“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church. He is the Savior of the body. Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:22-25, paraphrased).
Paul’s epic analogy regarding the love of a husband and Jesus’ love for His Church validates that marriage is established on the basis of mutual love and respect. Each partner has responsibilities to each other and to the Lord. While God does not place the wife on the same level as the husband, neither does he place the husband on the same level as Christ (I Cor. 11:3). Paul’s remarks were revolutionary in an era when men were the dominate gender. Christianity elevates matrimony to the highest level for it perfectly mirrors God’s purpose for the Church. Born-again women and men are equals as members of the body of Christ (Gal. 3:28). Both the husband and wife are worthy of equal honor because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Although the feminist movement bristles at the phrase “the head of the woman is the man,” God never intended His marital standards to be downsized to fit contemporary sociology (I Cor. 11:3-9). The verb “submit” means “subordination to another who is worthy of respect.” This term denotes a voluntary, continuous submission and an unwillingness to argue. “Submission” in this passage does not mean husbands are to treat their wives as slaves. It does not promote subservience nor does it deny a woman her rights. Paul’s phrase “as unto the Lord” establishes the parameters of the wife’s subjection: she cannot violate God’s Word to please her husband.
God’s perfect plan for marital happiness neither exalts men nor suppresses women. A blessed and happy marriage depends upon a man’s acceptance of his role as spiritual leader in his home. Although a husband cannot “save” his wife, he can gently guide her into the arms of the Savior (Eph. 5:23). As the Lord provides His Church protection and security so must the husband.
The statement “subject in everything” (v. 24) refers to everything that is not contrary to God’s Word. The wife is to be as supportive as the husband is to be protective. A wife who respects her godly husband walks in a beauty and freedom unknown to unbelievers. Reciprocal respect is vital to joyous, functional marriages. Paul reinforces the sacrificial nature of the love required of husbands. His love for his wife must be measured by the high standard of Christ’s selfless love for His Church. His vicarious giving of Himself was for her. It was His love for His bride that held Him on the cross, not the nails. If a husband wants to pattern his life after Christ, he must be willing to give his life for hers (Jn. 15:12-13). Just as everything Jesus does for His Church is for her edification and advancement, so a husband will regard no sacrifice too great if he has a spirit of self-denial like our Lord Jesus.