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Ephesians 5:22–33

“Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (v. 33).

God’s Word frequently addresses marriage, showing us what it looks like to honor the Lord in the husband-wife relationship. Faithfulness to Christ as married people requires that we heed this direction. Some of the most specific instruction is found in the New Testament’s teaching on the roles of husband and wife, and in our day, this instruction is often controversial.

One common mistake that people make is thinking that the Scriptures do not outline specific and distinct roles for husbands and wives. Here we frequently see people appeal to Galatians 3:28, which says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Especially in more theologically liberal circles, people will cite this verse as if it eliminates all distinctions between people in the church and opens up church leadership to both men and women. However, reading the text in this way violates other texts such as Ephesians 5:22–33, where Paul clearly teaches an ongoing distinction between the roles and duties of men and women, and 1 Timothy 3:1–13, which says that only men may be ordained to the office of elder. Paul cannot be eliminating all gender distinctions in Galatians 3:28. His point is that in Jesus, no believer has an advantage before God over another believer. We are all co-heirs in Christ and recipients of the same inheritance.

Today’s passage outlines the basic roles for husband and wife in the marriage relationship. Ephesians 5:22–33 tells us that wives are to submit to their husbands as to the Lord and that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. With respect to the wife, the qualifier “as to the Lord” is important because it indicates that there is a limit to submission. A wife is not called to submit to her husband if he asks her to sin. At the same time, the qualifier indicates that when the wife submits to her husband, she is to do so with an eye toward submitting to Christ. In following her husband, the wife is actually following God’s command and thus following the Savior.

For the husband, “as Christ loved the church” is the key qualifier. Husbands are not to be domineering or to use their position of authority to abuse their wives and get their way all the time. Jesus does not treat His body the church in that manner, and husbands who do that are sinning gravely against their wives and against Christ.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

In marriage, husbands are apt to focus on how their wives are not submitting to them, and wives are apt to emphasize how their husbands are failing in their love for them. While such things should not be ignored entirely, we must focus on what we can control and seek to fulfill the specific instructions that apply to us. Husbands must love their wives and wives must submit to their husbands.


For Further Study
  • Colossians 3:18–19
  • 1 Peter 3:1–7

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From the April 2021 Issue
Apr 2021 Issue