She submits; he sacrifices.
She follows; he leads.
She affirms; he initiates.
She reflects Jesus; he reflects Jesus.
The greatest privilege in marriage is reflecting our Savior. And, in God’s design, the privilege is equally great even though Jesus is reflected differently and uniquely by a husband and his wife.
Seeing Jesus in a Husband
He reflects Jesus. “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” (Ephesians 5:25–26). Husbands are to love their wives. To love is to desire, plan and act for the ultimate good of the beloved. So the husband must know what’s best for his wife; namely, God himself. Then he must plan, desire and act in every way conceivable to bring her to a greater knowledge and enjoyment of God.
Jesus did that for us by dying for our sins. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring [you] to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus humbled himself by becoming a slave and serving to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:6–8). The husband gets to reflect the sacrificial love of Jesus by dying to himself—his sin, his selfishness, his own interests—and instead enlarging his interests to include his bride’s joy in God.
That means he must die to any ambition to be god in his wife’s heart. He must die to insisting on his preferences when putting hers above his own will not lead to sin. In this sacrificial love, the wife will see the Messiah while she looks at her man. And this love breeds trust.
Lastly, the husband reflects Jesus to his wife and to the world by washing his wife with the water of the word. His goal is her holiness—her obedience to her heavenly Father and her satisfaction in him. So he speaks God’s words to her. He reads the Bible with her. He insists on disagreeing and rebuking her gently when she is transgressing the word. He confesses his sin to his wife and repents according to the word. The Bible saturates the marriage, the conversation, the conflict, the resolution, the decision-making and the movement of their marriage. In this unswerving allegiance to Scripture, the husband echoes Jesus’ refrain, “It is written” (Matthew 4:4, Matthew 4.7″>7, Matthew 4.10″>10).