Ephesians 5:21 ESV
“…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
We humble ourselves. We have servant’s hearts and attitudes. We regard one another as more important than ourselves. We look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. And we follow the example of Christ in his true humility and servanthood and death to self (Phil 2:1-8).
This is speaking to the whole body of Christ. All of us, male and female, are to treat one another in this manner. This isn’t just about wives submitting to their husbands. This is how all members of the body of Christ should treat one another. And this includes husbands in how they treat their wives:
“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Pet 3:7 NASB).
Ephesians 5:22-24 ESV
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”
Verse 22 here is connected to verse 21, for the word “submit” is not repeated here in the original manuscripts, evidently, but this is rather a continuation of the same thought as in the previous verse. So, what is described above is to be applied here, as well.
But this is a little different, too, for this has to do with order and authority. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, and she is to submit to her husband in like manner as she submits to Christ. So, let me note here that none of us are to submit to anything sinful, okay?
For, in what way does the church submit to Christ (or should submit to Christ)? We honor, value, and respect him. We obey him. We obey his teachings which are for our good, not for our harm. We submit to his will and purposes for our lives, and we follow him wherever he takes us.
And, if the husband is serving as head of the wife in the same manner is Christ is head of the church, then the husband is going to have the same concern for his wife as Christ does, and he will honor and value her in the same way in which Christ does, and he will do for her what is for her good.
Ephesians 5:25-30 ESV
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
Men have a huge responsibility here given to them by God. And this is not about them ruling their wives with an iron thumb. This is not about harsh leadership and controlling their wives. This is about leading them by example as much as anything else. And it is about showing them genuine love which chooses God’s choices for our lives – what is holy, pure, faithful, and honest.
Husbands are to have the same heart and concern for their wives as Christ has for his church in that he gave his life up for her that she might be holy. So, husbands are not to be self-centered, thinking only of themselves, and the same goes for wives. But they, in humility, are to consider one another’s true needs. And the husband is to sacrifice himself for the good of his wife.
So, the husband being the head of the wife does not mean he is to domineer over her and to make her his slave. He is not to be demanding and wanting his own way. He is to love her, and cherish her, and honor her as a fellow heir with him in the kingdom of God, provided he and she are both heirs, but this is speaking to Christian husbands and wives.
And, let me add this because of the times we now live in. To love one another and to submit to one another in this way means we don’t willfully, habitually, and premeditatedly sin against one another, either. If we are cheating on our spouses, if only in our minds, and if we are living a double life, lying about secret sin, then in no way can we do what this teaches us.
And, the bottom line in all of this is that the only way we, as wives or as husbands, can love, honor and submit to one another, is if we are first and foremost walking in submission to our Lord, making holiness and godliness what we practice, and not being those who make sin our practice. Then, if we are walking according to the Spirit, we will love one another as we ought.
Ephesians 5:31-33 ESV
“’Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
When we get married we are to leave our single lives behind us. No longer are we to live like we did before we got married. And this parallels over into our relationship with Jesus Christ, too. Now we are not individual people, each going our own way, doing what we want, but we are to become one.
But that oneness has Christ as the head of the husband and him following Christ with his life and then him treating his wife as Christ treats his church, and then the wife submitting to the leadership of her husband as she would to Christ, because the husband is following Christ with his life. This is God’s design for the Christian marriage.
The husband and the wife are then to be faithful to one another, to be honest with one another, and to do what is loving toward one another. They are to hold fast to one another, and they are not to have hearts and minds which stray from that oneness. For they are to be committed to one another’s good.
And regarding wives respecting their husbands, “respect” means to show concern, care, consideration, thoughtfulness, attentiveness, kindness, appreciation, and regard for.
Respect involves submitting to them as we submit to Christ. And it also means that we are their helpers, and that we encourage them in things that are good, and that we are looking out for what is beneficial for them, and that we do them good and not harm.
And husbands loving their wives involves many of these same qualities, too. For, love is not a feeling, an emotion, a tingling sensation, or lust. Loving our husbands, or husbands loving their wives has to do with doing good to them and not harm, truly looking out for what is best for them. For, love is not what we feel, it is what we do.
By Ann Aschauer
Well, some folks think that “love” means emotion,
So it comes and goes their whole life through.
Some folks never know that when the magic goes,
If you keep on lovin’, it’ll come back to you.
I was so afraid we’d lose the special feeling,
And someday we’d find our love wasn’t true,
But then God opened up my eyes and made me realize,
Love is not what you feel, it’s what you do.
And so we stood side by side at the altar,
As our wills and God’s power combined.
With His help I could say, “I do love you today,
And I will for a long, long time.”
c 1987 Ann Aschauer
Used by permission