he was willing to have that identity maligned and questioned. “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” “If you are really perfect, then why are dying a cursed death.” This is what headship endures.
    • When a husband is put to shame in order to save and protect his wife, that is glorious in the eyes of God. Which is why husbands must care most about what God thinks of them.
    • And so if you have a sinful wife, then do what Christ did, own her sins, bear that responsibility before the Lord. Say to God, “forgive my wife, cleanse my household, as head of my wife, have mercy on US.” That is what righteous headship looks like, and God sees when you do this.
    • You see the opposite in many marriages which just repeat that scene in Genesis 3. Remember when God came to Adam in the garden after they had sinned. God comes to Adam first (because he is the head), and Adam blames God and he blames his wife. God goes to the woman, and she blames the serpent. Fingers pointed everywhere, no one is owning up.
    • Jesus, the true bridegroom, does the opposite, and so must every husband. That is what headship means. Owning the sins of your bride and interceding for her to the Lord.
  • Practically this means that if there is something that your wife does that drives you nuts, or if there is some besetting sin in her that frustrates you and causes conflict, the first thing you have to do is get on your knees before the LORD and say, “God I am responsible for my wife’s sin. Her anxiety, her fear, her envy, her sharp tongue, her gossip, whatever.” And you say, “Please forgive her, and make her holy. And please forgive me, for whatever I have contributed to her sin.” And then you can get up and confront her in a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 6:1), “my love, my bride, you are not allowed to speak that way, that displeases the Lord.”
  • This is how we take responsibility for the sins of our wife, and the reason we do this is because it makes her beautiful. Sin is ugly. Sin is not attractive. So why would you let sin remain in your home.
  • We see this in the example of Christ. Why did Christ die for his bride? (verse 26), “That he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.”
    • Christ’s sacrifice cleanses sinners. And to give ourselves up for our wife means to smear the blood of the lamb upon the doorposts of our shared household. It means to do as Job did, who rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt sacrifices for all ten of his children, just in case, one of them might have blasphemed. That is taking responsibility.
    • So do you offer a sacrifice of praise and confession on behalf of your wife and children? Do you plead with the Lord to forgive and cleanse your wife for the sake of Christ? Do you confess your own sins, and the ways you have failed as a husband?
    • This is what it means to be a righteous head. To be a perfect and upright man, and one that fears God as Job did.
    • God knows when we are bitter against our wife, and He knows when we are abdicating our responsibility for her and our children. And when we disobey, when husbands abdicate or abuse the authority God has given them, our prayers are hindered. God makes us miserable.
      • 1 Peter 3:7 says, Husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
      • Here is the higher standard. When men do not love their wife like Christ loves the church, Christ disciplines them. God stops listening to them. When we are harsh with our wife, we are saying, God be harsh with me. When husbands are unreliable and don’t keep their word, they are saying to God, be unreliable to me. And that is dangerous game to play.
  • The purpose for which we sacrifice ourselves for our wife is to make her beautiful. As it says in verse 27, “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
  • The love of Christ changes sinners, it is what we call effectual grace. And the love of a husband when he lays his down his life for his wife, has that same power to change her as well. Because that love and power comes from God.
  • True love beautifies. True love makes people glorious. Not overnight, but in time, Christ is making us without spot, blemish, or wrinkle. A wife’s appearance (both internal and external) is the husband’s responsibility. And it is our duty to present her without spot before the Lord.
  • All that we have is on loan from the Lord. If God gave you a wife, he is going ask for her back, and he wants her back more glorious than when he gave her to you. Same goes for your kids.
  • So husbands, are you seeking the sanctification and glorification of your wife and children? Because that is what Christ is seeking for us, and we get participate with him in that work.
  • In verses 28-29 we are given two other duties that flow from love.

Verses 28-29

28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.

  • Two Last Things: God requires husbands to nourish and cherish our wife.
    • To nourish (ἐκτρέφει) is to provide all that a woman needs for life and godliness. This includes her physical needs like food, clothing, and a place to live (Ex. 21:10). It also includes her spiritual needs like a good church, with elders who will discipline you if you abuse your headship, it means leading your wife in prayer and worship and the word. Making sure she is spiritually nourished in the Lord.
    • A husband is also to cherish (θάλπει) his wife. In Greek this carries the sense of gentleness and warmth.As a nurse cherishes a newborn, as a mother cherishes her baby, husbands are to cherish their wife, keeping her warm.
      • Christ gives the warmth of His Spirit to the church, He keeps the fire burning upon the hearth, and that is the duty of a husband. To be a gentle and warm presence, a place of protection, safety, and comfort from the world. The husband is to nourish and cherish his wife, even as the Lord does the church.


In Hebrew the word for glory is כָּבוֹד chavod. And chavod is something that is heavy, weighty, rich, honorable. Gold is chavod. A throne is chavod. When the Lord appears it is full of chavod.

  • Marriage is chavod. It is glorious, it is rich, but it is weighty. And Proverbs says that “before chavod is humility” (Pr. 15:22, Pr. 18:21), and “By humility, and the fear of the Lord come riches, life, and chavod” (Pr. 22:4).
  • And so to be a husband is carry a heavy burden of responsibility. And if that burden would be honor and not shame, glory and not dust, we must embrace it and carry it in the fear of the Lord. We must be willing to humble ourselves like Christ did for us.
  • And when we do that, when we take up our cross and deny ourselves, God is glorified. Christ is exalted. And that chavod that belongs to God is given to us. And so headship is an invitation to die for your bride and rise again. To die daily, and be resurrected daily.
  • This is the chief duty of a husband, to trust the Lord and obey him, to love your wife like Christ loved the church.
  • In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirt, Amen.