Christ, the Husband of His Church
“‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”- Ephesians 5:31–32
There are many reasons why a wife must submit to her husband’s authority and a husband must love his wife as Christ loves His church (Eph. 5:22, 25). Not least of these is God’s absolute authority (Rev. 6:10). His decrees are right and we are to follow them simply because He gives them. But there are other reasons why we are to heed the Lord’s will for marital roles, as we see in today’s passage.
Paul explains in Ephesians 5:31–32 that the relationship between a husband and wife is a picture of the bond between Jesus and His people. He bases this understanding on a pervasive Old Testament metaphor. Especially in the prophets, God’s relationship to Israel is likened to that of a bridegroom to His bride. Jeremiah 2:2 recalls the devotion the Israelites had for their covenant Lord when He called them out of slavery. Hosea 1–2 emphasizes the love of God for His people, a love so deep that it persisted in the most difficult circumstance of His bride’s unfaithfulness.
The metaphor of God as the husband of His people shows us that human marriage displays eternal truths. As husbands and wives fulfill their God-given roles, they join general revelation in showing the world truths about our Creator and humanity’s appropriate response to Him. Husbands who sacrifice themselves for their wives depict the self-sacrificial nature of the Lord in redeeming His people. Wives who rightly submit to their own husbands’ authority remind all people that they must live under God’s Word. We proclaim God’s glory and our responsibility to the world as we fulfill our rightful duties as husbands and wives.
Only Jesus has kept God’s will perfectly, so we will sometimes fail in our marital roles. Still, we endeavor by the Spirit to keep His will, and the husband’s love for his wife, no matter how unsubmissive or how unlovable she might be at times, is particularly important. His love in the hardest times shows the unfailing, persevering love of Jesus for His church. Thus, husbands cannot use their wives’ refusal to submit properly as an excuse not to love their wives to the end. After all, “that’s not how Christ loved the church. Christ loved a church that was not submissive to him. Christ died for a church that was in rebellion against him” (R.C. Sproul, The Purpose of God: Ephesians, p. 137; hereafter POGE).
Husbands, your calling is to pursue your wives in love to the ends of the earth. Single men, your calling is to become the kind of men who, should you get married one day, will love your wives in a way that serves their needs. Wives, your calling is to pray for your husbands, that they might love you in this manner, and to do all you can to make it easy for them to love you. Single women, your calling is to become godly women whom godly men yearn to love.
Passages for Further Study
Song of Solomon 6:4–10