Husbandly Love

“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25)

Bible Reading: Ephesians 5:25-33

Any thought that the “headship” role of husbands gives them the right to abuse their wives is immediately ruled out by what Paul says about their responsibility within the marriage relationship (Ephesians 5:25-31).

In a word, husbands are to “love their wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25). Here, the word “love” carries its common New Testament meaning, namely, the thought of self-giving for the wellbeing of another. True love is “others-centred” rather than self-centred; it is about giving rather than getting.  

When this conception of love is applied to marriage, it rules out any tyrannical self-seeking or abusive behaviour on the part of a husband towards his wife. Christ’s self-sacrifice for his church – his bride – is the ultimate example of what loving headship involves. He was ready to leave the glory of heaven and come to the shame of the cross to present to himself the church “in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (v. 27). That is the attitude every husband is to have as he thinks of and acts towards his bride.

Or, to put it another way, husbands are to “love their wives as their own bodies” (v. 28). The Scriptures teach that when God joins a man and a woman together in marriage, the two become one flesh (v. 31, Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5). In a very real sense, then, a husband should think of his wife as part of his own body. That being so, to love his wife is to love himself (v. 29).

To take this a step further, Paul adds, “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body” (v. 30). Once again, Christ is the ultimate standard and inspiring model in the marriage relationship. While our instinct to nourish and care for our bodies tells us something about how a husband should treat the wife with whom he is “one flesh”, Jesus’ care for his church is the final example we must keep before us.

His relationship with the church is a “profound mystery,” the apostle concludes – not suggesting that it is something mysterious, and beyond imagination, but something truly wonderful on the one hand, and on the other, made known to us only as God has revealed it. As husbands and wives think of how Jesus loves, saves and nourishes his church, they are to let his example shape their life together. It should lead a husband to “love his wife as himself,” and a wife to “respect her husband” (v. 33).

As imperfectly as we realise this in our sin-affected human marriages, we should never stop pursuing it as an ideal. Marriage provides us with the closest human relationship possible and offers the possibility of great blessing when it is ordered as God intends it to be.

Closing Thoughts:

  • Does husbandly love call for an act of “submission” on their part?
  • Is it common today for husbands and wives to think of themselves as “one flesh”?

– Andrew Young