MYTH: Husbands must cleanse and sanctify their wives.
TRUTH : Jesus cleanses and sanctifies us, not our spouses.
This false teaching says a husband is responsible for the spiritual growth of his wife, making her holy, presenting her to God, and acting as an advocate or mediator, just like Christ does for the church.
This idea turns the wife’s “cleansing” and “sanctification” into the husband’s task (Ephesians 5:26-27). Some versions of this myth include:
- “You’re the priest of your house.”
- “You represent your wife before God.”
- “The man is responsible for the spiritual life of his household.”
- “The man sets the spiritual tone of his relationship.”
The truth is that a husband cannot (and should not!) take the place of Jesus Christ as his wife’s savior or take on the role of the Holy Spirit to sanctify her.
Each person stands before the Lord on their own.
Their decision to call upon the Lord and believe in him is their own responsibility, as is their spiritual growth. A husband is not called to do Christ’s work of cleansing his wife from sin. Nor is it his job to present her to Christ. One day Jesus will present all of us (the Church) to himself.
“The moment we make the decision to trust and follow Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, we are sanctified, set apart as a child of God. But a process of sanctification and spiritual growth continues, aided by the Holy Spirit. The goal of this process is that we become mature in our faith. And the ultimate role model and the pinnacle of that maturity is Jesus. It is not our spouse.” —Marg Mowczko (emphasis mine)
1 - Marg Mowczko, “The Responsibility of Husbands in Ephesians 5,” MargMowczko.com (6/16/16), accesssed 10/29/19, https://margmowczko.com/responsibilities-of-husbands/.
For a discussion of the myth that a wife's submission will automatically make her husband love her more, read THIS. Or the myth that being more sexually available will keep a husband from cheating or watching porn or molesting children, read THIS.
For first-person story of a woman: Adultery, prayer and the Bible, read THIS. Find out how the Lord set her free.
Audio interview: Shirley Fessel, author of Redemption from Biblical Battering tells her story of finding peace after divorcing an abusive husband HERE.
For Bible verses that show that every type of abuse qualifies as biblical grounds for divorce, see this overview of Bible verses online. For a chapter on all the key passages in the Bible on divorce, as well as the Jewish and Biblical background, see Chapter 6.
For a list of 5 types of abuse see HERE.
For a chapter giving examples of 150 examples of types of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and neglect) and explaining the term "gaslighting," along with many first-person stories, read Chapter 4 in the Life-Saving Divorce.
For a diagram of the Duluth Wheel of Power and Control and The Abuse Cycle, read Chapter 4.
For a definition of life-saving divorces, read What is a Life-Saving Divorce?