This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
The theme for our sessions this evening is “Husbands and Fathers.” It will be divided into two one-hour sessions. The theme for the first session will be “Husbands.” The theme for the second session will be “Fathers.” But obviously, these somewhat overlap.
My own conviction is that there is no more important theme for the church of Jesus Christ today than this theme of husbands and fathers. Dr. James Dobson is probably know by name to a good many of you. He’s probably the foremost interpreter of family life in the United States today. He has a radio program on something like 400 stations. He wrote to me a little while back and asked permission to quote something that I had said and I very gladly gave him that permission. What I said was the number one problem in the United States today is renegade males. I wouldn’t necessarily say the same is true in other nations but I’m inclined to think it is. Males who’ve reneged on their two primary responsibilities as husbands and fathers.
One of the things that has encouraged me in this teaching is a prophecy that was given in a meeting that Ruth and I attended shortly after our marriage. I think it was in April l979, if I remember rightly. The conference was on family life. But, right in the middle of it a young man came forward, unknown to me, I don’t think I’ve ever met him, and he gave a very powerful prophecy which was like God inserting His own item on the agenda of the conference. In this prophecy, which I’ll paraphrase and not give in detail, God said that up till now all His actions against witchcraft were merely preliminary skirmishes. But at that point, in April of l979, He was going to make all-out war against witchcraft. And we understood that He was challenging us to enlist in His war. Not our war but His war.
And then He added this. The main reason why He is making war on witchcraft is because it has millions of men bound whom God needs in His end time army. Since that time, we have seen in innumerable different situations and circumstances the clearest possible confirmation of this fact.
So, I’m dealing with a theme which is right at the heart of God and, as I’ve already said, one of the key issues for our time. I’m going to talk now about husbands, but in order to talk about husbands I have to lay a foundation by talking about marriage. Because, it’s only through marriage that a man becomes a husband. And unless we understand the basic Biblical picture of marriage, a man cannot take his place as a husband. So I want to lay certain foundation truths concerning marriage.
First of all, and most important, marriage is a covenant. There are two main passages in the Bible which teach this. A covenant is the most solemn and binding form of commitment that the Bible knows. And it’s a principle in the Bible that no lasting relationship can be built without a covenant. The relationship of the believer to God is based on a covenant, the relationship of believers to one another is based on a covenant, and the relationship of a husband to wife is based on a covenant. Those are the three most important permanent relationships open to human beings. In each of them, the covenant is basic.
Proverbs 2:16. The theme is that if you listen to this teaching, it will:
“...deliver you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words; who forsakes the companion of her youth, and forgets the covenant of her God.”
So that the woman who is unfaithful to her husband is forgetting, breaking the covenant that she made before God with that man. So even in the Old Testament, marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, made in the presence of God.
And then right at the end of the Old Testament, the last book, the prophet Malachi. God is challenging and charging Israel with their failures and their delinquencies, in spite of the fact that they are very religious people. This is what the Lord says to them in Malachi 2. And they’re complaining that God doesn’t answer their prayers. They say, “We’re praying all the time. We’re always in the temple. God, you don’t answer our prayers.” God says, “I’ll tell you one or two reasons why I don’t answer your prayers.” Here’s one of them, Malachi 2:13:
“This is the second thing you do, you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying, so he does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with good will from your hands.”
He says, “You can bring all the sacrifices you like, but I’m not going to receive them. You can cry and weep before me but I’m not going to answer your prayers. Why does He says that?
“Yet you say, For what reason? Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously: yet she is your companion, and your wife by covenant.”
So God says to men who profess religion, “It doesn’t matter how much you pray, how often you come to church; if you are not faithful to your covenant commitment to your wife, I won’t listen to your prayers. I will not pay any attention to you.” And He declares that such men are covenant breakers.
So you see, both for the woman and for the man, unfaithfulness to the marriage commitment is the breaking of a covenant. That’s why adultery is so much more serious a sin than fornication. Fornication, not known in the Bible as premarital sex, is immorality between two persons who are not married. It’s immorality, it’s sin, but it’s not the breaking of a covenant. But adultery is immorality which involves the breaking of a covenant. And that’s why adultery is far more serious than fornication.
Covenant is one of God’s secrets. In Psalm 25:14 the Lord talks about His covenant and the kind of people He will reveal His covenant to. No one can understand covenant in the Biblical sense except by revelation. Only God can make us understand from the scriptures what covenant is. But in Psalm 25:14, the psalmist says:
“The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him, and he will show them his covenant.”
So God’s covenant is His secret, but He reveals it to whom? To those who fear Him. It’s the God fearing that can apprehend and enter into covenant.
And then in Ephesians 5:32, Paul, talking about marriage and making it parallel to the relationship between Christ and the church, says this:
“This [that’s marriage] is a great mystery...”
Now, a mystery in the language of the New Testament was not something that could never be known, because in those days they had what they called mystery religions. Religions which offered certain secrets to people who were initiated into them. But if you were not initiated, you couldn’t know the secrets. So, marriage is a secret that you can only know when you’re initiated into it. And God initiates those who are God fearing.
I’d like to say to those of you who are not married, if there are any here, you can read all the books and listen to all the tapes, but there’s something you’ll never know about marriage till you get married. It really is a mystery! It’s a good mystery.
Now let’s study briefly the principles of covenant that apply to all the covenants in the Bible. Psalm 50:5. We have to read verse 4 as well. This is God speaking to the world, to the earth. It says:
“He [the Lord] shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. [And then he says this:] Gather my saints together to me; those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
So, who are God’s saints, His holy ones? The Hebrew word, incidentally, is hasid. Probably quite a number you have heard of Hasidic Judaism. It’s taken from this. A hasidis somebody who claims to be totally devoted to God. So, whom does God call His hasid, His holy ones? What’s the requirement? Those that have made a covenant with Him on the basis of a sacrifice. No sacrifice, no covenant. Every covenant has to be based on a sacrifice.
And, the Hebrew word for making a covenant is not “make,” but “cut.” It suggests a sharp knife and the shedding of blood. Actually, if you follow through the teaching of covenant in the Bible, you’ll find that there is no covenant without a sacrifice and no sacrifice without shed blood. Every covenant demands that a life be laid down.
In Hebrews 9:16–17, the writer of Hebrews deals with this truth. You have to know that there is one word in the Bible which is alternatively translated covenant or testament. But, it’s the same word. So where you meet testament in the New Testament, which is the New Covenant, you understand that? Incidentally, bear in mind that all God’s revelation comes to us in the form of two covenants: the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. That shows you how important covenant is. But wherever you read testament in the New Testament, you’ve got to understand it is the word for covenant. You see, for us, a testament is something that only comes into effect when a person dies. Whereas, we don’t think in that way of a covenant. But what the writer of Hebrews says, a covenant is not in effect until there has been a death. A covenant is only made effective by a death.
So, this is what he says in Hebrews 9:16–17. And there is at least one modern version that uses the word covenant. I don’t remember which one it is.
“For where there is a covenant, there must also of necessity be the death of the one who makes the covenant. For a covenant is in force after men are dead: since it has no power at all while the one who makes the covenant lives.”
So when you make a covenant, you really are signing your own death warrant. See that? It’s a very solemn affair.
Now, we’ve already said that marriage is a covenant. So there has to be a sacrifice. For those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the sacrifice has already been made. It’s the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Turning back for a moment to the story of Abraham in Genesis 15, we read that Abraham said to the Lord in verse 8:
“How shall I know that I will inherit it?”
That is, the land promised to him. His question was, “How shall I know?” How did God answer him? He made a covenant with him. In other words, the final commitment of God in any area is a covenant. When God has made a covenant, there is nothing more He can do. He is totally committed.
We won’t read the details but, in the making of this covenant, Abraham was instructed by God to do something which was a custom at that time in the Middle East: to offer certain animals as sacrifices because without a sacrifice there can be no covenant. Then he slew the animals, cut the bodies in two pieces, placed the two pieces over against one another with a space in between, and then the accepted way to enter into covenant was that the two parties making covenant passed between the pieces of the sacrifices. So, we see here that Abraham entered into a covenant with God. It always blesses me to think that Almighty God could have such a close relationship with a man. Abraham entered into a covenant with God by passing between the pieces of the sacrifice.
Then it says at the end of the chapter:
“And it came to pass when the sun went down, and it was dark, that behold, there was a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.”
That was God Himself entering into covenant with Abraham. God the Holy Spirit in the form of a burning torch passed between the pieces. So, God and Abraham through that sacrifice entered into covenant with one another.
What does that mean to pass through the sacrifice? It means that when you’ve passed through the sacrifice and you look at those dead bodies, you say, “That death was my death. From now on I die to myself and I live for the one with whom I am in covenant.” So, Abraham renounced his life to live in covenant with God. But bear in mind that God renounced His life to live in covenant with Abraham.
Now, because they were in covenant with one another, each of them could lay claim to whatever the other owned. Do you understand? So, later on on the basis of this covenant, the Lord said to Abraham, “I want your son Isaac, your only son, the one you love. Offer him as a sacrifice.” Abraham was a covenant keeper. He didn’t argue, he didn’t delay. “All right, God. Here I am. I’ll go to the place, I’ll offer the sacrifice.” Well, you know the story. Right at the last moment when Abraham had his hand upraised to plunge the knife into the body of his son, the Lord spoke to him and said, “All right, Abraham. You don’t need to do it. Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.” That’s covenant.
But that’s not the end of the story. Because about 2,000 years later, what happened? The Lord said, “You and your descendants need a sacrifice. There’s only one person who can make that sacrifice, it’s my Son. You offered your son to me, now I’m offering my Son for you.” And viewed in that light, you see, history is the outworking of God’s covenants with His people. You cannot overemphasize the importance of covenant. Covenant is entered into through sacrifice which is the laying down of a life.
Now, apply this to marriage. When a man and a woman get married as Christians, they come through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Each one of them says as Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I but Christ lives in me.” So, after they have passed through the sacrifice of Jesus, each one turns back and looks at that sacrifice. The husband says, “When I came through that sacrifice, I died. I laid down my life. Now I live out my life in my mate. She’s the expression of my life.” And the wife does the same. “When I passed through that sacrifice, I died. I no longer live for myself. I’m living for the one with whom I am in covenant.” Each laid down his life or her life for the other. That’s the basis of Christian marriage. And that’s the only basis on which marriage can truly succeed. See?
It’s totally contrary to the attitude of people today. That’s why so many marriages break up. Most people today go into marriage with the attitude, “What will I get out of this?” And it doesn’t work. The Biblical attitude is, “What will I give?” And that works.
I should probably pause and say I’m certainly not an expert, but I have a good track record. I was married to my first wife, who is now with the Lord, for 30 years. We together raised a family of 9 adopted daughters. Our marriage wasn’t perfect but it was happy, it was successful and it was fruitful. It was subjected to tremendous pressures. In the first two years, we lived through the fighting that brought the State of Israel into being. Twice in that period we had to flee from our house in the middle of the night to save our lives. It was not an easy way to begin a marriage. But, we were together and God used us and we served Him. And God made us a blessing to many, many people.
Then after my first wife was taken home, 3 years later I married my present wife Ruth, who you see here tonight. We have now been married for just over 10 years and our marriage has been outstandingly happy and successful. Through our marriage God has birthed a ministry which is now actually reaching most of the earth with the Word of God. So, at least I’m not offering you a theory when I talk about marriage. Do you understand?
There isn’t such a thing as a perfect husband. There might be a perfect wife, I don’t know! What I’m saying is I’m not just teaching theory, I’ve proved what I’m teaching in practice. It works. You look at the people that don’t approach marriage that way and what you look at is a series of disasters. No generation in human history has ever had so many unhappy, broken marriages and homes as our generation. The reason is the wrong approach. “What can I get” rather than “What can I give?” Do you know what Jesus said? It is more blessed to what? To give than to receive. That’s true in marriage. The one who gives is the one who is fully blessed.
What’s the end purpose of God in marriage? Turning to Genesis 2:24. Let me point out to you that marriage originated in the mind of God. Adam didn’t think up marriage. He didn’t even know about marriage. He didn’t even know he needed a wife. The whole thing was planned by God. All the rules for it were laid down by God. And the end purpose of it was established by God. Marriage, according to the Bible, is totally divine in its origin. It’s not a human social contract, it’s a divine ordinance. The purpose of it is unity. Again we come to the same Biblical fact. If you study the Bible, there’s only one basis for unity between men and women or men and men, and it is covenant. Without covenant there is no real enduring unity.
And so this is what God said about marriage in Genesis 2:24:
“Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
The purpose is unity. The Old King James said:
“A man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife.”
I like that. You see, the key to marriage is two words: leave and cleave. If you don’t leave you cannot cleave. If you’re not willing to step out of your parental background and make a totally new start, that marriage won’t work. Millions of marriages are spoiled by mothers-in-law and parents that want to control the couple and keep them under their thumb. It never works. Parents, don’t you meddle with your children’s marriages. All right? Because you won’t help. It may not be going well but you’ll make it worse. It’s leave and then cleave.
In many, many cultures the real reason for homes that are not successful and marriages that don’t really work is that the culture teaches that the man usually shall cleave to his father and mother. There’s a loyalty that stands between him and being loyal to his wife.
I want to point out to you that marriage is not a matter of social customs or culture. There are lots of things that are, and the Bible makes room for them. But all the teaching about marriage and home in the Bible is based on two things: the eternal relationships in the Godhead between the Father and the Son, and the purpose of God in creation. Those never change. It doesn’t matter what the culture is, what the nationality is, what the language is. God’s purpose there does not change.
You see, a lot of people have got the idea today that marriage is an experiment. That’s totally wrong. It’s a commitment. And you can’t make an experiment of commitment. And you can’t make an experiment of commitment. You understand? When you make a commitment, the commitment you make releases the grace that you need. But if you don’t make the commitment, you can’t claim the grace. It’s faith. But without faith, what? It’s impossible to please God. You see, there’s no other basis but faith. It’s a risk. Getting married is a real risk, I’ll be honest with you. If you’re not prepared to take a risk, you better stay unmarried. It’s a faith risk.
I’d like to say something else. This is not a rule for everybody. But never have I chosen my own wife. In each of my marriages God showed me clearly, specifically and supernaturally whom I was to marry. I’m glad He did because God knows I’m not a very good judge of character. I deal well in the abstract and the concepts but when it comes to people, I’m easily fooled. But God didn’t give me the opportunity to be fooled, He made the decision for me.
I’ll tell you something else which is purely personal. I’ve never been anywhere but Jerusalem for a wife.
All right. Now let’s consider what’s implied in what I’ve been teaching. What I want to say in essence is this. The husband’s success is seen in his wife. The wife’s success is seen in her husband. I heard about an experienced minister once who was asked about a certain Christian, “Is he a good Christian?” And he replied, “I don’t know. I can’t tell you yet, I haven’t met his wife.” That’s a very wise answer.
Let’s look at just two statements. First of all, about the wife, in 1Corinthians 11:7. Let’s leave out the question of head covering for the next meeting, all right? Because it’s somewhat—well, let’s not even go into it.
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God. But woman is the glory of man.”
Or, the wife is the glory of the husband. You have to understand, in Greek, in Hebrew, in German and various other languages, the same word means man and husband, and woman and wife. So you have to decide in English which is the appropriate translation, but it includes both. So, the wife is the husband’s glory. If you want to know—and this is a very searching statement—if you want to know whether I’m a successful husband, don’t look at me, look at my wife. That’s how you’ll find out just how successful I am as a husband.
Let me suggest to you one key word that a husband should produce in his wife, is security. There are multitudes of insecure women today because there are multitudes of insecure husbands that are not doing their job.
Then look at the picture of the really successful woman, by Bible standards, in Proverbs 31. You know that, the last half of the last chapter of Proverbs. She’s not the president of a corporation, she’s an extremely successful wife and mother. And let me say I think it takes much more guts and character to be a successful wife and mother than it does to be the president of the largest corporation. It’s a much harder job. We’re not going to read this all but it says:
“Who can find a virtuous woman?”
That’s not a very good translation. In Hebrew, ?Esched Hial?. ?Hial? means strength, success, power. “Who can find a really successful woman,” that’s what it is.
And then the writer of Proverbs says:
“Her price is far above rubies...”
Husbands, why don’t you earn some good marks by your wife and say “amen” to that. “Her price is far above rubies.” I didn’t hear you. All right. A few amens. Okay. It will come back to you in blessing, believe me. You’ll get something extra cooked for that supper the next time.
I just want to point out that in this picture of the successful woman, it begins, it centers in and it concludes with the husband. What’s the evidence of her success primarily? Her husband. Look at verse 11:
“The heart of her husband safely trusts her... [verse 23:] Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.”
That’s the position of honor, of distinction, of dignity, of success. But he’s there because he’s her husband. It’s what she has contributed to him that causes him to be in that position.
And then right at the end, verse 28:
“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praised her.”
Let me say to you husbands and to myself, it pays to praise your wife. Believe me. Many of you would be surprised how much a wife longs for praise. You can’t really pay her for what she does, there’s no way that you could pay a good wife. But you give praise. I mean, in a sense, it’s a bargain. Think of what you get. I mean that sincerely. And I say that to myself because I tend to take people for granted. I mean, I’m interested in results, so people are there and if we get the results, praise God. But God has been teaching me don’t take the people for granted because it doesn’t pay. That’s not true just of wives, it’s true of all who work with us and serve us. Don’t take them for granted.
Now let’s consider briefly the husband’s responsibilities in this relationship. I suggest five things. What’s the first one, husbands? Love, that’s right. This is not an option, it’s not a recommendation; it’s a commandment. Look in Ephesians 5:25:
“Husbands, love your wives...”
Okay. If you don’t love your wife, you’re disobedient to scripture. How much?
“...just as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”
Notice the kind of love is a self giving love. Not a taking love but a giving love.
The second responsibility is to be head. 1Corinthians 11:3 says:
“The head of woman [or the wife] is the man...”
What are the functions of a head? If you consider the natural physical body, I would suggest you could think in terms of four things. The head receives input from the whole body. The head makes decisions. The head initiates action. And, the head gives ongoing direction. Those are the responsibilities of a man.
I don’t know whether you’ve ever heard about the couple that had been married a long while. One day the husband said, “When we got married 22 years ago, we agreed that I would make all the major decisions and my wife would make all the minor decisions. Up to now we’ve never had any major decisions.”
The third responsibility is to provide. 1Timothy 5:8:
“If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
I have to say there are preachers that are not providing for their own households who will go around preaching. The Bible says they are worse than an unbeliever.
Some good many years ago I was in a place and another minister made a casual remark. He said, “The expert is the man away from home with a briefcase.” At that time I was traveling widely across America and preaching. That really went to my heart like an arrow. I thought, “Does that describe me? The man who can make it work everywhere except in his own home?” There’s a lot of preachers like that. I don’t say that to be critical but just to state it as a fact. They’re successful on somebody else’s territory but not in their own homes.
Then, turning to Ephesians 5 again which is a key chapter for this teaching, Ephesians 5:26, speaking about Christ it says:
“He gave himself for the church that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”
I believe that’s a husband’s responsibility. It’s to wash his wife and his family with the teaching of the Word of God. I believe that has a cleansing, sanctifying effect which nothing else can ever have. That doesn’t mean that the wife cannot be a preacher and a very powerful minister. But nevertheless, the primary responsibility, the source of teaching in the home should be the husband.
And then Ephesians 5:29, still on this theme:
“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.”
So, husbands have a responsibility to nourish and cherish your wives.
I embarrass my wife sometimes because I say things that she probably thinks I ought not to say. She doesn’t even know this but I feel God wants me to say it. I was in a meeting not so very long ago, less than a year ago, and there was a very good message given. I don’t even remember who the preacher was. Then there was a time of silence before communion. He said, “Why don’t each of you ask God if He’s got anything to say to you?” Well, I’m a little bit cautious about that because if God says something, I don’t want to ignore it. Understand? So sometimes I think maybe I won’t ask. But anyhow, I did. I got a very simple answer: Be kinder to your wife. See? You can never be kind enough to your wife, really. I don’t believe I’m unkind but I realize there were areas in which I was not sensitive, I didn’t really appreciate my wife’s needs. We’d been through a very hard time the last two years. Ruth has been seriously sick and we have been struggling and fighting for her health. When she became sick, I had to say to myself, “Brother Prince, it doesn’t look as though you’ve been a very successful husband.” And I’ve tried to learn my lessons from it, too. Both of us have learned a lot.
So, there are no perfect husbands, brothers. Even preachers aren’t perfect husbands. In fact, sometimes they’re some of the worst, to say the truth.
All right. Now let’s go to the wife’s responsibilities. First of all, why was a wife given to a man? Let’s turn to Genesis 2:18:
“And the Lord God said, It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him.”
You can spend hours commenting on that scripture because the language in Hebrew is very hard to render in English. But let’s not go into that. “I will make him a helper.” What was the primary purpose of God in giving a wife to Adam, was to give him a—what did you say, ladies? I didn’t hear you. That’s right. Okay.
Now, a lot of people today think, “If I’m a helper, I’m inferior.” That’s absurd. No one is superior or inferior to anybody else in the Body of Christ. Each of us is given a place and a job. And what God requires of us is to be faithful in the particular place and job that He has assigned to us.
I thank God that each of my wives has been to me a wonderful helper. I could never have achieved whatever I have achieved without each of my wives.
The next requirement is something that sticks right in the throat of modern woman but it is to submit. Let’s look in Ephesians again, 5:22:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.”
Now, I know a lot of male preachers who know all about that scripture. But a lot of them ignore the previous verse which says:
“Submitting to one another in the fear of God...”
The primary submission in the Body of Christ is to one another. Every believer should be submitted to every other believer. Once we’ve established that, there’s no problem about dictatorship in the home. But in the home relationships, then the wife is to submit to her husband. You might say Peter was a married man and he was just grinding his axe. But Paul, who was unmarried, said exactly the same. And both of them always begin with the wife’s responsibility. Do you know why? Because if the wife doesn’t fulfill her responsibility, it’s almost impossible for the husband to fulfill his. The wife has the key either to open the door or to close the door to the husband’s fulfillment of his role.
I’d like to say with regard to my first wife—who was known to some of you, she’s been here at least once or twice in ministry—she was a Dane, she was considerably older than I was. When I married her, she was already a very experienced and successful missionary who’d accomplished something no one else had accomplished up to that time. She was a very intelligent person and a gifted speaker. Had she wished to dominate me, she would have had no trouble doing it. But to her credit, she backed off and allowed this inexperienced young man to come in and be head of the home. And she must have suffered agonies at some of the things I did. Bear in mind I’ve never had any brothers or sisters, and suddenly I found myself head of a house of 8 girls! If you don’t think there was some suffering on all our parts, you just aren’t realistic. But what I’m saying is Lydia backed off and let me take my place. I could never have taken it if she had held on to her place. I could never have been what I am today if it had not been for what Lydia did. So whatever I am, much of the credit goes to Lydia.
The third responsibility of a wife is, I say, to support or uphold. You know, God has so created the body that the head cannot hold itself up. Did you ever realize that? So if the man is the head, it’s the body that has to hold him up. The one who is mainly responsible is the wife. Women, I would like to say to you that men are pretty weak creatures in many ways. They need support! All right? They can put on a macho outside exterior and shout a bit and throw their weight about, but really, in side they’re mice. You’ve got to be kind to them. You’ve got to see their weaknesses and make allowance for it.
Then the next thing that I would like my wife to do, and she does it wonderfully, is to encourage. How many of you husbands would like your wives to encourage you? Just let’s see your hand. There’s nothing more painful than a wife who discourages her husband. He’s a preacher and he’s just preached a very poor sermon and had a very bad response. If he goes home and his wife says, “That was a lousy sermon!” I mean, there’s nothing more you can do, he’s a worm. But if she says, “Well, that wasn’t one of your best sermons but I enjoyed it.” Then he begins to feel, “Well, maybe there’s hope. Maybe I can make it after all.” See?
And remember that the title of the Holy Spirit is encourager. That word that’s translated “comforter” is better translated “encourager.” So when you encourage your husband, you’re fulfilling the role of the Holy Spirit in that situation.
And then lastly, I feel a wife’s responsibility is to intercede for her husband. Wives, don’t spend so much time worrying about your husband, criticizing your husbands, pointing out their faults. Get down on your knees, start thanking God for them and pray for them. You’ll be the one to reap the benefits.
Ruth and I have been associated with two couples over the years. And in each case there were real weaknesses and problems in the life of the husband. But those two wives agreed together that they would intercede every morning for their husbands. And they did it faithfully for a number of years. Today, each husband is a success. One is a success in the ministry, another is a success in the secular world. But they would have never become what they are without their wives persistent, faithful intercession.
Now let me point out to you that the home is a model of the church. I think this has important conclusions because I don’t believe really the church will ever be any stronger than the homes or the families that make up the church. Look for a moment in 1Timothy 3:4–5, speaking about the qualifications for an elder. It says:
“One who rules his own house well...”
House in the Bible is really family.
“One who rules his own family well, having his children in submission with all reverence [which isn’t easy today, I think you’ll agree]. For is a man does not know how to rule his own family, how will he take care of the church of God?”
So there’s a very close parallel between the attributes that are needed to rule a family and the attributes that are needed to rule God’s congregation, the church. In a certain sense, in the family, the husband’s role is that of the pastor or shepherd. The wife’s role we’ve already seen is that of the helper. What’s the theological, ecclesiastical word for a helper? A deacon. that’s what the word deacon means, a helper. So, the husband is the elder, the wife is the deacon or deaconess, and the children are the flock, the congregation. Job speaks about the man who sends forth his children like a flock. So there in microcosm is the church in its three elements: the elders or pastors, the deacons or helpers, and the congregation.
So you see, if a home is out of order, it’s really impossible to take that home and put it in a church and expect it to become in order in the church. Do you see what I’m saying? A church really cannot be more in order than the families that make up the church. There are certain qualifications to that statement. But in many, many ways, I think church leaders fail to appreciate how essential it is to have homes in order if they’re going to have a church in order.
Then I want to point out two exciting applications of what I’ve been teaching. I trust they’ll excite you. First of all, let’s go back to God’s original purpose in creating man and woman. We go back to Genesis 1:27–28:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
First it’s him, singular. Then it’s them, plural. Male and female he created them.
And then God spoke to them and He spoke to both of them together, not to the man on his own. And he says:
“Then God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it: have dominion...”
Let’s not go any further. God’s purpose was not that the man on his own should rule the earth but that the man and the woman together as a unity should exercise God’s authority and rule the earth on His behalf. I want to suggest to you that the strongest single element in spiritual warfare and in exercise of authority is a married couple who are in harmony and in unity. It’s still God’s way to exercise dominion. Not the man on his own, it’s not the woman on her own, but it’s man and woman united according to God’s pattern in marriage. They are the ones to exercise dominion.
Let me show you just some simple spiritual principles that apply to this. In Matthew 18:18 and following. Jesus is speaking:
“Assuredly I say to you, Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name [the Greek says “into my name,” the focus of meeting is the name of Jesus] I am there in the midst.”
The basic minimum is two or three. And that basic minimum, Jesus says, whatever you bind on earth, the Greek says “will be having been bound in heaven.” Whatever you loose or release on earth will be having been loosed or released in heaven. This is very vivid because it means what we say on earth determines what happens in heaven. See, we often think we’re waiting for God to move. Often that’s true but there are times when God is waiting for us to move.
I had a friend who’s a pastor in Denmark. In fact, he’s with the Lord now. He was greatly exercised about the problem of divorce which, of course, is a very difficult, sensitive problem. There were different views in the congregation and he wasn’t quite sure, so he decided to take a day to seek God on his own. He shared this with Ruth and me personally. He said to God, “God, whatever you say, I’ll do it.” And to his amazement, the Lord said, “On the contrary. Whatever you say, I’ll do it.” In other words, you have to make the decision. I really think that’s true in the difficult issues of divorce. I think the church leadership has to make the decision on the basis of scripture, not arbitrarily. If that decision is made with prayer, sensitivity, God says, “I’ll go along with it.”
See, in a sense, the initiative is with us. Whatever we bind on earth shall be having been bound in heaven. Whatever we loose on earth shall be having been loosed in heaven. It’s like this: We meet the conditions and we say, “We bind you in the name of Jesus.” We look around, it’s already bound in heaven. The moment we pronounced it on earth it was established in heaven.
But what are the requirements? Verse 19:
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth, concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
That’s an astonishing promise, isn’t it? If two people can agree. Now the Greek word is ?symphoni? from which we get the English word symphony. It’s not just intellectual agreement, it’s harmony. If two people on earth can be in perfect harmony, whatever they pray will happen. You might say how can that be? Let me offer you my understanding. The only way we can have harmony is if we harmonize with the Holy Spirit. And if two of us harmonize with the Holy Spirit, then that’s the will of God. Do you understand? But the key to it, the key to the exercise of this authority is harmonizing.
Now some of you married couples will understand why you have so much opposition to establishing real harmony.
You know, I’m no musician and I realize we have musicians here. But hardly anything is worse than music that is almost in harmony. Isn’t that right? It’s painful. How about marriages that are almost in harmony? How do they sound to God? Do they accomplish God’s purpose? No. God is a musician. He says, “I’m very sensitive. If I can get two people really harmonizing, whatever they pray will come to pass.”
And so we see there, in my understanding, the absolute core of spiritual authority. And it’s really in married couples. Now it’s perfectly true that others can harmonize besides married couples. Two men can harmonize together, two women can harmonize together. Thank God for wherever that happens. But the most natural obvious people to harmonize in prayer are a believing couple. If one party to the marriage is not a believer, then it’s not possible in the same way. But where both are believers, committed Christians, the greatest authority that we can ever exercise is by harmonizing. It’s worth a lot, brothers and sisters, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of self denial to achieve harmony. It’s not easy because the old nature doesn’t harmonize, you understand? He’s always out of harmony with everything, including himself.
Let me give you one other scripture, Amos 3:3:
“Can two walk together unless they are agreed?”
So what’s the key to walking together? Being agreed or being in harmony.
And there’s another side to this, and this is very simple. Just forgive me for being simplistic. But people sometimes smile at Ruth and me because they say, “You behave like teenagers. Everywhere you go, you walk hand in hand.” Well, we like walking hand in hand. But there’s more to it than that because the Bible says, “Can two walk together unless they be agreed?” And believe me, if you’re not agreed, you won’t walk together for long. But walking together helps you to agree. We are careful always to walk—well, not in step but out of step, if you understand what I mean. Because if you hold hands, you have to do what stretcher-bearers do, the opposite leg goes forward. We’ve walked over many nations like that and we are jealous of our harmony because it’s the key to everything in our ministry.
A very dear, senior brother, a very mature servant of God who is just one year younger than I am, when we were going through this tremendous pressure of Ruth’s sickness, he said, “I am convinced the key to the success of your ministry is your harmony. Don’t let anything spoil it.” And believe me, we had to fight for harmony at that point. Not fight one another but fight all sorts of dark pressures and forces that were coming against us to discourage us.
Let me give you one other thought in closing. How many of you would like to be prophetic? All right. Well, you can be as married couples. Let me go back to Ephesians 5 once more. Ephesians 5:22–23:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.”
If you go through that whole passage, you’ll see what Paul is saying is why marriage is such a mystery and why it’s so sacred is because it’s a pattern of the relationship between Christ and His church. You see, many times God asked prophets in the Old Testament not just to deliver a verbal message but to demonstrate it. He told Jeremiah to put yokes on his neck. He told Hosea to marry a prostitute. He told Ezekiel to dig through a wall and act like somebody escaping from a besieged city. So, one of the ways that we can be prophetic is not speaking but visualizing, embodying in our lives. And here, I believe, is where we have the greatest opportunity to be prophetic to the world. As husband and wife we demonstrate to the world the relationship between Christ and His church. If we’re successful, we will create an appetite in men and women to know what makes us successful. You’d be surprised—I don’t want to boast—how many people have said to Ruth and me, “We’d like to be like you.”
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