Through his letter to the Ephesians, Paul has beautifully shared Christ's work in salvation (chapters 1-3), and then showed Christians how to "walk worthy of the calling" with which we have been called. In chapter 5, he has taught that each believer should be submitting to one another in love. He then begins to express the relationship of a husband and wife. Simply put, a husband submits to his wife's need while a wife submits to her husband's lead.
Digging a bit deeper into the role of a husband, Paul makes it clear that a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. Wow! Only "in Christ" is this possible. Clearly, in the context of Ephesians, our life in Christ and His life in ours is what empowers us to be able to love as He loved. Husbands are to be Spirit-filled men of God who are being empowered by Christ Himself. As a husband yields his life to the Lord in every moment, the Lord's love begins to be revealed in and through him to his wife.
Paul brings out two important ideas specifically for the husband. The first is a sacrificial life. Husbands, in loving their wives, are to sacrifice their own needs and desires for the sake of their wives. Christ gave Himself up for the church. What a picture of love this is! He went to the cross. He died, even the death of the cross, for the church. Husbands are to love in this way, sacrificially, unselfishly living their lives for their wives therefore loving them.
Love in this way is not passive but active. Is there really such a thing as passive love? Love in its nature is always actively seeking out the best for the other person in spite of the cost. In 5:25, Paul states that Christ "loved the church," and "gave Himself up for her ." This is clearly active; a wonderful picture of true love. "Loved" here is ēgapēsen (from agape), which involves a decision to put someone else first in spite of what the cost may be and in spite of what the person may think or want. Love is doing what's best for someone, no matter what. Christ did this for us freely, and Paul commands husbands that they are to love their wives in this way. If a husband is yielded to Christ, then the love which is the fruit of the Spirit will be revealed through the husband toward his wife.
The second major idea that Paul brings out is the idea of being sanctified. A husband is to sacrificially give his life for his wife as Christ has done for the Church. Christ gave His life for the Church for the purpose of the church becoming holy and pure. Sanctification is what Christ is working toward in every believer. To be sanctified means to be cleansed, and Paul expresses that this cleansing is by the washing of water with the Word. The Word of God cleanses us. Jesus specifically states this in John 17:17: "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth."
This cleansing, in turn, leads to the opportunity for the Church being presented to the Lord in the true intention and identity of all that He has in mind for her. No spot or wrinkle, holy and blameless. What an amazing privilege we have as the Church to be changed by the Lord Himself. In Christ's power, we are able to be cleansed from sin and walk with Him in purity. As the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, we have the opportunity of experiencing the work of the Lord in and through our lives.
In verse 28, Paul connects this to husbands in that they are to love their own wives even as their own bodies. The oneness of a husband and wife is a picture of Christ and the Church, which Paul calls a great mystery.
It's no wonder the world hates marriage. Marriage is a physical picture of a spiritual reality. Christ loving His Church, and the Church yielding to His headship, is a picture of the beautiful way in which God has ordained not only the relationship of marriage but also the roles within the marriage. "Husbands, love your wives," Paul commands. What a picture of the love of our Lord for the Church!
As we yield our way to Him, He is doing an internal and eternal work within us transforming us more and more into His image. As a husband yields his life to Christ, the Lord is transforming him and the husband begins to reflect the love of God toward his wife.
Husbands are we yielded to the Lord? Are we walking with Him, surrounded in our hearts, giving our lives to Him and then to our wives? The Lord bless you, and may you experience His love in and through your life in a fresh way today.
Erik Christensen is senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.