Bent Out Of Shape – Ephesians 5.22

In Ephesians 5 Paul has been setting before the church some principles of Christian living. Now, in 5.22, we see a statement that is often bent out of shape:

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord,”

Straight away, we see this verse ends with a comma, so it cannot stand by itself. What does Paul go on to say then?

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church (he himself being the savior of the body). But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious—not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one has ever hated his own body, but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is great—but I am actually speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

(Ephesians 5.22-33)

Instead of a statement that can be used to buttress and back-up an un-Christlike marriage structure where a husband rules and reigns in his very own house-sized kingdom, here in Ephesians 5 Paul is applying the principles of Christian living to particular situations. In marriage, he says, there ought to be such a high level of mutual love and respect (vv.22-23, 25) that a beautiful circle of selfless love emerges. Wives are to acknowledge the truth that the marriage relationship is an earthly example of a heavenly reality (v.32) and therefore submit to [their] husbands, and at the same time the husband is to love [their] wives just as Christ loved the church. Both parties are to practice selfless submission. Both parties come together in a power union, not a power struggle. There is mutual love and mutual respect in the Christian marriage (v.33) that ultimately points towards the spiritual truth of Christ and the church. 

We see Jesus in almost every verse in this passage, don’t we:

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church (he himself being the savior of the body). But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious—not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one has ever hated his own body, but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is great—but I am actually speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

(Ephesians 5.22-33, emphasis added)

This passage in Ephesians 5 is really about what Jesus did for you and how it works itself out in particular situations, here specifically marriage. The bigger picture here is that we are called to submit to Him as our head, and we already know that He loves us, don’t we? We know that He couldn’t have proved His love for us in any greater or more spectacular way. When we know we are loved like this, we have no problem submitting to the leading of that person. Paul is saying, simply, as in the church, so in the home. 

Published by James Travis

Pastor of Saar Fellowship in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Married to Robyn and Dad to our two boys.

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