Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Christ And The Church - Husbands And Wives

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From Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, Chapter 5:

25 Οἱ ἄνδρες, ἀγαπᾶτε τὰς γυναῖκας, καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς ἠγάπησεν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἑαυτὸν παρέδωκεν ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς, 26 ἵνα αὐτὴν ἁγιάσῃ καθαρίσας τῷ λουτρῷ τοῦ ὕδατος ἐν ῥήματι, 27 ἵνα παραστήσῃ αὐτὸς ἑαυτῷ ἔνδοξον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, μὴ ἔχουσαν σπίλον ἢ ῥυτίδα ἤ τι τῶν τοιούτων, ἀλλʼ ἵνα ᾖ ἁγία καὶ ἄμωμος. 28 οὕτως ὀφείλουσιν [καὶ] οἱ ἄνδρες ἀγαπᾶν τὰς ἑαυτῶν γυναῖκας ὡς τὰ ἑαυτῶν σώματα. ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γυναῖκα ἑαυτὸν ἀγαπᾷ. 29 Οὐδεὶς γάρ ποτε τὴν ἑαυτοῦ σάρκα ἐμίσησεν ἀλλὰ ἐκτρέφει καὶ θάλπει αὐτήν, καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, 30 ὅτι μέλη ἐσμὲν τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ. 31 ἀντὶ τούτου καταλείψει ἄνθρωπος [τὸν] πατέρα καὶ [τὴν] μητέρα καὶ προσκολληθήσεται πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔσονται οἱ δύο εἰς σάρκα μίαν. 32 τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο μέγα ἐστίν· ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω εἰς Χριστὸν καὶ εἰς τὴν ἐκκλησίαν. 33 πλὴν καὶ ὑμεῖς οἱ καθʼ ἕνα, ἕκαστος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γυναῖκα οὕτως ἀγαπάτω ὡς ἑαυτόν, ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἵνα φοβῆται τὸν ἄνδρα.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, 27 so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. 33 Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.

Aland, B., Aland, K., Black, M., Martini, C. M., Metzger, B. M., & Wikgren, A. (1993). The Greek New Testament (4th ed.) (512–513). Federal Republic of Germany: United Bible Societies.

The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Eph 5:25–33). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

What does this say about the relationship between Christ and the church, and what is the corresponding application to husbands and wives?

I think a summary statement of 5:25-27 would be that:
"Christ loved the church and gave up Himself for her in order to (purpose) make her holy so (result) He could present the church to Himself holy and unblemished."
So what do we do with 5:28?

If we take καθὼς ("just as") in 5:25b as a correlative to the οὕτως ("in the same way") that begins 5:28, we would have:
"So in the same way also husbands should love their own wives as they love their own bodies."
But can husbands do to and for their wives, or are husbands to do to and for their wives, what Christ did to and for the church, and for the same purpose or with the same result?

Maybe we shouldn't take καθὼς as a correlative to οὕτως, and we should instead translate 5:28 as:
"So also husbands should love their own wives as they love their own bodies."
As Paul first stated in Ephesians 1:22-23, it's implied or understood in 5:25-27 that the church is Christ's body. Thus, the applicable point(s) from 5:25-27, and also from 5:29-32, would not necessarily be how and why Christ gave Himself up for the church, but that He loved the church as being His own body, for which reason He nourishes it and cherishes it, being one flesh with her.

Since Christ gave Himself up for the church in order to make her holy, Paul might not be saying that husbands are to give themselves up for their wives. After all, it wasn't until after He had given Himself up for her that Christ presented the church to Himself to be one flesh with her as His body, whereas husbands and wives are already present to each other as one flesh. Ignoring the "giving up" part doesn't mean that husbands aren't to love their wives, but that husbands are to regard their wives as their own bodies, and are therefore to love them by nourishing and cherishing them (without necessarily giving themselves up for them).


  1. Thanks for the point on this... the fellow who married my wife and me, Jerry Root (prof at Wheaton) says the high courtesy of heaven is to give my life for yours. "Great love has no man than this..." Perhaps Paul was speaking wider than the explicitly literal in giving up his life.

    I do struggle with seeing (as I was taught by the complementarians) how the husband is to literally give up his life for his wife in order to "purify" her, as if the husband had that ability (and as if Christ had not purified her already if she is within the church).

    But I like your emphasis that the union between man and is wife is ALREADY. And the giving up of the life of Messiah was for something that wasn't yet (though Israel was viewed as the Wife of God and this idea carries over into the Pauline letters... a topic for another time).

  2. So marriage should not be sacrificial but instead should be restricted to just male-female relationships? Your reading of this is very unconvincing. What are your credentials?