Loving Our Husbands

Loving Our Husbands

Written By John MacArthur and Jeremiah Johnson

“No biblical standard is more viciously attacked today than the God-ordained role of women in society. And no passage is more ridiculed or reinterpreted by assailants within the church than these two verses.”  That sober warning comes from John MacArthur’s commentary on the book of Titus. The controversial verses in question are Titus 2:4-5: “so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”

As we sit on what appears to be the precipice of a new era of persecution for the church, we’ve been considering how believers ought to respond to a society hell-bent on promoting immorality and stamping out the truth of God’s Word. Our discussion has focused on Paul’s exhortations to the church in Titus 2, and today we come to some of the biblical concepts that the world finds most objectionable. As John points out:

Some people, including some evangelicals, point to Paul’s declaration in Galatians that “there is neither male nor female” and claim that the apostle here teaches the total equality of the sexes. But equality in salvation, in spiritual standing before God, has no bearing on God’s order for marriage and for church leadership. The same apostle who wrote those words to the Galatian churches also wrote this letter to Titus. The world cannot abide the ideas of headship and submission. But their defiance against God’s design should not surprise us—in fact, as John MacArthur explains, it is one of the key elements of God’s curse on the sinful world.

The distinctions of headship and submission were ordained by God at Creation. As a consequence of Eve’s disobedience to God’s command and her failure to consult with Adam about the temptation, God told her, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). The desire spoken of here is not sexual or psychological, both of which Eve had for Adam before the Fall as his specially created helper. It is rather the same desire spoken of in the next chapter, where the same Hebrew word (t’shûqâ) is used. The term comes from an Arabic root that means “to compel, impel, urge, or seek control over.” The Lord warned Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you [that is, control you], but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7 NIV; emphasis added). Sin wanted to master Cain, but God commanded Cain to master sin. The curse on Eve was that a woman’s desire would henceforth be to usurp the place of man’s headship and that he would resist that desire and even more strongly exercise his control over her. That constant friction and jockeying for position is not what God intended for marriage. Instead, as John writes,

He has a magnificent and wonderful design for women. It is a design that will fulfill their created purpose, maximize their uniqueness, make them a blessing to the world, and bring fulfillment to their own lives and glory to God. That design is succinctly and beautifully described in Titus 2. Last time, we highlighted the important role of older women in the church and how their discipleship, wisdom, and maturity is largely missing from churches that have pursued younger, hipper audiences. In the verses before us today, Paul explains what the fruit of that discipleship ought to look like. As John MacArthur explains, it starts in the home.

Paul continues by saying that, by their godly teaching and example, older women in the church are to “encourage the young women to love their husbands.” Paul is not speaking of romantic or sexual love, which certainly have a proper place in marriage, but of a committed love that godly wives choose to have for their husbands, just as godly husbands choose to have for their wives (Ephesians 5:25, 28). Philandros is a noun, here rendered “to love . . . husbands,” and refers to willing, determined love that is not based on a husband’s worthiness but on God’s command and that is extended by a wife’s affectionate and obedient heart. Even unlovable, uncaring, unfaithful, and ungrateful husbands are to be loved. This sort of love of husbands and wives for each other involves unqualified devotedness and is a friendship that is strong and deep.

If a wife does not truly love her husband, she must, in obedience to the Lord, train herself to love him. Contrary to popular thinking, love that is carefully built and nurtured is not artificial. It is much more common that spontaneous, “bells and whistles” romances prove to be the ones that are artificial and short-lived. The principle is reciprocal and applies equally to husbands.

Training yourself to love involves doing loving things for the other person, whether or not you feel like doing them. It involves putting their interests and welfare above your own. It involves sacrificial giving of yourself to others for their sakes, not for the sake of appreciation or returned love or favor. It’s the kind of love Paul describes in Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” As John explains,

That general admonition to all Christians applies in a special way to Christian husbands and wives. When you sacrificially serve others, it becomes almost impossible not to love them. Where there is genuine practical love, genuine emotional love is sure to follow.

That is the opposite of what society is saying today to young women, who are not encouraged to love their husbands but rather to love and to follow their own way and to “love” whomever they want whenever they want. At best, marriage is held to be a matter of convenience and preference, which, when it becomes inconvenient and unpreferred, is abandoned. Christians are not to mimic the world’s cavalier attitude toward marriage. The collapse of marriages in the church isn’t just a black eye for the gospel—it has given license to those who want to redefine marriage to suit their own sinful choices and wicked lifestyles.

In his commentary, John explains how believers can hinder the spread of the gospel through the poor example of their marriage.

An unsaved person who sees professing Christians who have no concern about their own sin and who openly follow the world’s standards instead of God’s, can hardly be expected to see the need for his or her own salvation from sin. In particular, unsaved young women who see inconsistency and hypocrisy in their Christian counterparts will have little reason to love and be faithful to their husbands, or even to bother with marriage at all. Nor will they see the power of divine transformation and love at work. In God’s design, the relationship between a Christian husband and wife is an illustration of Christ’s relationship to the church (Ephesians 5:22-24; for more on this topic, click here). Paul specifically addresses the wife’s role in that illustration in Titus 2:5, when he exhorts young women to be “subject to their own husbands.”

While it may seem like a small thing, our ability to love one another speaks volumes about the genuineness of our faith, the true affections of our hearts, and the extent of God’s transforming work in us through His Word. How you love your spouse is either adorning the gospel or hindering it. And for a world that already wants nothing to do with God’s design for marriage, the testimony of a godly wife stands out even more.

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Titus 2:3-5

14 thoughts on “Loving Our Husbands

  1. For a few years, there was a time when my hubby was not a very lovable person. I suppose you can say i trained myself to love him no matter how ugly he was being. Later on, he asked me how i still loved him and took care of him even when he was being awful… I knew what kind of man he was and clearly he was struggling. My love for him is not conditional. I asked him, during that time, did you ever stop loving me? he said of course not…

    Anyhow, i sure hope our children have observed over the years that no matter what we as a family are going thru, we have loved and supported each other even if we ourselves were not at our best.

    No matter what we face, i tell myself i know who i married and would not change that. His values and character are admirable – he is my love…

  2. Pretty good stuff, my only criticism is that this does not apply to only the home and church, this is the natural and God ordained order across the board in every part of society, from the home to church, and the workplace to government. Secondly, I wish people who should know better would stop repeating what is pure modern eisegesis meant to placate the world about Adam being cursed to more strongly exercise his headship over Eve. This is a modern reinterpretation.

  3. Your last few paragraphs are important. I don’t think any unbeliever can take a ‘divorced’ Christian seriously when it comes to ministering Godly marriage. I was part of Church that had divorcee’s in it, and part of a family with the same. From Christ’s own words regarding divorce, remarriage and the adultery that remarriage perpetuates I questioned the validity of second marriages. There are Christian men and women on second wives and husbands purporting to live good Christian marriages, how? It is not appropriate to measure sin but an unmarried woman of the world has not stood in front of an altar and promised her life to a man making God witness to it and then failed that promise. A divorced Christian woman has. Divorce is sinful and no one who has been in the circumstance and then remarried should be engaged in any kind of Church leadership or ministering. I have a lot of respect for women and men who have separated for whatever reason and not remarried because they are still honoring their vows as best they can. It is politically correct to not judge divorcees and I know we shouldn’t close the doors of the Church to anyone but until divorce is treated as the scourge that it is in the Church it DOES undermine the Christian marriage. If you have a divorced Church leader than he is not a man of ‘one wife.’ If you have women onto second husbands as a result of divorce trying to ‘save’ women then you are making a mockery of the Christian woman.

    1. Not all divorces are biblically banned. Adultery is a legal cause for divorce. Other than that nothing. However the modern church creates all new sins like not making your wife happy is emotional abuse. Working over 40hrs a week abandondment. But i do agree with you few churches make a stand especially against women who are causing this divorce revolution.

  4. I appreciate the insight on God’s words concerning Eve and ruling over her husband. I’d heard a few people touching on that but not so succinctly. I’ll definitely be letting my children know so they can watch out for that in their lives.

  5. Mam I thank our Heavenly Father that we have Pastors like pastor John MacArthur and ladies like yourself who teach the Holy Word of God as it is and do not seek to twist the Word to suit their desires. The world would be a much better place if more teachers of Gods Word and more people claiming to be followers of our Heavenly Father would apply these clear principals in God’s Holy Word. Thank you very very much for your courage. May our Heavenly Father bless you abundantly.

  6. Another wonderful post, Lori and absolutely true. I love this part, “Training yourself to love involves doing loving things for the other person, whether or not you feel like doing them. It involves putting their interests and welfare above your own. It involves sacrificial giving of yourself to others for their sakes, not for the sake of appreciation or returned love or favor.” I believe my wife’s “love” for me when we first married was superficial but through submission and obedience and dedication to our family her love has blossomed and matured and with it my love and respect for her has increased immeasurably. Our family feels if it is enveloped in the warm embrace of Christ’s love, and I know as Head of the family, that my wife worships the ground I walk upon. There can be no greater love.

  7. This was portrayed so beautifully by my Grandma, when I lived with my gparents in my young years. Sadly, I was forced to move back with my parents at 12 and they were both terrible role models. Between them and the outside culture, I veered off the Godly path. While I wanted to be a good wife, I really floundered. I sought out the info on my own in my 40s and have worked hard to put it in practice despite feeling my young self resist! I definitely took to heart the saying, Fake it til you make it! Our marriage was always strong but doing it God’s way made it better than I imagined. And looking back at my grandparents, I see that was the reason as well. I don’t have nearly the internal challenge anymore and don’t even hesitate to let my *kept woman* attitude out. I’ll easily state that my husband comes first, he’s the boss.

    1. What a great testimony Debby! Once we submit to God’s word and be fully submissive and obedient to our husbands many would be surprised how much smoother and happier a marriage can be! I love your “kept woman” attitude statement! I tell everyone that I belong to my husband and he is without question the leader and the boss and I am fully obedient to him and step back so he can be a MAN and run things. After a few strange looks and whispers under people’s breath (mostly women) while they digest the “obey” and “I belong to my husband” part, when they see how my husband take such good care of me hopefully they understand how a great and godly marriage looks!!

  8. CVD – As a man on my second marriage, I recognise that divorce is sinful and not in accordance with God’s Law and it pains me every day and is something that I often prey about. My first wife left me 34 years ago as she did not agree with my some of my more traditional religious convictions and also, she did like living in London – we came from a quiet village. For my part I would never have divorced. My second wife had never been married before and I wanted to lead her onto the way of God’s path and, as a Christian, it was important for me to marry in church, though it took quite a lot of persuading! Divorce has been one of the Devil’s wrecking balls of Christian families, I’ll grant you, but it is difficult when the person you married decides that they have, in effect, “changed their mind”. I just thank God for 26 years of very happy marriage to my second wife and endeavour to live as Christ intended.

    1. I can appreciate what you went through with a partner walking away. But Christ is clear in this regard. You can put a spouse away for adultery. Going on to remarry makes you commit adultery. I can respect a Christian who is left who lives alone honoring the views they made while ministering but those that remarry definitely have to forgo the right to minister. This blog encourages women to forgive adultery and reclaim their marriages, as do many Christian women who minister online. This is important because divorce and subsequently remarriage are sinful. The word exhorts widows to remarry not divorcees. I don’t pass judgment on divorce and remarriage but I pass judgement on Churches that allow this sin to funnel into ministry and leadership. I like that the Catholic Church remains archaic enough to not allow remarriage within the Church and disallows Divorce. It takes the sanctity of marriage seriously, the evangelical churches I have been to didn’t.

  9. “If a wife does not truly love her husband, she must, in obedience to the Lord, train herself to love him.”

    Unfortunately, this is a huge jump. It takes self-awareness on her part. A woman with a hardened heart will not permit her guilt to reach her conscience. She will not own her sin and therefore will not repent. It puts the husband in a horrible state.

  10. Exactly TJ. My views hadn’t altered from the day we married but her views changed and she lacked the self-awareness to realise her sin and repent. She was/is very bitter and no longer wished to live her life in accordance with traditional Christian teaching; in so doing she questioned beliefs I had held since childhood – yet somehow it was all my fault!

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