Summary: This sermon illustrates the steps of growth found in 2 Peter 1:5-8 through the husbands growing love for his wife.
The best example of spiritual growth is the growth of the marriage relationship. In John 13:34, Jesus gave us a new commandment; to love one another as He loved us. This command is repeated to the husband in regards to his wife in Ephesians 5.
"Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." Ephesians 5:24-27
The Lord directs the husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church. This becomes the primary ministry of the husband. In 1 Corinthians 7: 32-33 says that one who is married is divided in wanting to please the Lord, and wanting to serve their spouse. Since the husband's interests are divided, the Lord is telling the husband to fulfill the new commandment through his wife. Even elders must manage their households well. If a man does not love his wife, his own flesh, how can he love the church enough to be a true spiritual leader?
"He who is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord; how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world; how he may please his wife." 1 Cor 7:32,33.
In 2 Peter 1:5-8, we are presented with the scriptural steps of growth.
"But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love."
Let's apply the steps of growth to the growth of the husband's love towards his wife.
FAITH - Jesus said, "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.", Matthew 19:6. It is God who joins us in marriage. Therefore, the husband applies faith to his relationship by believing that God has joined him to his wife.
VIRTUE - When the husband accepts his wife as "from the Lord", he will eliminate those thoughts, actions and desires which would draw him away from his devotion to her. In addition, since the husband accepts his wife as being one flesh with his, he will cease actions which are detrimental to his wife, such as lying, abuse, etc.
KNOWLEDGE - Singleness of mind obtained by applying faith and virtue to the marriage focuses the husbands attention on his wife. When the husband leaves behind those things which are contrary to his wife, he will begin to know and understand her. She will see to that if he will respond. He will see that his failure to meet her needs keeps her from being able to fulfill his needs.
"Likewise you husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife,., that your prayers may not be hindered." 1 Peter 3:7
SELF CONTROL - The husbands first response to learning about his wife will be to eliminate those actions which threaten the relationship. Most marriages fall apart because of selfishness. Since the husbands goal is to love his wife as Christ loved the church, he must set aside those things which are contrary to this goal. This would include things like overindulgence in sports, cars, even their career.
The husband initiates these actions first, by faith, without waiting for his wife to respond in like manner, or make the first sacrifice (which she has probably already done). The bible always commands the husband to love his wife, and commands the wife to submit to her husband. This is a present a picture of Christ and the church, as the church submits to Christ and learns to love Christ.
PERSEVERANCE - At this point the husband will see himself making sacrifices which are not being returned by his wife. His wife may not notice his efforts, or may fail to submit to his authority. Just as Jesus persevered with His disciples, so must the husband persevere with his wife.
GODLINESS - This step of growth brings about the completion of perseverance. The husband learns to continue in his efforts for his marriage because it is God's will. This replaces any selfish motives the husband may have had. The husband needs to see his wife as a fellow heir of Christ, one to whom he can minister.
BROTHERLY KINDNESS - Godliness leads the husband to have true affection, and to fulfilling the needs of his wife. By fulfilling his wife's needs, he begins to free her to begin her growth to love him. The husband should pursue solid fellowship with his wife.