by Matt Capps
the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’
Editor: this post was adapted with permission from Matt Capps Blog.
In the first part of this series, we discussed the informal and formal parental responsibilities of parents to disciple their children. Then we took a look at the roles grace and truth play and began to dig into Ephesians 5. We’ll conclude Ephesians 5 and this series now.
As Christ loves the church, husbands sacrificially love your wives
Not only has there been change to the trajectory of God’s design for the family in relation to women, there has also been a subtle shift in our cultural understanding of manliness. This can be observed in television sitcoms centered on the family.
“Originally sitcoms were based on a set of characters where… the lead male characters were seen as the lovable bread winners…Men were originally coded as being strong and providing safety. They solved problems, fixed machinery, and drove cars. As the society moved away from this ideology the representation changed. The women became the characters of strength, and male figures became a source of comedy.”
In our culture the man is often seen as absentminded and weak willed, no longer the strong and loving leader in their family. Now, this is not a call to “bang your chest about being the leader” in the home. Leadership in this passage, according to Paul is about loving sacrifice and washing your bride with the Word. Some of you might feel the need to overcompensate and demand leadership. If you have to remind someone that you are a leader, then you are not a good leader. What Paul calls for here is not a demand for leadership, but strong servant leadership, a life of living sacrifice.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
God has placed husbands in a position of headship, and authority, but it is not to be abused. It is an authority given to you so that you will nurture, protect, honor, and love your wife. We often hear of men using these verses to abuse the idea of headship, and lord it over their wives – to control and dominate them. But notice what the text says, Husbands, “Love your wife, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”The primary focus in this passage is on Christ’s sacrificial love for the church. Christ willingly died in love for the church. This serves as a sacrificial pattern that should be demonstrated in the husbands love for his wife. Obviously, this requires completely selfless love. As the passage reads, “Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.”Therefore, the husband places the needs of his wife above that of his own. The husband serves as the:
• Physical Leader: protector and provider.
• Spiritual Leader: setting the direction for the spiritual formation of everyone in the home.
God’s design is that the wife would submit to the husband and the husband would love the wife as he loves his own self. When this happens, she will willingly submit, because she knows he is seeking what is best for both. Therefore, headship is not a right to control or to abuse or to neglect. Rather, it’s the responsibility to love like Christ in leading and protecting and providing for our wives and families.
When a husband gets home his job for the day is not done. He doesn’t come home and take over the job of managing the home, but he must get involved in its affairs. He mustn’t plop his tail on the couch and zone out watching tv, mindlessly search the internet, or stick his head in the paper or a book. He must be intentional with his time at home, love his wife, and raise his children. The way a husband treats his wife in the marriage relationship should visualize to his children the sacrificial love of Christ for the Church.
In the Lord, children honor your parents
According to Paul, the authority given to parents over children in verses 1-4 is directly related to their Christian discipleship.
[Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
Note that Paul addresses children in this letter. Many churches do not have a ministry dedicated to children, including the one I serve at. This verse is one reason why. Throughout Christian history, children have been an important part of the church body and have been included in its ministries – not relegated off to their own mini-church. New Testament letters like this were read aloud among the Christians – and that Paul addresses the children leads us to believe that he expected the children to be in the room.
Children, obey because it is right. Children, this is the first and only of the Ten Commandments to contain a promise. The promise is that things will go well for you and you will live long in the land, if you honor your parents.
1. Things will go well for you because you are following God’s ordained pattern for life in his created world.
2. The promise that you will live long in the land points to eternal life in the age to come, the new Jerusalem (heaven).
3. Paul is not teaching that you will receive eternal life if you are obedient, what he is saying is that honoring your parents is evidence that you know and love God. Honoring your parents is a spiritual fruit that gives evidence of your salvation, that the Spirit indwells you.
But this is a command, not just for the individual child, it is also for the Christian community. In virtually every civilization in human history the obedience of children has been seen as foundational to a stable society. This commandment was not just given for your good, but for the good of the community as a whole. Christian parents presumably want what’s best for their children. They will make mistakes. But God’s grace is sufficient to cover where they lack. Moreover, you are called as a disciple of Christ to submit to God’s good order for the family. Which means you need to trust that your Christian parents have in mind what’s best for you while you are under their care.
Us parents will answer to God for how we raise our children, they are entrusted to us for an appointed time. Let us make every effort to redeem every moment with gospel intentionality. Essentially, Paul is arguing that if you want to continue to exist as the people of God in the midst of a pagan land, you will have to do so by training and disciplining our children. Whitney Houston was amazingly right and logically obvious when she sang, “I believe the children are our future.”
Parents, your primary goal as temporary trustees of children is to pass on the faith to the next generation. “God has designed your family – not the youth group, not the youth choir, not the children’s ministry, not the Christian school – but your family as the primary discipleship program for your children.” Now let’s look at verse 4, men, it all comes back to you for leadership and direction in the discipleship of your children:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Fathers, avoid any attitudes, words, or actions that have the effect of provoking your children to anger. This could be excessively severe discipline, harsh demands, constant nagging, subjecting your children to humiliation. In other words, be as sensitive as you can to your child’s needs and sensibilities. Children are persons with dignity in their own right. You, as the parent, have been entrusted to them by God as a sacred steward.
Heed the last words here: bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. If there ever was a time we needed men to know their purpose and to be men again, it’s now. Our world is filled with great uncertainty and instability and leaders are hard to find. We need men who aren’t preoccupied with their amusements and appearance. We need men with consistent character: integrity, courage, perseverance and a willingness to sacrifice and lead for the greater good. We need men who are committed to loving their wives sacrificially, and bringing their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
At the heart of mature [God given] masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide, and protect women [and children] in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.
• The degree to which these things happen is indicative of the degree to which one is filled with God’s Spirit and living in line with his Word. In other words, living this stuff out is a spiritual issue.
• We are given husbands, wives, and children to teach us unconditional love. You do not realize how selfish and sinful you are until you are placed in such close proximity to another human being who has the same self-serving bent. Your family is one of the ways God sanctifies you in the process of discipleship. We learn to receive truth, and give truth. We learn to give grace, and accept grace.
• Don’t walk out of here in despair over your failure to do these things. But with a new resolve to, by God’s grace, seriously consider God’s design and purpose for the family in discipleship.
1. Parents, have you turned over the discipleship of your children to someone else?
Perhaps it is time that you consider the structure of your children’s lives – even if it pertains to church activities. Are your church activities leading you to spend more time apart as a family? If so, it might be time to re-evaluate what activities your children need to be involved in.
Trust me, I grew up in a large Southern Baptist church that had activities for children and youth 4-5 times a week. And very few of the people I grew up with are showing spiritual fruit. The amount of activities your children are involved in at church does not directly correlate to how “saved” they will be.
Are you putting your children’s spiritual development in the hands of another person? Do you seek to partner with those who are teaching your children here?
Do you seek to disciple your own children with gospel intentionality? What ways are you formally investing in your own kids discipleship? What ways are you seeking informal times of spiritual formation?
2. Husbands and Wives, Parents: do you make it a regular occurrence to confess your sins and challenge one another?
If you are honest, you will read this passage from Ephesians and see how broken you are. But that does not mean you should ignore God’s commands. This is still the way God has ordered the family.
• Women, the way you respond to your husband in the marriage relationship visualizes to your children how the Church is to respond to Christ.
• Men, the way you treat to your wives in the marriage relationship should visualize to your children the sacrificial love of Christ for the Church.
• Children, honoring your parents is glorifying to God because it approves his good design for the family. Plus, God has attached a promise to the command “obey your parents.”
This is where grace and truth come into play. How you act in the home directly effects the discipleship of those within your family. We will fail often. But God’s grace is bigger than our failures. And it is by God’s grace that we see those failures and are empowered to live in accordance with God’s design for the family.
For this reason, regular confession of sin and challenge with God’s Word are key to the holistic formation of disciples within the Christian home. Make every opportunity to point to the cross and empty tomb of Christ.
Husbands and wives, consider your relationship from your children’s perspective. Children have an amazing hypocrisy meter. Be honest with your sin, and be honest about God’s expectations.
A disciple is a student of Jesus who is learning to believe and apply the gospel to all of life. Which means we are always growing and learning new things – what we need to work on, where we need God’s grace and forgiveness. So I ask the Church, see your families as the primary context of discipleship and take your role seriously.
 Jodi M. Reese, Heterosexual Masculinity in the Sitcom Genre, Master’s Thesis for Georgetown University, 39.
 Voddie Baucham Jr., Family Driven Faith, 118.
 Randy Stinson and Dan Dumas, A Guide to Biblical Manhood, 4.
 Piper and Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 35.
Matt Capps (D.Min., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; M.Div., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, North Carolina. Matt has written one book, Hebrews: A 12-Week Study and numerous articles. He and his wife Laura have three children, Solomon, Ruby, and Abby. Connect with Matt on Twitter, Facebook, or check out his personal blog.