In our last study in Ephesians 5 we were looking at the responsibility of husbands to love their wives. We only looked at one verse, so we have eight verses to go. Now because I received several death threats from some husbands telling me to move on, we are going to cover all these verses this morning and move on. I am kidding of course. Last time we looked at:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, Ephesians 5:25 NASB
The Greek word used here for love is agapao. Agapao is portrayed as a self-sacrificing, caring commitment that shows itself in seeking the highest good of the one loved. Agapao is a present tense imperative indicating continuous action. It could be translated: "keep on loving your wife."
This exhortation to husbands to love their wives is unique. It is not found in the Tanakh, rabbinic literature, or in the household codes of the Greco-Roman era. So this was radical, this was revolutionary! It was never heard of before. This is uniquely Christian!
How are we to love our wives? The model and ground of the husband's love for his wife is Christ's love for the church. "Just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her"—I think that this is one of the most difficult commands in Scripture. We are commanded to continually love our wives "JUST AS" Christ loved the church, which means we cannot love our wives without sacrifice.
John Chrysostom, who preached in the Fourth Century, and was called "golden mouth," writes on this subject: "Hast thou seen the measure of obedience? Hear also the measure of love? Wouldst thou that thy wife would obey thee as the church doth Christ? Have care thyself for her as Christ doth the church? And if it should be needful that thou dost giveth thy life for her and be cut to pieces a thousand times or endure anything whatever, refuse it not. Yea, if thou hast suffered this thou has not done what Christ did, for thou doest this for one whom thou wert already united. But [Christ] for her who rejected him, and hated him. He brought her to his feet by his great care; not by threats, nor fear, nor any such thing. So thou conduct thyself toward thine wife."
If you feel this is impossible, it is, in your own strength. We must keep the context in mind; all of these verses reflect the results of being filled with the Holy Spirit (5:18). Without the Holy Spirit's replacing our selfishness with His fruit, which begins with love (Gal. 5:22-23), we could never make progress in loving our wives as Christ loved the church. So if you are having problems loving your wife, the issue is you are not being controlled by the Spirit, which means you are not spending enough time in the Word of God.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, "The real cause of failure, ultimately, in marriage is always self and the various manifestations of self. Of course that is the cause of trouble everywhere and in every realm. Self and selfishness are the greatest disrupting forces in the world" (Life in the Spirit [Baker], p. 211).
I believe that the main responsibility for setting a loving climate in the home is on the husband. Husbands, you are the head and you are to lead in loving. So if there is a problem in the home, take the responsibility for it and fix it.
Paul now goes on to demonstrate what Christ's love for the church has accomplished:
so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, Ephesians 5:26 NASB
Paul here presents the purpose or goal of Christ's love for the church by three hina purposes clauses. The first one being: "So that He might sanctify her"—the word "sanctify" here is the Greek word hagiazo, which means "to set apart unto God for His purposes."
Traditionally, sanctification is categorized into three aspects: There is positional sanctification, which happens at the moment of salvation. This is that state of holiness imputed to the Christian at the moment of their conversion to Christ. Yahweh sets us apart for Himself. In this sense, Paul writes:
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Yeshua, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, their Lord and ours: 1 Corinthians 1:2 NASB
There is also progressive sanctification. Now most of the church views this as our personal growth in Christ. But biblically, progressive sanctification is the process by which Yahweh was forming the first century church into the image of Christ:
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NASB
If you look at the context, this is talking about the Old Covenant glory and the New Covenant glory:
For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:9 NASB
These are the two glories, and they were moving from one to the other. The transition saints, those who lived from 30AD to 70AD, were being transformed into the image of Christ:
in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:21-22 NASB
We see in verse 21 that the building is still in the process of construction, it "is growing into a holy temple"—the present tense verb shows the continuance of the growth process indicating a living organism that continues to increase. Verse 22 talks about the ongoing process of the building being built. This growing process can only be understood by someone who understands fulfilled eschatology. Only they know what time it is. This building is no longer being built, it was finished in A.D.70, and Yahweh moved in. Most see this as a process that is still happening. But this transformation was complete in AD 70.
And, there is Ultimate sanctification—traditionally this is said to be that state of holiness that we will not attain to in this life, but will realize when we are finally in the presence of God. This is also called glorification, this is the church being made completely holy at the moment of Christ's return. We believe this happened in AD 70 and made manifest by the destruction of Jerusalem. Every aspect of this sanctification is done by Christ. All believers have been sanctified—we have been set apart for Yahweh.
This verse is giving us Christ's goal in loving the church and giving Himself up for her. Paul is using Christ as an example of love. A Christian husband who loves his wife will guard the exclusivity of his relationship with his wife. He will set his wife apart, he will sanctify her. In practical terms, men, this means that you must put a protective fence around your love for your wife. There is no place for flirting with other women. I think it is dangerous and inappropriate for a married man to continue or to form friendships with women other than his wife, unless his wife is fully included. The man that discipled me drilled this into my head almost to the point that I was afraid to talk to women. But it has protected me from harming my marriage. In marriage the husband is set apart for the wife, and the wife is set apart for the husband, and any interference with that setting apart is sin!
"Having cleansed her"—this cleansing deals with the negative aspect, that of being cleansed from defilement of sin; where sanctification is the positive aspect, that of being set apart to Yahweh. The cleansing takes place at the moment of salvation. Both the actions of the sanctification and cleansing occurred at the same time, and would be better translated "in order that he might sanctify her having cleansed her."
This cleansing is effected "By the washing of water with the word"—you may be thinking, 'Iisn't the church cleansed and sanctified by the shed blood of Christ?" Yes, the Scriptures teach this:
knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:18-19 NASB
But Scripture also uses the imagery of "washing" in relationship to our salvation, or our cleansing from sin:
Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Yeshua the Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11 NASB
Many commentators understand "the washing of water with the word" to refer to baptism and the word of consecration that accompanies the ritual. But there is nothing in the context to indicate baptism. The term "word" is used nowhere else in the New Testament in connection with baptism.
Paul says the washing of water is with the word. The Greek word used here for "word" is rhema, and means: "the spoken or preached word," and probably refers to the Gospel. This "word" is not something additional to the spiritual cleansing, it is the means by which it is accomplished. It is through the word of the Gospel that we are cleansed and set apart unto Yahweh. Yeshua told His disciples that they were clean because of the word which he spoke to them:
"You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. John 15:3 NASB
The Gospel is a cleansing agent, for it is the good news of Christ's atoning death at Calvary. The Word is a cleansing agent also for sanctification:
"Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. John 17:17 NASB
That's why it's important for us to read and study the Scriptures; they are a cleansing agent in our lives. It's amazing what the Word of God will do with people when they read and study it.
When Paul talks about this washing, he may have been thinking of Ezekiel 16:8-14, where Yahweh describes how He entered into a marriage covenant with His bride Israel:
"Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine," declares the Lord GOD. "Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. Ezekiel 16:8-9 NASB
The Targum (an ancient Aramaic paraphrase or interpretation of the Hebrew Bible) explains this of the time of redemption of the people of Israel out of Egypt. Yahweh set apart and cleansed Israel and entered into a covenant with her. This is what Yeshua has done for the church.
This metaphorical expression of salvation, "washing of water," most likely also evokes the imagery of the bridal bath. In Palestine, before a bride was married, before she went to the ceremony, she passed through the ceremonial purifying waters. She was made clean before she united with her husband. This prenuptial bath in Jewish marital customs reflected the imagery of Yahweh's marriage to Israel in Ezekiel 16.
The reason He sanctifies and cleanses His bride, the church, is:
that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:27 NASB
"That He might present to Himself the church in all her glory"—this is the second purpose clause, which shows us the purpose of Christ's death. In this context Christ presents the church to Himself. He has done everything necessary to achieve this goal.
This presentation of the church in all her glory probably reflects the imagery of Ezekiel 16:10-13:
"I also clothed you with embroidered cloth and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk. "I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck. "I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. "Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour, honey and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. Ezekiel 16:10-13 NASB
Here is the bride in all her glory.
Let me ask you something, When does Christ present the church to Himself? Most see this as happening at the Parousia, and I would agree. But they see the Parousia as a future event to us, but it isn't:
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." Revelation 21:9 NASB
The Lamb is Christ, and His wife, the bride, is the church. So the angel says "I will show you the bride:
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, Revelation 21:10 NASB
So would you say that the holy city, Jerusalem, is the bride?
This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. Galatians 4:24-26 NASB
So the bride is the New Jerusalem, which is the New Covenant Church. When was it that Christ was to take His bride? Look what Paul told the seven churches in Asia Minor:
"And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book." Revelation 22:7 NASB
And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Revelation 22:10 NASB
At the time of Paul's writing to the Ephesians, the time when Christ would present His bride was "near." So to us it is not near, it is far in the past.
The Oriental marriage was characterized by three things. First, betrothal. The parents arranged this, not the individuals, as a rule. The father would arrange the marriage for his daughter. And the marriage was a legal marriage when the betrothal took place. For example, if a man died, having been betrothed, then the woman was regarded as a widow, even though they had never lived together. That was the beginning of the marriage, legally.
The period is also called " kiddushim," meaning: "sanctification" or "set apart." This word really defines the purpose of the betrothal period—it is a time in which the couple is set aside to prepare themselves to enter into the covenant of marriage.
Following this betrothal ceremony the groom would return to his home to fulfill his obligations during the betrothal. But just prior to leaving, he would give his wife to be a bridal gift, a pledge of his love for her. Its purpose was to be a reminder to his bride during their days of separation of his love for her, that he was thinking of her, and that he would return to receive her as his wife. Yeshua left his bride a bridal gift of love. What was it? In (Eph 1:13-14) Paul tells us that this pledge or gift is the Holy Spirit, a promise of love, and that He will return for them.
During betrothal the groom's responsibility was to focus on preparing a new dwelling place for his bride and family. In biblical times this was most often done not by building a new home, but by simply adding additional rooms to the family's existing home. Is this not what Yeshua said He would be doing ?:
"In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:2-3 NASB
He is fulfilling His part of the betrothal.
During this time the bride would consecrate herself and prepare holy garments for the upcoming marriage.
Then, at a certain time, a time determined by the father, the bridegroom would come to the house of the bride, having prepared his own home for her, he would come with his friends, and she with hers, he would come and take his bride; and he would take his bride to his house and there they would have a marriage feast. That was the second stage: the marriage feast. It was much more than just a sit down dinner for all the guests. It included seven full days of food, music, dance and celebration.
And then they would begin to live together. Those three stages are all seen in the relationship of the church to Yeshua. We were selected by the Father to be His Beloved Son's loving precious bride (Eph. 1:4). And Yeshua bought us by His blood. We belong to Him, and He is our husband, we are His wife. Then Yeshua left to prepare a place for His bride. This is where most of the church is today, still waiting for the bridegroom to return. He has been gone two thousand plus years. If the bride is the first century church, is she still waiting? No, she's dead and dust. Notice again what Yeshua said:
"If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:3 NASB
Who is He talking to? His disciples. The "you" in this verse is His disciples. If He did not come back in the first century, then He didn't keep His promise. But He did, and in AD 70 Yeshua returned to take His bride and celebrate the marriage supper.
Notice what He says about the bride: "Having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing"—-this is not talking about a wrinkle as in clothes, but a wrinkle as on the face. It is a word picture that describes the body of Christ as not being worn and weather-beaten. I think a two thousand year old bride would have some wrinkles!
The bride can do nothing to make herself beautiful. It was the work of Christ upon the cross, as He gave Himself for the church, that made her washed, cleansed, glorious, without spot or wrinkle, and set apart to Him.
"But that she would be holy and blameless"— this is the third purpose clause. By the terms "holy and blameless" is Paul referring to their position or their practice? Is he talking about their standing before God, or is he referring to how they live? To answer this wrongly is to cause great confusion. This is talking about the churche's position.
In Old Covenant, these two adjectives, "holy and blameless," were used to describe the unblemished animal set apart for Yahweh as Old Covenant sacrifices. Also, we see that unholy men could not approach Yahweh, but only stand at a distance. There was always a physical separation between sinful men and a holy God. Being made holy and blameless makes it possible for us to dwell in His presence, because our sins and uncleanness have been removed.
Commenting on these verses, John MacArthur writes, "You, as a husband, have the responsibility to wash your wife with the Word of God, to provide continual washing with the truth of holy Scripture, so that all the stains are taken away." I can't make my wife holy and blameless. These verses are not giving the husbands responsibility, they are talking about Yeshua's love for the church. And He did all this for His bride before the wedding. Now Paul address the husbands:
So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; Ephesians 5:28 NASB
"So" here is houtous, meaning: "in the same manner." It points back to the love of Christ described in verses 25-27. The primary obligation of the husband is to imitate Christ by sacrificially and tenderly caring for his wife.
"So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies"—the head, Christ, loves the body, the church; so also husbands ought to love their wives who, as it were, are their own bodies. The word "ought" stresses obligation.
This reference to love for one's own body is not a new and novel thought. It is rather a reality which is taken for granted, and which is referred to by our Lord in the Gospels:
And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' Matthew 22:37-39 NASB
I believe that Paul's words in our text are a further commentary on the words of our Lord in the Gospels. Neither Paul nor Yeshua are encouraging us to learn to love ourselves so that we can love our wives! That is modern psychobabble. Rather, he is pointing out the fact that normal people love their bodies, as seen by the way that we care for our bodies and protect them from danger. His point is that your wife is a part of your body, just as we (the church) are members of Christ's body (5:30). A husband and wife are one flesh (5:31). When you love her, you are loving your own body. This has profound implications for Christian marriage. For one thing, if your wife is hurting, you are hurting!
"He who loves his own wife loves himself"—Paul is probably going back to the creation of Eve, who was not created out of the dust of the ground, as Adam was. Rather, she was taken out of his body, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh (Gen. 2:23).
Husband and wife are not just two people rooming together. Their lives actually do blend into one another. They actually become one. It is, therefore, true that what hurts the wife damages the husband. It cannot help but do so. Or we could put it this way, "Husbands, if you are not loving your wife, you are hurting yourself":
for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, Ephesians 5:29 NASB
"For no one ever hated his own flesh"—it is natural for people to regard their own bodies as important. Now there are some eccentrics who have engaged in self-mutilation, and ascetics have sometimes regarded it as beneficial to make their bodies uncomfortable; people normally don't act in this way.
You take care of yourself. That's a given. A man may not like the way he looks or may hate his personality, but he does cherish his body. He'll go to great lengths to cool his body when it is hot, and warm it when it is cold. He avoids pain when ever he can, and he feeds himself and attempts to satisfy all his appetites. A husband is called to love his wife with the same devotion.
"But nourishes and cherishes it"—the word "nourish" actually comes from ektrepho, which means: "to feed." It's a word used in the Bible primarily of nurturing children, providing nurture, providing a climate of growth and development.
The word "cherishes" is from the Greek thalpo, which means: "to brood, i.e. (figuratively) to foster" (Strong's Concordance). We use the word "brood" to describe a hen incubating an egg at a great cost of time and comfort to herself. The word means: "warmth," and pictures a mother tenderly holding her infant against her to keep it warm from the cold. Paul uses this word of a mother in:
But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. 1 Thessalonians 2:7 NASB
Here thalpo is translated: "tenderly cares." The words "nourishes" and "cherishes" in this verse are interesting. They are terms usually associated with raising children. Nourishing and cherishing implies that a husband cares about his wife's total well being and he exerts himself to provide for her in every way.
"Just as Christ also does the church"—you clothe your body, you bathe it, you protect it from discomfort, pain and harm, and your survival depends on it; and that is what Christ did for His church! And husbands this is how we are to love our wives, just as Christ loves the church:
because we are members of His body. Ephesians 5:30 NASB
The conjunction hoti is casual introducing the reason why Christ takes tender care of the church, that is, because we are members of His body. What has been said so far about Christ's care for the church applies to all believers. And the way that Christ cares for us, loving, forgiving, protecting, giving all, is how we are to love our wives.
FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. Ephesians 5:31 NASB
This was written about Adam and Eve, neither of whom had a mother or father! So it was given for our instruction, to show us that a man must be mature enough to leave his parents before he enters into marriage.
"Leave" in the Hebrew text is "azab," and it actually means: "to leave, leave behind, depart from, let alone, abandon, forsake, to desert, to let alone" (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament). The Hebrew word for "joined" (rendered "be joined" in Eph 5:31) is "dabaq," and it means; "to cling to, to stick to, keep close, stay close, follow close and be joined together," "to be glued to." (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament).
Paul here teaches that husband and wife are one flesh. Thus the husband is compelled to love his wife as his own body.
When Yahweh instituted marriage, it was between a man and a woman, not between two people of the same sex, which is an abomination to Him.
This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:32 NASB
"This mystery is great"—is the Greek word musterion. The Greek word occurs twenty-seven times in the New Testament, three of which are in the Gospels (where it's used in the same context in Matthew, Mark and Luke) and four in Revelation. The remaining twenty occurrences are all in Paul's letters where he uses this word with different shades of meaning in different contexts. But the basic meaning is that it refers to God's revelation or disclosure of something that formerly was hidden.
A mystery is something undiscoverable by human reason, the knowledge of which could only be attained by revelation. This is a truth that has never been known before, it's a secret that is now being made open. The key idea in the mystery centers on God's eternal plan of bringing all things together in the person of Christ.
The mystery that Paul is referring to here is not marriage itself; it is the union of Christ and the church. This is made clear by the next statement, "but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church."
This first marriage was a prototype of the ultimate marriage, the marriage of Christ and His church. As Eve was created out of Adam's side, the church was begotten through the wounding of the Lord Yeshua. This union of Christ and the church is to be reflected in a Christian marriage.
In the Old Covenant, marriage is used topologically of the relationship between Yahweh and His covenant people Israel. Yeshua took over this teaching and boldly referred to Himself as the Bridegroom. He presented Himself in the role of Yahweh in the divine marriage with the covenanted people.
Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:33 NASB
Here the order is reversed beginning with the husband and ending with the wife. So he starts and ends with the wife.
"Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself"—throughout our study of Paul's instructions to the Christian husband, the terms for "leader," "leadership," and "authority" have not been mentioned. The key word which sums up Paul's exhortation for husbands is not "leadership" but "love." Just to clarify what he means by love:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NASB
Now you know, now flesh it out!
"And the wife must see to it that she respects her husband"—wives, the word "respect" here is the Greek word phobeo. This word is used in Matthew's Gospel when Yeshua heals the lame man:But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men. Matthew 9:8 NASB
Phobeo is here translated "awestruck." This is the same word we saw in Ephesians 5:21,
"In the fear of Christ"—commenting on fear here I said, "Fear of the Lord is always demonstrated by obedience to the Word of God":By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil. Proverbs 16:6 NASB
This verse tells us that the fear of Yahweh promotes holy living. As we are all to fear Christ, women are to fear their husbands. The woman who truly reverences and respects her husband as she should will not do anything that brings disgrace, dishonor, or pain to the heart of her husband.
Please remember that it is only as we are "filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) that we can and will love our wives and submit to our husbands, "in the Lord."
Continue the Series