21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.
After revealing the wife’s role Paul now points out the role and responsibilities of the husband. Now if a wife’s role is to reflect the submission of the church to Christ, then what you would expect Paul to reason as a husband’s responsibility would be to manifest the headship of Jesus Christ over His church, and thus become the spiritual leaders of their wife. If the wife is commanded to submit, then logically the husbands must be instructed to lead. But they are not, you see instead of commanding husbands to lead their wives, Paul actually instructs us to love our wives. Only when we love our spouse can we provide servant leadership in our marriage, because leadership without love always leads to lording. Paul’s main point to love is obvious because he repeats the command for husbands to love their wives three times, in verses 25, 28, and 33. But what does it mean to love our wife? It’s here that the passage provides two models to help husbands learn to love their wives, each of which is introduced by the word “as” in verses 25 and 28.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her” (25)
“In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies” (28)
This is a love that acts for the best good and promotes the well-being of the other person, demanding nothing in return. There is possibly no other word in the English language that needs more explanation than the word love. Because we use it to describe everything from our love for people to our love for pizza. But it’s here that Paul points to Christ as our example, you see we are to love our wives in the same way that Christ loves the church. This is a call to sacrificial service, because Paul does not merely say, “Love your wives as Christ loved the church,” but he goes on to describe what that love looks like: “…and gave Himself up for her.” As a husband we are not to give in, we are to give up. That means that a husband needs to give himself up for his wife, willingly, sacrificially and purposely. So let me ask you husbands, when was the last time you sacrificed something for your wife? When did you give up? Christ gave up his life for the church and I believe if a criminal broke down your door in the dead of night you would willingly give up your life for your wife. So why is it that we would give up our lives for our wives but we struggle to serve in the small things? Because we let self get in the way of service, instead of Christ being our model we follow the culture and seek to serve self. Sacrifice speaks the language of love because sacrifice says you are important and you are worth it. When was the last time you put your wife ahead of your wants? A husbands goal should be godliness and it’s here that Paul tells us to put our energy into helping our spouse pursue holiness. 5:26-27: “To make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” God has called us as husbands to love and to lay down our lives so that our wives are directed toward godly living. One of our key roles is to help our wives reach maturity in Christ, by building them up every chance we get. This requires that we relating to our spouse spiritually. Many men spend time pursue their wives sexually but never spiritually. They let their relationship revolve around their wants more than God’s Will. Serving your wife means seeking to grow spiritual which means opening yourself up to them spiritually, which is a challenge for most men. Because this requires that we become vulnerable. But as we grow closer to Christ we come closer to connecting with each other. Men are you pursuing your wife in prayer, are you seeking opportunities to connect spiritual so that your spouse can be successful? Lastly Christ calls us to care for our wives 5:29: “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church.” Not only are we called to provide a positive spiritual environment but to care for our wives physically and emotionally as well. Just as with the wife’s responsibilities, what we are called to cannot be accomplished in our strength. Just as wives need to be filled and energized by the Holy Spirit, so too we need His power and strength in order to carry out our responsibilities. The last verse in the passage gives a great summary of the entire passage: “However, each one of you also must love his wife, as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” We need to notice that both husbands and wives are to work at fulfilling their responsibilities regardless of how their spouse responds. Obedience here is based on the Messiah not on your spouse’s merits. What the culture calls us to do is to base our response on our spouse, on whether or not they deserve. Now while that may feel right we need to remember that if we do we will be placing conditions on love instead of practicing Christ’s love. Many of us are limiting love in our marriages because instead of being obedient to the call of Christ we are caving to the culture. Instead of scripture being our standard we are letting society set the bar. What we end up with is worldly thinking that says, “When he starts loving me, then I’ll submit to him.” Or, “When she starts submitting to me, I’ll begin loving her.” That kind of thinking leads to a performance based relationship instead where we end up putting our energy into trying to measure up and keeping score instead of reinforcing God’s security and significance. The truth is your response is your responsibility, you need to live out your relational responsibility regardless of how you feel or how your spouse is fulfilling their role. If it’s true that a man’s primary need is for significance, and this need is met ultimately through a growing relationship with Christ, God will use the wife’s submission to reinforce a man’s significance. And, if it’s true that a woman’s primary need is for security, and God meets this need through a relationship with Himself, God will also uses a husband’s love to reinforce a wife’s security. Are you seeking to live out Christ’s commands or are you flowing your feelings and limiting God’s love?