A Christian husband is the head of his wife.

Put another way, if you are a husband, you are responsible for your wife.

In Ephesians 5:22-33 we are given a lot of important teaching on marriage. Two things are worth noting to demonstrate Christian headship:

  1. Husbands are the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church (v23)
  2. Being a Christ-like head involves loving your wife as Christ loved the church (v25)

Jesus loved the church by giving himself up for her – or dying for her sins (v25) with the purpose of sanctifying her (v26) and make her holy and without blemish (v27).

Jesus takes responsibility for his bride’s sin by paying the punishment her sin deserves and he takes responsibility for her holiness by giving her his holiness and then by working in her to produce holiness by the power of the Spirit changing her heart.

Jesus took responsibility for his church and we are to take responsibility for our wife and family. Here are two ways Jesus took responsibility for the church that Christian husbands can seek to imitate.

  1. He initiated the relationship with her

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

When did Jesus first love his people? Before time began. When did Jesus die for his church? Before anyone was born. If you are a Christian, when did Jesus send someone to preach the gospel to you? Before you knew about him. When did Jesus send His Spirit to regenerate you and produce faith and repentance? It was before you exercised that faith and repentance. When does Jesus work to show you your sin and drive you to repentance? Well, it’s before you knew you had sinned and before you wanted to repent.

Jesus is the great initiator of salvation. When it comes to saving the church, God does everything first. This goes for election, it goes for the atonement, it goes for justification and it goes for our sanctification. Jesus starts it all.

So, Jesus initiates. This is a way that a husband can be a godly head, take responsibility and be a model of Christ in his marriage. The husband is tasked with initiating. This doesn’t mean that the wife isn’t allowed to initiate anything. But it means that it is on husbands to start anything that needs doing in the marriage relationship. It’s our job.

So, if you find yourself in a situation where something needs discussing or there’s a fight and someone needs to make the first move towards peace, you don’t need to sit around wondering who should start the conversation – husbands, its our job to move in and start talking. We aren’t allowed to sit back and wait for our wife to fix the problem. Even if we are completely in the right and our wife was completely in the wrong (not that that will ever happen), we are still the one who is to go after her and talk and sort it out. This is what Jesus does for us.

What else might this look like? Well, if you are a man who isn’t married but would like to be – one of the things men are to initiate is marriage itself. Just as Jesus pursues and wins his bride, men, if you want to be married, your job is to find out her name and ask her.

Because we are fallen men and are not perfect models of Jesus, this also means that we should be the first to repent. Whenever there is sin in the marriage relationship, it is our job to confess our own sin first. Her sin might be worse, she might be more stubborn about it, she may rub our confession in our face – but we are to be the peacemaker and the one who initiates a gospel reconciliation. And this means that we get to repent first.

This also means we men should be initiating conversation about how our family will run. Questions about parenting, money, commitments, future plans, all these sorts of things are things we should be initiating conversation about. We may not have all the answers, but we should be thinking about what things need to be discussed and then raising them as a discussion point. God made the wife to be a helper and you may well find that she has all the good ideas regarding what to do but it is your job to raise the topic.

  1. He owned her sin and her holiness

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21

What is your default reaction when your wife is in a bad mood? What do you do if your wife has wronged you?

In Ephesians 5 and 2 Corinthians we see what Jesus did when his bride sinned. He took responsibility for it. He took on the guilt of our sin so that we might be righteous in God’s sight. In Ephesians, he “gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her … so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”

Now, you can’t die for your wife like Jesus did, and you can’t give her your righteousness like Jesus did. But you can die for her in a different way and so show the world what Jesus is like. And you can work to produce holiness in her and so imitate Jesus. The principle here is that your wife’s holiness is your responsibility.

This first means that I should be diligent to pursue holiness myself. In fact, that is the most important thing my wife needs from me: holiness. This too is modelling Jesus work – Jesus had to be holy in order to save his bride. I can’t be as holy as Jesus, but I can pursue holiness so that I am in a position to help my wife.

This means that I should be praying for my wife. Unpack the gospel with her and show her how the gospel brings forgiveness and a changed heart that is free not to sin in that way again. Know when she is likely to struggle and prioritise her holiness. This would be a case of selfless thinking – and that is how a man can die for his wife.

This looks like leading our wives and our families in seeking God. This means that it is our job to set the priorities of our house and those priorities need to include church and regular worship in the home. That might mean reading the bible each night, it might mean reading a book to our wife in bed, it might be something we do in the morning – but it is our responsibility as a picture of Jesus to be washing our wife with the word to cleanse her and present her more holy than when she was given to us.

The Puritans put it this way:  a man is the pastor of his family. In the same way that the elders of a church are tasked with pursuing the holiness of the members, a Christian husband is tasked with pursuing the holiness of his household, starting with his wife.

So, the question is, if you are married, is your wife holier now than she was when you were first married? Is my wife defeating sins in her life, not despite my influence, but because of my influence? Am I working to ‘sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word’?