“For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” (Ephesians 5:23–25, NASB95)
Later in this chapter Paul is going to wrap up his instruction to husbands and wives by telling wives to respect their husbands and husbands to love their wives. We will look at this in more detail later. As we began this section we saw that the wife is to submit or be submissive to her husband, as to the Lord. And here in these verses we read that the husband is to love his wife in the same way, as the Lord. From beginning to end we find that the marriage relationship based upon love and respect. In being submissive the wife respects her husband as the one given this headship role in their relationship and in the home. Then, as the head of the wife, we read that the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves His church.
God has determined that this is His order in the home where there is not a two-headed situation but one where the husband given to the headship role deeply loves his wife and looks to her best. This is the plan, and it is the ideal to which both husband and wife are to look as they look to the Lord as their example. In the last post we focused on the wife following the example of Christ who emptied Himself to do the will of the Father. In these verses we return to Christ to see how out of His great love for us in laying down His life so that we might be saved and brought into an eternal love relationship with Him is to be the example for the husband.
Jesus Christ is the head of His church. “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:3, NASB95) This is the unquestionable role given to Him by the Father. We read this in passages such as Colossians chapter 1 where we read, “For by Him [Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:16–20, NASB95) Jesus’ authority, as we clearly see from these verses, is an active one responding in submission to the will of the Father with whom He is one, and He did this for us who He dearly loves. This is the example of the selfless love of the Son and the model to which husbands are called to follow. Because of our love for God we are to submissively to Him give ourselves as living sacrifices of love to our wives.
Walking through these verses we alternate between looking at the marriage relationship between the husband and wife and the comparative marriage relationship between Christ and His church. In these verses we read that the church is subject to Christ, just as we read before that wife is to be to her husband. This means that it not only is the church (or the wife) to follow His directives, but that it is to do so with full regard for who He is. We, as the church, are to be constantly mindful of our Lord and what He has done for us. And, in response to this, we are to give ourselves fully to Him.
We, as members of the body of Christ and His church are to submit ourselves to Him because He is our perfect head. Wives, similarly, are to submit themselves to their husbands not because they are perfect leaders, but because Christ is. And husbands are to love their wives not because they are always lovely, but because our Lord is and this is how He is toward us. His motive is our best, and our motive as husbands is to be the best of our wives as we demonstrate our love by how we give ourselves to them just as we do to the Lord.
As husbands we are to give ourselves fully for them. Jesus held nothing back on the cross, and following His example we are to hold nothing back for our wives. And, when a marriage is working right or at least moving in a Christ-right direction the response of the wife will make it well worth the husband’s effort. I love the truth that we see in the next verses that as the church is presented in her splendor she is presented to Christ as His perfected bride. The amazing thing about all of this is not “What’s in it for me” giving, but the reality that doing marriage God’s way does have a wonderful result that is pleasing to both.
Of course, there is no promise that all wives are going to respond this way. The response of the wife is not to be the determinate of the love of the husband, just as the obedience of the husband is not to be guiding force for the wife. Each are called to do these as unto the Lord, and then trust the Lord to do His amazing work in the life of the other. Husbands lovingly give and see what God will do.