Marriage God’s Way: The Husband’s Call

By: Dr. Ab and Karen AbercrombieWedding hands

Excerpt taken from Christian Shrinks Answer ALL Your Questions…(No Couch Required), Xulon Press, 2005

What does the Bible say about the role of the husband in the home?

Biblically, the man is called to be the priest of his home.  He is directed to love, honor, protect, and lead; indeed he is held to a very high standard of accountability.  One of the first instructions given to the husband is the most basic, yet the most demanding:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. (Eph 5:25)

This scripture is a powerful calling.  It is an instruction to minister to our home as Christ ministered to the church.  If we are to love as Jesus loved, then we are to be close and active, not distant and passive.

There was nothing passive about our Lord’s love for us.  God could have loved us from the heavens, but instead drew near and demonstrated His love in an active, behavioral expression.

Jesus touched (Matt 8:1-3); He healed (Matt 14:14); He instructed (Mark 10:1); He provided (Mark 6:37-44); He prayed (John 17:13-21); He forgave (Matt 9:2); He resisted temptation (Heb 4:15); He served (Mark 10:45); and finally, He sacrificed all (John 19:30).

Using our Savior as the template of comparison, allow us to inquire:

  • Do you touch your wife as Jesus touched?  His touch was filled with understanding and compassion.  It was a touch that gave but did not take.  Touching your wife physically in this way assures her of your commitment and love for her (2 Cor 7:3).
  • When your wife is in pain, do you promote healing?  Our wives need to know they can bring their injuries and needs to us.  They need us to be engaged, interested, and invested in reestablishing their peace (Gal 6:2).
  • As the spiritual leader of the home, is your study of God’s Word faithful so that you can instruct and encourage your wife? A man cannot feed others unless he is fed.  Your fervent attention to learning the Bible will allow you to lead your family from a Christian worldview and will transform not only your message but also your heart (Heb 4:12, 1 Cor 14:35).
  • Are you providing for your family’s financial needs and security?  So many families today are overburdened by debt and commitments beyond their means, creating tremendous stress.  Financial problems are cited as the second leading cause of divorce.  Fiscal responsibility and leadership from the husband is central to protecting the home (1 Tim 5:8).
  • Are you in prayer for your wife and with your wife?  Do you make it a priority to lift her needs to God and to share the intimacy of prayer together?  Research tells us that less than 1 percent of couples who regularly pray together get divorced (Jas 5:16).
  • Do you forgive as Christ forgave?  Can you resolve and release the issues that divide you, or do you harbor them in your heart, allowing anger and sin to take root?  Studies tell us that the capacity to forgive is fundamental to the maintenance of good healthy relationships (Eph 4:26-27).
  • When temptation comes, what do you do?  There is no safe level of thought or deed when it comes to sin.  Any compromise or concession made by the man will affect his family (Gal 5:9). Boundaries are essential if we are to preserve the marital covenant.  We must actively pursue God’s cover and protection for our homes on a daily basis (Eph 6:10-18).
  • How do you serve your bride?  Whether in small matters or large, serving our wives is one of the foremost ways to demonstrate honor.  It expresses consideration, it defines her as valuable, and it produces a climate of mutual respect and loyalty.  Do something unexpected that reminds her of her precious place in your life (John 13:14-15).
  • Finally, is your love sacrificial?  Jesus gave everything for those entrusted to His care, and husbands are called to do the same (Luke 9:23). What can you sacrifice today that will bless your wife?  Is it time at work, hours watching T.V., attitudes or ambitions, behaviors or habits?  If it limits or injures the marriage, it needs to go.

Having observed couples for 29 years, we are convinced that the man is the portal to the family: It is through him that good or evil gains access to the home.  When the man is weak in his active love and protection of the family, the family, too, is weak and vulnerable.

This is not to say problems cannot arise from other sources, including the wife.  Yet, when there is strength in leadership, there is stability in the system. The man is defined clearly as the leader, no matter what liberal distortion you have been fed.

Second, Scripture teaches us that the husband should lead, but he should lead in the manner of Christ:

For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. (Eph 5:23)

Men love this scripture!  But just as we are to love as Christ loved, we are to lead as He led.  The Bible is careful to clarify just exactly what being the “head” of something entails.  Here, God reminds us that the “headship” of Christ required total sacrifice as the “Savior of the body.”  If Christ gave Himself for the body of the church, men are to do likewise for the “body” of the home.

Yes, men are to lead, but they are to lead from a submitted, sacrificial position, willing to give anything and everything to the body of his wife and family.  We have seen in family after family, that when men lead under this biblical description, the family flourishes.

Third, men are to establish their homes as their first and primary place of ministry.  The Apostle Peter wrote:

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Pet 3:7)


This is one of our favorite scriptures because again, God defines the gentle blending of care and strength, of leadership and love.  Here men are instructed to “understand” the wife.  Now I know this seems impossible, but God never orders what can’t be done.

God designed men and women to be different.  Our differences are easier to negotiate when we understand that we are this way for God’s purpose to be fulfilled.  Part of the “understanding” Peter wrote about is grounded in our acceptance of God’s plan for the marital home and that our wives are not built to think and act as men.  Clearly gender differences are central to God’s order:

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen 1:27)


God made us male and female so that we could relate, strengthen, and support each other.  Can you imagine the difficulty in the home if God had made us the same?  Different is good and it is God’s order.  By seeking to understand the wife, we give respect to God’s design.  He made this wife, this helper, for you.  Explore the wonder of God’s work.

Next the scripture tells us that we should give “honor to the wife as to the weaker vessel.”  Men like this scripture too.  But remember, weaker does not mean “inferior.”  It means that the man is like a thick crock of pottery, strong and stable; the woman is like a beautiful piece of cut glass.  Each has its value in the home, but each has a very different function.

This valuable vessel should be protected, highlighted, supported, and preserved.  The pottery (man) can get chipped or cracked and maintain its function.  The cut glass (woman) is not to bear the same weight or duty.  Care for her and honor her as the one God has given under your care.

This scripture further reminds us that we are “heirs together of the grace of life.”  God prompts us to remember that our wives are precious to the kingdom of God.   Whenever tempted to harm our wives with word or action, we must not forget that as a believer, she has a kingdom inheritance.

Finally, God tells men to do all of this so that your “prayers may not be hindered.”  The Word tells us that sin divides us from God (Isa 59:1-2).  Here God makes it known that failure in the home is a sin that limits our access to His throne.  While every husband is imperfect, we must be active in knowing what God expects in our marriages and be repentant when we fall.  Prayer is essential if we are to live out the biblical standards of a husband.


We remember meeting with a minister and his wife from out-of-state.  Samuel and Liz were in their early forties and had been married nearly twenty years.  Liz had been involved in a brief affair and later confessed her failing to Samuel.  The pain and emotion of the first meeting was intense.  The wife expressed grief and guilt, the husband anger and deep sadness.

The two had been believers and servants of God for nearly two decades and each had contributed to the kingdom in mighty ways.  Yet sitting in our office, they were broken, almost lifeless, under the oppression of this trauma.

Liz was repentant and seeking her husband’s forgiveness.  He was understandably in shock.  For a period of time he was too angry to accept her request.  But on the fourth session an amazing thing happened.  Samuel said to Liz: “Yes, I forgive you, but can you forgive me?”

Liz was speechless.  Samuel continued: “I know what you did, and it is wrong.  But long before you fell, I pushed you.”  He went on to describe his failure to honor and understand her; his avoidance of time with her; his preoccupation with matters of the world rather than the needs of his home.  Samuel was clear that he did not excuse her for her action, but he did not excuse himself either.

This minister knew God’s Word better than his family therapist.  When he began to contrast his life with the instruction he was to follow, he knew he had opened the door for his wife’s transgression.

Samuel’s acceptance of his failure aided the mending of this home immeasurably.  He knew that his wife was his responsibility, and he stood up and accepted his burden as the leader of the home.  Liz drew to his side and took refuge in his renewed resolve to honor her and to guard her from future threat.

In her repentance, Liz found grace.  In Samuel’s repentance, he found strength.  Both became accountable and the marriage survived what could easily have been its end.  Of course feelings were expressed, trust was challenged, and faith was tested.  It all didn’t come together overnight.  But with time, the marital unit was restored, and believe it or not, improved through this near-fatal crisis.

Men have opportunities long before the boundaries of their home are broken.  Each day is an occasion to step forward and fulfill the teachings of God in our marriages.  We call it “Preventive Leadership.”  Just as in the case of car or home maintenance, you either tend to the small things to avoid future catastrophe, or you avoid those small steps and thus face complete breakdown.  Which type of man will you be?

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