Here is the third part of the "Husband and Wives" section of Ephesians chapter 5. Previously I presented that the woman is second-in-command in the home, and the confidant and advisor to her husband. In this portion of the passage we will explore what Paul wrote concerning the man's role with respect to his wife. To be sure, this portion contains abstract ideas. I hope to help us move from the abstract to the concrete, or at least to the practical.
Ephesians 5: 24-32
24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
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. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. NASB
24 αλλα ως η εκκλησια υποτασσεται τω χριστω ουτως και αι γυναικες τοις ανδρασιν εν παντι
25 οι ανδρες αγαπατε τας γυναικας καθως και ο χριστος ηγαπησεν την εκκλησιαν και εαυτον παρεδωκεν υπερ αυτης 26 ινα αυτην αγιαση καθαρισας τω λουτρω του υδατος εν ρηματι 27 ινα παραστηση αυτος εαυτω ενδοξον την εκκλησιαν μη εχουσαν σπιλον η ρυτιδα η τι των τοιουτων αλλ ινα η αγια και αμωμος 28 ουτως οφειλουσιν [και] οι ανδρες αγαπαν τας εαυτων γυναικας ως τα εαυτων σωματα ο αγαπων την εαυτου γυναικα εαυτον αγαπα 29 ουδεις γαρ ποτε την εαυτου σαρκα εμισησεν αλλα εκτρεφει και θαλπει αυτην καθως και ο χριστος την εκκλησιαν 30 οτι μελη εσμεν του σωματος αυτου 31 αντι τουτου καταλειψει ανθρωπος [τον] πατερα και [την] μητερα και προσκολληθησεται προς την γυναικα αυτου και εσονται οι δυο εις σαρκα μιαν 32 το μυστηριον τουτο μεγα εστιν εγω δε λεγω εις χριστον και [εις] την εκκλησιαν WHNU
I begin with verse 24 as a way of both reminder and warning: it is God's plan that wives be subject to their husbands -- but ONLY in the same way the church is subject to Christ (we are joint-heirs with Him, not second-class citizens to Him). So men, you are the head of the home and the wife, but she is not a second-class citizen in the home. Just as we will reign with Christ, the wife has a similar status in the home. Women, your position is not conditional, it is God's order for the home.
Now men, it gets more difficult for us. "Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (verse 25). What does that mean? Most men will say they are willing to die to protect their wife and children. I wish it were true of all men, I but I know it is not. And it is not enough for a husband to say it, declare it, engrave it in stone and give it to his wife, then sit down and think he has fulfilled what Scriptures require of him. It is so much more than that. When Christ "gave Himself up" for the church, He certainly gave up His physical life, subjecting Himself to the cruelty of the Romans and the blood-lust of the Jews. He gave Himself up with respect to His being -- He became sin for us, so much so that the Father abandoned Him as He took sin upon Himself (My God, My God, why you you forsaken me? Mark 15:34). While He lived on earth, He poured Himself into others -- The Church -- through teaching, encouraging, healing, ministering in many ways. When we look the whole of how Jesus gave Himself up for the church, how do we translate it into how husbands should love their wives?
Before answering that question, let's look at a couple of more verses, verses 26-27: 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.
The end game, the desired outcome, what Jesus wanted for the Church is summarized in these two verses: sanctification and holiness, by means of the washing of water and the word. The Church, every one who believes upon Jesus for salvation, in obedience to Him is baptized (as a symbol of belonging to Christ) "εν ρηματι", "in word", the Greek referring to the articulated word (that which is actually written or spoken) as opposed to the conceptual or broader "word", which is reserved for λογος (logos). Baptism is not enough without the word: "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit". These things do not cleanse, sanctify or make holy, but rather, together they are symbolic of these works of Christ in the Church -- and His works are perfect.
That is the abstract. What does it mean for the husband to love his wife as Christ loves the Church, in the practical sense? Paul gives the answer, easily missed as it is surrounded by such high abstractions, in verses 28-29: 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. Note especially "but nourishes it and cherishes it" , which in the Greek is "εκτρεφει και θαλπει αυτην". The word εκτρεφει comes from εκτρεφω meaning "I nourish to maturity/nurture", and θαλπει is from θαλπω meaning "I warm/cherish/foster with tender care". These things Christ has done and is doing for the Church, and it is these things we men are to be doing for our wives. Husbands are to nurture our wives toward their maturity in Christ, not the other way around. Help her to grow in her faith, just as Christ helps us to grow in our faith. Husbands are to warm their wives, by providing for them, making them feel secure in the relationship, just as Christ does for the Church. Husbands are to cherish their wives, letting them know how important and valued they are in the husbands' lives, just as Christ, in His word, constantly reminds us as believers with what high esteem He holds us. And husbands need to foster their wives with tender care, recognizing that wives need their husbands' tenderness. The idea of husbands loving their wives as Christ loves the Church are wrapped up in the seamless garment of nourishing, nurturing, warming, cherishing, fostering -- all with tenderness and in love.
Paul wrote in verse 28 "So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies", and in verse 30 offers the rationale in comparing the nuptial relationship to the relationship between Christ and the Church: "because we are members of His body". The Church is the Body of Christ, and as Christ loves the Church, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. Just as the union of Christ and the Church is a mystery but also a reality, so also is the union of the man and woman becoming husband and wife, the two becoming one flesh, both a mystery and reality.
Husbands, this is a challenge for all of us. If it were easy for we as men to do, Paul probably would not have been led by the Spirit to write about the matter. We need to read it, hear it, embrace it, act upon it.
I will conclude with "Husbands and WIves, Part IV" in my next post.