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God’s New Family: An Exposition of Ephesians (LII) God’s Household Rules: Marriage and Family (7) Love You Wife(4)

The Lord’s Day
September 3, 2006

Ephesians 5:28-30
God’s New Family: An Exposition of Ephesians (LII)
Household Rules: Marriage and Family (7)
“Love Your Wife (4)”

Dr. J. Ligon
Duncan III

Amen. Please be seated.
We’re continuing our study of Ephesians tonight, and we’ll be doing so
throughout the rest of the autumn, God willing. Let me just refresh you as to
where we are. This morning we outlined the whole passage. We commented that in
addition to the apostle’s command in Ephesians 5:25 for husbands to love their
wives, he had given two analogies or illustrations to explain to husbands
exactly what it was he was expecting us as Christian husbands to do towards our
wives in the way of love.

The first analogy we studied this morning from verse
25-27. It is an analogy of Christ’s love for the church, and we noted that it
entails our appreciating Christ’s delight in the church. If we don’t understand
how Christ delights in His church, how He delights in His people, how He
nourishes and cherishes and cares for His people, how the glorification of His
church is at the very center of His purposes, then we’ll fail to appreciate the
fullness of this picture, this illustration, this analogy that Paul is giving to
us as husbands as to how we are to love our wives.

Then we said, in those final words of Ephesians
5:25, we have this stunning call to husbands to love their wives in light of
Christ’s self-giving, to love our wives in light of Christ giving Himself for
the church. In other words, the Apostle Paul is pointing us to the atonement.
He’s pointing us to the cross of Christ, and he’s saying ‘Christian husbands,
there’s the picture of how Christ cares for His church. There’s the picture of
how you are to care for your own wives.’ And so we thought about the church, and
we thought about the atonement this morning.

And then, when we looked at Ephesians 5:26, we saw
the purpose of Christ’s self-giving. His purpose in His people was to cleanse
and sanctify. His purposes in His redeeming work were to forgive us of our sins,
to cleanse us of our sins, and to grow us in grace and holiness and godliness
and character, so that we would become more and more the very image of God, even
as He first created us before the fall; so that we would look more and more like
our heavenly Father; so that we would be more and more like the Lord Jesus
Christ in our moral character and our behavior, in our integrity, in the
attributes of our being and personality. And so the Lord Jesus Christ seeks to
sanctify His church, and so also husbands are to nourish and cherish their wives
so that they might grow in grace.

Then, in verse 27 we saw this morning that the
ultimate goal that Christ has in view for His church is the day when He will
present her to Himself perfect, faultless, without blemish. He’s pointing to the
marriage feast of the Lamb, when the bride and the Bridegroom will finally be
united. And He has expended Himself. He has come for His church, lived for His
church, died for His church, been resurrected for His church. He’s ascended on
high for His church. He’s interceding for His church, even as we sang tonight,
as her Great High Priest, so that one day she will be entirely perfected, not
just forgiven; forgiven, to be sure–perfectly forgiven, to be sure; but not just
forgiven, but perfected in holiness, so that there is not a blemish, a spot, or
a wrinkle in her.

We said the earthly picture of that that grips our
hearts and minds is the picture of a wedding ceremony, and that bride in her
white gown coming to be united with her bridegroom. And Christ holds that before
the eyes of husbands, and He says ‘Now, husbands, love her in light of what she
will be. Love her in light of what I, Christ, her Savior, her Maker, Defender,
Redeemer, and Friend, am purposing to make her, and to do for her one day.’

And so we looked at the church, and at atonement,
and at sanctification, and at glorification, this morning.

Well, tonight we turn to the second analogy–the
second illustration or picture that the Apostle Paul gives.
And let me say
that if you look at the outline that I’ve provided for you, I’ve simply headed
it as “Love Your Wife in the Same Way You Take Care of Yourself.”

Now at first glance this analogy could look like
simply a base appeal to human self-interest,
something like this: ‘Husbands,
after all, you’re really only doing yourself a favor if you love your wife.’

You know…it could be some sort of a variation on
that human dictum that we hear all the time: “A happy wife is a happy life.” You
know that one? Or the way we do it in the negative: “When mama ain’t happy,
ain’t nobody happy!” OK? You could be tempted to read it this way. I mean, you
could say, “Well, maybe these thick-headed husbands that the Apostle Paul is
talking to in Ephesus and in Jackson don’t get this exalted analogy and
illustration of the Christological nature of marriage. They don’t realize the
profundity of the church and of sanctification and glorification, so the Apostle
Paul’s going to hit them from the other end: ‘Look, if you don’t do it for that
reason, at least do it for your own self-interest.’” But if we really look
closely at what the Apostle Paul is doing here, it’s far from that.

He does indeed start with a tremendous reality about
the husband’s relationship to the wife at the human level, at the level of
marriage. But each step down, as the verses go on for the rest of this chapter
to the very end, Paul is taking us down even more deeply into a second
illustration that points to Christ. As the first illustration especially
pointed to Christ’s atoning and then His sanctifying and glorifying work, this
second illustration will point to the profound mystery of the union of Christ
with His body, which is pictured in the union of a husband and a wife in
marriage; and especially of a Christian husband and a Christian wife in

So with that background, let’s look to God’s word in
Ephesians 5, beginning in verse 28. And before we do, let’s pray.

Lord, thank You for Your word. We ask again that
You would help us to understand it; and as we grasp it, You would also plant in
our hearts, especially the hearts of those of us who are husbands…sinful
husbands, stumbling husbands, not the husbands we ought to be…that You would
plant in our hearts a desire to love our wives this way; that You would grant to
our wives the patience to wait to see our desires grow and our performance to be
conformed to what You have called upon us in Your word. We ask, O Lord, that You
would help us tonight again; by Your Spirit there would be a great resolution in
the depths of our hearts to love our wives differently and better than before,
realizing that there is something bigger going on in our marriages than just our
own happiness. There’s a grand story to be played out, and the fullness of our
happiness awaits our realization of that grander story. Grant us to see this,
for Christ’s sake. Amen.

“So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who
loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but
nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are
members of His body.”

Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired,
and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.

Just like this morning, the Apostle Paul is
reiterating the love command from God to Christian husbands, and the Apostle
Paul is telling us that God expects Christian husbands to love their wives. But
now the analogy, the illustration, has changed. Now Christian husbands are
called to love their wives not in light of Christ’s self-giving sacrifice on the
cross for the sake of His church, but Christian husbands are called to love
their wives by nourishing and cherishing them the way they would their own
bodies, their own selves, because of the way Christ cares for His body, the

And in order to appreciate the fullness of what
Paul is saying, let’s break this into three parts tonight.
And I want you to
see first in verse 28 what Paul says that your wife is, Christian husband.
Secondly, in verse 29…really, just the first half of verse 29…I want you to
see what Paul says love looks like for your wife. And then, thirdly, in verse
30, I want you to see this mystery that Paul begins to unfold, a mystery that
will continue to unfold, by the way, in verses 31-33, when we look at it next
Lord’s Day evening, God willing: this mystery that we are Christ’s body.

I. Love your wife as your own
Well, let’s look at verse 28 together. Here
the exhortation is: “Husbands, love your wives as your own bodies.” Listen to
the whole verse again:

“So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who
loves his own wife loves himself….”

Paul’s exhortation there is ‘Husbands, love your wife as
your own body, as your own self.’

I want you to appreciate how radical is what the
Apostle Paul is saying. He is not saying ‘Husbands, love your wife as if she
were your own body.’ He’s not saying ‘Husbands, you know when you get hungry,
you feed your body; and when you’re cold, you put more clothes on your body. And
when you want to do something, you provide that for yourself. And just like you
do that for yourself, do that for your wife.’ No, he’s saying something far more
radical than that.

He is saying ‘Husbands, loving your wife is loving
your own body, because she is your own body.’ It’s a very radical exhortation,
and it’s so important for us to appreciate this, because sometimes in the
context of marriage there is a husband so wounded, so hurt, so disappointed that
he wants to get back at his wife, and he wants to hurt her in some way. Perhaps
it’s with his words. She’s wounded him, and so he wants to wound her with his
words, and he knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s going to say something that
will hurt, and that she’ll remember for hours or for days, or for weeks, because
he’s been hurt, and so he’s going to deliver this wound. Or, perhaps he’s going
to ignore her. Or perhaps he’s going to explode in anger with her. Perhaps he’s
going to attempt to wound her in some other way, to get back at her for the pain
that he has endured. But the Apostle Paul is sitting there waiting for us and
reminding this Christian husband of something very important here, and that is
simply this: When you hurt her, you are hurting your own body, because she is

Now again, I want to say, just as I said this
morning, I am not saying that that means that in marriage that the distinct
personalities of husband and wife are evacuated, and you are somehow assimilated
into one another so that there is no “I and thou” in relationship.
not what the Apostle Paul is saying. But he is saying in a very real sense,
based upon what Moses taught in Genesis 2, that your wife is your own body. He’s
going to quote Genesis 2 in just a couple of verses. You can look down and see
it for yourself in verse 31. And his point there is what? That when marriage
occurs, a man leaves his father and mother and he cleaves to his wife. And what
happens? The two become “one flesh.” They become one body. And so when a husband
is loving his wife, who is he loving? His own flesh. His own body.

The Apostle Paul is saying that somehow, in some
mysterious way, a way that is beyond anything that I can fully describe, there
is a continuation of that reality that began with Adam and Eve.
Do you
remember where Eve came from? Adam came from dirt. You know, when somebody is
teaching you the theory of evolution and tells you that you came from a monkey,
you can respond and say, “Well, actually the Bible tells me that I came from
dirt. That’s where I came from. God made me from the dirt.”

But not the woman. The woman came out of man, out of
his side. She was literally a part of him, and the Apostle Paul is saying in
some mysterious way that reality continues to obtain in the relationship between
a husband and wife, so that when you’re getting back at her, dear brother in
Christ, all you are doing is getting back at yourself. But conversely, when you
serve her, when you love her, when you cherish her, when you nourish her, you
are nourishing yourself because she is you. I don’t know how more radically I
can state it than that. When you serve her, you are serving your own body,
because husbands have their wives and live with them in a one-flesh
relationship. Love your wife, the Apostle Paul is saying, as your own body, as
your own self.

He states it baldly, doesn’t he, at the end of verse
28? “He who loves his own wife loves himself.” He’s not saying that
figuratively; he’s not saying that psychologically; he’s saying that literally
in a way that I can’t completely fathom. That’s the first thing that the
Apostle Paul wants us to appreciate: The relationship that God has established,
this one-flesh relationship that He has established between husband and wife, is
such that as you serve your wife you are serving your own body.

II. Love your wife as you
care for your own body/self
Now, as I said, that’s the horizontal
marital level at which this analogy begins, but watch him now progress deeper
and deeper into this truth.
Let’s look at the next verse, verse 29.

Here he specifies. OK, how is it that you’re going
to go about loving your wife who is your own body? Well, you’re going to do it
by nourishing and cherishing her. Look at what he says:

“No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and
cherishes it….”

In other words, the Apostle Paul is saying here
‘Love your wife as you care for yourself’… even in the same way that God has
given to us native instincts to care for ourselves. Someone throws an object at
you, what do you do? You automatically protect yourself. You’re hungry: you seek
to feed yourself. You’re thirsty: you seek something to drink. You’re in need of
something: you seek to supply that need. We have an instinct for
self-preservation. We have an instinct for self-provision. We have an instinct
for self-care, for self-provision, for self-protection. It’s a very strong
instinct. [By the way, the Apostle Paul is not saying here that there’s no such
thing as a person who struggles with thoughts of self-loathing, but it’s so
interesting that very often even those people that wrestle with problems of
self-loathing seek help for their self-loathing, indicating that deep down
somewhere there is a concern for themselves, because God has built that instinct
into us, and when things are functioning right, it’s there.] The Apostle Paul is
saying here ‘Husbands, you have that natively for yourself, but here’s what I
want you to do. I want you to cultivate that instinct in relation to your wife,
so that your instinct is for her protection.’

I don’t want to embarrass them, but many of you will
remember a couple of years ago when David Robertson and his family were visiting
in Jackson–the Scottish minister from St. Peter’s, Dundee. And Warner Mitchell
was driving them around Twin Lakes, and there was a place that had been roped
off on the road with a steel wire, and they were driving about at dusk in one of
the golf carts, showing them around Twin Lakes. And as they approached this
steel wire (which was about at neck level) traveling at a fairly rapid speed in
the golf cart, Warner at the very last second saw that steel wire coming, and
David Robertson had…there was one child sitting right next to him…and
grievous, grievous damage and loss of life could have occurred if Warner had not
done something totally non-instinctive. What normally would you do when you see
some sort of a wire coming? You duck, you get out of the way! If Warner had done
that, David Robertson’s child would have died, almost certainly. But he did
something totally abnormal. He didn’t duck, he put those big arms of Warner’s,
those big forearms up, and blocked that wire and saved the life of that child in
the cart. It was not instinctive. I don’t know what possessed him to do that,
but I think the Apostle Paul is saying to Christian husbands something like

You have a natural instinct to protect yourself, to
provide for yourself, to care for yourself. Now cultivate that instinct in the
provision for and the care of and the protection of your wife, so that it
becomes second nature that you are going to give yourself in the love and
serving, in the nourishment and cherishing, in the care and protection of your

“No one ever
hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.”

That instinct that you have to provide for your own
nourishment, to cherish your own needs, transfer that into your care for your
wife so that it becomes instinctive, second nature, to give yourself for her.

Now again, this is about the umpteenth time that
we have to pause and recognize that only the gospel can work that in a husband.

Only the grace of Christ can work that in a husband. We’re not built that way,
men! We’re not built to think that way in this fallen world. We think about “me
first.” The Apostle Paul is saying ‘Husbands, I want you to cultivate “you
first” so that that is second nature, because it’s how Christ cared for His

III. Love your wife in light
of Christ’s love for the members of his body
And that leads us to this third and
deepest level of all, and you see it in verse 29.
It’s at the very end.
Notice how he goes on. After saying he who loves his own wife loves himself, he
says this:

“…Just as Christ also does the church, because [verse 30] we are members of
His own body.”

In other words, Paul is back to the
illustration of Christ again, but this time it runs this way: ‘Husbands, love
your wives as your own bodies, because Christ loves the church as His own body.’
Did you get that? ‘Husbands, love your wives as your own bodies, because Christ
loves the church as His own body.’ You see the depth of this mystery that Paul
is taking us back into here. He’s saying ‘Husband, you love your wife in light
of Christ’s love for the members of His body, for the church.’ Paul is back to
an example based in Christ. He’s back to an exhortation that is based on Christ,
and he’s saying to Christian husbands that we ought to love our wives like
Christ loved the church, in nourishing and caring for her as His own body.

Now we’re going to attempt to look more deeply into
this mystery as we come to verses 31-33, God willing, next Lord’s Day evening.
But you see what the Apostle Paul is saying here: that underneath this union of
our flesh in Christian marriage, husband and wife, is a deeper union, and that
is the union that exists between Christ and His body, His people. We celebrate
that union ever time we come together and take communion. The Apostle Paul would
bid the congregation in Corinth, when they came to take that communion, to
recognize the body of the Lord, to consider this union which had been created
between Christ and His people so that in some mysterious way we are the body of
Christ. Though Christ is in heaven even now in His human body, though He sits at
the right hand of God the Father Almighty fully human and fully divine, yet in
some mysterious way we are His body. That is the nature of the union and
communion that we share with Him. And the Apostle Paul is saying that deeper
reality, husbands, of the union which we enjoy with God as His people, as
members of His body, as parts of His body, is to be controlling in the way that
we care for our wives; so that we understand when we nourish and cherish our
wives as our own body we are giving a visible witness to the world for the way
that Christ nourishes and cherishes His church.

Isn’t it an amazing thing, friends? That when you
simply live out the commands of God in the New Testament for the way that
Christian husbands and Christian wives are to dwell with one another and care
for one another, you are being a profound witness to the world of this mystery
of Christ’s union with His people, and it’s yet another reminder (as if we
needed more reminders, after today) that marriage is about something bigger than
just us.

And I want to suggest to you that it is precisely
the lack of that realization in Christians today that marriage is about
something bigger than us that is so undermining of marriages, even in the
churches today. If we all understood that there was something greater at stake
than just our present temporary happiness, if we all understood that there’s
even something greater at stake than the well-being of our children (and that is
at stake, as so many rightly remind us), that there’s something more deep, more
profound, that is at stake, and it is a witness to the reality of Christ’s love
for the church. It is a witness for the reality of Christ’s atoning work. It’s a
witness to the reality of Christ’s sanctifying work. It’s a witness to the
reality of Christ’s glorifying work. It’s a witness to the realization that we
are the body of Christ, and that Christ has united us to Himself, and the
permanency of that union and the love and the cherishing, and the nourishing of
that union, is to be a witness to divine grace to unworthy sinners.

What a privilege it is to be asked by God to be a
living, breathing, walking, talking illustration of His love in our marriages!
And, my friends, you know, to sew it all up, to add the cherry on the top,
especially in the midst of a generation which is so confused about marriage and
family as ours is, how much more clear and obvious a witness this is! So that
truly, in our day and time, a husband, just by being tender and providing and
caring and loving for his wife, may well turn his neighbor’s head. (‘Hey! What’s
up with you?’)

But we won’t give ourselves to that unless we
realize that marriage is bigger than ourselves. There’s something bigger going
on here. And there is a kind of character that can be formed in the lives of
Christians that cannot be formed if they do not approach marriage in this way.

Now, I told you when we started this series that my
friend Mark Dever had said to me many years before I was married, “Lig, you need
to get married.”

“Why, Mark?”

“Because marriage humbles a man.”

Guess that says something about me, doesn’t it?

Boy, was he right! I never saw my sin the way I see
my sin now as a married man, because I see my own selfishness in ways that I
couldn’t have seen that selfishness had I not been living shoulder to shoulder
with another person that I am called to love and serve. I see my own instincts
to want to serve myself first, instead of serving her. I couldn’t have seen my
sin the way I see it now, because I see the effects of my sin on her. I couldn’t
have seen that, were I not married.

No, God intends for Christian marriage to be a
school of growth in grace, and it’s not until we realize that this is about
something bigger than us that we’re set free to begin that journey. And the
irony is when we start giving ourselves away to a bigger project than just our
own happiness, guess what? It’s then and only then that we start experiencing
the happiness that God has intended us to enjoy in the first place, because God
has so ordered this world that it is only when we first seek His kingdom and His
righteousness that we find all things. And when we seek ourselves first and our
own happiness, we never find it, because God has made this world God-centered.
And when we pursue Him, what we find is we find all the happiness that He has
stored up for those and those only who pursue Him.

So pursue God in marriage. Pursue a knowledge of His
love for the church, of His atoning work, of His sanctifying work, of His
glorifying work, and of this mystery of union and communion with Him; and then,
and only then, the happiness which perhaps you have sought for, but perhaps
which has evaded you, will be found.

Let’s pray.

Lord and our God, we want Christian homes with
godly fathers and mothers, Christian husbands living, bleeding and dying for the
sake of their wives; Christian wives patiently loving, cherishing, embracing the
leadership of their husbands. But for this we need Your grace and Your help, and
Your strength. Grant it to us, O God, for Your glory and our good. We ask it in
Jesus’ name. Amen.

Would you stand for God’s blessing, and then we’ll
respond with the singing of the second stanza of No. 719, A Christian Home,
and look especially at the words of that stanza.

Receive now God’s benediction.

Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, until the day break and the shadows flee away.

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