Biblical Marriage

Ephesians 5:21-33

Marriage is supposed to be a reflection of Christ and the church. The husband is supposed to love his wife as Christ loves the church. The wife is supposed to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ. This is the biblical role in Christian marriage (Eph. 5:22-33).  Yet, the sad reality is this is not always true. Current statics shows that half of Christian marriages end in divorce, just as non-Christian marriages. Let’s explore Ephesians 5:22-33 and see the role of biblical marriage in two points: The responsibility of wives (5:22-24) and the responsibility of husbands (5:25-32).

The text cannot be any clearer as to the role of a wife in a marriage relationship. Wives are to submit to their husbands. This submission is a functional subordination not an ontological subordination.  In other words, their role within a marriage is different but there is equality in the differences.

This submission is a partial restoration of what happened in the garden of Eden. In the garden as a result of the fall. God cursed Satan, Adam, and Eve. God said to Eve, “You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.” Some commentaries will take the word desire as sexual desire, but in its context and usage in Genesis 4:7, it is better to take it as control. From that moment on women have a propensity to want to control men. Sin produces a power struggle between the man and the woman, but in Christ man and woman are to live harmoniously. Biblical marriage is a reflection and a partial restoration to the pre-fall state.

Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands and Paul provides an example of that submission: as the church submits to Christ. The word ‘submit’ is in the indirect middle voice. The indirect middle implies the subject acts for itself and for its own interest. The church freely submits to Christ and that submission is for the betterment of the church. Likewise, wives are to freely submit to their husbands because it is in their best interest.

The responsibility of husbands is to love their wives.  Husbands are commanded to love. The characteristic of this love is: unconditional, always concerned with the highest good in the one loved, self-sacrificial, and to love his wife as his own body.

Husbands are to love unconditionally. This love refers to love irrespective of merit, even to the underserving.  In essences, husbands are commanded to love their wives regardless if their wives love them back. It is not a reciprocal love.  It is a one way love. You love her when she is yelling at you, mad at you, gives you the silent treatment, and when she is wrong but still insists that she is right. It is an unconditional love

The second element of love is it is always concerned with the highest good in the one loved. Everything husbands do toward their wives is for her good, never his own. Husbands always have their wive’s interest in mind.  How will it benefit her, how will it edify her?  Are my choices beneficial for her?  Will this make her sad? Live your life in such a way as to please her.  It is not about you in a marriage, it is about her. Guys we need to get that through our thick heads. In any dating or marriage relationship, it is not about you it is about her.

The third element of love is that husbands are to love self-sacrificially because Christ loved the church self-sacrificially. Christ gave up his life for the church so that He might sanctify her having cleansed her from her filth so that he might present the church to himself without spot or wrinkle, holy and blameless. So likewise, husbands are to metaphorically speaking sacrifice themeslves, whether it be his life, dreams, ambitions, desires in order to keep her pure.

The fourth element of love is husbands are to love their wives as he loves his own body. Whatever a husband would do for himself he must do for his wife.  Paul goes on to explain what he means by this. As a man nourishes and cherishes his own body even if he does not like the way he looks, he will still feed it and care for it. If he takes care of himself, He must nourish and cherish his wife.  He must provide and care for his wife as he does for his own body. In the marriage context, husbands and wives are one flesh through sexual union.  In loving his wife he is loving himself because they are one flesh.

Husbands are to love their wives as their own body because Christ and the Church are in spiritual union. Because Christ and the Church are one, husbands should look to that example as an exhortation to nurture and cherish their wives.

Given these elements of love, the last element in husbands love your wives is the duration of this love. Husbands are to love in these manners continuously. This display of love is not a mood swing.  It is an ever present reality on this side of eternity. Husbands are to love their wives unconditionally, sacrificially, always concerned for her highest good, and are to love her as he love his own body continuously.

If husbands love their wives biblically as described in Ephesians 5:22-33, then it is easy for wives to freely submit to their husbands.  In the submission, wives know that the husbands will not abuse their position, but use their position to serve them.

If Christian marriages are like this then the divorce rate would drastically drop, infidelity would drop and the world would know that there is something different about Christian marriages.


4 thoughts on “Biblical Marriage

  1. So often in this subject we forget the Lord’s prerequisite concerning Christian marriage: “What God has joined together let not man separate” (Mk 10:9). The key words being “What God has joined.”

    It’s impossible for two people to have a Christian marriage, as you’ve outlined, when it hasn’t been God who joined them. As Donald Gray Barnhouse wrote, “I believe the Scriptural teaching on marriage indicates that God has nothing to do with activities of the unsaved world. No matter how fine and upright their characters, a couple who are united in what the world calls marriage are certainly not united in what God calls marriage, because true marriage is a symbol of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:19-33).

    We place an impossible expectation on couples whom God has not joined together. A priest, a judge, or a pirate captain may have joined them – they may have even joined themselves by their own wills – but that doesn’t mean God joined them.

    Good post outlining Christian marriage. Thank you.

  2. Pingback: Reflecting on 2012 |

  3. Should we women learn to trust that God loves us richly and has our best interests at heart always, we’d willfully submit to our husbands always. Our lack of submission ultimately shows our distrust of God and His design and promises. Speaking from a woman going through a major overhaul in her understanding of the complete depths of respect (which is the basis of submission), I think women are just entirely ignorant of what respect actually looks like and how submission frees them from all the weight they unneccesarily carry around. I find it a complete lack of Titus 2:3-5. The older women have failed to teach the younger women and instead, Satan has taken over and is doing a bang up job. Great post!

  4. Great post. I would encourage you to read the beginning chapter(s) of Piper’s book “Finally Alive” which deals specifically with regeneration. In that opening chapter he deals specifically with the “stats” you reference at the beginning about “just as many Christians as non-Christians” divorce” etc. and goes on to show how this research done by the Barna group is actually misleading viz. b/c the survey’s terminology in describing ones self as a Christian. Let’s just say, those who self-identified as Christians were much broader in their interpretation than most orthodox evangelicals would allow for. In the end, those truly born again by the Spirit of God had remarkably lower divorce rates than non-believers.

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