Lesson 24: Wives and Husbands - Page 2 of 4 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

“THEREFORE AS THE CHURCH IS SUBJECT UNTO CHRIST”―Paul goes a step further; Jesus is the head of the church, he is the Savior of the church—therefore, the church is subject to Jesus. No two-legged human being on the face of this earth has any right to change anything in the Word of God pertaining to the church of God. Jesus said, “NICODEMUS, YOU MUST BE BORN OF THE SPIRIT”—and it is still, “YE MUST BE BORN OF THE SPIRIT.” We must be saved by grace through faith. The entrance into the church is by salvation “PRAISING GOD, AND HAVING FAVOUR WITH ALL THE PEOPLE. AND THE LORD ADDED TO THE CHURCH DAILY SUCH AS SHOULD BE SAVED” (ACTS 2:47) and if you are not saved you are not a member of the New Testament church. Jesus is the Savior; the church is subject to Him.

“SO LET THE WIVES BE TO THEIR OWN HUSBANDS IN EVERY THING.” Paul goes a step further in the natural realm, and admonishes wives to be subject to their own husbands IN EVERYTHING. Paul is thinking in terms of believers—not sinners. The wife is to be subject to a Godly husband because the husband is head of the wife. The church is to be subject to Jesus—not to a preacher, a board of deacons or trustees, and not a bishop. No man has any right to dictate to the Lord’s church, nor make changes in it. It is finished. “THY WORD IS FOREVER SETTLED IN HEAVEN.” Not one jot or tittle will ever pass away. The church is subject to the doctrine of Jesus Christ, not to the dogmas and traditions of men. Regardless of what changes are made in doctrines and in the rules and regulations of the church, you can mark it well that the rules, regulations, and doctrines of truth having to do with the church, are the same today as they were when Jesus said, “UPON THIS ROCK I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH!” The warning is the same: “IF ANY COME TO YOU AND BRING NOT THIS DOCTRINE, DO NOT INVITE HIM INTO YOUR HOUSE AND DO NOT BID HIM GOD SPEED” (II JOHN).

Paul says that the wife’s submission is in everything. That is, after all, how all believers are to submit to Christ. Illustrating the mystery is, therefore, not only a tremendous privilege for husbands and wives; it’s a challenge. Husbands and wives are sinners. The submission of a wife to her husband is not struggle-free.

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Paul goes further: The husband is the head of the wife—but he is not the boss. He is to love his wife as Jesus loved the church and gave Himself for it. That throws a little different light on the relationship between a Christian man and Christian woman. A believing husband is not to dominate the woman and dictate to her. He is to love that woman, lead and protect her; and if she is the kind of woman she ought to be, she wants to be loved, led and protected by the husband. A woman who has the right spirit does not desire to boss a man.

The measure of Christ’s love is stated in the declaration that He “GAVE HIMSELF FOR” the church. The husband is to love his wife in the same bountiful fashion, even to the point of sacrificing himself for her well-being.

No word in any language so fully embodies the Gospel of the Grace of God, no word so adamantly represents Christ and what He did to bring about our salvation, as does LOVE. What a standard God has set up concerning the LOVE between a man and his wife: “AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH!” Certainly the LOVE of Christ for the church is past finding out, it knows no boundaries, and it knows no barriers. Christ’s LOVE is unspeakable, indescribable, and unknowable in its fullness. In the eternity behind us He LOVED us; he gave Himself for us, even while we were yet dead in trespasses and sins...while we were yet ungodly. At this present hour He LOVES us and is sanctifying and cleansing believers (members of the church) with the washing of the water by the Word. But that is not all: Out yonder in the future, because of His great LOVE wherewith He LOVED us, He will present the church to Himself, “A GLORIOUS CHURCH NOT HAVING SPOT OR WRINKLE OR ANY SUCH THING (V. 27).” What love!

The apostle lists, in this passage, five things about love that a husband must impart to his wife.
I. It must be a sacrificial love (v. 25). That’s what he’s saying in this verse—he must love her as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for the Church. It must never be a selfish love. Christ loved the Church, not so that the Church might do things for Him, but in order that He might do things for the Church.
II. It must be a purifying love (v. 26). By the washing of baptism and by the confession of faith, Christ sought to make for Himself a Church, cleansed and consecrated, until there was neither soiling spot nor disfiguring wrinkle upon it.
III. It must be a caring love (v. 28). A man must love his wife as he loves his own body. Real love loves not to extract service, nor to ensure that his physical comfort is attended to; it cherishes the one it loves.
IV. It is an unbreakable love (v.30). For the sake of this love a man leaves father and mother and cleaves to his wife. They become one flesh. He is as united to her as the members of the body are united to each other; and would no more think of separating from her than of tearing his own body apart.
V. The whole relationship is in the Lord (v. 32). In the Christian Home Jesus is an ever-remembered, though an unseen, guest. In Christian marriage there are not two partners, but three—and the third is Christ.

26 That he might sanctify* and cleanse* it with the washing of water by the word,

Verse 26 is very enlightening: “THAT HE (Jesus) MIGHT SANCTIFY* AND CLEANSE* IT (the church)”… But how? “By the worship…” What worship? The baptistery, baptism? The river Jordan? The One to whom we are subject gives the answer: “… By THE WASHING OF THE WATER BY THE WORD.” There is not enough water in the river Jordan and in all the baptisteries in all the world to wash away the least sin you have ever committed. Water baptism has nothing to do with redemption. Water baptism has nothing to do with salvation. Water baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament church, which testifies that the person being baptized has died to the world, died to sin, is buried with Christ, and is raised to walk in newness of life. Water baptism does not wash away sin. The water referred to in John 3:5 and the water that cleanses the church is the Word of God. For instance: “NOW YE ARE CLEAN THROUGH THE WORD WHICH I HAVE SPOKEN UNTO YOU” (JOHN 15:3). The word is the water… Living water; and the Word brings salvation. The Word cleanses from all sin. The Word sanctifies: “SANCTIFY* THEM THROUGH THY WORD. THY WORD IS TRUTH” (JOHN 17:17). The word cleanses (John 15:3). The Word is the seed that brings the new birth (1 Peter 1:23). Baptism is not the water referred to here—nor any other place having to do with cleansing from the filthiness of sin.

The expression “BY THE WORD” has also caused strenuous debate. Some take it to refer to the word of the gospel as the actual instrument by which the cleansing is accomplished―“YOU ARE ALREADY CLEAN BECAUSE OF THE WORD WHICH I HAVE SPOKEN TO YOU.”(SEE JOHN 15:3). Others interpret it as a spoken word accompanying the washing of water—“either the word which is spoken over the person being baptized… (See Matthew 28:19), or (more probably) the word spoken by him in which he confesses his faith and invokes the Lord” (See Acts 22:16).

*“SANCTIFY” means to set apart, to consecrate. “CLEANSE” suggests the removal of sin and its defilement. The two acts are thought of as simultaneous, the cleansing being the means by which the sanctifying is brought about.

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