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The Husband’s Role – Christlike Servant Leadership

Last week we began looking at the church in your house! In case you weren’t here and you didn’t realize you even had a church in your house, let me briefly recap what we talked about.

We started off with the reminder that as followers of Jesus Christ – we are the church. The church isn’t a building – it’s not a weekly event that we attend. The church is people. It’s God’s people.

So you are the church. I am the church. Anyone who has put their trust in Jesus is the church. And we’re not just the church on Sunday mornings. We are the church 24/7 – 365 days a year.

We’re the church on Sundays and on Mondays. We’re the church here at the hall and we’re the church in your living room. Where ever you find followers of Jesus – that’s where you find the church.

That means, that if you are a Christian today – then there is a church in your house. Perhaps not at this exact moment because you’re here right now – but when you are at home (which is the majority of the time) there is a church in your house.

And so my question to you last week was, “Does the church in your house look like the church that meets in this hall?”

You hear about athletes putting on their game face – well, I think Christians often put on their church face. When we arrive here Sunday mornings, we all look good and righteous and God-honoring and all that… (We’re not yelling or cussing or fighting with each other) And that’s all fine and good, but when we go home, we take off the church-face and we resume our ‘normal life’ – which unfortunately, is often really no different than any one else in the world.

But God did not call us to be the church for one hour each Sunday morning. We are to be the church every hour of every day all year round. In fact, I would argue that it’s maybe even more important that we live like the church at home more than anywhere else because that is where our lives will have the most impact. We will have more influence on our families than we will on anyone else.

Our role in the church in our house is way more significant than any role any of us will ever play in our local congregation.

So it’s really important that we understand what our role is and what our responsibilities are in the church in our house. Because if you don’t take up your role and your responsibilities in the church in your house – then who will? No one.

And so to that end, we’ve started looking at our roles and responsibilities (not in this church, per se, but in the church in your house). What is your role in your family? If you’re a kid still living with your parents, what responsibilities do you have? If you’re married, what are your responsibilities in your marriage? And how are the responsible of husbands different than the responsibilities of wives? If you’re single, you kinda gotta play everybody’s role – so what is that look like?

And over the next several weeks, we want to do our best to answer all those questions, but we started last week by looking at the roles within marriage. As we were reading through Ephesians chapter 5, we came across some challenging verse regarding the roles of men and women in marriage – and so we started with those.

We didn’t get too far into the specifics, but we laid a really important foundation for understanding these roles in marriage. And I want to just refresh your memory regarding that foundation again this morning, so I want to re-read through Ephesians 5:31-33. This is just a snippet of the passage we looked at, but I think it’s enough to refresh our memories.

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. Ephesians 5:31-32

In these verses, and throughout this passage in Ephesians 5, the main point that Paul is making is that our marriage relationships are a reflection or a model or an illustration of the relationship between Christ and his church.

In other words, we are to mimic in our marriage relationships the relationship we see between Christ and the church. When we are trying to understand our roles and our responsibilities in marriage – we take our cues from what we see in Christ’s relationship with the church. That’s why Paul writes earlier in Ephesians 5…

23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. Ephesians 5:23-26

So Paul tells husbands to love their wives in the same way that Christ loves the church. And he tells the wives to submit to their husbands in the same that the church submits to Christ.

So in our marriages, it’s like we are putting on a play or a skit where husbands are playing the part of Jesus and wives are playing the part of the church. Those roles don’t define who we are as people and they don’t determine our value or worth or abilities or anything like that. They are simply the roles that God has given us to play in our marriages.

But there has certainly been much confusion and misunderstand regarding what Paul is saying in this passage. It’s really important that we understand what Paul means when he says the husband is the head of this wife and what he means by the wife submitting to the husband in everything.

Those ideas of headship and submission have certainly been misunderstood and often twisted from Paul’s original meaning in the past.

And so we came up with two basic definitions to help us understand what these two terms mean. Actually, we didn’t come up with them – John Piper came up with them and we decided they fit pretty accurately!

So these are the definitions that we looked at:

  • Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christlike servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home.
  • Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.

As we saw last week, these definitions fit very well with what we see in Christ’s relationship with the church. We saw that certainly Christ takes the responsibility for his church – providing servant-leadership, protection and provision. Likewise, we saw how the church’s role is to honour and affirm Christ’s leadership in the church, in our lives and in the world – and He has invited us to help carry out his work and ministry in the world according to our gifts.

So with all that in mind, for the next few weeks, we are going to take a more in-depth look at the roles and responsibilities of men and women in marriage – based on the example of Christ and the church and other specific Biblical instructions.

Now as I started working through all this, I came to realize that there is just pile of stuff that we should be talking about when it comes to understand God’s design for marriage. Most of what our culture teaches and promotes is very contrary to what the Bible says and I think many couples go into marriage having no real idea how God design this thing to work.

So I think that it’s important that we spend a good chunk of time talking about all this. My plan (so long as I actually follow it) is to start by going through these definitions of headship and submission bit by bit. I’ll probably do about 4 messages on headship and then I think two more on submission. 

And I tell you this now because I don’t want you to go home after today thinking that I’ve told you the one key thing that you need to remember. What I’m going to teach and preach today is not going to be the “one key thing” – but it’s an important part of the big picture – and it is a BIG picture. We need to take a look at a lot of different stuff in order to understand the high calling that God has given us in marriage.

Now if you are not married at this stage in your life, don’t tune out quite yet. Remember, all of this is based on Christ’s relationship with his church, and since you are the church, much of what we talk about will apply to you – it’s just that some of the practical applications that we come up with may not. If fact, even among those who are married, how we apply this stuff is certainly going to vary from couple to couple, so I’ll try to make sure you catch the principle of the matter and then you can apply that to your own situation as necessary.

So let’s get started. I said last week that I was going to start with husbands – and so today I want us to start looking at the husband’s responsibility for Christlike servant leadership.

Now of course, Christ is our model. As husbands, we are playing the role of Christ in our marriage, so our starting point will be to see what this servant leadership looks like as He lived it out – and continues to live out for that matter.

I want to look at a passage in John 13, but before we go there, I just want to set the stage.

We’ve just come out of the Christmas season where we celebrated and remembered that Christ came to earth and became one of us – born as a baby, just like you and I. And that’s just incredible to think about. I mean, this is God we’re talking about. That little baby was the person who created the entire universe. John actually begins his Gospel marvelling at that fact.

1 In the beginning the Word already existed.

    The Word was with God,

    and the Word was God.

2 He existed in the beginning with God.

3 God created everything through him,

    and nothing was created except through him.

4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,

    and his life brought light to everyone.

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

John 1:1-4, 14

This is really incredible! The one who created the world (the one who created all those billions of stars, the one who separated the dry land from the oceans, the one who brought forth plants and animals on the earth simply by speaking them into existence, the one who brought life into the world) – He choose to come into the very world that He created. The God who fills the universe, confined Himself to a tiny body of flesh and blood and became human!

But of course, he didn’t stop being God. He was still the Commander and Creator of all the earth. That baby Jesus is the very same God who brought the flood over all the earth back in Noah’s time – executing judgement and justice on a world gone wrong. That baby was the same God who brought all those plagues upon Egypt and then split open the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites to pass through on their journey to the Promised Land.

Sometimes I think we forget that Jesus was God. But we’re reminded of that throughout his life. We see his authority as he commands storms to be calm and demons to leave the men whom they have possessed. His touch (and sometime only his words) heals the blind and the lepers and the paralyzed. He performs miracle after miracle – he teaches with authority (unlike any other teachers of his time) – and we should expect all that, because Jesus is God. 

He was still the Commander and Creator of all the earth. Jesus is that same God. And that’s what makes this passage in John 13 so astounding. If you’re not there already, flip over to John chapter 13 to witness this interaction between Jesus and his disciples…

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. 2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. 

John 13:1-5

Now don’t forget who Jesus is – He is the sovereign Lord over all. He is the ultimate authority. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to understand that washing people’s feet was not usually the job for the person in charge. Someone in a position of authority and power simply did not get down on the floor, and clean the filth off of the feet of those he was in charge of. But yet that’s exactly what Jesus did.

He has all the authority and all the power – and what does He do with it? He uses it to serve his disciples – to serve his church.

No one had more authority that Jesus. No one had more power. No one had more rights to be served than Jesus. I mean, he’s the King of kings and the Lord of lords. But yet, there he is, on the floor, cleaning out the toe jam between Peter’s toes. Actually, they probably didn’t have toe jam because they didn’t wear socks – it was probably just a layer of dirty grim. But there Jesus is, scrubbing off Peter’s dirty feet.

Now let me ask you this, husbands: When you read that verse back in Ephesians about how the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of his church – is this is picture you had in mind? When you read that, do you envision yourself down on the floor washing the feet of your wife and children? Is that what headship means to you?

That’s what it means to Jesus. That’s what Jesus did with his power and authority – he washed his disciples feet. Why would He do that? There’s probably a few reasons.

But for one, he was modelling for them how to serve one another. If you jump down to verse 12, Jesus shares with them the point of this object lesson:

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. John 13:12-15

And I think that applies to us just as much as it did to them. We are to model that same attitude towards each other in the church as well as towards our wives in our marriage. 

I think one of the points that Jesus is trying to bring out is that we need to understand that leadership is about serving the people we lead – not about them serving us. And that’s worth saying again: “Leadership is about serving the people we lead – not about them serving us.” 

In Matthew chapter 20, Jesus teaches this very clearly. Verse 25

25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. 

Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

Jesus led by being a servant. Even though he was the King of kings and the Lord of lords, he did not come to be served, but to serve others and to give his life as ransom for many. And he has instructed us to do likewise.

If you go back to Ephesians 5:25 we see how Paul relates that to our role as husbands.

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 

Ephesians 5:25-27

Jesus did everything for our benefit! He gave up his life for his church (dying on the cross and rising again on the third day) so that we could holy and clean – so that we could be his glorious bride for all eternity – without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Jesus didn’t suffer and die for his own benefit – he suffered and died for us.

Likewise, God didn’t give men the role of headship for their own benefit – but for the benefit of their wives and families. It’s so that we can one day present our families to God. God has entrusted us with them for a relatively short time and one day we will present them back to God. But until then, God expects us to humbly serve them – leading them towards Christ – helping them become holy and clean – without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. 

I kinda envision this like a father entrusting his daughter to some guy as they get married. For you dads with daughters, you know how precious your little girl is and that guy had better take really good care her. 

Well, God feels that way about your family – your wife is his daughter and he has entrusted her to you. When your life is over and you stand before God and you present your wife (God’s precious little girl) back to Him – don’t you want to present her without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish?

Now you probably wouldn’t describe your family as being without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish yet – but that’s the goal – that’s why and where we are to lead them. 

And we’re going to talk more about what that looks like next week.

But for today, the point I want to make is that Jesus used his power and authority to serve his church. What do you do with the power and authority that God has given you?

And maybe you don’t realize it, but as men, God has given us power and authority. Typically speaking, men are bigger and stronger and louder than women – of course, that’s not always the case, but generally speaking that’s true. That’s God’s design. God has given us a certain amount of power. 

He’s also given us authority. All authority comes from God – and God has granted men the authority to be heads of their homes. That’s the role that God has given us.

But that power and authority is not given to us so that we can selfishly order around our wives and kids to do whatever we say. That power and authority is given to us so that we can serve our families. It’s so that we can use our strength to help them become all that God wants them to be – holy and clean without spot or wrinkle.

The power and the authority that God has given you as a husband is most certainly not so that you can be served – but so that you can serve your family and so that you can give your life for them. John Piper writes:

Headship is not a right to command and control. It’s a responsibility to love like Christ: to lay down your life for your wife in servant leadership. ~ John Piper

I imagine that if I were to do a quick poll here this morning and I were to ask the question: “Which of you men would be willing to die for your wives? Who would take a bullet so that your wife could survive?” I imagine that probably every man here would raise his hand. I think all of us would be willing to die for our wives.

But how many of us would be willing live for our wives? Dying for your wife is relatively easy. Bullet hits you, you die and your celebration with Jesus in eternity begins.

But serving your wife each day for years on end is much harder. Giving up what you want to do for the sake of your wife is not always easy. 

  • Working the job you really don’t enjoy so that you can provide for your family is not always fun. 
  • Taking the initiative to pray with your wife might make you feel awkward and vulnerable. 
  • Choosing to let your wife sleep while you clean up the vomit in your kids bed at 3am in the morning – that is the opposite of what most men want to do.

Laying down our lives for our families is not easy. Being a servant to our families is hard – but that’s exactly why God has given us the strength and the power we need to do it.

So men, I want to challenge you this morning: How strong are you? And I don’t care how many pounds you can bench press, or whether or not you’ve got any abs…. That’s really no concern of mine. But are you strong enough to pick up a towel? Are you strong enough to get down on the floor and wash the grim off the feet of your wife and children so that you can present them to God without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish?

Are you willing to lay down your life – to do whatever it takes to humbly lead your family towards holiness – towards Jesus?

And even for those here today who are not husbands – a similar challenge lays before you. All of us have people in our life that we can humbly serve – leading them towards Jesus. A neighbour, a friend, students, nephews, nieces – we all have those people in our lives. Will you pick up a towel and serve them – leading them towards Jesus? All of us can do that.

This morning, I’ve got a whole pile of towels here today and I’d really love to send one home with every husband here. I don’t really care what you use it for, but I hope it will serve as a reminder that God has put you in a very significant position as the head of your family and he has given you the power and the authority to carry out that responsibility. 

God wants us to lead with a towel – to use our strength to serve our families and to lead them toward Christ.

Philippians 3:5 says…

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God,

    he did not think of equality with God

    as something to cling to.

7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

    he took the humble position of a slave

    and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,

8     he humbled himself in obedience to God

    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor

    and gave him the name above all other names,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,

    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

That’s our model. Jesus – the one who’s name is above all other names. The one to whom ever knee will one day bow. That same Jesus took the humble position of a slave. He humbled himself in obedience to God – even to the point of death on a cross.

That’s how much Christ loved you and I. That’s the extent that He was willing to serve us.

Husbands – love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.

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