SSL 12 - Eph. 5:22-33
THIS WEEK: In Eph. 5:22-33, we will hear Paul's instructions on what the marriage relationship should look like. In summary, these commands, and I emphasize commands, are directions to the husband and the wife to give themselves to each other. This is a very contentious topic in the Christian community today to the extent that many churches disregard Paul's teachings in this area because they don't agree with modern ideas of political correctness and women's rights. In response to that, I will reiterate what we discussed last June when we studied Paul's instructions to Timothy on the proper role of women in church as written in 1 Tim. 2:9-15: If we accept that "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching" (2 Tim. 3:16), then we must conclude that this isn't Paul's opinion based upon the culture or times but is part of what we should adhere to as "sound doctrine."
Comment: The lesson verses are directly linked to v. 21 of the previous lesson: "and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." This is the ideal structure in all human relationships, and it simply means that we should subordinate our personal interest to that of the other person, and we should do this toward one another with mutuality. This applies to husbands and wives. And before we get into the text, there are several more points we should consider: (1) As with all of God's commandments, they are for our own good from an all-wise, loving Father (Deut. 6:24). God originated marriage, so He can tell us how He designed it and how we should live in it. (2) Note that a church is in no way degraded by submitting to Jesus Christ, rather, it's to the church's glory to submit to Christ. In the same way, it's not degrading for a wife to submit to her husband. (3) We need to understand that Christian marriage should be a powerful witness to a selfish world where everyone is fighting for his or her rights. The world should look at Christian marriages and see a difference-a Christian husband selflessly loving his wife as Christ loved the church and a Christian wife willingly submitting to and respecting her husband. (4) In both the OT And NT, the Bible uses the marriage relationship to picture the relationship between God and His people and, here, Paul shows the Christian marriage is an earthly picture of Christ and the church. Lastly, I want to say that there are volumes of material available on this topic that we could literally spend years studying-but we don't have time for that, so I'll try my best to keep it simple and straight to the point.
Read Eph. 5:22-24 -TO THE WIVES
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
v. 22: "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord" - Submission has become an unpopular word in our society today and springs from the mistaken idea that it always means to be dominated and oppressed; however, as we learned last week, being subject to one another "in the fear of Christ" is the result of being filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit. Thus, as Jesus submitted to the will of the Father, wives in this context voluntarily choose to submit to the leadership of their husbands. And note that the text does doesn't say anywhere that the husband can force submission or exact punishments for disobedience. In a Christian marriage, a woman is willingly putting herself into the vulnerable position of voluntarily submitting to a husband's leadership, and this is why the marriage decision is so important and must never be entered into lightly. Understand also, that a wife's submission doesn't imply that she's inferior in any way-spiritually, intellectually, or otherwise-to her husband. Finally, a wife who willingly submits to her husband is both yielding to the Spirit and serving Jesus Christ as Lord.
TRUTH 1: In a Christian marriage, when a wife chooses to submit to her husband, it is voluntary. A wife's submission doesn't imply that she's inferior in any way-spiritually, intellectually, or otherwise -to her husband but shows that she's both yielding to the Spirit and serving Jesus Christ as Lord. And note that the text makes it abundantly clear that the husband is never allowed to force submission or exact punishments for disobedience.
v. 23: "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body" - Here, Paul gives the reason wives should submit. God, who is a God of order who never acts arbitrarily, created a marriage relationship where there is one head. They are not to be two autonomous individuals who happen to live together but by God's design are "one flesh' who are to function together under one head. The analogy between the relationship of Christ to the church and of the husband to the wife is basic to the entire passage. Husbands should carefully meditate on this verse. Since it's stated as a command, the husband finds himself in an inescapable position of leadership. He cannot effectively refuse to lead. If he attempts to refuse his position, he still leads but very poorly. Notice, too, the command that wives are to submit to their husbands is addressed only to the wives, not the husbands. The Bible never commands the husband to put his wife into subjection, nor does it command the husband to be the head of the wife.
TRUTH 2: By God's design, husbands and wives are "one flesh' who should function together under one head. God never intended husbands and wives to be two autonomous individuals who happen to live together, but by His design are purposed them to be "one flesh' who function in unity under one head. It's significant that the command that wives are to submit to their husbands is addressed only to the wives, not the husbands. The Bible never commands the husband to put his wife into subjection, nor does it command him to be the head of the wife.
v. 24: "But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything" - Again, note the analogy between Christ and the church. This verse makes the picture clearer: nothing is to be excluded from this setting, so that in all areas of their lives together, wives should submit to their husbands. Does this mean she never disagrees with her husband? Absolutely not! A wife's particular personality and gifts will be different from her husband's in any given marriage, and in her area of giftedness she will provide her input but allow her husband to make the final decision. And men, just because the husband has final responsibility doesn't make him wise or right or omnipotent. It's his duty to be a good and compassionate listener when he needs to see things from a different perspective. And women, this isn't a put down but correction given lovingly with the intention to build him up and make him a better man.
TRUTH 3: Wives should submit to their husbands in all areas of their life together. According to v. 5, nothing is excluded from this picture. Does this mean that a wife is never to disagree with her husband? No, not it at all. A wife's individual personality and gifts will be different from her husband's in any given marriage, and in her area of giftedness she will provide her input, while at the same time, allowing her husband to make the final decision. And men, just because the husband has final responsibility doesn't make him wise or right or omnipotent. It's his duty to be a good and compassionate listener when he needs to see things from a different perspective.
Eph. 5:25-31 - TO THE HUSBANDS
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.
v. 25: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" - Notice what loving your wife looks like. Husbands are not told to rule over their wives but to love them as Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? Well, He gave up everything for her: His interests, His desires, His will, and His life. Everything husbands do should benefit their wives; what is best for her, not him. And in terms of leadership, husbands should listen to their wives and always put her interests above his. And just as in v. 24, wives are duty-bound to allow their husbands to make the final decision on a given matter, there aren't any loopholes in the husband's duty to give himself up for his wife. He isn't allowed to stop loving her because she isn't submitting to his leadership. Remember that Christ loved us when we rebelled against His authority, and in the same way, husbands are to love their wives in all circumstances, good, bad, or in between. Let's stop here and talk again about what the word "head" (Gk. kephalē) means. It literally refers to the head of a body, which imparts thought and direction to it. It doesn't mean ruling over people and dictating what they do. Rather, being the head is about taking responsibility and being a servant leader.
TRUTH 4: There aren't any loopholes in the husband's duty to give himself up for his wife. Husbands aren't commanded to rule over their wives but to love them as Christ loved the church. A husband isn't allowed to stop loving his wife because she isn't submitting to his leadership. We need to remember that Christ loved us when we rebelled against His authority, and in the same way, husbands are to love their wives in all circumstances, good, bad, or in between.
v. 26: "so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word" - Note that the "He" in both verses refers to Jesus, not the husband. In these verses, Paul uses the special relationship between husband and wife to exemplify the spiritual union between Christ and the church, which is patterned after His sacrificial love for the church. The word "sanctify" means to set apart or make holy and the word "water" refers symbolically to the Word of God as well as the Holy Spirit. The implication here is that a godly husband who shows love for his wife will help her grow spiritually, and the idea of cleansing points to the study of Scripture, which indicates the husband's desire to help his wife grow spiritually through a process of mutual discipleship.
v. 27: "that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless" - In literary terms, I would call this a sidebar to the lesson in chief that showcases Christ's relationship to the church. Paul notes that Christ's goal as the church's husband is to present her to Himself "in all her glory." This has a parallel with the wedding day when the bride seeks to look her absolute best for her husband. In the same way, Christ's desire is for His believers-His bride-to one day appear before Him without "spot or wrinkle or any such thing," that is, without any flaws, marks, or other imperfections, which doesn't refer to physical appearance but being "holy and blameless"-spiritually pure-before the Lord.
v. 28-31: "So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH." - Here, Paul underscores the husband's calling to self-sacrificial love for his wife by comparing it to his love for his own body. What Paul means is that when understood and controlled correctly, the right amount of self-love provides a foundation for the love of others, which is beneficial to the giver and the receiver. This is especially true in marriage when the husband and wife become bonded to one another as "one flesh" (v. 31, quoting Gen. 2:24), which, by extension, means that to love your wife is also to love yourself because of this spiritual oneness. And this is equally true in our relationship with Christ, who is our example. Because of our spiritual "oneness" with Him, and because we are His body, His love towards us is the same as loving Himself. Our modern culture-and this includes many who profess to be Christians-has largely forgotten the spiritual truth of "oneness," and marriages are suffering for it. With all the emphasis today upon the respective partner's rights, freedoms, and self-identity, the truth of oneness is virtually ignored and lost.
TRUTH 5: In Christian marriage, God's design is that a husband and wife shall be bonded together as one flesh. Paul's teaching is based upon God's purposes in the creation of man and woman all the way back in Gen. 2. The concept of "one flesh" imparts a picture of a man and a woman who enter into an "inseparable union." That's how Paul can say that when a married couple who have achieved oneness in their relationship show love to one another, they are also effectively loving themselves.
Sadly, the culture we see in our nation today, with all of its emphasis on the respective partner's rights, freedoms, and self-identity, the spiritual truth of oneness has largely been abandoned, and marriages and families are suffering for it.
Read Eph. 5:32-33 - A BEAUTIFUL PICTURE
32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
v. 32: "This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church" - By "mystery," Paul means that the plan of God hidden in the OT has come to fulfillment in Jesus Christ, that is, the profound union of Christ and His "bride," the church. And Paul artfully uses it as the pattern for the union of a man and woman as husband and wife. Everything in this section of the text points to the example of Christ and the church as an image of how both wives and husbands should relate to one another in a Christian marriage.
v. 33: "Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband" - In this final verse, Paul summarizes what a godly marriage looks like: a loving husband who loves and cherishes his wife so much that he puts her interests and desires above his own and a loving wife who voluntarily submits to her husband's leadership and supports and builds him up as the head of their family. This is a beautiful picture of godly oneness between a man and a woman, as god intends it to be.
TRUTH 6: Today's lesson (Eph. 5:22-33) expresses the ideal, not necessarily the starting place, but is clearly where Christians should be headed as husbands and wives. This Scripture is not intended to some kind of Biblical bludgeon to be used by either the husband or the wife against each other but as a pattern all Christians should strive for in their own marriage experiences. To the extent that a husband is really and truly loving and trustworthy in the marriage, the more a wife will be inclined to willingly submit to his leadership. By the same token, a loving wife who voluntarily submits to her husband's leadership as the head will enable and empower him to be the leader he needs to be. As imperfect and sinful spouses stop blaming each other and instead, actively seek to attain the pattern that emulates the sacrificial love that Christ has for His church, they can move closer and closer to the wonderful picture of godly oneness that Paul has described to us in this text.
PRAYER: LORD GOD, our Father in heaven and Creator of all things, we come you're your presence this morning with humble and grateful hearts, thanking and praising You for Your love, mercy, and unmerited grace toward us and for the many blessings you give us this day and every day. Lord, we ask that You will lead our church be a witness to you, immersed in scripture, constant in prayer, joyful in worship, and generous in serving and giving. Lord, you designed the family and the role that men and women are to play in it. Paul has told us today that husbands and wives are to actively seek and attain the pattern that emulates the sacrificial love that our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ, has for His church. And my prayer, dear God, is that You will help every married couple this class today to attain and then maintain this beautiful picture of godly oneness between a man and a women, exactly as You intended it to be. I ask this in the powerful name of Jesus, AMEN.