A husband has the responsibility of ministering to his wife so that she has the ability to function in the life of God and fulfill her responsibility. But how is this to be done? The husband ministers by "nourishing and cherishing." When Paul said that the husband ought to nourish and cherish his wife as his own flesh, he gave an example. The example is Christ and the church.
To nourish literally means "to promote growth by furnishing or sustaining with nutriment." As the word is used, it would give us the understanding that this is to be a continuing ministry, a flowing, not something that just comes once in a while. The word cherish gives us the attitude in which nourishment is to be ministered. It means "to hold dear, to show affection for." It also means "to keep or cultivate with care and affection." The husband's ministry of love is a continued keeping, a constant cultivating with care and affection.
This expression of the life of God, nourishing and cherishing the wife, is to give her the ability she needs to fulfill her ministry in God's love affair. However, these expressions must be given out of pureness of motive. There can be no selfish end in view. Each working must be born out of the pureness of love. Then the fruits of the husband's ministry to his wife will be the flowing out of the very nature of God in every expression of her ministry, that Christ might be all in all.
For the wife to clearly see the revelation of Christ, for her to be a glory to her husband, she must be sanctified, set aside...made holy and cleansed "with the washing of water by the word." To be made holy is to have the righteousness of Christ by faith. To be sanctified is to be set aside for God's purpose. The Scripture speaks of fullness: "...not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing..." This means that she is to be cleansed from all the defilement of the fall, and brought back to being a perfect reflection of the glory of God. This place of expression can only come as the husband gives of himself as Christ did for the church. As the Word (love) is ministered, it will give her the ability to move in God's purpose, in His life. The Word gives direction and purpose, washing away all the effects of rebellion and the stains left by sin, and by love lifts us back into God's purpose, to live in the life of God and for His glory.
Men are obligated to love their wives even as themselves. We can see that Christ is the only one who can bring the church up to its proper place, that of being a joint-heir in Him and with Him. Even so God has designed in His purpose that the man would bring the woman up to a oneness in their relationship. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. This can only have meaning to us as we submit to Him and allow His love to make us one in Him.