Rekindling the Dying Fire
Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)
Any Christian husband knows that obeying this command is an awe-filled, humbling task. Our tendency is to err in one of two directions. Some of us abdicate while others dominate. You are abdicating your responsibilities to your wife when you embrace passivity in your marriage, when you neglect your calling to love her sacrificially. Men instinctively move toward abdication. Adam in the garden told God that the woman he gave him was the cause of his disobedience. We have tried to pass the buck ever since. Some, in an effort to make sure they lead their wives, fall instead into dominating them, lording their authority over them, controlling them, running roughshod over their feelings, desires, needs. In either extreme the result surely will be agitation. A wife’s anger, bitterness, wrath, strife, inability to trust her husband with money or other women, and her tendency to languish emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes even physically can be traced to the treatment she receives from her husband.
No wonder that after several years of marriage the passion fires can dissipate. No wonder both parties find themselves drifting into separate hobbies, recreations, vacations, and bedrooms. Remember this – the loss of love in a marriage (when your wife says that you do not love her anymore) is the husband’s fault. Strife, turmoil, and bickering are usually the wife’s fault, but they stem from her husband’s failure to love her as he ought, according to the prescription of the Apostle Paul.
So, what must any husband do to rekindle the dying fire of love in his marriage? In order to rekindle he must first repent. Repent of what? Of not loving his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. The Apostle, after stating the wife’s subordinate role of submission, commands husbands to consider the love of Christ for his church. Paul later says the one flesh principle of Genesis 2:24, 25 is a mystery where Christ and his church are a type for marriage. Looking at Christ’s love for his church is to drive us to see how we are to love our wives. The love of Christ for his church is the model, ground, or foundation of a husband’s love for his wife (see John 3:16, 1 John 4:10). This love is never a mere feeling. It is active, purposeful, intentional. The character of this love is found in the fact that Christ willingly gave himself up for us. Paul uses the same language in Ephesians 5:1, 2 where he commands us to mimic God, to walk in love because Christ loved us and gave himself for us. The Greek text here has an interesting construction which reveals the intentionality of Christ’s love for us. It uses three hina clauses. These are purpose clauses- that he might sanctify her . . . that he might present to himself the church in all her glory . . . that she might be holy and blameless. Many think Paul is calling husbands to sanctify their wives by teaching them God’s Word so that they may be prepared to meet God on that great day. Certainly a husband is to teach and lead his wife, but I suggest this is not what Paul is stressing here. Instead he is wanting us to step back, take a long look as it were, at the remarkable, steadfast, sacrificial, eternal love of Christ for his church. He wants this love to grip us, to dominate our very souls. Our tendency as men is to see a problem and to move quickly to fix it. You probably are looking for three easy steps to rekindle your marriage. These sorts of things have only limited success. Real change, a real rekindling of love in your marriage, will come as the Holy Spirit rekindles your sense of the Triune God’s love for you.
Christian husband, will you survey the love of God for you in Christ? Do you not see the intentionality of his great love? In the so-called covenant of redemption in eternity past the Lord Jesus willingly offered to become human flesh in order to die for your sins, to be raised again for your justification. He said that he came to do his Father’s will. He said that he must work while it is still day, for when night comes no man can work. Luke tells us that he resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem. He said that he came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. He said, ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.’ Jesus did not embrace passivity. He offered himself up for you. Jesus does not abuse his position and power. He rightly demands our submission but he always leads in love, purity, and gentleness. The Father’s supreme plan has always been the salvation of his people for all the ages, all to the praise of the glory of his grace. The remarkable truth is that God has positionally sanctified you (putting you into a category of being righteous, called as saints) and he is also progressively sanctifying you, making you more like Jesus, by chastising, teaching, and leading you into all truth. He has washed you with the regenerating waters of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:25, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Titus 3:5), giving you a heart to love God and hate sin. He has declared you not guilty, having imputed to you his very righteousness or perfection. And He promises to take you to heaven when you die, to glorify you. Revelation 19 says that we are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb, having been clothed with white garments. Positional sanctification, regeneration, justification, and glorification are all mentioned in Paul’s treatment of Christ’s love for his church mentioned in Ephesians 5:25-27.
Husbands, you will rekindle your love for your wife, you will repent of not loving her as you ought, when you are slain, overwhelmed, awed by the love of God for you in Christ. When you continue to hold to the notion that you have something to offer God, then you will continue in hard-hearted rebellion against God and your wife.
I could write pages on this topic, but I must stop. But consider this one last concept. In Hebrews 2 the writer tells us that Christ is no longer ashamed to call us his brethren, that through death he has rendered powerless him who had the power of death, that is the devil; and has removed the fear of death which held us in slavery all our days. Think about that. Meditate upon it. Ask God to stir up within you a new, experiential awareness of God’s remarkable, eternal, covenantal love for you. Seek it, and when you have it, when it wells up in your heart, then it will naturally spill out to those around you, especially your wife. You will want to serve her, to consider her needs, to sacrifice for her, to be intentional in putting her needs before your own. You will be grieved at abusing your role. You will delight to love her willfully, thoughtfully, thoroughly.
Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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