(Ephesians 5:21-33) — In Ephesians five, the final expression of being filled with the Spirit is “submitting to one another” (Ephesians 5:21) because Christ is one’s Lord. All the household codes Paul proposes here are based on this idea. But although it was customary to call on wives, children and slaves to submit in various ways, to call all members of a group (including the male head of the household) to submit to one another was unheard-of. Most ancient writers expected wives to obey their husbands, desiring in them a quiet and meek demeanor; some marriage contracts even stated a requirement for absolute obedience. This requirement made sense especially to Greek thinkers, who could not conceive of wives as equals. Age differences contributed to this disparity: husbands were normally older than their wives, often by over a decade in Greek culture (with men frequently marrying around age thirty and women in their teens, often early teens).
In this passage, however, the closest Paul comes to defining submission is “respect” (Ephesians 5:33), and in the Greek text, wifely submission to a husband (Ephesians 5:22) is only one example of general mutual submission of Christians. The verb of verse 22 is borrowed directly from verse 21 and thus cannot mean something different.
The command for husbands to love their wives in in Ephesians 5:25a. The Greek verb used here for love is an imperative. An example of an imperative in English would be like the boy has homework to do and it is an hour before bedtime as he plays his favorite video game and his father comes in and says to him, “Son, do your homework, now!” The word for love does not just indicate and emotional feeling for someone. Nor does it just indicate affection for someone. The word for love here indicates a God kind of love.
Paul then gives a couple of examples of how this God kind of love can be applied. (Ephesians 5:25-29). Although it was assumed that husbands should love their wives, ancient household codes never list love as a husband’s duty; such codes told husbands only to make their wives submit. Although Paul upholds the ancient ideal of wifely submission for his culture, he qualifies it by placing it in the context of mutual submission: husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church by willingly laying down their lives for them. At the same time that he relates Christianity to the standards of his culture, he subverts his culture’s values by going far beyond them. Both husbands and wives must submit and love (Ephesians 5:2, 21). In Ephesians 5:26, the “washing” probably alludes figuratively to the bride’s prenuptial washing. After this washing the bride was perfumed, anointed and arrayed in wedding clothes. The betrothal ceremony in Judaism also came to be called “the sanctification of the bride,” setting her apart for her husband. The “word” naturally refers to the saving gospel of Christ (Ephesians 1:13). After the bride’s preparation (5:26), the next stage in a Jewish wedding was the bride’s removal from her father’s house to the groom’s house, followed by the bride’s introduction into the groom’s home. Christ set Himself apart for his church, “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” (John 17:19) Christ emptied Himself for His church, “6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8). God exalted Christ: Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name
of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; (Philippians 2:9-10).
Second, love your wife as you love your own body, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:” (Eph. 5:28-29). The church is indeed the Body of Christ and He nourished it – (originally: to give warmth and eventually to bring to maturity). He also cherish His body – meaning to think of as of rare excellence. Husbands, do not become discouraged as this fellow did.
Before I married Maggie dear,
I was her pumpkin pie,
Her precious peach and honey boy,
The apple of her eye.
But after years of married life
This thought I pause to utter:
Those fancy names are now all gone,
I’m just her bread and butter.
Godly Love is a great mystery, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32) Only God can join two individuals into one. As the Father and the Son are one, so are the husband and the wife. As Christ and the church form one body, so the husband and the wife are as one body. A wife is a gift from God, “House and riches are the inheritance of fathers and a prudent wife is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 19:14) A Godly woman is of great value, “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” (Proverbs 31:10)
Husbands: God has taken one of the jewels from His treasure house and given it to you. To see your wife as anything less than a gift of rare excellence, given to you by God, is to be disrespectful not only to your wife, but to God almighty. Husbands love your wives!