Eph. 5:25-33, “25 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
Most are familiar with the words of the Apostle Paul found in Ephesians 5:25-33. For that matter, this passage of Scripture finds its way into many wedding ceremony sermons and marriage retreats and rightly so. The command for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church certainly presents an important rule of life. As I pondered this passage on the way to work the other day, one element really stood out to me, namely the aspect of just how husbands are to love their wives in connection to the example Christ set. That particular element is the concept of giving yourself up for her, a part that is intimately connected (no pun intended) to what it means to love your wife as Christ loves the church. It is this aspect of giving yourself for your wife that we will explore in this post.
As required for any examination and application of words found in Scripture, we will begin with defining terms; in this case the word “gave”. The Greek word Paul uses in Ephesians 5:25 is the verb paradidōmi which means to “give one’s self up for, give one’s self to death for, to undergo death for (the salvation of) one”. The first part of that definition seems innocuous enough as after all, to give of yourself for someone else seems like a reachable goal although the actual application of that in daily life seems to be rather difficult for many. It is the second and third aspects of the definition that seem to be where the real problem and lack of understanding resides. What does it mean to give of yourself to the extent that you would undergo death, in particular for the salvation of another? Let’s spend some time examining what that might look like.
Adam Clarke, in his commentary on Ephesians 5:25 rightly notes
“Here is a grand rule, according to which every husband is called to act: Love your wife as Christ loved the Church. But how did Christ love the Church? He gave himself for it – he laid down his life for it. So then husbands should, if necessary, lay down their lives for their wives: and there is more implied in the words than mere protection and support; for, as Christ gave himself for the Church to save it, so husbands should, by all means in their power, labor to promote the salvation of their wives, and their constant edification in righteousness. Thus we find that the authority of the man over the woman is founded on his love to her, and this love must be such as to lead him to risk his life for her.”
Clarke hits the nail on the head in regards to what the Apostle Paul is getting across in Ephesians 5:25 this verse with the use of the word paradidōmi. What does it mean then in a practical sense to lay down your life for your spouse? While there is the possibility laying down your life might include the actual placing of your life in the place of another, meaning physically dying so another might live, what Paul seems to be implying in this passage is the crucifying of self for the glory of God in a demonstration of your passionate love for your wife. Since Christ is set forth as the example of what loving the Church and what paradidōmi looks like in action, we can surmise that a husband giving himself for his wife in the spirit of love demands the same action Christ did for the church on the cross. What did Christ do? He willingly gave up His life, meaning He was crucified for the sake of another.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:24 what it means to crucify yourself in the manner which is described in Ephesians 5:25. Paul notes in the Galatians passage “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” There are some connections that need to be made in this passage to the construct of a covenant spousal relationship. To belong to Christ Jesus is to be in a covenant marriage relationship. Since we are betrothed to Christ and He is our bridegroom and we are His bride, Christ expressed His profound and unending love for His bride by giving Himself for her on the Cross. Paul goes on to declare that since we belong to Christ Jesus in that covenant of marriage, we then must crucify the flesh with its resulting passions and desires for the purpose of giving our entire self in love, adoration, and obedience to the bridegroom Christ Jesus. Being in love with Christ is more than a feeling. Conversely, it necessitates action on our part through the work of the Holy Spirit as we transform and renew our minds, crucifying and mortifying sin in our lives all for the glory of God and love for Christ. This is how our relationship with the bridegroom is defined and how it should operate on a daily basis.
So how does our relationship with Christ flow down to and impact the relationship between husband and wife? According to the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:25, in the same manner as Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for her and in the same manner as we in turn show our love for Christ in that marital/betrothal relationship, the husband must also crucify the flesh with its passions and desires because we belong in a covenant marriage relationship with the wife.
This begs the question as to what constitutes passions and desires. Once again we need to examine some word definitions. The word translated as passions or in some translations as affections is the Greek noun pathēma. Thayer, in his Greek lexicon, defines this word in the context of Galatians 5:24 to mean “of an inward state.” Essentially, this refers to the things that impact our inward self that ultimately result in action, whether positive or negative action. The word lust used by Paul is the Greek noun epithymia which refers to “desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust.” When you put those two terms together, it results in the idea that what is to be crucified are those things which God forbids and that which negatively impact the relationship between husband and wife. Thus, we are commanded by God to crucify those things out of our love for our spouse in recognition of our love for Christ and His love for His bride.
To give of oneself for the sake of another requires continuous acts of selflessness. Selfish desires and lusts must be mortified through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a constant battle that requires diligence and constant attention. This of course requires that the husband first commits himself to being dedicated to loving God and studying His Word. Since Paul provides a cascading example of relationships in Ephesians 5, we must be aware that when one part in the chain is broken, there will be problems. We certainly know that Christ’s love for His bride will never falter or fail. This leaves the potential for issues in the area of the husbands love for Christ as well as the husbands love for his spouse. Thankfully, we need only to look to the example set forth by Christ in His love for the Church to understand what true love and giving looks like. This involves studying how Christ loves His bride, what He did and continues to do for His bride, and how Scripture outlines such a relationship is to be implemented in all of life. We have covered many of those issues in this post already. I will add that a healthy relationship between the bridegroom and bride (Christ and His Church) rests on a love for God’s word and in turn, a healthy relationship between husband and wife also rests on a love for God’s word. A husband who is committed to loving and giving himself for his wife will be cognizant of the need to wash her daily in the Word. This is what Paul declares in Ephesians 5:26 that Christ does on our behalf through the work of the Holy Spirit. Since our relationship with our spouse should mirror our relationship with Christ, the fact that Christ washes us in His word requires that husbands wash their wives in the word.
Now that we have walked through Ephesians 5:25, noting what Paul is calling husbands to do for their wives, what does this look like in daily life? It is one thing to understand a doctrine theoretically and quite another to grasp a doctrine and then apply it to real life. It is that real life application that is often lacking in so many marriages. In the spirit of the Puritan authors, since the doctrine has been clearly stated, it is not time for the relevant application.
The best way I know how to share what loving your wife and giving yourself for her looks like on an everyday basis is to share my own struggles with this issue. My wife and I have been married for ten years and this past year, we adopted a twelve year old girl. Needless to say, our life has changed quite a bit from lots of time together to quite honestly, very little alone time, at least compared to the first nine years of marriage. Anyone with children knows this is just part of life. With that said, it elevates the need for loving and giving to an even greater level of importance. Let’s face it. Working husbands spend nine hours a day in the throes of work to come home to homework and the demands of family life. What is the greatest thing we as husbands desire more often than not? ALONE TIME! That precious time with the remote control when we can watch that favorite sports team compete, or possibly time alone reading that book we can never seem to finish, or having time for our own desires and pursuits whatever that may look like. In a practical sense, for most husbands, crucifying passions and desires involves dying to self in the area of plopping on the couch or wanting to escape. Does this mean that husbands can never pursue hobbies or watch football or have a little quite time all alone? The reality is there will be times when we need to recharge our batteries and that may involve some time alone with the demands and pressures of home set aside for a short and defined period. What it does not mean is escaping to those hobbies and pleasures because we do not want to crucify our wants and desires for the sake of our family’s needs.
For example, after working all day, there is nothing I dread more than sitting at the table helping my daughter with homework. I graduated high school and college for goodness sake. What do I care about word problems and finding the adverb in a sentence? (Be honest…you think the same thing.) The reality is I have to crucify my desires for the intellectual growth of my child. I have to shut my mouth and control my emotions for the benefit of another. It may also mean that I have to give my wife a break and help out around the house with family chores even when there a plethora of other things I want to do with my time. It means shutting up and listening when she speaks about her day at work and the challenges she faces. It requires coming alongside her and actually loving and showing compassion for her instead of the proverbial nodding of the head hoping the conversation will wrap up soon so I can watch television or zone out.
Is any of that easy? Absolutely not but it is worth it. Was it easy for Christ to die on the cross for His bride? Jesus wept tears of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. His journey to the Cross was not easy, yet He died on that Cross out of His love for His bride. Husbands are you willing to take up your cross daily out of love for your bride? However that looks like in your marriage, it is a must. Love is again more than a mushy feeling you get in the pit of your stomach. Love is an action and in the case of marriage, it involves the constant act of crucifying self for the benefit of another, laying down your life, passions, and desires so another might live. Are you willing to do that for your wife? Christ set the example we are to follow. If we truly love Christ, we will and we must show our love for our wife by doing what He did for His people, dying to self and giving ourselves to the one we should love and adore.