Ephesians 5:22-33. 2 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Marriage is so much bigger than the two people who are married. Yes, we know that God invented marriage and blessed it. But what we find here in Ephesians 5 is the mystery of marriage. What we didn’t know until this little section of a letter, is that marriage reveals the once hidden truth of the gospel. It reveals the mystery of Christ, the mystery of the cross, and the mystery of the church.
Christ is the union of God and man in the man Jesus. Beyond this, in our union with Christ, God and man are joined in each of our lives. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6 we are one spirit with Christ. Here in Ephesians 5 he says it this way – because we are members of his body. Then he quotes Genesis 2:24 about one flesh union in marriage.
What does it all mean? It means that if you are married, your marriage is a living display of the Christian’s union with Christ and Christ’s union with humanity.
The mystery is that marriage is intended for more than just the pragmatics of procreation or our personal happiness. It is intended to reveal Christ and our union with him. To mirror it. To image it. To show him to the world. But how?
Notice that both the wife and the husband do what they do as Christ and as unto the Lord. This is deeper than trying to follow Christ’s example in our marriages. It is seeing Christ IN ourselves and in our spouse. To love and respect is to be the living Christ. To love and respect another is to love and respect Christ himself.
We’re super heroes. What could happen? (off to a bad start)
The mystery of the cross is that God will save the world through weakness. Life through death. Glory through suffering. Good through evil. This is the cross.
And this is marriage.
Why are wives told to submit to their husbands? Why are husbands told to love their wives sacrificially, giving himself up for her?
Is Paul combating the Ephesian’s ultra-feministic culture? Is he upholding the household codes of the day? Yes, probably both. But there’s more. He’s showing them the mystery of the cross. The mystery of a life united to Christ the crucified one. He’s asking wives and husband to both live the cruciform life while being male and female.
What is a male? The word male in scripture means to remember and to act, to move, to give. What is a female? The word female in scripture means to be opened or to receive. Men give and women receive. This is the cycle of love. This is the nature of the Trinity. This is Christ. He was both a giver and a receiver. He’s God’s receiving body and the church’s giving head. The cross and resurrection was the giving of life and the receiving of life. It was love.
What is Paul asking wives and husbands to do? He’s asking husbands to get over themselves and love their wives to the end of themselves. He’s asking wives to get over themselves and receive that love. To respect the effort. To submit to the loving nourishment of her husband.
He’s asking them to live out the mystery of the cross.
The church is the mystery of God. The mystery of his redemptive plan. A plan to save the whole world – Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free.
And how does God save humanity?
He marries us.
No other relationship between God and man is as intimate and yet as securely covenantal as this one. We are the Bride of Christ. One flesh with him. This is our salvation- our union with Christ by our marriage to Christ and the joining of the two into one.
This is what marriage is, a revealing of these great mysteries. The mystery of Christ, the mystery of the cross, the mystery of the church, and the mystery of “to live is Christ.”