We share our opinions and insights at SBC Voices, but we believe that the Voice that matters most is the one that comes from God’s Word. We present these daily expositional devotions, beginning with a tour of Ephesians called, “Walk Worthy,” in hopes of encouraging our readers to remember to Voice above every voice.
Ephesians 5:22-27 (CSB):
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 23 because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.
Thus far in Ephesians, Paul has recounted to us God’s redemptive masterplan to reconcile both Jews and Gentiles to Himself by uniting them in one body through the sacrificial death, the burial, and the resurrection of the body’s Head – Jesus Christ (Eph. 1-3). He then proceeds to draw some implications from this glorious truth: 1) We, as Christ’s body, gladly submit to His God-appointed headship (1:22); 2) Our union together as Christ’s body necessitates that we “…grow up in every way into [Christ] who is the head…” (4:15); 3) Our growth in Christ depends on the proper functioning of each member as we walk together in love (4:16). I love this imagery that Paul uses – likening our union together in Christ to an actual body. He uses the same illustration and language in I Corinthians 12, only it’s more vivid.
Upon our arrival at Ephesians 5:22-27, we encounter an even more beautiful picture of our union with Christ. It is a picture of Christ as a bridegroom, giving His life to make His beloved holy and blameless in order that He might present her to Himself in splendor as His bride, thusly consummating their union as one body. One flesh. It is the archetype of the union between Christian husbands and wives. As such, the same implications that are drawn from Christ’s union with His body can also be applied to the one flesh union between husband and wife: 1) A believing wife gladly submits to her husband’s God-ordained headship (v. 22-23); 2) A believing wife’s one flesh union with her Christ-emulating husband necessitates that she grow into Christ, as well; 3) Their growth in Christ together depends upon the proper functioning of both members of this one flesh union – the husband as the head and the wife as his body.
Wives, you can submit to your believing husband in everything as to the Lord (v. 22-24) precisely because he is to be emulating our Lord – the Good Shepherd. Think Psalm 23. Husbands, you shepherd your wife well when you provide for her, care for her, and when you lead her in the paths of righteousness. As you shepherd your wife in this way, your guidance and leadership will be a source of comfort for her and not a source of contention.
Under Christlike headship, a believing wife is not stifled. Instead, she flourishes (v.27). She flourishes because she, too, is growing in Christlikeness. Husbands, when you emulate Christ, leading your wife to pursue Christlikeness as well, you gradually become of the same mind. Sometimes the physical aspect of marriage dominates discussions about the one flesh union of husband and wife, when the true essence of the one flesh union seems to be primarily spiritual. The degree to which you and your spouse are growing into Christ is directly correlated to your degree of unity.
God has designed your one flesh union with your spouse to mirror Christ’s relationship with His body. That Christ is the Head of a gladly submissive body is essential to the flourishing of God’s kingdom. Likewise, the flourishing of our marriages depends upon the proper functioning of both members of the one flesh union with the husband as the head and the wife as his body – both pursuing Christlikeness. Any deviation to the left or to the right of this design not only leads to a floundering marriage with one spouse or the other withering, but it also lies about God and the nature of His kingdom. As such, it is imperative that we get this right – for our good and for the flourishing of our spouses, our homes, our communities, our churches, and for the glory of God.
The call is weighty and cannot be accomplished apart from the transforming work of the Spirit of God. Let us then pray, asking God to cultivate in us the character of Christ. Only then will we be able to walk worthy of our calling in marriage, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:2-4).