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Leading Through Loving

By Matthew Black, Pastor

Text: Ephesians 5:25-33

Date: Sunday, March 22, 2009


Tabernacle Baptist Church

7020 Barrington Road

Hanover Park, Illinois 60133

Website: www.GodCentered.info

Introduction: Open your Bible to the book of Ephesians 5:25-33. The title of this morning’s message is “Leading Through Loving”. 

Ephesians 5:23-33, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23  For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24  Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29  For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30  For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

I.          Navigating Biblical Headship. HEADSHIP = LOVE

A.   There is a Confusion about headship. What is headship? The husband is the head of the wife.  Ask the average man what headship means to them, and he will suggest words like: power, authority, control, or leadership.  The Bible uses a different word to describe headship: love!  You will exercise your leadership, authority, etc., through your love. Strip authority of love and you have a monster.  Raw power is tyranny.

To be the “head” of the home is not a relationship of superiority. It is actually using your position to love, build, and nurture a relationship of deep sacrifice with your wife.  Husbands are to demonstrate their headship by sacrificing themselves for the wife. 

With that in mind, notice our text does not say “Husbands rule over your wives, command them, demonstrate your authority over them and command them around.”  It says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”. Give your self up for your wife.

B.   The Definition of love. What is agape love?

1.      First let us look at what it is not.

a. Agape love is not an emotion. Love, as God defines it, is not en emotion. The world says, “when the feeling stops, the love is over.” Love is not a tingly sensation. Love is not sentimentalism. Love has nothing to do with how you feel. God so loved the world that he gave His only Son. He didn’t look at the world and say, "I just can't resist them; I've got to get them in heaven. They're terrific." There wasn't one thing in us that was deserving. We were enemies; we hated God; we were sinful and vile, but God loved us anyway. And He loved us so much, he gave Himself.

b. Agape love is not appreciation. It is not just saying nice words to someone. Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”  Love is more than empty words. Love is action. Love is an act of your will that chooses the best for the other person. We can say all kinds of nice things to a person and it not help them.  Sometimes love is saying very hard words to a person.

c. Agape love is not admiration.  It is not simply liking or being fond of someone.  Agape love goes far beyond admiration. It sacrifices for those that are not admirable.

2.      Now let us look at what agape love is.

By looking at the cross we can say that agape love is a voluntary abandonment of self-preservation for the good of another. Husbands, use your position of authority to sacrifice your life for your wife.

a. Agape love is a God-centered love.  Understand the Bible makes a shocking statement like: “God is agape”. 1 John 4:16, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”  

1 John 3:16, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

You cannot truly love your wife as you ought without being born again. This kind of selfless love is impossible simply through the human nature.  You must have the divine nature dwelling in you. God must dwell in you.  It is a God-centered love.

b. Agape love is a voluntary act of the will.  “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16).

Illustration: Love is like “jumping off a cliff”.  You totally abandon your self-preservation for the good of your wife. You are not concerned with the consequences. 

Application: I’ve heard men say about their wife—“I just don’t love her any more”. Well, then choose to love her. You’ve stopped abandoning yourself for the good of your wife.  Start anew right now.

C.   The Demonstration of a husband’s love. Over and over in the New Testament, the apostolic demonstration of love is the cross.

2.      1 John 3:16, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us...”  This is how we come to understand the love of God—look at the gruesome picture of Calvary.  Look at the Son of God writhing there in unimaginable pain.  The One who knew no sin, the Lamb who is worthy of all glory, writhing in pain.  Men, demonstrate that to your wife.


3.      Objection: But you say, “She doesn’t deserve my love. You have no idea how she’s been toward me. Remember that Christ’s love was given to people who had not merited it, who did not deserve it, who did nothing to earn it, in whom there was nothing that compelled Him to love them.

Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth [demonstrates] his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Christ gave own spotless life for the most unworthy and rotten people.  This is LOVE.  The word Paul uses is agape.

II.       Practicing Biblical Headship. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”. You say great. This is an impossible command.   This is like telling me to jump over the moon.  How can I love like Christ? 

A.   The absolute necessity God’s grace. You must be born again to fulfill this command. The way to change your marriage is not by changing your wife.  It is by changing yourself. God must change you. You must be a born again man. Without grace, you cannot have the marriage God would have for you. Without the God who is love dwelling in you, you cannot truly love anyone.

Understand the love you are called to takes supernatural grace. God does not call us to love our wives when they treat us well.  That’s not Christlike love. The person we are called to love is the one nailing us to the cross! “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Remember Romans 5:7-8, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

B.   You must know how to practice biblical love. Look over at 1 Corinthians 13. A sure sign that you are not practicing biblical love in your marriage is that there are walls of bitterness there.

Husband, does your wife listen to you?  If the answer is no, then you are probably not demonstrating love to her in a way she understands. There may be walls of bitterness in your marriage that need to be torn down. 

1 Corinthians 13:1, the word here is “charity” but I’m going to use the word “love” when we come to it.  Paul says, “Though I speak with the [languages] of men and of angels, and have not [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling [clanging] cymbal”. In Paul’s day, in the worship of Cybele and Dionysus, two pagan false gods, there was speaking in ecstatic languages accompanied by "clanging cymbals, smashing gongs, and blaring trumpets"[1]  What Paul seems to be saying is, no matter how eloquent you are, if you do not have love in your life and your walk with Christ, you are no different than pagans. 

Let’s read a biblical description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.   8 Charity never faileth”.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (NASB).

1.      Love is patient.  “Charity suffereth long” (verse 4). Patience is how love reacts in order to minimize a negative situation.  Husbands, when you don’t get what you want, how do you react?  A lack of patience will turn your home into a war zone. Patience waits and never gives in to sinful anger.  Patience waits for a godly outcome.

The opposite of patience is a short fuse. Often when we are hurting in a marriage we want to say something hurtful back.

a. You must Choose to be patient.  You must choose to put aside feelings of anger and bitterness and pride.  If you do not have patient love, you will over react and you will act foolish and angry.  You will regret it. 

Choose to patiently put aside sinful anger.  Choose to patiently deal with the problem.  Sinful anger never makes the situation better.  It creates new wrongs and new hurts and new problems. Love suffers long with those feelings of anger without acting on them.

Proverbs 14.29, “He that is slow to wrath [anger] is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit [quick-tempered] exalteth folly.”

b. Consider our Lord as an Example of Perfect Patience

While the Lord Jesus Christ was hanging on the cross, after He had endured all that He had endured, He said this about His killers: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34a). Christ could have cursed his killers on the cross, but instead he blessed them when they hurt Him. He asked His Father not to hold this against them.

2.      Love is kind. “…is kind” (verse 4). Kindness is love in action. The opposite of kindness is harshness and a suspicious spirit. Kindness on the other hand introduces positives into all situations. Kindness is “the sympathetic kindliness or sweetness of temper which puts others at their ease, and shrinks from giving pain”.[2] Kindness thinks far more of others than of self. Kindness can be broken down into four categories: gentleness, helpfulness, willingness, and initiative.

a. Gentleness or tenderness. Kindness leads you to be very sensitive about being unnecessarily harsh.  You are sensitive, tender. Even if you say hard things you are careful to bend over backwards to make your words as easy as possible to hear.

b. Helpfulness. Kindness means you are always looking around to meet the needs of the moment. You come into a dirty, disorganized house, and instead of yelling about how it ought to be, you say nothing and simply start doing the dishes, helping with the laundry, pick up a screaming child, using your words of love to calm the situation. Kindness means you put your needs on hold to meet the needs of others.

c. Willingness. Kindness inspires you to be agreeable. Instead of being obstinate, stubborn, always right and self-righteous, you want to cooperate.  You are totally pliable and flexible and willing to help. A kind husband ends a thousand potential arguments by his willingness to listen and not demand his way.

d. Initiative. Kindness thinks ahead and takes the first step. Kind love is always thinking of others. A kind husband will not have to be coerced off the couch to help set the table. No the kind husband thinks ahead and is already setting the table and filling the glasses before being asked.  A kind husband helps put the house back in order after company. A kind husband will help get the children ready for church or ready for bed without the wife having to ask. A kind husband will take the initiative!

3.      Love does not envy. “charity envieth not…” (verse 4). Envy is pure selfishness. It means you wish the good things happening to another were happening to you. It means you think you are better than your wife. The Bible forbids any Christian for having this attitude, especially husbands toward their wives. Paul says in Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

To love means you won’t be grieved at any blessings of another person, their wealth, gifts, qualities or status.  Love means you want the very best for your wife. You do everything you can to help her succeed.


Application: Are you selfish and envious in your marriage, men?  Do you put your desires and interests above your spouses?  Love puts selfishness to death. Love wants the other person to succeed. Husbands, love your wife. Do not envy the fact that she does not have life as hard as you.  The truth is she may have it much harder.  And even if she doesn’t, you should not be upset.  That’s envy. That’s not love.

The opposite of envy is selflessness. It means you will sacrifice so that your wife can succeed. She wants to succeed in little things. It may mean you start putting the children to bed so she can get to bed before 3am!  It may mean that you come home from work earlier to help her prepare for a big day of company.

Ask yourself these questions:

·         Do I want my wife to succeed in the home?

·         Do I want her to feel loved by me?

·         Does my wife see me as looking out for myself first?

Action Item: Instead of being envious and selfish, write your wife a love note telling her you were thinking about her. For those who are unmarried, choose someone from the congregation that you want to encourage.  Instead of thinking they have it easier than you, find something they might be struggling with, and encourage them with a note.

4.      Love does not brag (“vaunteth not herself”).  Have you ever been in a difficult discussion with your spouse, and when you were in a corner, you began to paint yourself as the most spiritual person on the planet?  You say things like:

§         “I would never do that”

To vaunt means to be “rash in boasting about one’s own excellences or endowments” (Barnes).  This attitude of vaunting comes from the attitude of superiority over others; It is usually combined with a feeling of contempt or disregard for your wife.

When we are offended we act as if we have never done the same thing.

What is the answer?  To love by closing your mouth.  Say with David, “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).

Listen to the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:29, 31-32, ‘Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers…VERSE 31  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Let me paraphrase it for you: Ephesians 4:31 “Let all manner of bitterness, and rage, and grudges, and raising of your voice, and misrepresentation, be taken off of you and thrown in a garbage heap, with all thoughts of evil towards others”.  Sanitize your self from these six evils. These are the filthy rags of the old man.  Put them off, and throw them far, far away from you in the garbage heap.

Stop vaunting yourself over your spouse and be tender and forgiving “even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

5.      Love is not “puffed up” or arrogant (verse 5). True love means you have a very low view of yourself. To love means not to overvalue yourself by concentrating on your achievements, your respect and position, your abilities and gifts.  You realize everything you have is a gift from God.  “To whom much is given much will be required”.  To love means you do not compare yourself with others to try and show yourself to be better than they are. 

6.      Love is not rude “Doth not behave itself unseemly” (verse 5). Rudeness is characterized by irritability.  It’s when you are under pressure and you turn sour.  Some people seem to have the motto, “Never pass up an opportunity to get upset with your spouse”.  To be irritable means to “be near the point of a knife”.  Are you the kind of a person that is always feeling poked by a situation.  Rude people are those who are always locked and loaded and ready to overreact.

Rudeness really is the way a person acts when they have no care for the person around them.  Love is careful to act appropriately. Under pressure, love acts appropriately.  Love does not turn sour.

Rudeness is like a destructive storm waiting to happen.  It tramples over people and has no care what destruction it leaves in its path. 

When tough circumstances come, often we want to take out our tiredness on other people.  We may be hurting inside, and we want to release on others.  We need to take it to the prayer closet.  When war is raging in your heart, confine the storm to yourself, and do not act rudely to others, especially your wife.

7.      Love does not seek her own (benefit—1 Corinthians 13:5-“seeketh not her own”).  The man who is concerned with getting all he can from his wife is not loving. If you are concerned with only what you can GET from your wife, you are sowing the seeds of destruction for your marriage.

Example of Christ

Remember Christ loves you, not because of anything you can give to Him, but because of what He can give to you.  You cannot help Christ in any way.  He loves to bestow favor on you that you do not deserve. He got nothing out of it but helping you. That’s love.

Example of the Cliff

As I mentioned before, love is best illustrated by jumping off a cliff. You abandon yourself to your wife for her good. You are in this to give yourself to her, not to get anything from her.

8.      Love is not easily offended “is not easily provoked” (verse 5).  The idea here is that love is not easily injured or offended.  Psalm 119:165, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”

Most marriages are in turmoil not because of BIG things, but because of little tiny things that drive us crazy.  Those little things that offend us are a sign that we are very self centered.  Love is not this way.  Love is selfless.

Are you easily offended?  Do you go off at little things?  Jesus endured a cross because he loved the church.  He endured the mocking, the crown of thorns. Do you love your wife.  Come what may, when you love like God loves you will not be so easily offended.

9.      Love keeps no record of wrongs suffered (“thinks no evil”—1 Corinthians 13:5).

1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”

If you have kept a record of wrongs, it means that you are not loving.  To forgive means never to bring it up again.

10.  Love does not rejoice in iniquity. Love does takes no pleasure in iniquity.  When our spouse falls into sin, we must grieve with them.  When we love someone we cannot rejoice at their sins or the consequences of sin, but we are grieved at them.  We want to help them and restore them. 

Husbands, consider Galatians 6:1-3 concerning your wife, “Brethren, if [your wife] be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2  Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3  For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself”. Restore your wife.

What we are tempted to do with faults is to store them up and use them in a time of war.  Instead of rejoicing in iniquity, seek to help your spouse reconcile.  If she asks for forgiveness, forgive her immediately.

What is forgiveness?  Forgiveness is not so much about forgetting.  We hear the phrase “forgive and forget”.  Well, there are some things we have a hard time forgetting.  And even though God forgives us, he chooses to put those sins in the sea of His forgetfulness.  In other words, to forgive is to choose NEVER TO BRING UP THE OFFENSE EVER AGAIN.

This does not mean that we ignore sin.  If your wife sins against you, you should deal with the problem.  Go after the problem, not the person.  Love your wife, and deal with the sin. 

Look at Matthew 18:15, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16  But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17  And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” 

Then when forgiveness is granted, you never have the right to bring up the offense ever again. 

11.  Love rejoices in the truth.  It is so important to deal truthfully. There are things in your marriage that you need to work out biblically, but you must be honest and rejoice in truth.

Many arguments begin because of a wrong idea of what your wife is saying.  She says something, and you are totally offended because you think the worst.  She is offended because you thought something so evil of her. And so the cycle goes.

You must deal with your marriage with honesty.  Ask your spouse to repeat what was said, then REPEAT it back. Ask her “Is this what you said?” And she’ll say, “No, of course I do not meant that”.  Well, what do you mean…etc.

If something is wrong in the marriage, you must be careful to establish the truth.

Often bitterness arises in the heart because we do not seek out the truth.   Truly, much of what separates people in marriage is not even true!  It is imagined faults.  Love rejoices in the truth.

12.  Love Bears with, or “covers” all things.  The idea is that love protects.  Paul uses the word “cherish” for this idea in Ephesians 5:28-29, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29  For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church”. Husbands, as I said this morning, are to cherish their wives. 

When you hit your thumb with a hammer, you feel the pain, and you do all you can to relieve it.  Do you do that for your wife?  Do you know when she is hurting?  Do you protect her?

I Peter 3:7 has this idea of protection, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”  Three ways to protect your wife are listed in this verse.

Concern. You are to learn about your wife.  Find out what hurts her and protect her from it.  Have lots of conversations with her.  Get to know her. You are the initiater.

Courtesy.  You are to treat your wife as a weaker vessel or a “fragile vase”.  This means you show honor.  She is a precious treasure.

Care. She is a fragile vase.  She is emotionally more sensitive than you for the most part.  Protect her!  Do not tear her down.  You can win the argument and destroy your wife!  Don’t do it.

13.  Love Believes all things.  Love believes the best of people. Remember when you were first courting your wife?  You thought she could do no wrong.  She had deficiencies then, but back then you thought they were “cute”. You loved her.  You thought the best of her. 

When things are going great in marriage all the deficiencies of your wife are forgotten, they are covered, but when things are hard, you fill in any blank spaces with further negatives.  Focus on the positives of your wife.  Give her the benefit of the doubt.  Fill in the unknowns with positives.

Action Item: Never, never, never speak ill of your wife in front of others.  Speak about her as if she were there. Constantly rehearse in your mind the things that you are thankful about for her. 

14.  Love Hopes all things.  Love hopes for the best. Love fills in the blanks of life with good.

15.  Love never fails.  Love always prospers!  Give yourself to loving your spouse!

Conclusion: Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church!  1 John 3:16, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”


[1] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956), 131.

[2] Ibid., 256.

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