Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she would be holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
This love is not only a sacrificial love, but it is a purifying love.
This is a beautiful picture here: Christ loves His church with a sacrificial love and with a sanctifying love, or a purifying love. He loves His church enough to cleanse her. He loves His church enough to present her without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
What does this mean? It means He seeks the church’s purity. He wants the church in all her glory — that is, in all gorgeous splendor. It’s talking about Christ-like beauty: the beauty of purity, the splendor of holiness and virtue, without flaw.
When Christ takes His church to be His bride, He gives His life for His church, and then He seeks the purity of His church. Christ is the purifier of the church, and that is the way we are to be toward our wives. We are to do everything we can to lead them to holiness and to purity.
God wants to purify His own, and a husband must desire to purify his wife. How does he do that? By constantly exposing her to the Word of God. You are the prophet in that home. You are the one to bring her under the hearing of the Word of God, to make her clean, to purify her.
John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” It’s the Word that cleanses.
First of all, in your own heart and mind, you want to be certain that you never lead your wife into any sin. You never expose her to any iniquity. Don’t draw her into those things which are going to tempt her. Don’t take her to some form of entertainment that’s going to expose her to sinful feelings. Don’t irritate, exacerbate, or embitter her so that she falls to the temptation of anger.
If you seek her purity, then you would never lead her into anything that would produce iniquity. You would never expose her to anything that would produce strong temptation. On the other hand, you would constantly bring the Word of God to her.
You can do this in a number of ways.
What are you doing to strengthen her spiritually? You should bring her under the sound preaching and teaching of God’s Word, expose her to great truth out of Scripture, call her to purity, and never do anything that could lead her to be tempted.
The love of Christ for His church causes Him to desire to keep His church clean. And your love for your wife should have the same exact desire. If you really love your wife, you’re going to hate anything that defiles her. Anything that steals her purity will become to you a terrifying enemy. Any so-called love which drags a partner down to uncleanness is a false love.
There is no place for degrading her and no place for criticizing her. You want to lift her up, for purity is her glory. Her holiness is her beauty.
The loving husband is not ashamed of his wife. He never degrades her, criticizes her, or speaks unkindly of her. The loving husband, like Christ, seeks only to present his bride exalted, pure, and glorious. Love seeks to honor.
So, that’s how we love: with a sacrificial and purifying love. We love with a love that honors, that lifts her up and says, “Look what God has given me.” That’s the love that thrills the heart of a wife.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1996, titled “God’s Pattern for Husbands, Part 1.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at masters.edu.
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