Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church. This mystery is profound. (Ephesians 5:22, 25, 32 / ESV)

We solve the mystery of marriage by emulating the relationship between Christ and the church.

The relationship mystery Paul describes stumped even one of the wisest Biblical authors! Admittedly “the way of a man with a maiden” was too amazing for even him to understand (Proverbs 30:18-19). Thankfully, God didn’t leave us clueless to stumble along as best we can. But the mystery He uncovers far exceeds our stereotypical concept of marital “love and submission.”

Husbands are to love their wives the same way Christ loved His bride, the church, and gave Himself for her. He didn’t expect to be waited on nor did He pursue His own self-indulgent interests. Even as the Head of the church, He humbly served her, helped her when she couldn’t help herself, and met her at her individual point of need (Matthew 20:28). He loved His bride so much that He sacrificed His life so she could enjoy an abundant and eternal life together with Him (John 10:10).

A husband’s primary responsibility is to meet his wife’s needs lovingly, respectfully, affectionately, and purposefully. He is to dedicate his time, energy, attention, motivation—his all—to her.

A second relational clue applies to wives. Ask yourself, What did Christ ask of His bride? He told His followers to love Him with “all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30). The word love used here refers to a willful choice and to finding personal joy in the person being loved. It is the unselfish passion of the heart involving deep compassion and intimate connection. This love is demonstrated daily through passionate acts performed by committed and intimately connected hearts.

In applying Paul’s spiritual comparison to marriage, a wife’s primary responsibility is to be equally, wholly, and lovingly interactive with her husband—spiritually (spirit), emotionally (soul), intellectually (mind), and physically (body). This is her passionate response to her husband’s wholehearted love for her.

The mystery of marriage is solved when both spouses fulfill their corresponding roles. Neither person should have to compete with any of his or her spouse’s personal interests or pursuits. Being “one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31), both husband and wife love each other with all their hearts, souls, minds, and bodies.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is the church’s submission to Christ one of obligatory servitude or one of joyous intimacy and mutual fellowship?
  2. How can spouses relationally model Christ’s all-encompassing love with each other?
  3. How can spouses love each other spiritually? Emotionally? Intellectually? Physically?