Our very own dear brother David Rosenberg shares a Father’s day message with scripture
The second greatest command is that we love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mark 12:31). Jesus teaches us, in the parable of the good Samaritan, that the person before us is our neighbor. This includes the stranger on the way but certainly also includes those with whom with live. A husband and a wife are clearly required by Scripture to love one another.
But when Scripture gives specific commands to husbands as husbands and to wives as wives, the emphasis in the commands to each is notably different. This is not a mistake. For example, wives are nowhere specifically commanded to love their husbands. In one passage (Eph 5:33), Paul exhorts the older women to teach the younger how to be “husband-lovers” (specifically philandros). The idea communicates warm affection and the attitude required for wives is one of respect.
Men, however, are commanded to love (agapao) their wives to the uttermost. First, they’re commanded to love their wives as they love their own bodies (Eph 5:28). Second, men are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25) There is no greater love, no greater sacrifice.
The Scriptures lay out our duties. Wives are to respect their husbands and husbands are to love their wives – when you look at how the husband and wife relate to one another we can see the harmony between what God requires and what we need to both give and receive.
The commands are given to our respective weaknesses. Men need to do their duty with respect to their wives – they need to love. Women need to also do their duty – they need to respect. But men are generally poor at loving. C.S. Lewis once commented that women tend to think of love as taking trouble for others (much closer to the Biblical definition) while men think of love as not giving trouble to others. Men need work in that area and are instructed by Scripture to undertake it. Likewise, women are fully capable of loving a man, and sacrificing for him, while believing the entire time that he is a complete jerk. Women are good at this type of love but the central command to them is that they respect their husbands. As Christian women gather together for prayer or study, they frequently talk about their husbands in the most disrespectful way. They then go home to care for the home, the husband, and the kids in a self-sacrificial way. Why? Because they love their husbands. It’s not wrong that they love their husbands but it’s wrong to substitute love for the respect that God requires of them.
Men have a need to be respected. Women have a need to be loved. But we’re often like the man who gives his wife a shotgun because he wanted one. When a wife is trying to work on a troubled marriage, for instance, she gives him what she would like (love), and not what God commands and not what he needs (respect). She loves him and tells him so but doe she respect him and tell him so?
We have difficulty because we don’t obey the Word of God. When a man communicates his love for his wife, in both words and actions, he should be trying to communicate to her the security and love of a covenantal commitment. He will provide for her, he will protect her, he will nourish and cherish her, he will sacrifice for her, and so forth. Her need is to be secure in his love for her. Her need is to also receive love from him.
When a wife honors and respects her husband, the process is different. Instead of concentrating on the security of the relationship, respect is directed to his abilities and achievements – how hard he works, how faithfully he comes home, how patient he is with the kids, how valuable his insights are, etc.
The theory is nice as we all agree that we should obey the command of God but we tend to fail in the execution and the specifics. But love is to be rendered to wives and respect is to rendered to husbands, because God requires it and NOT because any husband or wife has earned it. The command for husbands is this: love your wives. The command to wives is this: respect your husbands. It is important to remember that God requires of us far more than any of us deserve.
All human cultures are hierarchical. The Bible does not require submission of women to men but rather of a woman to a man. Far from making her submissive to other men, the Word protects her from obligations to other men. This provides an umbrella of protection for her – she is to be submissive to her own husband.
Some might say that the Christian doctrine of submission requires the belief that any man can lead any woman. This is false and it’s ridiculous. Women are not created to respond and submit to just any man. A godly woman is therefore going to limit here options. Those who understand the Word know they are created to be dependent and responsive to a man and she must be very selective about who she marries. A godly woman should never lower her standards – the consequences are too high. A smart woman should not marry a man who does not have the intellectual or spiritual strength for him. The idea that “love is blind” is a romantic and un-Biblical idea.
Thus, a woman submits to a man. A woman can cheerfully and gracefully acknowledge that there are many godly men that are not for her. Conversely, a man should cheerfully grant that there are many women that are his spiritual and intellectual “betters”. God created them to be submissive to their own husbands – not to him.
Our modern world is fond of the expression and idea of a “level playing field.” This is a inculturated form of envy. When we make our peace with God and are happy with what He provides then we do not gristle at the inequities that exist in His created order. It has been said, for instance, that the feminist confession is this: 1. Men are jerks. 2. Women should be like men.
So a Christian husband should respect the weaknesses of his wife and treat her as Christ does the church. He should protect and watch over her without condescension. The weakness, as Peter mentions, is God’s design and not her fault – in fact, it is no fault at all. Weakness is only a fault if it falls short of design but it is precisely as it is for God has made it so. A teacup may be weaker than a sledge hammer but try sipping tea from a sledge hammer.
This does not mean that women don’t have strength – only those that confuse masculine strength as the only real strength would make that foolish mistake. The husband is called to provide the foundational strength in the relationship and be a source of strength for her so she can develop strength within the loving, secure protection of the husband who is called to love her as Christ does His Church. Even when the wife is stronger than her husband in many different areas, he must be emotionally and spiritually strong enough to listen to her and assume responsibility in those areas as well.
A man must exercise authority for his wife’s sake and not his own. He must wield authority with a servant’s hear. In John 13:13-17, Jesus showed the way for leadership by washing the disciples’ feet. The husband is a Christian leader in the home and is called to imitate Christ in leadership. He must make a conscious decision to use his strength for his wife’s protection and benefit and not his own.
See Joshua 24:15
The word evangelical used to describe allegiance to the gospel but is now so abused it has lost much of its meaning. In the older sense, an evangelical was one who proclaimed the Gospel, literally a “Gospeller.” Husbands should be those who proclaim Christ and the Gospel in the marriage.
The evangelical world is throwing away its heritage. A husband must preserve that heritage. He must lead his home in worship. He must lead his home in instruction. He must lead his home in confession. He must strive to be the resident theologian in his home as he is called to teach his wife (1 Cor 14:35). A husband must know why he believes what he believes to communicate the truth to his whole family. He must protect his family from error. He must cultivate Godly virtue in the home. He should always treat his wife with affection and courtesy. He should never lose his temper when correcting or teaching his children. He should be a rock within the home.
In short, a husband must think in terms of being responsible for the home terrified at the responsibility given him by God but leaning upon His grace for it. He is the shepherd of his home and needs to be willing to sacrifice for all in his home. His great concern is the spiritual health of his wife and children. The buck stops with him and he should steel himself for the mission and not run from it. His great joy is to see his wife grow in spiritual loveliness and to hear his children’s children call upon the name of the Lord!
The Bible teaches that God placed Adam in the garden and gave him a job to do. But the man was incapable of accomplishing that task alone. Adam needed help and Woman was created to meet that need. (Gen 2:19-24)
We should now understand the connection between Adam’s work of naming the animals and the next phrase “…no suitable helper for him….” Adam has just given each animal a name suitable to its nature. As he named the animals, he realizes he has found no suitable helper – no animal with a nature comparable to his. He couldn’t just give the name “helper” to any animal.
God had already noted in a prior passage that this was not good that the man should be alone. Everything else was pronounced good. The statement that it is not good is a clear indication that the creation of man was incomplete (since good referred also to completion in previous verses). Adam was incomplete because he lacked a companion, one who could be a helper comparable to him.
The New Testament applies this truth in 1 Cor 11:9. The creation order orients man and woman to one another differently. They both need one another but they each need the other differently. The man needs the help; the woman needs to help.
One of the things that man cannot do alone is reproduce. In filling the earth, which is what God commanded, a man alone is completely helpless. So Malachi tells us that another purpose of marriage is the blessing of godly offspring. (Mal 2:15)
God tells us that one of the purposes for marriage is procreation. If it is a godly marriage then it should be godly procreation. God has said that He wants godly offspring. Malachi states that the means to that end is the importance of treating wives with honor. A man who treats his wife in an ill way will also have a negative effect on the children. Godly children are not said to give purpose to parenting, but rather they are a purpose of marriage.
Adam needed help before the Fall. He was also unable to multiply descendants alone before the Fall. So the first two reasons mentioned were necessary prior to the Fall and are not related to sin. But the third reason why Christians should marry is related to the presence of sin and temptation. Paul explains in 1 Cor 7:2-3.
We live in a fallen world and Christians frequently struggle with temptations to lust, fornication, and adultery. Scripture does not teach that these temptations will painlessly go away through some mysterious process of “trusting God.” In reality, the struggle for many is much more like sweating bullets than “letting go and letting God.” This should not surprise anyone for Scripture explains it. Peter says we are to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul…” (1 Pe 2:11). Paul uses the same violent metaphor when he says we must “put to death their members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5)
Much teaching on “trusting God” these days is filled with unbiblical mysticism but God provides a very practical help as they struggle with sexual temptation; the help is called sexual activity. Sexual protection is provided by frequent sexual relations with a spouse. There needs to be frequent protection, especially for the husband. At the same time, the benefit of sexual relationships should not be measured merely on how frequent it occurs. There needs to be qualitative protection, especially for the benefit of the woman.
When they read the bible, Christians frequently confuse indicatives and impreratives. An indicative “indicates” something. It is a statement of fact – there is no ought in it. The snow is cold, the man is strong, the car is red. Such indicative statements tell us the way things are. An imperative, on the other hand, is a command. It tells us what we must do. Close the door! Pick up your clothes! Go to bed! Thus if one says, the “shoes are outside” that is an indicative while “put your shoes outside” is an imperative.
Many Christians misunderstand the Scriptures by attempting to turn indicatives into imperatives. When it comes to the Gospel, the carnal mind loves to make this mistake. The Gospel itself is the Great Indicative. Faithful preachers proclaim what God has already done in the cross to save sinners, while sinful men try to turn the gospel message into something they may do to earn salvation.
The same confusion of grammar occurs when husbands seek to understand the Bible’s teaching on headship and authority in marriage. The Bible says the “husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church” (Eph 5:23) Paul clearly does not say that husbands ought to be the heads of their wives. He says that they are. In the verse, Paul is not telling us how marriages ought to function (that will follow). Rather he is telling what the marriage relationship between husband and wife is. Marriage is defined in part as the headship of a husband over a wife.
In the verses that follow some basic imperatives are given (love your wife) but nowhere are husbands commanded to be head to his wife. Why? Because he already is the head of his wife, by the very nature of marriage. If he does not love her, he is a poor head, but he is still the head.
Because the husband is the head, he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. If he attempts to dodge this in some way, he may, in his rebellion, lead poorly. But no matter what he does, or where he goes, he does so as the head of his wife. God has designed marriage in a way that men will always be dominant in marriage. If the husband is godly, then the dominance will not be harsh but will be the same self-sacrificial love demonstrated by Christ. If a husband runs away from headship, that weakness will dominate the home. If he leaves his family altogether, he will dominate in and by his absence. Think about how many children have grown up in homes dominated by an empty chair at the table. In homes where the “woman wears the pants”, the wimpiness of the husband is the most obvious thing about the marriage, creating a miserable marriage. His abdication dominates.
In the Ephesians passage, Paul tells us that husbands provide a picture of Christ and the church. Because of sin and rebellion, many of these pictures are slanderous lies concerning Christ but a husband can never stop talking about Christ and church. If he is attempting to obey by the Grace of God, then he is preaching the truth in his marriage; if he does not love his wife, he is speaking apostasy and lies – but he is talking. If he deserts his wife he is saying that “…this is the way that Christ deserts his bride” – a lie! If he is harsh with his wife and beats her, he is saying that Christ is harsh with the Church – a lie. If he sleeps with another woman he is an adulterer and a blasphemer. How could Christ love anyone other than His Church? How could Christ be unfaithful? For a few moments of pleasure, some men bring themselves to slander the faithfulness of Christ.
That this seems so strange to many in the Church is a testimony to how much feminism and unbiblical ideas of marriage have infected the Church from the world. Nonetheless, the dominance of the husband is an indicative in Scripture. It is a fact. It is inescapable. The only choice left is whether the dominance will be a loving and constructive dominion or a hateful and destructive tyranny. Arguing over the fact of male headship is quite like arguing with the fact of gravity. You can argue with gravity all you want but you’re still going to fall to the ground if you jump off a building.
All the compromise with worldly ideas of equality cannot undo what God has ordained and stated. But what the compromise does do is bring in rebellion and sin. This rebellion keeps husbands from obeying the imperative – to love their wives. The result is husbands who deny their headship and, consequently, refuse to love their wives as instructed.1
1 Doug Wilson, Reforming Marriage
We think of love as some sort of feeling within us but love is really manifest by what we do when the feelings are not present. Instead of obedience or love based on an inward “feeling” of fondness, we do the things which are representative of one who truly cares. Changing a baby’s diaper is not pleasant and the child would suffer if parents waited until they had fond feelings of handling human excrement.
Many can “fake” an attempt at keeping God’s standards by focusing merely on the externals. What we cannot fake is the aroma of a life that lives in genuine love for God. Jesus taught that cups must be cleansed from the inside out. So it is with families. The “inside relationship” in any family is the relationship between husband and wife. They are called to consciously strive to relationship of Christ and the Church.
This is not about some simplistic system. True obedience will always frustrate the crowd that thinks that all of Christian living is bough in “How to” manuals and “paint by numbers” instructions. The mere copyist can say what the unregenerate Saul could say, “concerning the righteousness which is in the law, I am blameless….” While he may deceive himself, the externalist can imitate godliness but will never possess the substance of it. Only Christ produces that in a transformed heart that depends upon Him for strength and righteousness. The aroma of a man proceeds from his heart and men cannot produce new hearts by their own strength.
Thus, the basis of all of a Biblical marriage is a man and a woman who are first, and foremost, Christian. God does not give His commands so they can be patched on top of a humanistic or pagan framework. God doesn’t come to “round us out” because we’re pretty good already.
God is Lord of heaven and earth and His creatures have the moral responsibility to acknowledge His preeminence in everything they do – including how they marry. Those who have this orientation, man and wife in a covenant bond, enjoy a Christian marriage. Others claim God with their mouths but deny His preeminence with their lives and do so at their own peril. Maturity in the Lord is a prerequisite for a mature marriage.
Adam first noticed a lack of a suitable helper after naming the animals (Gen 2:20-21). When Adam was naming the animals, he wasn’t just handing out random labels. Names in the ancient world were significant and named the nature and character of the thing named. This is very important in the naming of Eve because, in the naming of animals, Adam saw none who could be appropriately named as a helper suitable for him.
After his wife is created, Adam receives her, and names her (Gen 2:23-24). Verse 24 show that Adam and Ishshah (Woman) were a paradigmatic couple. They were NOT just any two individuals. Christ Himself appeals to this creation ordinance when condemning divorce. The temptation is to think that God only joined Adam and Eve together as individuals. In reality, Christ insists, that when God joined them together, He was joining together every man and woman who has ever come together sexually in a covenant bond. This is why divorce and adultery are so sinful.
At this point, Adam had not named his wife Eve yet. Adam gave his wife two individual names. The first was Ishshah, or Woman, because she was taken out of man. The second was Chavvah – life-bearer, or Eve in English. (Gen 3:20) Both names, in their giving, reveal truth about her. The first reveals her dependence on man – she was taken from him. The second reveals man’s dependence on her – every man since is her son! The Epistles remind us to remember that each wife is an Ishsha, and each wife is a Chavvah. Each is Woman, and each is Eve. (1 Cor 11:11-12) Notice Paul’s progression: Woman came from man (Ishshah), even so man also comes through woman (Chavvah); but all things are from God (Adam).
Thus God began the practice of calling our first parents by the collective name Adam or man or mankind. Modern rejections of this use that seek to be “gender inclusive” and “sensitive” actually destroy the spiritual meaning within it. (We are also all called “Sons of God” in the NT – this is not a mistake that God made). The taking of the man’s name is not “…just something we do.” It is covenant security. It is a recognition that God has joined us to be joined together as one.1
1 Doug Wilson, Reforming Marriage