As the Church, As Christ (5:23, 25)
Too often we attempt to understand this passage backwards. Paul has spent five chapters describing the relationship between Christ and the church so that we could understand these few verses. Yet when we begin our application we just want to know who gets the last say in a disagreement, how often they can/cannot enact this power, and how this is not being a doormat.
There is absolutely no way to make proper application of this passage with that approach. Unless both spouses are coming to this passage with a reverent awe for how sacrificially Christ loves the church and how completely (with joy and protection) the church submits to Christ, each spouse should stop and reread Ephesians 1-5:21. Until this happens you have two people wanting to use God and the Bible to support their agenda and dreams. No marriage will function until you have two servant-minded people in the covenant.
Application: Try to write the wedding vows that would exist between Christ and the church (basic principles of salvation). Imagine what the division of household labor would look like between Christ and the church (how we grow in sanctification by grace). Consider how Scripture teaches the church to make major decisions under the headship of Christ. Reflect on how the church is called to administer discipline to its members (children) under the headship of Christ. After this reflection (based upon Scripture not personal opinion) you are prepared to try to apply Ephesians 5:22-33 to marriage roles.
That He Might Present
Upon her arrival into heaven, Christ will present His church in the splendor He cultivated in her to Himself (Eph 5:27). As a husband, I am to keep this in mind as I love my wife through this life. The life my wife shares with me and the manner in which I love her is to beautify her body and soul. AND! I am to enjoy the process as I delight in the progress.
Here are some ways we engage with this biblical job description for husbands:
- Model timely, thorough, and healthy repentance for our own sin.
- Lead our family to live within our means with money and time.
- Instruct, discipline, and enjoy the children of our home.
- Be dependable in the things we say we will do.
- Romance our wife in a way that resembles God’s delight for her.
- Share what God teaches us in our personal Bible study.
- Volunteer information about how our wife can pray for us.
- Sacrifice time and energy for her to express her spiritual gifts.
- Engage with other Christian couples with similar passions.
- Like Christ in prayer, listen with concern to the content of her thoughts.
We will never love our wife like Christ does the church without taking seriously our call to be like Christ. I pray (and want to pray more often than I do) that one of the trophies of my life is a wife who reaches the arms of her True Husband “in splendor” with many marks of grace as a result of our journey through life together. If you would also take up this prayer, I would encourage you to read Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Marriage.
Because We Are Members of His Body (5:30)
Usually (at least from my experience) this phrase gets under taught. There is so much to teach in Ephesians 5:22-29 and the summary punch of verses 31-33 that this phrase just gets lost. Why does Christ love us so well? He has taken us as members of His body—the church. How should a husband think of his wife in order to love her as Christ would? We are to think of her as a member of our own body.
When we fail to love our wife well we usually either do not think of her or view her as against us. That would be the equivalent of trying to solve severe hunger by distracting ourselves or solving a headache by banging our head against a wall. That is not what we do with our body. We may over eat or over medicate, but we care for “our body.” The challenge to love our wife well is a challenge to take our “one flesh” relationship seriously.
Application: (Taken too far this becomes codependency) Treat each concern of your wife as if it were your own. Do not merely ask, “What would I do if I were her?” That would be duplicating yourself as your wife. Your call is to “incarnate” yourself in your wife’s experience (as best you can). The new questions are, “How does this affect my wife? When does this become more intense for her? What is most comforting for her? How can I remind her of my concern and protection?” These are the questions we ask of and pray that God would be involved with our concerns, so it is how we should love our wife as “members of our body.”