“The Mandates and Mystery of Marriage” – Ephesians 5:22–33

Understanding Ephesians 5:22–33 is essential for every marriage. Paul commands wives and husbands how to relate to one another in marriage and explains how and why they must do so. What follows below is a brief summary of this passage.

Wives: Your mission is submission (Ephesians 5:22–24).

Wives are commanded to “submit to your own husbands” (Ephesians 5:22). Technically, Ephesians 5:22 does not have a verb but assumes the verb “submit” used in Ephesians 5:21. Submitting in Ephesians 5:21 is an example of how to obey the command to be filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18. A wife’s submission is only properly possible when she is filled with the Spirit, and the same could be said for the husband’s love for his wife in Ephesians 5:25–31. The grammar and makeup of the verb “submit” in Ephesians 5:21 means something like “to choose to put yourself under someone else.” In context, the wife chooses to put herself under the authority of her loving husband just as she submits to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). The reason to do is because he is the head of the family, which is pictured in how Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23). Just as the church submits to Christ, so also it should be in every way for the wives to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:24).

Husbands: You must love like Christ above (Ephesians 5:25–31).

Husbands are commanded to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved and died for the church (Ephesians 5:25). This act of love by Christ was to make His church holy, and husbands should likewise love their wives in such a way as to protect and keep them from sin (Ephesians 5:26–27). Husbands should also love their wives in the same way that they love their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28). No husband neglects his body but feeds and takes care of it, a picture of how Christ spiritually feeds and cares for His body the church (Ephesians 5:29–30). A quotation from Genesis 2:24 clarifies that this love and care are only truly possible when a husband and wife have completely left their immediate families to create a new family together, depending upon one another for what had previously been provided to them (Ephesians 5:31).

Your inspiration is revelation: marriage pictures the revealed mystery of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).

The mystery revealed here is that the relationship of the husband and wife pictures the relationship of Christ and His church, the body of Christ. We better understand Christ and His church when husbands love and wives submit.

Summing up what God expects—husbands, love, and wives, respect (Ephesians 5:33).

Again, husbands must love their wives. Wives should respect their husbands. The change from “submit” to “respect” captures the same idea, and similar terms are used by Peter when he commands wives to “be subject to your own husbands” with “respectful and pure conduct” (1 Peter 3:1–2).