Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 23 because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 since we are members of his body.31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband. Ephesians 5:22-33
It’s bold, offensive, and embarrassing to start a blog post with those two words, huh? This went from being one of my least favorite Bible passages to one of my favorites. It’s quite amazing how a tad bit more context goes a long way. My friend who hates the Bible, could that possibly be what you’re missing? Context? I recently got married to my college crush and though we are much in fact still in our honeymoon phase, I can see and have seen the gospel appear within our relationship and particularly how this passage led me to say “I do” to my forever groom. This is that story.
“Wives, submit” was obviously offensive, particularly, to a woman who has been described as aggressive, independent, and a natural leader. Though I loved Jesus, this was one of those passages and concepts that I refused to accept. I did not understand it, so, therefore, I could not accept it. Have you ever felt that way when reading the Bible or when hearing a verse without its proper context? That was my reasoning. I had a bone to pick with God for this particular passage. “How dare you say something so offensive? Have you met me? I’m not going to submit to any man,” yeah, how’s that for the first greeting I give after entering heaven? Nice, Kira. I would guess that every woman reading this has or does feel the same way I did, deeply offended by the words of Paul that were inspired by God. I remember even going to a pastor and sharing the frustration I felt over this, yet what he explained to me changed everything.
He did not water down the meaning for me, but instead gave me the proper context needed to understand this verse. We ought not to sugarcoat God’s inspired words. Yes, it tells wives to submit, but did you keep reading my friend? Husbands are called to love their wives the way that Christ loves the church. That’s a high standard. Jesus loves all of us unconditionally. Jesus extends grace freely. Jesus died for us so that we could be saved through our faith in Jesus as Lord alone. There is more to this passage than telling wives to submit to their husbands. Be careful not to interchange the word submit with the word obey. There is a clear difference.
I remember the pastor asked me as I was single at the time, “If you found a man who loves you like Jesus, would you be willing to submit to him? If you found a man who does everything with love and grace as Jesus does, would you have any problem submitting to him?” That’s a high standard, but my answer was clear. “No. I would not have any problem submitting to a husband if he loved me the same way as Jesus loves the church.” That conversation ended with my pastor telling me not to settle for any sort of “smuck”, but a man whose heart chases The Lord. If a wife is to follow her husband’s lead, she better have high standards. Ladies, please have high standards. If he is not going to love you like Jesus, he is not worth it. If he is not going to use biblical wisdom & love in leading your family, he is not worth it.
From that point, I knew the importance of having high standards. That passage was never meant to degrade women, but it reminds us of our worth in God. If you’re still not convinced, I encourage you to look at the culture at the time. See how the Bible tells husbands to love their wives during a time where that was unheard of. The way Jesus treated women and the way the Bible talked about women was culturally inappropriate, but Jesus did so anyway. Why? Because my female readers, you are also made in the image of God. Eve, the creation of woman, was the grand finale of creation when God spoke the universe into existence (Genesis 2). Remember this. You’re the grand finale of creation and your husband ought to treat you with this in mind. Keep your standards high.
My understanding of Ephesians 5 is one of the reasons why I could confidentially become one flesh with my groom. Unlike most first dates, ours involved talking about marriage and specifically this passage. I wanted my intentions and desires to be clear. He is held to a high standard. He knew he was going to be held to a high standard. I know my worth. I know what Scripture says. That is why I refused to settle.
As a groom cherishes his wife, his bride is called to specific responsibilities too. As the wife of my best friend, I am called to submit and respect him. Marriage personifies the gospel when done in the right way. He is told to love. I am told to respect. This is the relationship between Jesus and His Church. I may be a little too inexperienced to say this, but watch what happens when a husband and wife love and serve one another the way God commands. I’ve seen marriages completely transform when they do. Watch what happens when marriage is done in a way that honors God. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
Now, of course, it goes without saying that my husband is imperfect as am I. We are two sinners who fall short. We are two sinners that do not always honor God in our marriage. But as Jesus fully forgives, extends grace, and loves us both (and everyone else) unconditionally, this is why we also forgive, extend grace, and love unconditionally. We love because He first loved us. We are motivated by God’s grace to love and fight to love.
Marriage was created by God and it serves as a beautiful metaphor of the gospel when done in the right way. Jesus is the groom and the Church is His bride. In marriage, we see the everlasting love, inexplainable sacrifice, and ultimate commitment that Jesus shows. Through our sins and imperfections, Christ still died for us. He remains faithful, gracious, and loving. It is through our faith in Jesus alone that we can be saved. Today is a beautiful day to give your life to Christ. Let’s make heaven crowded.
I pray that every aspect of our marriage points to Jesus. I pray that people see the way we love one another and realize that God’s love for the world is exponentially greater. I pray that people see the reason for a Savior through our imperfections and mistakes. I pray that we can serve Jesus in all that we do and that our marriage brings people to Christ. I humbly ask that you pray over our marriage as we chase God’s will yesterday, today, and forevermore.
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as [a service] to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as Christ is head of the church, Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives should be subject to their husbands in everything [respecting both their position as protector and their responsibility to God as head of the house].25 Husbands, love your wives [seek the highest good for her and surround her with a caring, unselfish love], just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify the church, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [of God], 27 so that [in turn] He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy [set apart for God] and blameless. 28 Even so husbands should and are morally obligated to love their own wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own body, but [instead] he nourishes and protects and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members (parts) of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined [and be faithfully devoted] to his wife, and the two shall become [e]one flesh. 32 This mystery [of two becoming one] is great; but I am speaking with reference to [the relationship of] Christ and the church. 33 However, each man among you [without exception] is to love his wife as his very own self [with behavior worthy of respect and esteem, always seeking the best for her with an attitude of lovingkindness], and the wife [must see to it] that she respects and delights in her husband [that she notices him and prefers him and treats him with loving concern, treasuring him, honoring him, and holding him dear].
- What Marriage Actually Means | A sermon that provides the needed context for Ephesians 5:22-33
- What Does It Mean that Women Are to Submit to Their Husbands? (Ephesians 5) | More context on this passage
- Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs | A book based on the biblical perspective of marriage and designed to help couples love each other more efficiently