Here is my commentary on Ephesians 5:28. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site, http://www.new-life.org.au
“In the same way men should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
Just as Christ loves the church and continues to make the church holy, so husbands must love their wives.
The word used for love here is not eros, the normal word for romantic love, but agape, the love that God has for his people. Christian husbands are not to love their wives because they are attracted to them physically, but because their wives are to be loved. Agape love gives for the sake of the beloved. It never gives up and does not keep a record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13).
Marital love then is to mirror God’s love in being perfect and unchanging.
Just as we love our own bodies, husbands are to love their wives. We are usually acutely aware of the needs of our bodies, whether we are hungry, thirsty, hot or cold, distressed, or in pain. We unconsciously monitor the state of our bodies with our various senses. When something is awry we take remedial steps. We might even take preventive steps, for example putting on a coat before we get too cold.
Husbands should have the same awareness of the needs of their wives that we have for our own body. This includes not just the bodily needs, but also the emotional, social, and spiritual needs that she has.
This is not to suggest some kind of controlling policy where the husband micromanages every part of his wife’s life, being the sole provider of everything she might need.
Rather, this is a sensitivity to a wife’s needs in the same way that we are sensitive to our own needs.
The question that is at the heart of this instruction is, “How can I help my wife to flourish and become all that God wants her to be?”
In verse 31, Paul explicitly references Genesis 2:24. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” But already in this verse this reference is hinted at in the expression that a man who loves his wife loves himself.
The “ one flesh” description of marriage is more than the shallow “happy wife happy life” mantra. It suggests that in marriage a spiritual union is made under the hand of God. This union means that marriage is more than a convenience or a legal institution.
Unity in marriage is such that when one partner flourishes so does the other. When one is struggling so is the other. The marriage bond is more than two individuals coming together. It is a new creation.
Key points in this verse:
- husbands are to love their wives in the same way Christ loves the church
- husbands must love their wives with the self-giving agape love of god
- husbands should concern themselves above all with their wife’s physical, spiritual and emotional well-being