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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 5

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Verse 1

"Therefore" does not introduce a conclusion to what has preceded, but it gives a reason for what follows. It is only normal and natural for children to imitate their parents. So too should the children of God imitate their heavenly Father (cf. Matthew 5:48; Luke 6:36). We are to imitate God’s gracious attitude and generous actions toward us.

Verses 1-6

3. Walking in love 5:1-6

In addition to calling his readers to walk in unity (Ephesians 4:1) and holiness (Ephesians 4:17), Paul urged them to walk in love (Ephesians 5:2). He first advocated positive love (Ephesians 5:1-2) and then negatively warned to abstain from evil (Ephesians 5:3-6).

Verse 2

This verse explains how we are to imitate God, namely, by loving. The measure and model of our love should be Christ’s love for us. He loved us to the extent of dying for us. His self-sacrifice was pleasing and acceptable to God, as a sweet aroma. Jesus’ death was both an offering of worship to God, like the burnt and meal offerings in Judaism, and a sacrifice of expiation, like the sin and trespass offerings. We also express our love most when we lay down our lives for those we love, particularly God (1 John 3:16).

". . . there is not a single place in Paul’s writings, nor in the New Testament generally, where the death of Christ can be spoken of as only an example to be followed, without the further expression of its atoning significance." [Note: Foulkes, p. 139.]

Verse 3

The self-centered practices introduced here (lust) are the opposite of love. Self-indulgence is the opposite of self-sacrifice. There should be no hint of these perversions of love in the believer’s life, even in our speech (cf. Exodus 23:13; Deuteronomy 12:30; Psalms 16:4). Sexual immorality was common among unsaved Gentiles, but it is totally inappropriate for saints. Impurity is a broader term that includes all types of uncleanness (cf. Ephesians 4:19). Greed is the lust for more and is essentially idolatry (Ephesians 5:5). Here the greed in view is probably the coveting of someone else’s body for selfish gratification.

"’Immorality’ (RSV) and sexual perversion of almost every kind might be included under the [Greek] word porneia, translated fornication in AV; it involves all that works against the life-long union of one man and one woman within the sanctity of the marriage bond." [Note: Ibid., p. 141.]

Verse 4

Paul proceeded from immorality to vulgarity. The Christian’s speech should also demonstrate love (cf. Ephesians 4:29). Filthiness or obscenity refers to dirty speech. Silly or foolish talk (lit. stupid words) probably describes talk that just wastes time, not necessarily "small talk." Coarse jesting does not mean joking necessarily but vulgar joking that uses clever word plays such as double entendres. This type of speech is inappropriate for saints who should be full of thanksgiving since we have received so much. Thanksgiving is also edifying.

"All God’s gifts, including sex, are subjects for thanksgiving, rather than for joking. To joke about them is bound to degrade them; to thank God for them is the way to preserve their worth as the blessings of a loving Creator." [Note: Stott, p. 193.]

Verse 5

Paul warned his readers against improper conduct by reminding them that people who practice such things sacrifice an inheritance in the kingdom to come, namely, the millennial kingdom (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:21). The AV, NKJV, and NIV have "any inheritance," and the NASB has "an inheritance," but the Greek text omits the article: "does not have inheritance." Since Paul had already said that all believers have an inheritance in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14), he was evidently contrasting unbelievers with believers (cf. Ephesians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:21; Matthew 19:16; Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18). His point seems to have been that this type of behavior, which marks unbelievers, should not characterize believers.

Interpreters who take this verse as evidence that a truly saved person cannot and will not practice these vices overlook the fact that some genuine believers live carnal lives (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4). [Note: For further study, see Zane C. Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege, pp. 109-20; idem, Grace in Eclipse, pp. 76-77; and Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation, pp. 59-65.]

Verse 6

This verse further stresses the urgency of living lives of love rather than selfishness. The empty words in view would be words teaching that living a moral Christian life is unimportant. They are empty because they are void of content, containing no truth. If the wrath of God is presently coming on the sons of disobedience (cf. Ephesians 2:2), certainly His own sons can expect His discipline when they practice the same things. Since God is holy He deals with sin wherever He finds it, in unbelievers and in believers alike.

Verse 7

It is inconsistent for the objects of God’s love (Ephesians 5:2) to become fellow partakers (Ephesians 3:6) with the objects of God’s wrath (Ephesians 5:6) by joining in selfish, immoral, impure conduct. This verse contains the first command.

Verses 7-14

4. Walking in light 5:7-14

The resumptive inferential particle translated "Therefore" marks the beginning of a new paragraph in Paul’s thought (cf. Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 4:17; Ephesians 5:1; Ephesians 5:15). He related three commands concerning walking (living) in the light in these verses and added reasons and explanations to motivate and to assist his readers.

Verse 8

The reason Christians should not partake with unbelievers in their evil deeds is that we were formerly darkness (cf. Ephesians 4:17-19) but are now light, having trusted Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1-3; Ephesians 3:17-21; cf. Matthew 5:14; Colossians 1:12-13). The second command is to walk as children of light. Obviously it is possible for the children of light not to walk (live) as children of light (cf. 1 John 1:6-7). Otherwise the command would be unnecessary.

"The gravest disservice that any man can do to a fellow man is to make him think lightly of sin." [Note: Barclay, p. 194.]

Verse 9

The fruit of the light is those qualities that characterize God’s life (i.e., the fruit that the Spirit produces). The three qualities mentioned here are the opposite of the fruit of darkness (Ephesians 4:18-19). If the child of light does not walk in the light, he will not bear much of the fruit of the light (cf. John 15:1-6). He might even be outwardly indistinguishable from a child of darkness (cf. Matthew 13:24-30).

Verse 10

As the child of light walks as a child of light (Ephesians 5:8 b), he will continually try to discover what the will of God is so he can do it and please God.

Verse 11

Children of light should also abstain from joining the sons of disobedience in their deeds but should rather reprove believers who do them because these deeds are unfruitful (cf. Ephesians 5:9). [Note: Hoehner, Ephesians, p. 679.] This is Paul’s third command in this section. It is the deeds of unbelievers that Christians must shun, not the unbelievers who do them. We reprove the deeds of believers who practice such evil deeds as we bring the light (Ephesians 5:9) next to them. This exposes them for what they are.

Verse 12

Believers should not even discuss the secret dark deeds of people in normal conversation. Discussing these things will just draw attention to them and may make them attractive to the carnal minded. It is better to keep what they do in the dark in the dark.

Verse 13

On the other hand, when light shines on evil deeds, other people see them for what they are, namely, evil. This verse is not contradicting the previous one. Paul was assuring his readers that God will bring evil to the light one day and show it to be what it is. He Himself will bring all evil to the light eventually. Everything that becomes visible "is light" in the sense that it becomes obvious, but it also becomes good.

"This may mean that Christians who lead a righteous life thereby restrain and reform evildoers, yes, and even convert them." [Note: Stott, p. 200. See also Foulkes, p. 148.]

"Turn on the light. Often the preacher is the only man brave enough to turn the light on the private sins of men and women or even those of a community." [Note: Robertson, 4:543.]

Verse 14

Since God will bring all things into the light (Ephesians 5:13), it is important that believers wake up and rise from the deadness of their former unsaved lifestyles. If they do, Christ will shine on them in blessing, as the sun warms what its rays touch. The source from which Paul quoted seems to have been an early Christian poem or hymn based on Isaiah 60:1. [Note: Wood, p. 71. Cf. 1 Timothy 3:16; et al.]

5. Walking in Wisdom of Solomon 5:15 to Wisdom of Solomon 6:9

Paul introduced a new thought with the repetition of "Therefore" and "walk" for the fifth time (cf. Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 4:25; Ephesians 5:1-2; Ephesians 5:7-8). We can walk (live) wisely by letting the Holy Spirit control our lives.

"For Paul, the Christian faith was not an abstract exercise in theological discourse. Instead it called for a different way to relate to others." [Note: Bock, "A Theology . . .," p. 317.]

Verse 15

The word order and usage in the Greek text suggest that "careful" modifies "walk" rather than "be." We could translate the clause "See to it that you walk (live) carefully." Careful living is essential to being wise (skillful) and to pleasing the Lord (Ephesians 5:10). The wise person is one who views and sees things the way God does.

Verses 15-21

The basic admonition 5:15-21

Paul began this section with a basic admonition (Ephesians 5:15-21). Then he applied this instruction to various groups of Christians (Ephesians 5:22 to Ephesians 6:9).

Verse 16

We live wisely when we use every opportunity to please and glorify the Lord. Every day and every hour provide opportunities, and we should seize them for these purposes. This is important because we live in days that evil influences and evil individuals dominate.

Verse 17

The unwise (Ephesians 5:15) simply lack wisdom, but the foolish (Ephesians 5:17) behave contrary to what they know to be right. To be wise we must comprehend intellectually (Gr. syniete, understand) what God’s will is. Only after we do that can we please God (Ephesians 5:10). The Lord’s will should be the Christian’s primary blueprint since He is the Head of the body. God’s will includes allowing Him to control (fill) us, being thankful always, and being subject to one another, as the following verses clarify. Wise people not only make the most of their time (Ephesians 5:16), but they also seek to discover and do God’s will.

Verse 18

Specifically we should not let wine control us but God’s Holy Spirit. Both forces are internal. "Be filled" is a passive command. It amounts to letting the Holy Spirit who indwells us control us completely. We do this by trusting and obeying Him as His Word directs. The wine that fills a person controls every area of his life as long as that person consumes it. Drunkenness results in incorrigible behavior. Likewise the believer who allows the Spirit to influence and direct his thinking and behavior will experience His control as long as he maintains that relationship to the Spirit (cf. Luke 1:15; Acts 2:12-21). Another translation of the command is, "Be being kept filled by the Spirit." [Note: See Chafer, He That . . ., pp. 39-81. See also Randall Gleason, "B. B. Warfield and Lewis S. Chafer on Sanctification," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40:2 (June 1997):241-56; Andreas J. Köstenberger, "What Does It Mean to Be Filled with the Spirit? A Biblical Investigation," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40:2 (June 1997):229-40; and Eldon Woodcock, "The Filling of the Holy Spirit," Bibliotheca Sacra 157:625 (January-March 2000):68-87.] This is our ongoing responsibility (present tense), and it is obligatory for every Christian, not optional.

"The baptism of the Spirit means that I belong to Christ’s body. The filling of the Spirit means that my body belongs to Christ." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:48. See also ibid., p. 49, for some helpful contrasts between being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit.]

Verse 19

Paul referred to four of the many results of Spirit filling. He set them forth as participles, but they virtually amount to imperatives in their force. All four deal with praise, and all are public rather than private activities. "Psalms" refers to the Old Testament psalms that the Christians as well as the Jews used in their worship. "Hymns" were songs that eulogized some person or god in Greek culture and the true God in Christian worship (Ephesians 5:14). "Spiritual songs" is a general term that probably covers all other kinds of vocal praise. When God controls us, we are joyful. [Note: See Steven R. Guthrie, "Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46:4 (December 2003):633-46.]

In addition to communicating with one another using the means already described, Christians should also use these means to communicate with the Lord. Praise should spring from the heart, not just the lips. "Singing" refers to vocal praise, and "making melody with your heart" implies inaudible praise.

Verse 20

Third, we should thank God the Father for all things (cf. Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Christians can engage in thanksgiving even when they are not offering praise corporately. Praying in the name of Jesus Christ means praying because of His merits and work and in harmony with His will (cf. John 14:13-14; John 15:16; John 16:23-24; 1 John 5:14-15). It is possible to be thankful in all things when we recognize that God is at work in our lives for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28). When God controls us, we are thankful.

Verse 21

The fourth result of fullness with (control by) the Spirit is willingness to submit to other people, specifically believers. The opposite would be dominating others and exalting oneself over them. This attitude is only reasonable and carries over from reverence for (fear of) Christ. When God controls us, we have submissive (supportive) spirits.

Having explained the basic admonition to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-21), Paul next applied the implication of this exhortation to various groups of Christians.

"What is beyond question is that the three paragraphs which follow are given as examples of Christian submission, and that the emphasis throughout is on submission." [Note: Stott, p. 215.]

He addressed six groups: wives and husbands (Ephesians 5:22-33), children and parents (Ephesians 6:1-4), and slaves and masters (Ephesians 6:5-9). In each of the three pairings, the first partner is responsible to be submissive or obedient (Ephesians 5:22; Ephesians 6:1; Ephesians 6:5). However the second partner is also to show a submissive spirit. All are to relate to one another as unto the Lord. This is one of several "house-rule" lists in the New Testament (cf. Ephesians 5:22 to Ephesians 6:9; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:1-10; 1 Peter 2:18 to 1 Peter 3:7). The writings of some Apostolic Fathers also contain such lists. Luther referred to these sections as haustafel, and some scholars still use this technical term when referring to these lists. [Note: See the excursus in Hoehner, Ephesians, pp. 720-29; and Timothy G. Gombis, "A Radically New Humanity: The Function of the Haustafel in Ephesians," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48:2 (June 2005):317-30.]

"Too much so-called ’holiness teaching’ emphasizes a personal relationship to Jesus Christ without any attempt to indicate its consequences in terms of relationships with the people we live and work with. In contrast to such holiness-in-a-vacuum, which magnifies experiences and minimizes ethics, the apostles spelled out Christian duty in the concrete situations of everyday life and work." [Note: Stott, p. 214.]

When God controls us, we experience harmony in the home and in the workplace, in spite of possible friction, tension, and opposition there.

Verse 22

Paul addressed wives first. Christian wives are to be subject (Ephesians 5:21) to their own husbands as an expression of their submission to the Lord Jesus. Paul did not say they were to be subject to their own husbands in proportion as they are submissive to the Lord. In submitting to her husband, the wife is obeying the Lord who has commanded her to do so. In this section Paul was speaking of relationships in marriage, as the context clarifies (Ephesians 5:22-33). He was not saying all women are to be subject to all men, nor was he saying that women are inferior to men (cf. 1 Peter 3:7).

People often misunderstand submission. It does not indicate inferiority or involve losing one’s identity and becoming a non-person. Some women fear that submission will lead to abuse and or a feeling of being used. Submission does not mean blind obedience or passivity. It means giving oneself up to someone else.

"Equality of worth is not identity of role." [Note: J. H. Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, p. 177, footnote 23.]

We live in an ordered universe in which there is authority and submission to authority everywhere (cf. Romans 13:1). Authority and submission relationships are therefore natural and necessary to maintain order. God has authority over man (James 4:5). Man has authority over nature (Genesis 1:28). Husbands have authority over their wives (Ephesians 5:22). Parents have authority over their children (Ephesians 6:1). Governors have authority over those they govern (1 Peter 2:13-14). Employers have authority over their employees (1 Peter 2:18). Spiritual leaders have authority over those they lead spiritually (1 Peter 5:2).

Submission means organizing voluntarily to fill out a pattern that constitutes a complete whole. The word "support" is a good synonym for the biblical concept of "submit." A wife submits to her husband when she voluntarily "organizes" herself so she can complete her husband. A good example of this is her cooperating with him when they run a three-legged race. They have to work together to succeed. Submission is essential to achieve oneness in marriage. [Note: See Family Life Conference, pp. 104-6.]

Submission involves four responsibilities. It begins with an attitude of entrusting oneself to God. The focus of life must be on Jesus Christ. The ability to submit comes from Him (cf. 1 Peter 2:24). He is similar to the cables that enable a suspension bridge to carry out its purpose. Second, submission requires respectful behavior (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-2). This rules out nagging. Nagging is similar to having a duck nibble you to death. Third, submission means developing a godly character (cf. 1 Peter 3:3-5). Fourth, submission involves doing what is right (cf. 1 Peter 3:6). Submission should not extend to participating in conduct that is contrary to Scripture. Every Christian’s primary responsibility is to do God’s will. [Note: See Stott, pp. 218-19.]

Verses 22-24

The duty of wives 5:22-24

"After centuries of Christian teaching, we scarcely appreciate the revolutionary nature of Paul’s views on family life set forth in this passage. Among the Jews of his day, as also among the Romans and the Greeks, women were seen as secondary citizens with few or no rights. The pious male Jew daily said a prayer in which he thanked God for not making him a woman. And he could divorce his wife by simply writing ’a bill of divorcement’ (which must include the provision that she was then free to marry whomever she wanted). The wife had no such right." [Note: Morris, pp. 180-81.]

Verse 23

The reason for the wife’s willing submission is that God has placed wives in a position of authority under their husbands (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:12). Likewise He has chosen to place Jesus Christ in authority over the church. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the church and similarly the husband is the deliverer of his wife. The husband’s headship involves loving, serving, caring for, and leading his wife. These are all things that Jesus Christ does for the church.

"To speak in terms of functional equality for husband and wife erroneously removes the complementary quality of the relationship and invalidates the comparison to Christ and the church, who are not functionally equal." [Note: Bock, "A Theology . . .," pp. 317-18.]

Leadership should involve a recognition that God has placed the husband in a position of responsibility. The husband occupies his role by divine placement. Assuming this role does not mean that the husband must execute all of his responsibilities perfectly, since that would be impossible. It does mean that he is accountable to God for his wife and children. Even though Eve ate the fruit first, God approached Adam first to question him about what he and Eve had done (Genesis 3:9). The husband’s leadership makes the wife’s submission reasonable. It requires taking the initiative, integrity, and serving the wife (i.e., lightening the load of those who follow; cf. Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 10:42-45). Leadership also involves managing the home, not dominating it. A good manager creates an environment in which each person can achieve his or her maximum potential. A responsible father also keeps his children under control (1 Timothy 3:4). Leading is one of the husband’s primary responsibilities in marriage. [Note: Family Life . . ., pp. 118-19.]

"Those who are busy undermining the chastity of wedlock to-day are the worst enemies of the commonweal [public good]. Its inviolability is not a question to be settled on grounds of expediency. The corner-stone of society is at stake in the matter." [Note: Simpson, p. 128.]

Verse 24

This verse continues the comparison. Submission is the proper response to sovereignly designated authority in the church-Christ relationship and in the wife-husband relationship. [Note: See Wayne Grudem, "Does kephale (’Head’) Mean ’Source’ or ’Authority Over’ in Greek Literature? A survey of 2,336 Examples," Trinity Journal 6NS (1985):38-59; idem. "The Meaning of kephale: A Response to Recent Studies," Trinity Journal 11NS (1990):3-72; and idem, "The Meaning of kephale (’head’): An Evaluation of New Evidence, Real and Alleged," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 44:1 (March 2001):25-65.] "In everything" means in everything within the wife-husband relationship, the context within which the apostle was speaking. Paul probably did not mean in absolutely everything since the wife has a higher responsibility to obey the Lord. When she encounters conflicting authorities, the Lord, through His Word, telling her to do one thing and her husband telling her to do a contradictory thing, she should obey the Lord. [Note: See Eadie, p. 413.]

"The Scripture is the guide for faith and life in the Christian home. A husband’s authority in the home is derivative: as a servant of God, his authority comes from God. He is, therefore, subject to Scripture in all that he does, and has no freedom to guide his family in ways which contradict it. Should he clearly do so, individual members must follow God before man. The example of Sapphira’s willing sin and personal accountability makes this clear (Acts 5:9)." [Note: James B. Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective, pp. 150-51.]

What about a Christian wife whose unsaved husband beats or otherwise abuses her? Is she to be submissive to him in everything? Peter addressed such a situation in 1 Peter 3:1-3 and commanded wives in those situations to "be submissive." He did not add "in everything." I would counsel such a woman to maintain a submissive attitude but to take measures to protect herself from danger. In commanding submission neither Paul nor Peter was saying wives must submit to situations in which they are in danger. They wanted them to submit to their husbands as God’s appointed head over them. They dealt with the basic principles believers should observe, not all the possible situations that might arise.

"The final addition in every thing might seem more than can be accepted as God’s purpose by this present generation with its stress on emancipation of womanhood, and the place of woman outside the home in every sphere of life that man occupies. Has not a woman equal rights with a man to self-determination? May not a married woman make herself a career as well as her husband? The answer that the New Testament would give is that she may do so, provided that it does not mean the sacrifice of the divine pattern for home life, for family relationships and for the whole Christian community. She may fulfill any function and any responsibility in society, but if she has accepted before God the responsibility of marriage and of a family these must be her first concern, and this is expressed here in terms of her relationship to her husband as head of the home." [Note: Foulkes, pp. 156-57.]

Verse 25

In the Greco-Roman world in which Paul lived, people recognized that wives had certain responsibilities to their husbands but not vice versa. [Note: Wood, p. 76.] Paul summarized the wife’s duty as submission and the husband’s duty as love. The word he used for love (agapate) means much more than sexual passion (eros) or even family affection (philia). It means seeking the highest good for another person (cf. Ephesians 2:4). Husbands are to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the church. The extent to which He went for her welfare was giving Himself up in death to provide salvation for her (cf. Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 2:5-11). He gave up His rights yet maintained His responsibilities. The biblical concept of authority emphasizes responsibility, not tyranny.

Love requires an attitude of unconditional acceptance of an imperfect person not based on her performance but on her intrinsic worth as God’s gift to her husband. The verbalization of this acceptance is part of loving. Love also requires sacrificial action. It involves doing something, specifically, placing the wife’s needs before his own, such as doing something for her that she hates to do. It also involves self-denial, such as giving up something he would enjoy doing to do something she would like to do. This kind of love arises out of a commitment of the will, not just passing feelings.

Different people feel loved as a result of receiving different expressions of love. Giving words of affirmation effectively communicates love to some people, giving quality time does to others, giving gifts, giving acts of service, and giving physical touches communicate love to others. [Note: Gary D. Chapman, The Five Love Languages.] The husband who wishes to make his wife feel loved should discover which of these expressions of love best communicate his love to his wife.

Verses 25-33

The duty of husbands 5:25-33

Verse 26

The purpose Jesus Christ had in mind when He sacrificed Himself for His bride, the church, was to set her apart (sanctify, make her holy) for Himself as His own forever (cf. Hebrews 2:11; Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 13:12). [Note: See Richard D. Patterson, "Metaphors of Marriage as Expressions of Divine-Human Relations," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51:4 (December 2008):689-702.] Logically cleansing comes before setting apart, but in reality these things occur simultaneously when a person trusts in Christ. The cleansing here is spiritual rather than physical. The Word of God cleanses us in the sense that when we believe the gospel it washes our sins away as water washes dirt away (cf. Titus 3:5; 1 Corinthians 6:11). Thus washing is a metaphor of redemption. [Note: Hoehner, Ephesians, p. 753.]

Verse 27

What was Jesus Christ’s ultimate purpose in giving Himself for the church (Ephesians 5:25)? It was to present her to Himself in all her glory finally, namely, without any blemishes, effects of sin (wrinkles), or anything that would diminish her glory. Positively God will eventually present the church to His Son as exclusively His and spotless (cf. Ephesians 1:4). This will happen at the Rapture when all Christians will experience full sanctification (i.e., glorification) and will join our Lord forever (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:2).

"Spots are caused by defilement on the outside, while wrinkles are caused by decay on the inside." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:51.]

"Christ’s labor of love on behalf of the Church is threefold: past, present, and future: (1) for love He gave Himself to redeem the Church (Ephesians 5:25); (2) in love He is sanctifying the Church (Ephesians 5:26); and (3) for the reward of His sacrifice and labor of love He will present the Church to Himself in flawless perfection, ’one pearl of great price’ (Ephesians 5:27; Matthew 13:46)." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 1277.]

Verse 28

This verse and the following two verses apply the truth just stated in Ephesians 5:25-27. Since in marriage two people become one flesh (Genesis 2:24), in a figurative sense a man’s wife becomes part of his own body. Consequently the husband should love and treat her as he does his own body (cf. Leviticus 19:18).

"As he does not think about loving himself because it is natural, so also, should the husband’s love of his wife be something that is as natural as loving himself." [Note: Hoehner, Ephesians, p. 765.]

Verses 29-30

The truth that no normal person hates his own body is clear because everyone who is of sound mind maintains his physical body. The idea that we all need to learn to love ourselves, which some psychologists stress, is foreign to the apostles’ thought here. Christ also feeds and cares for His body, the church. The implication is that husbands should likewise care for their wives since the wife is a "member" of his body.

Nourishing involves providing security. Cherishing involves protecting by watching out for and caring for. Here are some basic needs that most wives feel. They need to feel wanted, to have their husbands acknowledge their equality, to feel secure, and to feel fulfilled. They also need to enjoy sex without feeling like an object, to bear and love children with their husbands, and to enjoy companionship with their husbands. [Note: See Willard F. Harley Jr., His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-proof Marriage.]

"No admonition to husbands could have been more countercultural to the Roman, Greek or Jewish man. Instead of being the ruler of the household, he is to be its servant. The husband’s obligation goes far beyond being sexually faithful to his wife. And in no teaching anywhere in Roman, Greek, or Jewish writings is such a solution to the problem of disunity within marriage put forth. Rather than focusing on the rights of the husbands and wives, rather than providing financial incentives for the promotion of marriage, Paul drove right to the heart of marital unity by presenting the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the model for the relationship of the husband to the wife." [Note: Jack J. Gibson, "Ephesians 5:21-33 and the Lack of Marital Unity in the Roman Empire," Bibliotheca Sacra 168:670 (April-June 2011):176-77.]

Verse 31

Adam acknowledged that Eve was part of himself: "bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23). When a man and a woman unite in marriage, they become part of one another in as close a unity as the one that existed before God separated Eve physically from Adam. The Scriptures regard this tie as more fundamental than any other tie that unites any other two human beings, including parent and child. [Note: Hoehner, "Ephesians," p. 641.] It is partially because of this high view of marriage that Christianity has traditionally taken a strong stand for the indissolubility of the marriage bond and against polygamy, adultery, and divorce.

"This statement from the creation story is the most profound and fundamental statement in the whole of Scripture concerning God’s plan for marriage." [Note: Foulkes, p. 161.]

Verse 32

The mystery in view is the truth previously hidden but now brought to light. The relationship that exists between a husband and his wife is the same as the one that exists between Christ and His church. The church has as close a tie to Christ spiritually as a wife has to her husband spiritually. Paul revealed that Genesis 2:24 contains a more profound truth than people previously realized. The mystery is great because it has far-reaching implications.

One of the purposes of marriage is to model Jesus Christ’s relationship with the church. He leads, loves, and serves the church. The church reverently submits and is subject to Him. When husbands and wives fulfill these responsibilities to one another, their marriage models the relationship between Christ and His bride.

Verse 33

Even if Paul’s original readers did not grasp the significance of Christ’s intimate relationship to the church fully, every individual (Gr. humeis hoi kath’ hena) Christian husband, one by one, was responsible to love his wife as himself. Likewise every (the same Greek phrase) Christian wife should, one by one, respect (phobetai, fear, reverence) her husband (Ephesians 5:21-22). Paul did not instruct wives to respect their husbands because submission is the primary expression of love that God requires. If the husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church, the wife will respect (fear) and so love her husband.

Respecting means voluntarily lifting up another person for special consideration, treatment, and obedience. It involves having consideration for his responsibilities and needs and praying for him. Words of encouragement that have a positive focus and build him up show respect for a husband, as does doing things that please him. Probably most men have a poor self-image. [Note: See Walter Trobisch, All a Man Can Be & What a Woman Should Know.] A man must have the respect of his wife to feel successful as a man. [Note: See Emerson Eggerichs, Love and Respect.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 5". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/ephesians-5.html. 2012.
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