Recently at church, during our studies on Ephesians, we were faced with some difficult verses about husbands and wives. They are difficult because:
- Our society has an ever-diminishing view of marriage which is contrary to the Bible’s viewpoint
- Both men and women are charged with particular roles in marriage which are different from each other.
In a nutshell,
- God’s intention for the church is for it to demonstrate to the rulers and authorities, the wisdom of God in bringing all things together in unity in Christ. (Eph 3:10)
- Marriage is a microcosm of the gospel (Eph 5:32)
Therefore, in 5:22, wives are instructed to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. In the same way they submit to Christ as head of the church, so they must submit to their husbands as their head in marriage (5:23-24).
NB to submit is in not to be degraded or de-humanised, for Jesus has all authority and power, yet he submits to his Father in heaven!
After speaking to wives for 3 verses, Paul then spends the next 9 verses addressing husbands – not because they’re slow and need to hear it 3 times, but because there is more to say. What is curious, though, is that he doesn’t say anything about the benefits of being assigned to be the head. Rather he speaks about love, for it is by loving his wife that he best leads and serves her. He is to love her in two ways.
- Firstly, the role of husband is to be to his wife like Christ is to the church. In self-sacrificial love, Christ “gave himself up for the church, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph 5:26-27). A husband is to love his wife by giving himself up for her.
- Secondly, the husband is to love his wife as his own body (Eph 5:28). Christ loves his body, the church, by filling it (Eph 1:23), as he gifts each member to enable them to build the body to maturity (4:7,12-13). A husband, who becomes one flesh with his wife (Eph 5:31), love his own body as he loves his wife.
So, in a marriage, because the husband and wife both submit to Christ,
- The wife submits to her husband as the church submits to Christ
- The husband loves his wife in self-sacrificial love in the same way that Christ loved the church, gave himself up for it, and cares for it.
But what does it mean in day to day living? How should it affect how the household chores are divided up? Who makes the decisions about where the family will live, how the children will be educated, and how much money to spend on Christmas? Paul doesn’t address it here! Or does he?
Well, don’t despair, because the rest of Ephesians has answers for us. What does it look like for a husband to love his wife?
- It means being completely humble and gentle, patient, and bearing with her in love (4:2)
- It means no longer living in ignorance and futility like the Gentiles (4:17-19)
- It means speaking truthfully (4:25)
- It means dealing with anger appropriately (4:26-27)
- It means speaking in a way that benefits her (4:29)
- It means ridding himself of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, not being malicious; instead being kind and compassionate, forgiving
- It means imitating God by living a life of love (5:1-2)
- It means treating her right in the bedroom and not being selfish and greedy (5:3-5)
- It means being filled by the Spirit (5:18)
- It means discipling her, and taking the lead in parenting children (5:26-27; 6:4)