Ephesians 6.1

Sometimes we read single verses in Scripture and even detached from their immediate context they make so much sense. Things like Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:

“…whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them…”. 

James is pretty clear when he talks about walking the walk if we talk the talk:

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” (1.26).

Sometimes single verses can be so powerful and (I think) Ephesians 6.1 is one of those:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”


Even detached from the previous chapter’s teaching on Christian households (5.22-33), even detached from what will follow about intergenerational relationships (6.1-4) the Christian command to obey your parents in the Lord is so clear.

Tomorrow we will unpack the passage of 6.1-4 in more detail, but for today there is plenty to think about. As someone’s child, do we honour those who brought us into the world through obedience? As a parent, do we make it a joy for our children to obey what we say?

Ephesians 5.31-33

Straight out of v.30 and his commands for Christian households Paul says:

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 5.31-33, NET)

Quoting from Genesis 2.24 Paul underscores his exhortations about Christian households with a profound theological point: marriage is an earthly preview of the church in eternity (v.32, cf. Revelation 20.4, 21.1-4).

Marriage, then, in addition to being a God-ordained, love-filled union here on earth actually shows us what life will be like in heaven. Not so much that we will marry or be given in marriage (Matthew 22.30) but more the loving, leading, and yielding relationship of husband and wife.

For those who are unmarried or not yet married, for those who don’t know if they will ever marry, marriage is not prescribed for all believers (1 Corinthians 7.25-28) and is certainly not salvific. Whether we are married or not we can appreciate the earthly example of an eternal truth: those who turn to Jesus in repentance and faith will forever be cared for, loved, and provided for by the One who gave Himself for their sins at the cross.

Ephesians 5.28-30

Building on his first exhortation for husbands, Paul now takes it one step further:

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.”

(Ephesians 5.28-30, NET)

In addition to the (somewhat) abstract idea that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church Paul now gets supremely practical and says that husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies

To command a love as Christ loved the church might feel beyond some husbands, might confuse some, or might simply mean nothing to some. Taking all of this potential doubt out of the equation we read that husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. The logic is that, ok guys, you take care of yourself, you do what is best for your own body, so love your wife in the same wayjust as Christ also does the church.

A teaching that hits both the mature believer (vv.25-27) and the newer believer (vv.28-29) cannot fail to communicate its intent and shows us just how important it is. This kind of marriage is not optional for a Christian and is not the realm of a committed few: if we have put hope and faith and trust in Jesus then this is how our marriages should look. Both partners should seek the good, seek the best, of the other and can rest easy that their spouse is doing the same for them. 

Tomorrow Paul will underscore this truth on marriage, but for today let us consider how we are loving our spouses as [our] own bodies

Ephesians 5.25-27

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.