Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, Part Seven

Ephesians 5:22–32

[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. (ESV)

This is one of the greatest sections of applying the Gospel to our everyday lives not only in the book of Ephesians but also in all of Scripture. Here the Apostle Paul applies the Gospel to two of the most important institutions in the world; marriage and the church.

When it comes to the section on marriage we’d have to say Paul was truly inspired. Paul never married, plus he was in prison when he wrote this. Yet what he has to say about marriage is so beautiful.

I’ve heard of the section on marriage being used in good and not so good ways.

I’ve heard pastors use this passage to tell wives that they must stay in abusive marriages because it is their job to submit to their husbands. The husband is clearly not loving his wife as he is supposed to but still the wife is to submit.

Apparently in the minds of those pastors there is a hierarchy of laws; a wife submitting to her husband is more important than following the Fifth Commandment which forbids hurting or harming our neighbor in any physical way and not hating our neighbor.

Believe me, Paul is not saying here that spouses are required to stay in abusive marriages.

I’ve also heard of this passage used in a positive way. Couples have initially resisted the idea that a wife should submit to her husband. But then when they read the passage about how the husband is to love his wife, the couple not only sees the wisdom of it but even asks the pastor to talk about this at their wedding.

To me, the best way to picture the husband as the head of the wife is in terms of dancing. When a couple dances a waltz, a polka or a tango someone has to lead. We’ve all seen couples dance where they are not very well in sync. It is painful to watch.

But when the couple is in sync it’s a beautiful thing. The husband is leading but you hardly notice it. That, to me, is the way a husband is to lead according to this passage.

As I said earlier in this series, when Paul applies the Gospel to our everyday lives he never strays far from the Gospel. That is because the Gospel is what motivates us to live for Christ. So that’s what Paul does when it comes to the husband’s role in marriage: “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.”

Simply put, most, if not all, problems in marriage would be gone if husbands followed this application of the Gospel to our everyday lives.

Husbands give themselves up for their wives, not so that they can save them. That has already been done by Christ. But husbands love their wives as a reflection of the way that Christ loved the church.

If that picture does not suffice for some then Paul has another image: love your wife as your own body. That relates to the Gospel too, because Jesus considers us to be his own body. He is the head, we are his members.

And another important element of marriage is exclusivity. The husband is to place his marriage above all his other relationships: “a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.” The husband is to place his marriage above all his other relationships.

Now we move on to the other area where Paul applies the gospel to everyday life, the church. Notice it says Christ loved the church. There are those who say they love Jesus but don’t have time for the church. If you love Jesus you are going to love what he loves, namely the church. You will see the church as Jesus sees it, presented to him in splendor without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish.

This is one of the most important passages for applying the Gospel to our everyday lives not just in Ephesians but in the entire Bible. God institution of marriage and the Christian church are both incredible places for us to apply the Gospel to our everyday lives.




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