Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
– Ephesians 5:25-27
1. Put Her First
Sacrifice is in view here, as is the understanding of “sanctify” in the sense of “setting apart for special use,” as in consecration. Husbands honor their wives not among others, but before and above others.
2. “Gospel” Her
Yes, I know it’s not a verb, but you get my meaning here. The passage says Jesus sanctifies the church by “washing” her with the water of the word. The understanding of “sanctify” as “cleanse” is in view here, and a husband who wants to sanctify his wife will share with her the word of God, speak to her the word of God, remind her who she is in Christ, forgive her sins, give her the opportunity to forgive his in word-driven repentance, and in general make sure she is gently, lovingly covered in the Scriptures.
3. Protect Her
Husbands will present their wives in some way to the Lord when that roll is called up yonder as an evidence of their own faithfulness to him. Do we want to be proven true children of God, full of faith in Jesus and his gospel? Then we will show the fruit of faithful husbanding, which is a wife “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” No, we cannot sanctify our wives the way the Spirit does, and no, neither our salvation nor our wife’s salvation is contingent upon our perfect husbanding (thank God!), but manhood is responsibility-taking, and this means taking the responsibility to shield our wives from sin and its temptations, accusations, attacks, unnecessary burdens, hurtful expectations and assumptions, and the like. This can mean everything from taking on housework so she gets to rest or go out with friends to warding off or rebuking people who take advantage of her. It also means no verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. It means no pornography or sexual exploitation. It means treating her and ensuring treatment of her that is gentle, loving, and edifying.
4. Serve Her
How did Jesus the King position himself over the church as its head? By becoming its servant, sacrificing to the point of death in loving service to her betterment.
5. Lead Her
This encompasses all of the above and more. Male headship requires repetitious repentance, deep humility, desperate God-reliance, and a high, passionate commitment to the grace of God for the glory of God, not the gratification of self for the glory of self. Lead, don’t push. Set an example in speech and conduct. Show yourself flawed but trustworthy but God as failproof. Refuse to make excuses or pass the buck. Shoulder the burdens and take responsibility.
Coming up: 5 Ways Wives Can Encourage Their Husbands