“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 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, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” (Ephesians 5:22-30)
Submission has gotten a bad rap in the world, by its use in many adverse circumstances where a person or group of people are forced to submit to something or someone disagreeable or oppressive. But the Bible never condones submission to an oppressive or sinful person or group. The ESV Study Bible has this helpful note about Ephesians 5:22-33, “The submission of wives is not like the obedience children owe parents, nor does this text command all women to submit to all men (to your own husbands, not to all husbands). Both genders are equally created in God’s image and heirs together of eternal life (Gen. 1:26-28; Gal. 3:28).” (1)
As Christians, we submit to the triune God, the Bible, our local and denominational church authorities and any particular leaders under whom we serve in the church, at work, or in our community (Romans 13:1-2). The difficulty comes when those in authority are not governed by God or secular law, as is the case in some majority nations today. However, the law is meant to help us conform to the right conduct for society, just as God’s commands are given for our good and the good of the Church. Submitting to a good ruler, teacher, leader, or husband is a blessing to all parties. In Ephesians 5:25-30, the wise, biblical husband is described as a man who loves his wife sacrificially, even to be willing to lose his life for her as Christ gave up his life for the church. There is no greater love than to die to oneself for the sake of building up another, and this is the work of Christian husbands. As a wife looks at this particular characteristic, she can have confidence that her submission will not be abused or manipulated for her husband’s benefit, but will strengthen them both. I will concede that it is challenging to find human models of this biblical husband in books, series, or movies today, but there are a few, particularly on PureFlix and in Christian fiction.
Verses 26-30 are very specific in the way a husband should love his wife—as he loves his own body. A husband (and any person, for that matter), loves himself by: protecting himself from danger, exercising his body, eating for health, finding appropriate times and circumstances for sexual intimacy that is loving and satisfying, growing in Christ by the study of God’s Word, through prayer, fellowship, worship, and other Christian graces. All these he will also do for and with his wife, loving her as he loves himself. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:31-33)
Matthew Henry comments, “There will be failures and defects on both sides, in the present state of human nature, yet this does not alter the relation. All the duties of marriage are included in unity and love. And while we adore and rejoice in the condescending love of Christ, let husbands and wives learn hence their duties to each other. Thus the worst evils would be prevented, and many painful effects would be avoided.” (2)
Will you think about how you can express the love of Christ in your marriage more generously?
- ESV Study Bible Notes on Ephesians 5:22-33.
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Ephesians 5:22-33, https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-concise/ephesians/5.html