Christian Relationship between Husband & Wife (Ephesians 5:22-33)
This Bible Study is taken from a larger study on the Book of Ephesians. This smaller study comes from the second part of Paul’s letter that deals with sanctification.
As the outline below shows, the first half of this Epistle discusses the Work of Christ; the second half is about the Work of the Church. The church calendar reflects this organization of justification and sanctification.
Outline of Ephesians
God’s Purpose in Christ – Justification (1-3)
Great Doxology (1:3-14)
Great Prayer for Knowledge (1:15-23)
Great Quickening (2:1-10)
Great Peace (2:11-22)
Great Work of Paul (3:1-13)
Great Prayer for Intercession (3:14-21)
God’s Purpose in the Church – Sanctification (4-6)
Unity of Holy Christian Church (4:1-16)
Living as Members of Holy Christian Church (4:17 – 5:21)
Living as Husbands & Wives (5:22-33)
Living as Children & Parents (6:1–4)
Living as Slaves & Masters (6:5-9)
Living with the Armor of God (6:10-20)
The sanctification half of Paul’s letter is divided into six parts. The first two parts discuss the Church in general. The last four discuss specific groups within the church. This brief study is the first of the four specific dissertations, “Living as Husbands and Wives.” This particular study is divided into two subgroups. The first subgroup is about Wives and the second about Husbands.
To make teaching more manageable, this instructional guide contains the Biblical texts, questions, anticipated answers and Biblical and background information.
Blue Print – Texts being studied in Ephesians
Green Print – Cross Reference Texts
Red Print – Questions
Purple Print – Anticipated Answers to Questions
Black Print – Body of information including background, word meaning, interpretation etc.
Christian Relationship between Husband & Wife (Ephesians 5:22-33)
First Subgroup – Wives.
In this section of Ephesians:
- Paul is not talking about the inferiority of women to men.
- Paul is not talking about men being superior to women.
- Paul is not speaking for himself.
- Paul is recording the words and will of the Holy Trinity.
In previous chapters Paul speaks about all people in the church, including male and female are:
- not to dominate another.
- to subject themselves.
- to love others in a mutual, reciprocal and free manner, never forced.
Paul also makes this point of equality in his letter to the Galatians.
Galatians 3:26 & 28 – In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. . . . 28There is neither Jew nor Greek. . . slave nor free. . . male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
In this text Paul says the Communion of Saints are all one, equal, including male and female.
In Ephesians, Paul speaks about the special relationship of equality within the church, the Christian marriage.
Ephesians 5:22 – Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Who are the active persons in verse 22?
The active persons are the wives.
- It is the wife who is doing the action in Ephesians 5:22.
- She is to voluntarily submit herself.
- The husband is the initiator who enables her to do this gracious act.
- Because the husband loves, supports and cares, she desires to submit.
- She is motivated to submit as the church is motivated by Christ.
- It is not the husband who is doing the action in Ephesians 5:22.
- It is not about Husbands holding wives in subjection.
- The husband is not to bring her under the yoke, to subdue, to make subservient, to rule over or to enslave.
- The husband is to lead as Christ leads the church.
This is the same self-subjecting love we find in Ephesians 5:21 where Paul speaks of the church as a whole.
Ephesians 5:21- submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
The church family are justified people living in sanctification, submitting to one another.
Surely, voluntary submission that is required of the entire Christian Church would also apply to women. The submission is voluntary. It is living according to God’s will.
In the first chapter of Ephesians God predestined His created people to be His children and to live according to His will.
Ephesians 1:4-5 – Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.
According to Ephesians 1:4 when did God first predestine this gracious relationship between God and His people? God predestined us to be His people before Creation.
- God created man and woman to be part of God’s family, the Trinity.
- God enabled mankind to obey His will perfectly.
- But man chose to break from God’s family.
- However, God’s will did not change.
- It was mankind, people, who changed.
- God’s will and pleasure is to bring all people back into His family.
- God does so through the redemptive work of his Son, Jesus Christ.
- Through Christ, God restores the family relationship between the human race and Himself.
Likewise, in the beginning God created marriage in the image of Himself.
- God created a perfect, flawless, sinless, giving marriage relationship.
- God created a relationship that is always giving, never taking.
- Mankind lost that perfect marriage relationship upon the fall.
- God’s law of marriage has not changed because mankind chose to change.
- Upon creation, God placed the law of submission in all hearts, with a special submission between husbands and wives.
- God had the command recorded and encourages man and woman to live by His Word.
Ephesians 5:8b-10 & 17 – Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true) 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Describe two requirements of God’s children found in these verses.
- Children of God are to live in all goodness, righteousness and truth.
- Children of God are to understand what is pleasing to the Lord.
Marriage – The Head & the Body
So, let us understand what is pleasing to the Lord in the Christian marriage and let us grow in goodness, righteousness and truth.
Ephesians 5:22 commands wives to submit to their husbands.
What does Verse 23 explain to us?
Ephesians 5:23 – 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.
Ephesians 5:23 explains why wives are to submit to their husbands.
- Note the husband is not head of the wife.
- Rather the husband is the head of the wife.
- The head needs the body and the body needs the head.
- The body is useless without the head and the head is of no use without the body.
In Ephesians 5:23, Paul lifts the Christian marriage to an astonishing high plane.
Marriage is likened to the relationship between the King of Kings and His Kingdom.
- Paul likens the human marriage to the marriage of the Lamb, the Savior.
- The marriage of the Lamb is the most magnificent and glorious event since creation.
- The marriage of the Lamb is the second creation of God.
- The first creation was witnessed by the Trinity.
- The second creation will be witnessed by God’s entire Kingdom.
- The second creation is the wedding gift from the Bridegroom to His Bride.
In Revelation, John describes Christ preparing and carrying the Bride to the great and glorious second creation.
Revelation 19:7 – Let us rejoice and exalt and give him glory for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.
Revelation 22:17 – The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
The Great Theme of John’s letter is the Body and her Head.
The Body is the:
- Communion of Saints
- The Redeemed
- One Holy Christian Church
- Body of Christ
The Head is the:
- Christ (Jesus)
- Son of God
- Second Person of the Holy Trinity
- Kings of Kings
- Lord of Lords
In Ephesians Paul compares the human marriage to the relationship between the church and Christ. Therefore, Paul identifies marriage as the highest, most exalted giving relationship in the universe of all times. But the world, both men & women, call marriage slavery, oppressive, hellish, monstrosity, uncivilized, out dated etc.
Marriage – Complete Submission
Ephesian 5:24 repeats what Paul said in Ephesians 5:22, but provides more information.
Ephesians 5:22 & 24 – Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
What new information does Paul add in verse 24?
It is to be a complete self-subjection, not partial.
Since the fall, husbands and wives live in a broken relationship.
- Seek to Rule their husbands
- Refuse self-subjection
- Provide little or no leadership
- Give up or refuse their Rule
- Rule with tyranny – forced oppression, not received submission
- Enslave their wives – not providing freedom
But we have been justified through Christ’s perfect life and innocent death. The Holy Spirit enlightens and encourages Godly behavior, sanctification. Christ enables the Christian to do good for He does good works through us. The Christian marriage is to reflect Christ’s caring, providing and protecting of His church.
Husbands & Wives – Male & Female
Second sub-group - Husbands.
What Paul says about wives must be understood in conjunction with what he says about husbands.
Ephesians 5:25-28 – Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water through the word, 27so 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.
Identify the two sub-groups Paul is addressing in Ephesians 5:25-28.
Paul is speaking to:
- Husbands & Wives
- Married Couples
- Male & Female,
- Those who become one through sexual intercourse
Who is Paul not addressing?
- Unmarried Singles
- Unmarried Partners
- Same Sex Partners
- Divorced Couples
Ephesians 5:25 – Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
What kind of love is Paul not speaking about in Ephesians 5:25?
Paul is not speaking of mere affection and romantic passion.
What kind of love is Paul speaking about in Ephesians 5:25?
Paul is discussing:
- Love that is filled with desire to carry out God’s intentions, God’s law.
- Love that compels a wife to want to subject herself to a loving husband.
- Love like Christ’s love when He gave Himself for the church, His body.
- Likewise husbands desire to obey God’s intentions in the law.
- Desire to love for love is the fulfillment of the law.
- Husbands love their wives as their very own bodies.
- The head treats its body with purposeful and intelligent love.
- The head treats itself as the head, always caring and protecting its body and itself.
Marriage & Baptism
Ephesians 5:25 identifies intelligent and purposeful love that makes decisions to love as Christ loves.
In Ephesians 5:26 Paul gives the reason for such love.
Ephesians 5:26 – that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water through the word
What is this cleansing that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 5:26?
Paul speaks about the cleansing through baptism.
How is baptism likened to the husband’s love?
- Baptism is Christ’s work not ours.
- Baptism is Christ’s love and giving of self for us.
- Baptism is Christ justifying us – removing all sin and guilt.
- Baptism is Christ sanctifying us – enabling us to live holy lives.
- Baptism is an act of saving, protecting, caring, advancing our well being.
- Baptism brings peace, happiness, joy, contentment and security.
- The husband is responsible to protect and care for his wife.
- The husband always seeks the good for his wife.
- The husband advances the well being of his wife.
- The husband offers peace, happiness, joy and contentment.
- Even in life’s danger, he is to remain faithful in purposeful & intelligent love.
Christ provides Himself as the model for the husbands.
Husbands are to behave as Christ.
From the beginning the Word, the Creator, initiated all things.
All things were perfectly designed to give honor to the Creator.
All things submit to the Creator as He perfectly cares and provides for His creation. Creation can not do otherwise.
Likewise God created Eve from Adam.
Eve was perfectly designed for Adam.
Eve submitted to Adam as he perfectly cared and provided for her.
Because of Adam’s perfect love, she whole heartily desired to submit to him.
Worthy Bride & Providing Groom – Two become One Flesh
In Ephesians 5:25 Paul identifies love of purpose and intelligence.
In Ephesians 5:26 this love is to justify, sanctify, save, protect, bring peace, joy, contentment, security etc.
Now Ephesians 5:27 tells us the reason for this purposeful love.
Ephesians 5:27 – 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.
What is the reason for this purposeful love?
Christ makes the bride worthy to be presented to Christ by Christ Himself.
Who is the female person in Ephesians 5:27?
The female is the church.
When will this presentation take place?
On the Last Day when the Church Militant becomes the Church Glorified (Triumphant).
- During the time of the church militant, the church is not free of stains, wrinkles, blemishes.
- Church militant is made of people who have put on the new man, but the old man keeps threatening, appearing, misleading etc.
- Church militant is a combination of struggles between the old and new man.
- On the last day Christ will present his Body, the Church Triumphant, to Himself.
- The Church Triumphant will be confirmed in her holiness and righteousness.
- There will be no more pain, tears, sorrows, sadness, sin.
- The church will truly be holy and blameless.
- This holiness and blamelessness are God’s plan for relationships.
Paul said we must be blameless in the beginning of Ephesians.
Ephesians 1:4 – even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. . . .
According to Ephesians 1:4, when did God first plan such perfection?
It was God’s plan before creation.
On the last day, why must the Bride (the Church) be holy and blameless when she is presented to the Groom (Christ)?
Peter helps us:
I Peter 1:18-19 – knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways . . . not with . . . silver or gold 19but with the precious blood of Christ like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
- The holy Groom without blemish must have a holy and blameless Bride.
- The Bride must be separated from all that is profane, common, sinful and guilty in attitude and action.
- It is the Groom who ransoms the Bride so that she is without blemish or spot.
This does not mean that the earthly groom lifts and saves his earthly bride from a lowly sinful life.
She is liken to the Bride of Christ, the church.
Christ’s Bride, the church, has already been redeemed.
She has been made holy and clean by the washing of baptism.
She has be sanctified by the Holy Spirit and lives in holy love doing holy acts.
The bride has been made ready and worthy.
The groom will lead and protect, care and provide, love and cherish his bride as Christ does His church.
Husband & his Wife Relationship Reflect Christ and His Church
In Ephesians 5:25 Paul speaks of the husband’s purposeful and intelligent love for his wife.
In Ephesians 5:26 Paul tells us this love is to justify, sanctify, protect, bring peace etc.
In Ephesians 5:27 Paul tells us this purposeful love is to make the bride worthy.
Now In Ephesians 5:28-30 Paul more fully explains the relationship between Christ and the Church with the husband and his wife.
Ephesians 5:28-30 – In the sane way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church 30because we are members of his body.
What additional information does Paul give in Ephesians 5:28-30?
- In Ephesians 5:28 Paul calls the wife the husband’s own body.
- In Ephesians 5:29 Paul calls the wife man’s own flesh.
- In Ephesians 5:30 Paul likens the marriage relationship to the church being the body of Christ our Head.
Christ loving the church is the example for the husband loving his wife.
- The husband is the head, the wife is his body. As Christ is the head of the church.
- The head is to love and care for his body. As Christ loves and cares for the church.
- At creation, woman was taken from man’s own body.
- Woman is her husband’s body, she is his own self. As the church is Christ’s own body.
- Living men feed and nourish their bodies. As Christ feeds and nourishes His church.
- Living men protect their bodies. As Christ protects His church.
Men loving, caring, feeding and protecting their bodies is natural and at the physical level.
Christ loving, caring, feeding and protecting the church is on a spiritual level.
The heavenly spiritual plain is the model for the earthly physical plain.
Paul gives additional information in Ephesians 5:31.
Ephesians 5:31-Therefore a man will leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
What additional information does Paul provide in Ephesians 5:31?
The two become one flesh.
Where does Paul get this information about man and wife becoming one flesh?
Moses helps us.
Genesis 2:23-24 – Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Paul goes back to the beginning, to the institution of marriage as recorded in Genesis.
Who is speaking in Genesis 2:23-24?
Adam is speaking.
What is significant about what Adam said?
- Adam had no mother or father to leave.
- Therefore his words are a prophecy.
- He prophesied to future generations.
- Man leaves his parents and is united with his wife.
- Thus a new home begins.
What does it mean to become one flesh?
It is sexual union, intercourse.
- For this purpose God created two sexes, male and female.
- It is for marriage and not for adultery and fornication.
- Today’s culture commits great crimes against marriage.
- Crimes of adultery, fornication, pornography, homosexuality, incests and bestiality.
But in Genesis 2, Adam’s mind was still unclouded by sin.
- Adam understood God’s law perfectly.
- Adam saw and expressed the purpose of marriage – to have a sexual union and to have children.
- Paul’s mind was enlightened with the Holy Spirit.
- Paul used the expression from the first perfect man in his letter to the Ephesians.
Ephesians 5:32-33 – This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
In Ephesians 5:32 what is the profound mystery?
Paul is referring to Ephesians 5:31 - the two shall become one flesh.
When man and woman have sexual intercourse.
But in Genesis 2:24 when Adam said, “The two shall be one flesh,” he did not reveal a mystery. There is nothing mysterious about natural sex.
But Paul explains when the order of nature (sex) is compared with the order of grace, a great and wonderful mystery is revealed. It reveals the mystery of salvation, the mystery of Christ and His Church. The union of Christ and His Bride is beyond human understanding and remains a mystery. Also, it is a mystery why sex on the earthly plane should express salvation on the spiritual plane.
What mystery did Paul know that Adam did not know?
Paul knew that marriage was a miniature or a reflection of Christ’s relationship to the church.
However the marriage relationship does not provide a complete illustration of Christ and His Church. Because of sin, the human marriage is a shadow, a glimpse, an echo of the holy relationship within the Trinity and the relationship between Christ and His Church.
Why would perfect Adam with the clearest intelligence and deepest trust in his Creator not know about Christ and the church?
- When Adam prophesied the nature of marriage there was no sin.
- Because there was no sin, there was no need for a Savior.
- So the promise of the Messiah, the Savior, was not yet given.
But Paul knew the Messianic promises. Paul saw Old Testament promises fulfilled in the New Testament Era. Christ confirmed this truth to Paul at Paul’s conversion on his way to Damascus.
When did God first promise a Savior?
Moses helps us.
Genesis 3:15 – I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.
- God promised the Messiah after the fall.
- God first gives the curse upon the serpent.
- Before God pronounced the punishment to Adam and Eve, He promises the Messiah, the Savior to redeem them.
Paul also indicates that this profound mystery has something wonderful yet to be revealed.
Paul is not referring to a hidden symbol, a secret or a secret meaning.
What then is yet to be revealed?
Isaiah and John help us:Read:
Isaiah 62:5b – As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
Revelation 21:9 – One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, and the wife of the Lamb.”
- Old Testament believers looked for the Savior, the Bridegroom, to come and redeem them, the Bride, from their sin.
- Old and New Testament believers look forward to the return of the Bridegroom, and the great Marriage Feast on the last day.
Marriage – Mutual Love, Honor, Respect . . .
Ephesian 5:33 closes this portion of Paul’s letter emphasizing his main point.
Ephesians 5:33 – However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
What is Paul’s main point in Ephesians 5:33?
God’s command is to live in mutual love, care, honor, respect and giving in the marriage relationship between the husband and wife.
It is difficult to understand this command when living in this sinful world.
It is not a man commanding his wife into subservient behavior.
It is not the wife bending all her thoughts and actions to fit the desires of a selfish man.
It is the same law written in the hearts of Adam and Eve when there was no sin. They were able to choose purposeful and intelligent love to obey God’s law.
The head does not hurt the body, mind or soul.
The body does not submit to anything harmful.
- Woman did not surrender to a demanding man.
- Man had no reason to give commands.
- Both man and woman respected, honored, served each other with a purposeful and intelligent love.
- Both were capable of making the decision to obey God’s law, to love as God loves, for love is the fulfillment of the law.
- Before sin, marriage was an object lesson of the love filled relationship within the God-head, the Trinity.
- After sin, marriage love also became an object lesson of Christ and the church who is restored to the perfect and eternal life in the new heaven and new earth.
Spiritual Plain & Human Plain
In conclusion let us remember, on the spiritual plain Christ is the proposer that cares, provides, loves and forgives the church in all of her needs. In response the church (the body) loves and is obedient to Christ (her Head) and to His Word.
Let us remember, on the human plain the husband initiates love, care and gives to his wife all her material and spiritual needs. The wife (the body) responds to her husband(the head) with respect and submission as the church responds to Christ. Both husband and wife forgive one another as Christ, our Lord and Savior forgives. The Holy Trinity enables Christian husbands and wives to live in sanctification.
Some Discussion Question
What was your understanding of the Christian marriage while dating?
How did (does) your understanding of marriage influence choosing a mate?
How did pre-marriage counseling prepare you for the Christian marriage?
Explain your understanding of marriage when you said your vows and in the early years of your marriage.
How have you grown in understanding and living the Christian marriage?
What are some difficulties that hinder God’s plan for marriage?
How were your solutions to solving problems in accordance or not in accordance with God’s plan for marriage?
How might your marriage been different if the wife and/or husband followed God’s plan?
How might God’s plan for marriage affect the relationship between children and parents?
How might Gods plan for marriage affect the relationship between siblings?
How might God’s plan for marriage affect the marriage of your children, grandchildren?
How might God’s plan for marriage affect your schools, communities, nation?
How might couples encourage each other to live according to God’s plan for marriage?
This completes the study, “Christian Relationship between Husband & Wife”.
By Geri Pool, MS
This Bible Study was written and taught to a Ladies Bible Class by my wife. Feel free to use for teaching in your classroom or church. Please respect copyright and not sell. Look for future Bible Studies on this Website. Rev. Charles H. Pool
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