In this lesson, from Ephesians 5, you will discover what it means for the husband to love his wife like Christ loved the church. Loving your wife calls for you to have a savior mindset, which causes you to sacrifice all you have for her.

We are in a series of lessons on what the Bible has to say to husbands and wives. Regardless of whether you are married or not, you need to know what God’s Word says about marriage so you can prepare for marriage or be able to share God’s truth about marriage and defend God’s design for marriage whenever the subject comes up.

Today I want us to take a look at what it means for a husband to love his wife. Ephesians 5:25-31 spells out in detail how a husband is to treat his wife. Let’s begin with the basic command that encompasses a husband’s calling to love his wife. Verse 25 says, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church” (NLT). What does it mean for a husband to love his wife like Christ loved the church? Let’s unpack it a little bit at a time.

  • The word “love” has been used and abused and misused over the years. Using the same word I can say “I love my wife” and “I love to go fishing.” The love (agape) Ephesians refers to is a love that is driven by a commitment and dedication for another person’s well-being. It’s not driven my feelings or convenience. It’s driven by dedication to the other person. This is the same type of love you find in John 3:16 where we are told that God loved the world so much that He gave His Son. This is the same type of love we find when we read “love your neighbor” and “love your enemies.” This type of love says, “I’m committed to you and I’m dedicated to you.” So husband, you are to love your wife with complete dedication and commitment even if she becomes your enemy.
  • Now look at the phrase “just as Christ loved the church.” This is the standard, the example, and the model of how husbands are to love their wives. How you love your wife is not based on how other men love their wives. How you love your wife is not based on how easy your wife makes it to love her. She may be the most hard headed woman on the planet, but you are to love her like Jesus loved the church.

The question then is, “How did Jesus love the church?” He loved the church like a savior would love the church. Jesus went to the cross for the church. Jesus was crucified for the church. Jesus gave his life for the church. He was the church’s savior. Jesus had a savior mentality when it came to the church.

As a husband you are to have a savior mentality toward your wife if you are to love your wife like Christ loved the church. Let me be clear here. Only Jesus can eternally save you and your wife. He is the only way to salvation. He is the only one who can get you into heaven. Having a savior mindset toward your wife is not about you eternally saving your wife, it’s about you having the attitude of a savior toward your wife.

As our Savior, Jesus expressed His loved toward us in three major ways. He expressed his love toward us through His sacrifice, His suffering, and His act of substitution for us on the cross. If you are going to love your wife like Christ the loved the church you will need to do the same. You will need to sacrifice for her, suffer for her, and become her substitute in many ways. What does all that mean? As a husband who wants to love his wife like Christ loved the church, you will do three things.

A husband is to sacrifice for his wife

Number one, like a savior a husband is to sacrifice for his wife. Ephesians 5:25 says, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church” (NLT). Your example of loving your wife is based on how Jesus loves the church.

Jesus the Sacrifice

One of the ways Jesus loved the church was by sacrificing for her. The last part of verse 25 tells us, “He gave up His life for her….” (NLT). That’s referring to the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross so that sinners like you and me could be saved. Romans 3:25 says, “For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood” (NLT). Jesus demonstrated his love for the church when He sacrificed his life for the church. So if a husband’s love for his wife is to be like Christ’s love for the church, we could say that his love should be in the shape of a cross.

Husband the Sacrifice

Husbands, this means that if you are going to love your wife like Christ loved the Church then you must be willing to sacrifice for her like a savior would. Now, most men don’t want to hear about crosses and sacrifice. We want to hear about how we’re supposed to be wearing a crown as the king of our castle. But God says to every husband who wants their marriage to be strong and solid, your love needs to be sacrificial love just like Jesus sacrificial love for the church.

Another way to look at this is to ask a tough and uncomfortable question: “When your wife looks at you, does she see a man who sacrifices for her?” To sacrifice for your wife means to give up your desires, opinions, preferences, and plans for your wife. Sacrificing for your wife involves being willing to nail your desires and your agenda to the cross to love your wife, to make her feel cherished, and to help her grow spiritually.

One of the interesting places where you hear “give yourself up” terminology today is in the game of baseball, which has a play called the sacrifice bunt.

The basic play is simple. The batter gives up his chance to take his three swings at the ball so he can lay down a bunt and move the runner or runners along. The batter who sacrifices is almost always thrown out at first. In fact, that’s the plan because he doesn’t want the runner or runners ahead of him to be thrown out and lose the chance to score.

What’s interesting is the mental process involved when a batter looks up and sees the third-base coach give the bunt sign. The need for a sacrifice bunt often comes at a crucial point in the game, when one run could make the difference between winning and losing.

God has called every husband to lay down a sacrifice bunt for his wife, so to speak. There are going to be times in your life when your Coach/God speaks to your heart and says it’s time to sacrifice. It’s time to bunt. If you want the team members to move forward, if you want your marriage and wife to move forward and win you need to sacrifice on this play.

Sacrifice involves what is best for the other person, not necessarily what is best for you. Jesus gave up heaven to save us, not because He had to, but because He chose to. Jesus’ example of how He sacrificed for us is the husband’s example of how we are to sacrifice for our wife. This is what I mean when I say you need to become your wife’s savior. You sacrifice for her like a savior would.

A husband is to suffer for his wife

Number two, like a savior a husband is to suffer for his wife.  Remember, your example, the standard which you establish and base your love for your wife is Jesus’ love for the church. God’s Word is saying take a hard look at how Jesus expressed His love for the church through how He offered Himself as a savior. Not only did Jesus sacrifice Himself for the church, but He also suffered for the church as a savior. A savior sacrifices for others and suffers for others well-being. As a husband you must suffer for your wife. You must approach your wife like a suffering savior. Let me explain.

Jesus the Sufferer

When Jesus Christ was in the garden, He prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Matt. 26:39, NLT). The cross was difficult for Jesus to face because He knew of the great amount of suffering He would have to go through. But Jesus also knew there was no other way to accomplish our salvation, so He concluded His prayer by saying, “I want your will to be done, not mine.” Sacrifice brings suffering. Sometimes you will have to abandon your will and desire for the greater good of your wife and marriage.

Husband the Sufferer

To love your wife with self-sacrificial love is going to hurt sometimes. Jesus called us as His people to take up our cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34). Husbands, that means there will be those days you have to humble yourself and pick up your cross and suffer for your wife.

What does that suffering look like?

  • Husbands can suffer for their wife by dying to their plans and preferences. There will be days you will give up what you want for the need and well-being of your wife. This is being like Jesus in your marriage. This is saying, “Not my will” in this matter. Sometimes you are going to watch what she wants to watch and do what she wants to do. Sometimes you are going to stay home and not go fishing, not go golfing, not go do whatever it is you do. You are going to be like Jesus who said, “Not my will, not my desire on this one.”
  • Husbands can suffer for their wife by how the wife responds. You may sacrifice for your wife and you may suffer for your wife and you may be a great example of Jesus loving your woman but she may not respond the way you would like her to respond. She may doubt your sincerity or turn a cold shoulder to you or challenge you or simply ignore and blow off your suffering and sacrifice for her. If she does that (and I hope she doesn’t) don’t let that surprise you because that’s exactly how some people treated Jesus when He sacrificed and suffered for them. But remember, you don’t love your wife based on how she reacts, you love your based on the example of Christ.

God designed marriage. He created women. God is telling you to love your wife like a savior. Sacrifice for her. Suffer for her. Somewhere along the way she will look at you and say in her heart, “That man really loves me.”

A husband is to substitute for his wife

Number three, like a savior a husband is to substitute for his wife. Remember, we are trying to understand what it means to love our wives based on how Christ loved the church. As a Savior, Jesus sacrificed for the church by dying on the cross. As a Savior, Jesus suffered for the church by giving up His will for the well-being of the church. But also as a Savior, Jesus substituted Himself for the church by offering to take the punishment for our sin. Let me show you this principle.

Jesus the substitute

As our Savior, Jesus substituted himself for us. Instead of us going to the cross for our sins, He went to the cross for our sins. Instead of us having God’s wrath placed on us, God’s wrath was placed on Him. He took our debt of sin and paid it for us. He became our substitute.

We get a glimpse of this in 1 Peter 3:18 which says, “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God” (HCSB). When Jesus went to the cross He didn’t cry out and argue with people about how right He was and how wrong they were. He didn’t list all the miracles He had done for the people. He didn’t talk about all the blessing He brought them. He didn’t talk about how the people lied about Him and to Him. He didn’t talk about how He was betrayed and beaten and taken advantage of. He thought and talked like a Savior who understood it would be “the righteous for the unrighteous.” He would take the punishment for our sin. This was not about what’s fair or right. This was about being our substitute. He took the punishment. Our sin became his. He carried the weight we should have carried.

Husband the substitute

As a husband your example is Jesus the substitute, but how do you become the husband who is the substitute for his wife? Remember, we are trying to love our wife like Christ loved the church. One of the ways Jesus loved the church was by becoming a substitute for our sins. How does this translate into your marriage? How do you become your wife’s substitute?

A “substitute” is a person that takes the place or function of another. There are going to be times you will need to take her place or function in her role. This means several things.

  • You become her substitute when you do for her what she can’t do for herself. We could not pay for our own sin, but Jesus could. He came into our life and did for us what we could not do for ourselves. There are things your wife cannot do, but you can. It may not be clear to you right now what that is, but some day you will see a need in her life that you can become her substitute and do something for her that she could not do for herself. When you see that elderly man feeding his wife who no longer can feed herself, you see a man substituting for his wife. When you see that younger man telling his sick wife to enjoy the evening and relax and he gets supper ready, cleans the kitchen, baths the kids, and puts them to bed. That’s a man substituting for his wife.
  • You become her substitute when you take ownership of her life. When you got married your wife took on your name and all of her became your responsibilities. Her college debt, became your debt. You took her place in paying off that loan. You became her substitute. Her illnesses became your illnesses. Her problems became your problems. Her weaknesses became your weaknesses. As her husband, you now have the responsibility to step into the gap and represent her in the matter. You become her champion, her defender, her protector, her provider, her warrior and her knight in shining armor. You take ownership and responsibility of her life. Just like when a substitute teacher shows up, he takes ownership and responsibilities for what happens in that classroom.
  • You become her substitute when you pay for her mistakes. There may be days where it feels like you are having to pay for her consequences and be punished for her foolishness or sins. Sometimes a wife’s actions hurt her, her you and the children. When you start feeling like you are paying for your wife’s mistakes, you are feeling like a savior who is substitute.

If you are going to love your wife, like Christ loved the church you will need to think like a savior who is willing to sacrifice for his wife, suffer for his wife, and become her substitute when the time comes.