Ephesiansby Robert M. Solomon
The key word describing the husband’s responsibility is love: “Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25). The husband’s authority is not to be abused but exercised in love. He must not lord it over his wife, but love her in a self-giving way. The model is Christ’s love for the church—”just as Christ loved the church” (v. 25). Jesus expressed this self-giving love in the following ways (vv. 25–27):
As the husband is not Christ, he cannot do for his wife all that Christ did for the church, such as sanctifying her or washing her of her sins, nor is he required to do so; verses 25–27 focus on Christ. But the husband must show the same kind of selfless love, and even be willing to give his life for his wife. This challenges any notion of abuse of power and authority in a marriage. The way of Christ is the way of love, and the husband is to follow His example. Christ showed His love in the past, is showing it in the present, and will show it in the future. This divine love is consistent and lasting (“undying love”, Ephesians 6:24).
The second model for marital love looks at how a man loves and cares for his own body (Ephesians 5:28–29). A man ought to love his wife as he does his own body. Again Paul points to Christ and notes the way He treats the church, His body (vv. 29–30). Adam and Eve became “one flesh” (one body) through marriage (v. 31; see Genesis 2:24), so a man’s wife becomes like his own body, which he is to care for and love.
Marriage as instituted by God has a more profound meaning than we often realise. The “mystery” (Ephesians 5:32) compares the relationship between husband and wife to that between Christ and the church. Just as Christ loves the church, the husband loves his wife. And just as the church obeys Christ, the wife submits to the husband. When a man and a woman obediently fulfil their duties to each other, their marriage reflects the relationship between the church and Christ.
Paul concludes by summarising the main point: a husband must love his wife and she must respect (submit to) him (v. 33).
Reflect on how Christ loves the church. What does it say about how husbands ought to love their wives? What are the implications for your own life?
How do people love themselves—in the right way? How can a husband love his wife “as he loves himself” (Ephesians 5:33; Matthew 22:39)?