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The Husband in the 21st Century Home


Graham Walker

Perhaps no greater text can be found that serves to describe the role of a husband than that which is parallel to Jesus' love for His bride (Rev. 21:9), the church; namely Ephesians 5:22-33. Verses 22-23 reads: "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is head of the church, He Himself being the Saviour of the body."

Jesus' love for the church parallels that which God expects of a husband in the 21st Century. If you follow the Holy Spirit's reasoning, you will see some glaring inconsistencies with the text and what the world is saying and doing at the start of the 21st Century. Is it consistent in the world to see marriages of lasting order as God planned it back in the beginning? Verse 22 is a direct correlation with Genesis 2:18 where the first man, Adam was made a "helper suitable for him" whom God "brought her to man" (2:22) to be subject to him, forever (Matt.19:6, "let no man separate"). Do we see husbands being men as God designed, that they be the head, take the lead just "as Christ also is head of the church?" How about husbands going so far as to lay down their life for their wife as "He Himself being the Saviour of the body?" Sadly, the 21st Century is shaping up to be anything but this ideal that God hath spoken on.

It is noticeable God's love for man in what He originally planned for him and can be seen in Genesis 2:23-24, "This is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." That last clause is saying they should almost be "glued together".

We can also see via the Scriptures how husbands have abused that love by what they have sought to undo from that which was planned by God and can be seen in the following examples of man's convenience: When the wife "finds no favour in [the husband's] eyes because he has found some indecency [disgrace, blemish] in her" Moses conceded divorce for the men of Israel in order to stop continued maltreatment of those designed to be "helpers suitable" for them (Deut. 24:1-4). Jesus condemned this attitude in Mark.10:5 where He says they had "hardness of heart". In other words they schemed evil to rid themselves of that which had lost its flavour. In Matthew 14:4, John the immerser was scathing of King Herod who had taken "the wife of his brother Phillip. For John had been saying to him, 'It is not lawful for you to have her.'" Much distress in Herod's mind as a result, but that does not negate the condemnation for having abandoned the Holy Writ. Maybe the once "adulterers" that made up the church in Corinth can be seen as endemic of a society that had long since abandoned God, let alone His principles that stand forever (I Cor.6: 9-11).

God has reiterated through His word and continues to reiterate through Gospel preaching that which this lesson will deal with. God's last will and testament says the following about husbands of this 21st Century:

The 21st Century Husband Belongs To His Wife

The 21st century husband shall be like that which Moses records in Genesis 2:24, that the husband is one to "cleave to his wife"; that is, "cling, adhere, to encroach or intrude" and certainly we see that as being reciprocal as Paul writes in Ephesians 5:22 that the wife and husband "own" each other. Just as the church belongs to Christ (Matthew 16:18), so too the wife belongs to the husband. But also notice in I Peter 3:7 where Peter says "likewise" indicating the husband having the right attitude and servitude toward his spouse.

God's ideal is a life-long commitment. The church can be said to be, as it were, "glued" to Christ and nothing will separate them. The ancient prophet Daniel forecast as much back in Daniel 2:44: "And in the days of those kings (Roman Empire) the God of heaven will set up a kingdom (Colossians 1:13 "the kingdom of His beloved Son") which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but will itself endure forever." The husband belongs to his wife in the same respect. Paul said, "For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living" (Rom. 7:2). There are only two conditions that can lawfully annul the relationship - death (Rom. 7:2) and divorce for the cause of sexual "immorality" (Matt.19: 9).

God's imperative in marriage can be seen in the statement: "become one flesh" that one brother has rightly said is an "Intimate relationship without shame" (Kerry Knight). Certainly, we see fidelity being a key factor in the 21st century husband's role in marriage, likened to Christ's fidelity to His church. Infidelity and the enticement of such is as ancient as the age of man. One only need view Genesis 3 to see infidelity to God's word through enticement of the Devil. Genesis records another significant occasion of enticement to infidelity in chapter 39:7, "And it came about after these events that his master's wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, 'Lie with me.'" But a huge lesson in propriety can be learned from Joseph in verse 9: "How then could I do this great evil, and sin against God." Infidelity, fornication and adultery are sins "against God." To "become one flesh" with a woman that has the right, is something that should be the mark of the 21st century husband - the mark of fidelity, for life.

The 21st century husband shall be one to command respect. His wife should seek to please and honour him but he is hardly likely to receive this if he uses Ahasuerus' technique in Esther 1:11. He ordered Vashti to display her beauty to the people like some object of desire and as some have inferred, a pornographic display. Rather, it should be that the husband should earn that respect so that she will be "subject to [her] husband" (Col. 3:18) by the technique explained by Peter in I Pet. 3:7-6: "You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honour as a fellow heir of grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted, and humble in spirit..." Peter is not saying that the wife needs to be patronised because she is not strong; rather, she is to be treated as an equal; with an understanding as to her differences in physical and mental characteristics. Physically and mentally she is not made like man - she is made in her way for a different purpose as Paul explains in I Timothy 2:13-15. She is weaker physically because her body was designed for child-birth not manual labour. She is weaker mentally not in intelligence but in her softer, more conciliatory make up of mind. The Devil had a 'field day' with this difference in the beginning (I Tim.2:14). Having said that, the 21st century husband shall be one who commands respect by recognising his wife's differences and will yield to them accordingly.

The 21st century husband shall be one to command authority. Paul's instruction in I Timothy 2:11-12 where he says he does "not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority" has been viewed with considerable contempt by society of late. Feminists attack Paul for being chauvinist. Women seeking control see it as an assault on their intelligence. Weak elderships and denominational doctrines see it as an out-dated teaching that should be consigned to the dark ages. Let us first observe that this is the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul (II Tim. 3:16; II Pet. 1:21), who in turn states by referral to the Genesis record of events that transpired in the beginning. Thus it clears the mighty Gospel preacher of chauvinism, women bashing and peculiar first century culture; and steers a direction of an eternal principle that is right for yesterday, today and tomorrow (Heb.13:8).

The husband can only command authority by going to the word of God to find who shall be the head of the home: "So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom.10:17). That faith shares with us the fact that "Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman" (I Cor.11:3). His authority is to lead, not heed as Adam tragically found out in Genesis 3. If Adam had done the thinking and the talking that fateful day, maybe the outcome would have been different. Maybe he would have insisted the word of God be not added to (Rev. 22:18) as per Genesis 2:17 "but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die." Compare, instead, that which Satan did add in Genesis 3:4, "You surely shall not die." That day the husband's authority was usurped by the wife and ignored by the husband because the word of God was forgotten.

The husband of the 21st century home shall be one to be as one to his wife whereby he commands respect and authority because God's will is for it to be that way.

The 21st Century Husband Leads His Wife

Leading is not the same as lording. No, leading is seen by setting a good example. Christ shows the 21st century husband how to lead by His example and in the headship of His ministry and the delegated authority of the church eldership.

In I Corinthians 11:3 "the man is head of a woman." Paul uses an anthropomorphism; that is, parts of human body to illustrate the functions/order of the family and the corporate body of Christ. It appears that the church at Corinth was having trouble discerning the functions/order of requirements that culminated in an abuse of the worship assembly (vv.17ff.) as well as the functions of gifted individuals.

They needed to note God's ideal that Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:2: "hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered to you"; that is, in context, the gospel as revealed in II Thess.2:14-15, "...He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." The "traditions" are not to be seen as some out-dated manuscript of male dominance tied to a "might-makes-right" syndrome. Rather they are to be seen in the light of an absolute standard of principles set out even in the beginning of time.

God's imperative follows the premise of leading from the front. The husband of the 21st century shall be a "head [to] a woman" just like Christ is head of the church. Not only does Christ lead His church but He speaks for His church. The husband shall do the same. He shall be one to not only make the decisions based on Godly principles but affirm them to those within and outside the family unit. Just as Paul was not ashamed of his Master's gospel because of its awesome power (Rom.1:16). So too, the husband need not be ashamed to herald his Master's desire to lead from the front with all the flak that may ensue from a society bent on destroying that unit.

Imagine the head of the church cowering in the bushes in the early hours in the Garden of Gethsemane, being afraid of that bunch of heretics, lead by Judas. Would that show the strength of leadership and determination of a kingdom that is to last forever? Perish the thought. No, Jesus was one to calmly, yet assertively say, "Friend, do what you have come for" so that "the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled" (Matt. 26: 50, 56). The husband of the 21st century home is to stand four-square on the scriptural requirement to lead the home despite being deemed politically incorrect in a seemingly Godless run society.

The 21st century husband shall be one to guide and direct according to scripture. The Hebrews writer in Hebrews 13:7 says, "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith." Neil Lightfoot in his commentary Jesus for Today says, "The author has in mind those who first evangelised the community of his readers. Apparently they are the same as those who heard the Lord and conveyed to others the message of the great salvation." The point of the passage, he says, is to "consider" (anantheorountes). The verb means to 'look back on,' 'observe keenly and carefully'; it is the term used for the very opposite of a superficial examination. And remembering their leaders, they are to follow the example of their faith" (p.249). Those that lead, which by now you can see are husbands who follow Christ's example, are to lead by the example of their faith - faith in the word of God. Faith that guides and directs according to the righteous pattern of Scripture. The same pattern the Romans were commended as having followed (Rom. 6:17).

The 21st century husband is to guard and protect as a shepherd of the family unit. Once again, Christ's example can be seen in His divine delegates - the eldership. In I Timothy 3:4-5 the qualification of this office requires an orderly steward-ship of the home: "He [elder] must be one who manages [lit. "to stand before that is in rank, preside over"] his own household well [lit. "honestly"], keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)" Leaders, and the husband is not exception, are to shepherd their home.

I guess the best description of a shepherd can be seen in Christ's estimation of one in John 10:2-4. He is one to enter by the front door; not steal his way in via the back way. Those in the home hear him as his own and leads in confidence, for they know him and trust him to lead them whatever betides them. Furthermore, verse 11 marks the good shepherd apart from the cowardly: "the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep". This shall be the mark of the 21st century's husband and the example of guidance and protection modelled on the Christ.

21st century husbands, lead your wife as "head", following God's ideal of doctrine and imperative of doctrine related example. Lead from the front, even to the point of laying down your life in your desire to guide and protect that which you have responsibility over.

The 21st Century Husband Loves His Wife

The "Golden Rule" Jesus used in His Sermon on the Mount: "Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them" (Matt.7:12) is amplified in Ephesians 5:28 "So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself." It is typified by Christ's love for his church and that which is expected in return, for "we love, because He first loved us" (I John 4:19). In Latin it is termed quid pro quo "something for something". The "something" in question is love which Paul says in verse 29 of the text is that which "nourishes and cherishes." It is literally said to "rear up to a state of maturity" and to "brood and foster" much like the mother displays to her child, or in the animal kingdom where the hen rears her chicks in the warmth of her wings. Does not God display this love to His obedient ones? The book of Ruth, that interlude of love between the blood of war, explains it thus: May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge" (Ruth 2:12). Seeking a refuge that contains the aforementioned nourishment and cherishing. That is the love the 21st century husband shall have for his wife.

It starts with the notion presented in II Corinthians 11:2 about the church which is said to be "betrothed... to one husband". Christ, the epitome of the loving husband, was committed for life to His bride, the church.

God's ideal for the 21st century husband can be seen in six aspects of betrothal viewed in Hosea 2:19-20: "I will betroth you to me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in loving-kindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord." Joseph, the husband of Mary, displayed all six attitudes even though she was with child and for all intents and purposes had, in the eyes of his peers, the right to cease the betrothal. Joseph typified a love for Mary that God had originally intended from the beginning. A commitment sadly lacking in society at present, but one that the 21st century husband should be reviving.

God's imperative for that husband, this century, is a sacrificial role. Christ is held up as the model in the text and no greater evidence of His sacrifice for His bride is written than what we note in Acts 20:28 in Paul's exhortation given to elders to shepherd the local church. Christ "purchased [the church/His bride] with His own blood". The action of such is amplified in Romans 3:24-26 that Paul says is a "demonstration" of the enormous lengths He went to for the sake of love and an example of the lengths the husband may need to go to in order to demonstrate his love toward his bride. Sadly, how many are even prepared to stick out an occasional tiff, let alone full scale attack - relatively few it can be said.

The 21st century husband shall be one to treat his wife with equal standing and in love. This involves a close intimacy as seen when we look at the closeness of the body with Christ in Matthew 12:50: "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother." They are brethren; Christ is the older brother. Hebrews 2:11 "He is not ashamed to call them brethren". Just as siblings are ideally one in a state of equal standing, so too, the husband is equal in standing before his wife. Paul states in Galatians 3:28 there is "neither male nor female", inasmuch as there is no barrier between gender in the body and if that is the case as far as the church is concerned, then it shall be the case between the husband and wife. I am not talking of equality in regard to roles or physical abilities. Modern science respects the fact that physically, males are built differently from females and it certainly fits the role of the male to work for the family's existence. The same with the female being built to fit the role of childbirth and all that it entails. As stated before, even the mental abilities are different, for I am constantly being reminded of the male's inability to perform multiple tasks without disturbing concentration, in contrast to the female who can do a range of things at once without so much as get her eye lids in a fluster.

Having said that, it behooves us to briefly look at that role and the main aspect that demands the ultimate love of walking with God as He intended, through His word (Rom.10:17). A consistent walk that will only be achieved as one walks the correct moral track. God's ideal in this area of love can be measured by the same standard that Jesus came to this earth to deliver via the Holy Spirit. In John 16:8 He is said to come to "convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness [standard] and judgement [salvation]". Walking in love as one with God involves keeping away from sin, adhering to the righteous standard and remaining in a state of salvation until He next comes. That is the role that falls upon the husband as head of a loving relationship.

Finally, three traits ancient husbands can enlighten us with in connection with the love the 21st century husband should exhibit. The first is found in Genesis 29:20: "So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her". Jacob shows that smitten by love masks the sometimes dreary aspects of service. Hard work is off set by love.

The second example is seen Genesis 24:67: "Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother's death." Love brings forth comfort that can be seen as first exhibited by the mother. The circle is complete just as God designed (Gen. 2:24).

The third can be found in Ruth 2:14: "And at mealtime Boaz said to her, 'Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.' So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left." A husband's service to his wife will lead to a state of satisfaction. Service has its rewards, but it requires a working relationship spurred on by love.


In the text we have just considered, it can be concluded, without a doubt, that all three aspects noted about the husband of the 21st century home can be seen at work in the church and her husband, the Christ? Therefore, husbands - strive to be the type that Christ expects should be one who belongs, leads, loves and is equated to his "help-meet".


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