God’s Call & Christian Marriage
Main Idea: Paul projects a vision in this passage for a distinctively Christian marriage. He bases his instructions for each spouse not on what is appropriate in Roman culture, but on lessons that can be derived from the nature of the relationship between the church and Christ. Husbands are called to love their wives in the way Christ loved the church, and wives are called to recognize and follow the leadership their husbands provide. – Clint Arnold
Ephesians 5:21–33 (NIV) 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Any exercise of power can only be done in service to the Other, not to please oneself. Jesus is the one who did not come to be served, as the world’s authority figures expect to be, but to serve, to the point of giving his life. Following the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’s words seemed to have finally sunk in. By the time Paul wrote to the Ephesians, the relationship of Jesus to the church had been made the model for that of a husband and wife. We, the church, submit to Christ in everything, and the parallel of a wife submitting “everything” to her husband is no longer daunting, since we know what kind of behavior the husband has been called on to imitate. To what role must he submit? To that of savior, a servant-leader, who uses his authority and power to express a love that doesn’t even stop at dying for the beloved. In Jesus we see all the authoritarianism of authority laid to rest, and all the humility of submission glorified. Rather than demeaning Christ, his submission leads to his ultimate glorification, where God “exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.” …If a wife’s role in relation to her husband is analogous to the church’s submission to Christ, then we have nothing to fear. Both women and men get to “play the Jesus role” in marriage—Jesus in his sacrificial authority, Jesus in his sacrificial submission. By accepting our gender roles, and operating within them, we are able to demonstrate to the world concepts that are so counterintuitive as to be completely unintelligible unless they are lived out by men and women in Christian marriages.
– Tim & Kathy Keller
Paul underlines the rule of life he has sketched with a quote from Genesis 2:24, the passage about the man leaving his father and mother and cleaving to his wife. That is full of psychological insight. Often what pulls a marriage off course is the failure of one or other partner to distance themselves emotionally from their parents and devote themselves totally to their spouse. This is worth pondering in itself. But Paul takes it in a different direction as well. Back there in Genesis, even before human rebellion had tainted the world in general, and the relation between the sexes in particular, he sees a glimmer of God’s ultimate intention in creation. The man—the Messiah—will leave the place where he was at home, and go in search of a bride. Read Philippians 2:6–11 or Colossians 1:15–20 in the light of this rich and fascinating suggestion. Contemplate the many-sided way in which the truth about God himself, and the truth about how we live out our most precious relationships, intertwine and create a God-given beauty the world never dreams of. – N.T Wright