It may seem to many that any discussion of “the ideal husband” is a waste of ink or pixels on a screen. It is certainly a waste of time, they may opine. After all, men are imperfect creatures – yes, creature is a fitting word for them – and so what purpose is there to speak of the ideal? Will not such speech only make them appear all the more…creaturely? As beastly as this subject may at first appear, it contains surprising glimpses of transcendent beauty if one knows where to look.
On the ancient and worn pages of Holy Writ are found words of insight and authority, with mysteries unfolding, as to who is this ideal husband. The clearest passage in all of Scripture, as pertaining to this question, is Ephesians 5:22-33. While this passage speaks both to husbands and wives, my focus here is on the husband. Regarding husbands, they are the heads of their households (v. 23), meaning they have a weighty responsibility to lead and provide for their families. Additionally, husbands are to love their wives as much as they cherish their own flesh (vv. 25, 28-29, 33), and to hold them fast (v. 31).
This is all well and good, but it is not the ideal husband. Don’t misunderstand, Paul is here concerned with the ideal. The thing is, it’s not you or me or any other such creature. Paul says it is Christ! Christ is the center and focus of this text. In the orbit of this passage Christ is the Sun; husbands and wives are the planetary bodies, revolving around the gravitational pull of this majestic center. The Church, Christ’s bride, is the gracious recipient of His sacrificial love. Like a husband holding fast his bride and becoming with her one flesh, so too Christ holds fast to His Church and brings her into union with Him in His death, burial, and glorious resurrection.
Let us recall that the Bible contains mysteries unfolding, and this here is one of those mysteries. It is important to note that the apostle Paul quotes from Genesis 2:24 in v. 31 regarding the union between the man and the woman in marriage. In the creation narrative marriage plays a central role. It is assumed in Genesis 1:28 where God tells the man and woman to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth….”, yet finds a more explicit expression in Genesis 2:24, as the man is said to leave his parents and hold fast to his wife. The picture is of a new family being formed through the union of the husband and wife as they bid adieu to their parental attachment. The wife is no longer under the authority of her parents but now takes refuge under the caring leadership of her husband. This, of course, is expressed more fully in Ephesians 5, as we have seen.
Further, we must not fail to take notice of the worldwide mandate expressed in Genesis 1:28, of which marriage (i.e. the home) is foundational. The subduing of the earth and the dominion over the animals are rooted in the husband and wife being fruitful and multiplying. This recognition is important to properly understand Paul’s redemptive-historical insight into marriage being a matrimonial type between Christ and His Church. As Paul says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). In other words, the so-called mystery of marriage is that it points to the redemptive work of Christ. This is expressed earlier in the same epistle where Paul speaks of all things being united in Christ, “things in heaven and things on earth” (1:10), as well as “all things [being put] under [Christ’s] feet and [giving] him as head over all things to the church” (1:22). In short, the worldwide subduing and dominion mandate expressed in Genesis 1 is fulfilled in Christ (the bridegroom) and the Church (the bride). God has subdued His enemies in the cross of Christ (Col. 2:15). Christ is king and we have been brought into His kingdom (Col. 1:13-14). We only await now the final realization of this present reality in the eschatological marriage between the Bridegroom and His Bride (Rev. 19:6-8).
What does this mean for us creaturely husbands? Does this mean the Bible speaks nothing of what husbands ought to be and do? Of course not, as we have already seen in Ephesians 5 that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church and to lead and provide as heads of our households. This same exhortation is seen in passages like Colossians 3:19, 21 and 1 Peter 3:7 where husbands are exhorted to love their wives, be understanding toward them, and to not be overbearing with their children. Being strong in faith and courageously leading his household in the faith is the mark of a godly husband/father (e.g. Josh. 24:14-15). This is what God has called us to as husbands (and fathers) and we have Christ as our example…the ideal husband. Like an asymptote infinitely approaching its limit yet never reaching it, so too is the godly husband who but serves as an imperfect reflection of the ideal, working to build up his home and to guard it, as Christ builds up and guards his own bride, the household of God.
I – Into this world He came
D – Descending from on high, humbly, joyfully
E – Eternal in nature yet appearing as dust
A – Acquainted with grief, just like us
L – Loving those who had no love for Him
H – Hung He there on that splintery tree
U – Up, He gave up His spirit
S – Silence, three days dead
B – Back again! Just like He said
A – Ascended to glory until the trumpet blast
N – Nurturing and caring for His bride
D – Down again! United at last!