Main Text: Ephesians 5:22-33
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:18: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The Book of Ephesians enables us to view Christ’s Church from a mountaintop. When we study this book, it is as though we have climbed a high mountain peak, because the book gives us that kind of perspective on Christ, we His people, and the body of Christ – the Church.
As adopted children, we have been made new in order to live new. We have been adopted (into great inheritance) not for privilege, but for a purpose. Being made new refers to our eternal character as the God’s children. Living new is our temporary conduct that flows out of our eternal character.
Today’s text is specific teaching under the very general instruction given in Ephesians 5:15, “Look carefully then how you walk…” Careful living is essential to being wise and to pleasing the Lord (verse 10). In order to do this, we must “be filled with the Spirit” (verse 18). Paul addresses six groups and pairs them off.
- Wives and husbands (verses 22-33)
- Children and parents (Ephesians 6:1-4)
- Slaves and masters (Ephesians 6:5-9)
These were common groupings of relationships in households in the ancient world. In our modern world, we may be concerned with relationships within households, but we would not group wives, children and slaves together. Nor would we group husbands, parents, and masters together. This text is very applicable to today, but we must acknowledge that:
- The relation of Christian wives to their husband was a source of scandal to non-Christians (Titus 2:5; Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 7:2-16). The concepts of mutuality, wives first loyalty being to Christ, and wives having authority over her husband’s body were shocking.
- Paul often encouraged behavior that would stop slander against Christians and bring people to God.
- Women were viewed differently in ancient Judaism and the Greco-Roman world.
- Christianity actually countered these views – women and men worshipped together. There was a new valuation put on women. In Christ, there was neither Jew, Gentile, slave, free, male, nor female (Galatians 3:28). This was revolutionary!
When God is given control of our lives individually, we can experience harmony at home, in the workplace, and in the church. The thought of our text starts in verse 21 and Paul now gives examples of how people in various life situations can submit to one another.
The duty of wives (verses 22-24)
In verse 22, Paul was specifically speaking of relationships in marriage. He was not saying all women are to be subject to all men, nor was he saying that women are inferior to men. People often misunderstand submission. It does not indicate inferiority or involve losing one’s identity and becoming a non-person. Some fear that submission will lead to abuse, and or a feeling of being used. Submission does not mean blind obedience or passivity. It means giving oneself up to someone else.
We live in an ordered universe, in which there is authority and submission to authority everywhere (Romans 13:1). Authority and submission in relationships are therefore natural and necessary to maintain order: God has authority over man (James 4:5). Man has authority over nature (Genesis 1:28). Husbands have authority over their wives (Ephesians 5:22). Parents have authority over their children (Ephesians 6:1). Governors have authority over those they govern (1 Peter 2:13-14). Employers have authority over their employees (1 Peter 2:18). Spiritual leaders have authority over those they lead spiritually (1 Peter 5:2).
Submission means: organizing voluntarily to fill out a pattern that constitutes a complete whole. The word “support” is a good synonym for the biblical concept of “submit.” A wife submits to her husband when she voluntarily “organizes” herself so she can complete her husband. Submission is essential for achieving oneness in marriage.
Submission involves four responsibilities: First, it begins with an attitude of entrusting oneself to God. The focus of life must be on Jesus Christ. The ability to submit comes from Him (1 Peter 2:24). Second, submission requires respectful behavior (1 Peter 3:1-2). Third, submission means developing a godly character (1 Peter 3:3-5). Fourth, submission involves doing what is right (1 Peter 3:6). Submission should not extend to participating in conduct that is contrary to Scripture. Every Christian’s primary responsibility is to do God’s will. Submission is not inequality – Jesus submitted Himself to the Father.
Verse 23 shows that God has chosen to place Jesus Christ in authority over (as “the head of”) the church. The husband’s headship involves loving, serving, caring for, and leading his wife. These are all things that Jesus Christ does for the church. Those in authority will always answer to God for how they lead.
Verse 24 continues the comparison. Submission (support) is the proper response to God’s designated authority: both in the church-Christ relationship and in the wife-husband relationship. “In everything” means in everything within the wife-husband relationship. Paul probably did not mean in absolutely everything, since the wife has a higher responsibility to obey the Lord: When she encounters conflicting authorities—the Lord, through His Word, telling her to do one thing, and her husband telling her to do a contradictory thing—she should obey the Lord. These instructions all assume an ideal Christian marriage where both are in Christ.
The duty of husbands (verses 25-33)
In the Greco-Roman world in which Paul lived, people recognized that wives had certain responsibilities to their husbands—but not vice versa. Paul summarized the wife’s duty as submission, and the husband’s duty as love. The word he used for “love” means much more than sexual passion, or even family affection. It means seeking the highest good for another person (Ephesians 2:4). Husbands are to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the church. He gave up His rights, yet maintained His responsibilities. The biblical concept of authority emphasizes responsibility, not tyranny.
- Unconditional acceptance of an imperfect person – not based on performance.
- Sacrificial action – placing her needs above your own.
- Self-denial – giving up something you enjoy for something she would like.
This kind of love arises out of a commitment of the will, not just passing feelings.
Verses 26-27 give us powerful imagery of the work of Christ past, present, future. He gave himself in love; He is cleansing His people; We His bride will be His reward.
Verse 28-30 Paul describes the natural flow of a husband’s position. A man does not think about loving and caring for his own body, so also, the husband’s love for his wife is to be something as natural as loving and caring for himself. Christ cares for His “body”, the Church. Nourishing involves providing security. Cherishing involves protecting, watching out for, and caring for.
Verse 31 quotes Genesis 2:24 and shows the oneness that God intended for relationship between a husband and wife. The Scriptures regard marriage as more fundamental, more binding, and more permanent, than any other tie that unites any other two human beings, including parent and child.
Verse 32 - “This mystery” is the truth previously hidden but now brought to light. The relationship that exists between a husband and his wife is the same as the one that exists between Christ and His church. The church has as close a tie to Christ spiritually as a wife has to her husband spiritually. Paul revealed that Genesis 2:24 contains a more profound truth than people previously realized. The mystery is “profound” because it has far- reaching implications.
Verse 33 – If a husband loves his wife the way that Christ demonstrated His love for the Church then that wife will naturally respect and love her husband. Respecting means voluntarily lifting up another person for special consideration and treatment. Words of encouragement that have a positive focus and build him up show respect for a husband, as does doing things that please him. Again, words and actions must demonstrate love and respect.
As those that are in Christ, our marriages are to paint a picture to this world of Christ and His Church. Our marriages are to point to something greater – God’s plan of salvation. Giving, loving, serving, supporting, and caring must mark our lives and scream God’s character to the world.
May our relationships point to something greater
– Christ and His redemption!
Apply to Life
This week, as you reflect on the message, think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing and fellowship as you open God’s Word together.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Ephesians 5:22-33
As your group read through this, describe the thoughts that passed through your mind and the emotions that you encountered just in the reading of this passage.
How do you perceive our culture to ‘hear’ this passage?
In what ways does the dynamic of marriage illustrate the relationship we have with Christ through the Gospel?
What does it mean for wives to submit to their husbands? How can the potency of this Scripture be retained but yet, not used as a weapon in the context of marriage?
For Wives - In what ways do you show your submission to and respect for your husband?
For Husbands - In what ways do you sense the submission and respect from your wives?
What does it mean for husbands to love their wives?
For husbands - In what ways do you show love to your wife?
For Wives - In what ways do you feel loved by your husbands?
Take some time to talk through the reality of the Gospel that is shown to us through the illustration of marriage.