Having spoken to wives yesterday, now Paul turns his attention to husbands:
“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.”
(Ephesians 5.25-27, NET)
There is more coming in this passage with regards to husbands (vv.28-33) but the major imperative that we get first is for them to love [their] wives as Christ loved the church. If a husband wants to be someone to whom his wife is happy to submit (v.22) then he must be, without a shadow of a doubt, loving his wife as Christ loved the church.
What does this actually mean, then?
He must, as his first priority, seek to help her grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord (v.26) for her good (v.27). A husband must do all he can to help his wife live a life that honours God, pleases God, and is rooted in the Word. This, of course, will look differently in different circumstances or cultures, but will have as evidence the progressive sanctification of the wife (vv.26-27).
When a husband loves a wife like this, there will be no stigma or reservation in the call to submit because the wife knows that she is submitting to someone who wants only what is best for her. There is no male/female bias here: simply the call for a Christian marriage to be a union of mutual dependence, not a struggle for power and dominance.
As the wife has been called to submit and support and the husband called to serve in sacrificial love, this of course works in reverse: husbands need love and wives need support. Having a primary focus in a relationship doesn’t take away all your other needs. Submitting to your own husband is a sign of servant love, and loving your wife as Christ loved the church is certainly a show of submission, from self and to another.
As we continue through this passage on Christian marriage perhaps the overriding truth that comes through is that, in Christ and as new creations, marriage is a union of two becoming one for the glory of God (cf. v.32) and for the good of those involved.