Yesterday when I fell down the black hole of Twitter, I ended up gasping for air with a Desiring God blog post. Husbands, Get Her Ready for Jesus (link) astonished me with its unbiblical focus on husband-as-sanctifier.
It began with Ephesians 5:25-26 . . .
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.
. . . and proceeded from there to explain that contrary to what this verse says—which is that Jesus Christ is the Sanctifier, Jesus Christ is the one who cleanses His church (including all believers both male and female), Jesus is the washer with the water of the word, plainly stated right there in this Scripture—that instead it is the husband’s job to do this for his wife.
Husbands, we read, are to “promote their wives’ holiness” by praying for them, reading the Bible with them, urging them to pursue meaningful friendships with other women, and, the primary topic of this blog post, correcting them. The author uses the following Scriptures to support this thesis:
Romans 6:18 and 22. “. . . and, having been set free from sin, [you] have become slaves of righteousness. . . . But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”
Ephesians 4:15 “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,”
Ecclesiastes 3:7b “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”
And that’s it.
But these are Scriptures that apply to all believers at all times. None of them are about husbands correcting wives.
Granted, all wives need correction sometimes, and some wives need correction a whole lot.
But this can be true of any Christian.
This is true of every Christian.
This is true of the body of Christ.
According to the word of God, every Christian should be able to offer loving correction to any other Christian, depending on maturity and the closeness of the relationship. There are times when we all have blind spots. There are times when any of us can be in sin.
The author closes his article this way:
Until Christ comes, “husbands have the staggering privilege of getting our wives ready for Jesus, their true husband. With God’s help, and for his glory, may we correct them with the grace and truth that we’ve received.”
So what does he really mean, “getting our wives ready for Jesus”? The only interpretation I can come up with is getting them ready for heaven, like getting them clean enough to enter, or clean enough to stand before Him.
That’s the husband’s job? Somehow the husband is supposed to do the purifying that Jesus Christ alone does, and somehow this purifying is supposed to actually get her ready for Jesus—help her be saved?—in a way that only the Holy Spirit can do?
This is a disturbingly unBiblical thought.
Instead, Jesus Christ is the only Sanctifier, according to I Corinthians 1:30-31.
“ . . . you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
And somehow husbands have a job of “correcting” that their wives apparently don’t have, even though the Scriptures never say such a thing? Can a wife ever do correcting of her husband, as believer-priests equal in God’s sight? Can husbands be corrected only by other men?
Rather, this Scripture is about learning to live together in love and forbearance, listening together to the Holy Spirit, and facing the battle together against a very real and present enemy. . . .
. . . activities in which every Christian is called to participate.
It seems a shameful thing, Desiring God. I hope you take your “correcting” focus off the husband and put it on the entire body of believers, where it rightly belongs.
And I hope you take your “sanctifying” focus off the husband and put it back on the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, where it rightly belongs.
We encourage one another as we see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:25). And according to Philippians 1:6, we look to God to finish the good work He has started.
When the apostle Paul said in Colossians 1:28 that he and others were . . .
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ
. . . the context tells us that they were doing this by proclaiming . . .
the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
This is our glorious focus, our glorious hope, and our glorious joy. May husbands, and all Christians, continue to proclaim to each other these glorious truths.
Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.
Amen! You stated so well what I have tried to elucidate for years. Thank you.
I find this disturbing in another way as a single 44-year-old who may never marry. Thank God, Jesus sanctifies me as no ordinary man can. And loves me even though no other man is willing.
YES! That’s one of the horrible things about it, definitely.
Reading this left me horrified:
“Until Christ comes, “husbands have the staggering privilege of getting our wives ready for Jesus, their true husband. With God’s help, and for his glory, may we correct them with the grace and truth that we’ve received.”
In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus is the example of a godly husband, who sacrificed His life for His bride to demonstrate His love and sanctify His bride, the church, through the power of His word.” This is not to say that husbands are somehow deemed mini-gods charged with fixing their wives.
The apostle Paul, writing of “…warning and teaching,” was writing as an apostle charged by the Lord as a missionary, not as a husband.
As believers, we are all given the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and teach us. While as marriage partners, we are to support and encourage one another, and as you, Rebecca, rightly acknowledged, it is the Lord who sanctifies us. This is not a directive for husbands to attempt to “sanctify” their wives through behavior or attitudinal correction.
Furthermore, can someone explain specifically what this kind of “correction” looks like? Is the teacher referring to certain behaviors, time management, attitudes, clothing, friendships, personality differences, “Christian” activities such as prayer or worship or bible study? What I see rising out of this is a dominating, micromanaging sort of marriage.
How do these teachers get away with this stuff?!
He didn’t indicate what kind of “correcting” he was talking about, but I wanted to charitably assume he meant sin or a blind spot or something similar. But you’re right, it could be anything, and I know of plenty of husbands who could take something like that post and run with it, “correcting” their wives about all kinds of minutiae and then pointing to DG and saying, “See?”
Another question. What form should this correction take? Berating her privately? Making her write, “I will no longer displease my lord by X,” 100 times? Taking away her car keys and shoes? Sending her to bed without her supper?
Right. He didn’t say. I was assuming the best, but others might assume far darker things. Wife spanking is still a thing.
This false teaching is one of many that are very disturbing. Ironically the action part of the verse which is aimed at married men gets overlooked completely.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
A whole study can be done on just this segment of the verse. How, when, where did Jesus love the church so much that he gave himself up for her? What kind of love? How as a husband is this translated towards my wife?
That is a whole lot of doing required. And yet, it is overlooked completely, kinda like ,please pass the peas, over looked.
And yet here we find men skipping the most important part to take control and lordship over the wife.
To me it sounds like a lot of self gratification, self puffing up, and self righteousness of which we find none of in Christ. In fact Christ emptied himself completely for the church sanctifying her when he died on that cross.
What disturbs me entirely is that a woman is required to give up her autonomy, her mind, her discernment of her own self , and her own will , giving it over for the husband to take command and correct.
And yet none of that giving up is ever directed at the wife.
It’s painful to hear a pastor twist a verse that was meant to point men toward loving their wives into correcting her. Rebecca, would you say that it is in loving her that he sanctifies her? My husband spent our entire marriage “teaching” me what it was to be a godly woman. He eventually turned his teaching into whatever pleased him while he did whatever he wanted to, including hiding money from me, countless lies, porn, and physical and emotional abuse. I don’t believe that elevating yourself above your spouse in spiritual intelligence is healthy for either spouse. It poisons the spirit.
No, I believe that no matter how loving a husband is to his wife, only Jesus Christ sanctifies. It grieves me that other people are being put in place of Christ as sanctifiers.
Do these numbskulls ever read the Bible ? I just have to state the obvious. What about the 10 virgins? And the 5 who prepared and had oil in their lamps waiting for the bridegroom to return?
So the virgins are smart enough to prepare thenselves for Christ’s return and then after you get married you lose your brains and your husband does it for you?
What a meathead theology.
Good reason to stay a virgin!
I had a different take on this,
I’ve come out of the same neck of the woods that you have, so I know the thinking well. Isn’t it curious how in thinking like this Eph 5 commands to married Christian women somehow erase all of the “one another” mutual help and edification passages written to all Christians, including all Christian women? It’s as if a wedding ring makes a woman only a wife/servant and no longer a sister to a Christian man. ???
When the topic of a female friend of ours who refused to talk to her husband about his blatant sin came up (because confronting him=not submissive) I told my husband that “In this life I am your wife, but for all eternity I will be your sister in Christ. Overlooking blatant sin is something I cannot and will not do.” And I told him I hoped he would do the same for me.
Yes, what a shame to think that a wife can’t confront a husband with blatant sin because that would be unsubmissive. ugh. But i’ve heard that in conservative fundamentalist churches women are taught, “Submission is when your husband wants to get away with something, you let him.” That is so unBiblical. Brothers and sisters in Christ who are mature and have a close relationship should be able to point each other back to the path when they’re straying away. Thank you for your comment!
I think the line that really stood out for me in the whole DG article was:
‘the way we treat our wives reveals what we really believe about the gospel’.
If we trade or even minimize the role of Christ as complete sanctifier we risk trading the beauty of true relationship based on sacrificial love and freedom, implanted deeply in us and given freely by Christ and His spirit, for its ugly parody of coercive power and control.
Heresy – name it what it is when a teaching substitutes anything for God.
[…] Fall wrote, my wife has a saviour, and it’s not me. And others have written well about why husbands are NEVER called to complete their wives’ salvation, so I won’t repeat those arguments too […]