Ephesians 5:21-33




v. 21 - “Subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ”


The original Greek says “Christ” instead of “God” as translated in the

King James Version.  Below is a copy  with the original highlighted in




This is the  last of the participial exhortations depending on the general

exhortation of ver. 15 to walk strictly, Most commentators connect it with

the three immediately preceding participles (speaking, singing, giving

thanks), but are unable to find a link of connection. Better connect with

ver. 15. Mutual subjection is part of a wise, circumspect walk, i.e. mutual

recognition of each other’s rights and of our obligations to serve them. In

some sense we are all servants, i.e. we are bound to serve others; the very

father is, in this sense, servant of his child. So in the Christian Church we

are all in a sense servants (“By love serve one another,”Galatians 5:15;

compare Matthew 20:26-28; John 13:15, 16). This view is in harmony

with the humble spirit of the gospel. Pride leads us to demand rigorously

from others what we fancy they owe to us; humility, leads us to give to

others what Christ teaches that we owe to them. The one feeling is to be

discouraged, the other exercised and strengthened. In the verses following we

have this precept split up into its constituent filaments. The reading of R.V., “

in the fear of Christ,” has more authority than A.V., (see photo above of the

original Greek)  “in the fear of God.” It brings to our mind the wonderful

example of Christ in this clement of character (compare Luke 2:51; Hebrews 5:8).

Reverential regard for him should inspire us with the same spirit (Philippians 2:5-8).



The Apostle Peter, in his First Epistle, after dwelling on the privileges of

believers, strongly urges them to have their conversation honest or fair

among the Gentiles, exemplifying, by the purity and beauty of their life, the

excellence of the principles and privileges of the gospel; and then he

branches out into three cases or relations that afford scope for this mode of

lifethat of subjects to their rulers, that of servants to their masters, and

that of wives to their husbands and husbands to their wives. Though Peter

and Paul moved in different orbits, yet, from the strength of the convictions

held by them in common, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in them both,

they were led to enforce wonderfully similar applications of the great

principles of the gospel. Paul, like Peter, brings forward three relations, the

only difference being that, in place of the relation of subjects to their rulers,

he has that of children to their parents, and the corresponding duty of

parents to their children. We have the clearest proof of its being the

purpose of Christianity to purify and elevate the common relations of life.

(As Spurgeon said – “the sole purpose of Christianity is to sanctify the secular”- CY)

Much of the visible fruit of true religion lies in its making better subjects,

better spouses, better children, better servants. Pagans were struck with the

excellence of Christian women. The mother of Chrysostom won golden

opinions by remaining a widow from her twenty-first year. “What women

these Christians have!” was the exclamation of some. Christian women

were wonderful missionaries in the early centuries by their devout, pure,

and earnest lives; many was the pagan who, “without the Word, was won

by the conversation of the wife.” Such lives are doubly blessed — blessed

in themselves, and blessed in their influence on the world.



v.22 – “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord”


Though Christianity emancipates and elevates woman, it does not release her

from the duty of subjection (1 Peter 3:1-6).  The “as to” denotes a parallel duty:

as it is your duty to be subject to Christ, so also to your husbands (see next verse).


v. 23 – For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the  Head of the



The woman was made for the man (Genesis 2:18; 1 Timothy 2:13), showing the

Divine purpose that the man should be the head and center of the household,

and that the position of the wife, as wife, should be one of subordination. 

Parallel to this arrangement is the relation of Christ to the Church.  The

Christian house-hold, on a much lower level, should exemplify the same relation!


and He is the Savior of the body”  - This is not said by way of

contrast, but still by way of parallel. The very saviorship of Christ should

find an analogy in the Christian husband. The husband should be the ever vigilant

and self-denying protector, guardian, deliverer, of his family,

though his saving power can never come near the high level of Christ’s A

husband reckless of these obligations virtually ceases to have any claim on

the subjection of the wife and the family. The very comparison of the

husband to the Savior implies that, while there is a certain analogy, there is

a still greater contrast. This is implied in the first word of the following

verse. Between the lines we read this thought: “Not that the parallel

between Christ’s saving function and the husband’s extends to the highest



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I have long said that my wife does a much better job of representing the church

than I do Christ – (it is no excuse that I have a much greater Role Model than

she, and have higher standards to live up to, because I could, with God’s help

do much better )


A verse of warning to women’s libbers – “For this cause ought the woman to

have power on her head because of the angels” – I Corinthians 11:10 – What

does this verse mean?  Does this have reference to woman trying to become

a man using the example of the fallen angels who tried to overthrow God

but were cast out of  heaven?   I am not trying to tell you what to believe



v. 24 – “as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their

            own husbands in every thing”


Let there be a subjection in the one case parallel to that in the other, for such is

the Divine will and purpose. Any subjection due to the husband must be modified

by what is due to God, for as the husband may not require for himself, so the wife

may not give to him, what is God’s: GOD’S WILL IS PARAMOUNT OVER ALL!

Of the three wills that may be in collision, viz. God’s, the husband’s, and the wife’s

the duty of the wife is to take them in this order, having regard first to God’s,

next to her husband’s, and last to her own.





The wife’s duty is submission to the husband in the Lord – v. 22


vs. 22-24 - The Duties of Wives.


In enforcing relative duties the apostle reminds us that religion takes hold

of all possible conditions and callings of men. Religion is the great

formative grace for men. We are set in a curiously various scheme of

relations, in which the two principles of union and subjection are

beautifully blended. The three relations in which these principles are seen in

operation are peculiar to family life. The wife is first mentioned, then the

children, then the servants. Religion rounds out the life of the family in a

lovely completeness. Consider:

I. THE DUTIES OF WIVES. They are all summed up in the one word —

subjection. It is singular that the apostle does not command the wife to

love her husband as the husband is commanded to love his wife. Her love is

commanded elsewhere (Titus 2:4), but not here. It has been observed

that what is instinctive is not enforced, but only what is necessary to hallow

and direct our instincts. The husband is to be the head; yet he is not

commanded to govern; but he is commanded to love, as the means of

securing subjection or submission on the part of the wife. She, again, loves

more naturally and more passionately than man; her love is no subject of

command, it is taken for granted; and the apostle commands her to obey

and honor her husband as the best expression of this love. Jeremy Taylor

says, “He rules her by authority, she rules him by love; she ought by all

means to please him, and he must by no means displease her.” Her great

duty, then, is subjection. Let us see what it involves.


  A . It is not servitude. It is not like the obedience of servants to masters, nor

even like that of children to parents. It is a submission that recognizes the

husband’s rule as just, tender, and wise.


  B. It is a wise and loving obedience. Wives are “to be obedient to their

own husbands” (Titus 2:5). Sarah is quoted by another apostle as an

example of this obedience (1 Peter 3:1-6). It was necessary to

emphasize this duty at a time when Christianity gave woman a new

position of dignity and privilege, and when there might have been a

temptation on the part of Christian wives who had unbelieving husbands to

assert an authority over them inconsistent with the original institution of

marriage. There is to be no dual authority in the family. The gospel made

them both “heirs together of the grace of life,” as it made “both male and

female one in Christ,” yet, even in religious or ecclesiastical matters, she

was not to usurp authority over the man, but “to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:12).


  C. It is an obedience within limits, though the wives are enjoined to be

subject to their husbands “in everything,” that is, in everything within the

due sphere of a husband’s authority, for they are not to obey him in

anything contrary to God and his Law. They are to obey God rather than



  D. It is an obedience fashioned in its conditions and spirit upon the

subjection of the Church to Christ. “As the Church is subject unto Christ,

so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” This implies that

the wife’s obedience is not to be forced or feigned, but springing naturally

out of her affection to her husband, her dependence upon him, and her

recognition of the just grounds of his superiority.


  E. It implies fear, or reverence. “Let the wife see that she reverence her

husband” (ver. 33), not despising him in her heart, as Michal despised

David (2 Samuel 6:16), but, like Sarah, calling her husband “lord”

(1 Peter 3:6). The chaste conversation of the wife is to be “coupled

with fear” to assert its own power.




  A. The husbands recognized headship in the original institution of

marriage. “The head of the woman is the man” (1 Corinthians 11:3).

Her obedience, therefore, while a religious duty, has its foundation in



   1) The man was first formed. “Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1

   Timothy 2:13).

   (2) The man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man

   (1 Corinthians 11:9).

   (3) The woman was first in transgression. “Adam was not deceived, but the

   woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Timothy 2:14).

   (4) The woman is the “glory of the man,” but “the man is the image and

   glory of God” (1 Corinthians 11:7).


B. Her dependent position. As the “weaker vessel,” she needs protection,

while he far excels her in those qualities which entitle to command. Yet his

superiority in these respects is consistent with his inferiority to the woman

in gentleness, patience, sympathy, love, delicacy of sentiment.


C. The fitness of things. She is “to be subject to her own husband.” This

expressive phrase points to the closeness, exclusiveness, and specialty of

the relationship. It is thus a great mischief to unsex woman by denying or

disregarding the superiority of man.


 D. The similarity of the relation to that between the Church and Christ.

“As the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own

husbands in everything.” As Christ is the Source of authority and direction

to the Church, as he exercises both with meekness and gentleness, so is the

husband to the wife. She is bound, therefore, to give him the obedience the

Church gives to Christ, limited, of course, by the nature of the relation and

the authority of God. She is not to identify her husband’s claims with

Christ, as if her Savior could supersede or weaken the just authority of her

husband over her. A religious wife loves and honors her husband all the

more from the very intenseness of her love to Christ. Her very obedience,

too, fashioned upon the obedience of the Church to Christ, becomes

tributary to her influence over her husband. Christianity has lifted woman

to a high place, but without unsexing her. The old pagan writer, Libanius,

might well exclaim, “Oh what women these Christians have!”



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The husband’s duty is to love his wife – v. 25


vs. 25-33 - The Duties of Husbands.

As the duties of wives are comprehended in the single duty of subjection,

the duties of husbands are comprehended in the single duty of love. The

injunction is significantly repeated three times, as if to indicate that it was

essentially needed to correct or qualify his sense of sovereignty or

superiority over her. Consider three points.



  A. It is peculiar in its nature, unlike the love of parent or child, friend or

  neighbor. “He is to love his wife even as himself.”


B. It is single, exclusive, and undivided in its object; for the husband is to

devote to his one wife all the affection of his life. “Rejoice with the wife of

thy youth” (Proverbs 5:18, 19). This fact is the condemnation of bigamy and



C. It is to be considerate and tender, excluding all bitterness. “Husbands,

love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Colossians 3:19).

Husbands are “to dwell with their wives according to knowledge”

(1Peter 3:7); that is, with a due consideration to their condition as “the

weaker vessel,” and with a disposition to hide or bear with their

weaknesses or infirmities. It is to be a love that will make it unnecessary

for the husband ever to command his wife. The gospel counterpart of

“Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands,” is not “Husbands,

command our wives.” but “love your wives.”


D. It is to be mutual. The wife’s love is presupposed, though elsewhere it is

expressly commanded (Titus 2:4). The husband is to love her as she

loves him. The rightful confidence and sympathy of married life are

impossible without mutual affection. All marriages of convenience or self

interest are thus condemned. Love must be the basis of marriage.


E. It is to be constant and lasting, notwithstanding all the weaknesses or

failings of the wife.




A. In providing for the temporal support of a wife. The husband is to

nourish and cherish” his wife. He that provideth not for his own is worse

than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:3).


B. He must consult her happiness and pleasure; for “he that is married is to

care that he may please his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:33).


C. He must protect her life, her honor, her good name; for she is “the

weaker vessel.” He must “give honor to the wife” (1 Peter 3:7).


D. He is to seek her spiritual welfare. He is to pray for her and with her,

remembering that she is an heir with him of the grace of life, “that your

prayers be not hindered.”




A. The original law of marriage. “For this cause shall a man leave his

father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the twain shall become

one flesh.” The union implies such an identification of interest, property,

and relationship to the world as to make them almost one person.


B. The wife is the husbands other self. She is not only one flesh with

himself, but she is his very body. “No man ever yet hated his own flesh,”

except the fanatics of ascetic devotion.


C. The help, comfort, and blessing she brings to him. She is given to him

as “an helpmeet;” she is his companion. “Yet she is thy companion and the

wife of thy covenant” (Malachi 2:14). The heart of the husband “safely

trusts in her” (Proverbs 12:4).


D. She is the weaker vessel. A spirit of chivalry ought to surround her with

the shield of protecting love.


E. She is the glory of the man (1 Corinthians 11:7) — his honor and

ornament and delight.



F. His union with her is typical of the blessed union that exists between

Christ and the Church. All the love and self-sacrifice and service which

Christ expended upon the Church supply the type of a husband’s duty to

his wife.


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There are mutual duties. Nothing can be complete unless each party performs

his share. While it is the woman’s part to be in subjection, it is the husband’s

part to love. The one balances the other. It is the duty of the wife to be subject

even though the husband does not love, and the duty of the husband to

love even though the wife is not subject; but how hard, difficult, almost

impossible, such duties thus become! If the husband withhold love, he is

wronging his wife, and altogether subverting the relation between them.

Let’ it ever be observed that, while God has joined husband and wife

together, he has joined the husband’s love to the wife’s subjection; what,

therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.


“The Lord God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away” – Malachi 2:15a


v. 25 – “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the

Church, and gave himself for her” -  The husband’s duty to the wife is

enforced by another parallel — it ought to correspond to Christ’s love for

the Church. This parallel restores the balance; if it should seem hard for the

wife to be in subjection, the spirit of love, Christ-like love, on the part of

the husband makes the duty easy. Christ did not merely pity the Church, or

merely desire her good, but loved her; her image was stamped on His heart

and her name graven on His hands; He desired to have Her for His

companion, longing for a return of her affection, for the establishment of

sympathy between her and Him. And He gave Himself for her (comp. v. 2),

showing that her happiness and welfare were dearer to Him than His

own — the true test of deep, real love.


v. 26.  – “That he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the

washing of water with the Word” -  The immediate object of Christ was to

cleanse her, and for this end He used the Word as a purifying agent,

washing her by means of it. The difference between selfish and unselfish

love is seen here: a selfish lover cares for his wife in his own interest —

like Samson, desires to have her simply because she pleases him, (Judges 14:3)

and, in his converse with her, thinks, not of her good, but of his own enjoyment;

but the love of an unselfish lover constrains him to seek her good, to do

nothing that will hurt her and damage her in any manner of way, but to do

everything that he believes will advance her well-being, especially in the

highest sense. He finds her polluted (Ezekiel 16.), and his great

instrument of cleansing is “the Word” (John 15:3; 17:5)


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v. 27 – “That He might present it to Himself a glorious church”


The ultimate end, to which ver. 26 is introductory. Christ both gives and

takes the bride; He presents her to Himself — the day of His espousals

being in the state of glory (Revelation 21:2), and all the training of this life

being designed to fit her for that condition. She becomes glorious at last

through assimilation to Himself (2 Corinthians 3:18; John 17:22).


not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”


The idea is that of a body perfectly free from blemish, typical of a soul

perfectly delivered from sin — of a character perfected in all grace

and goodness.


but that it should be  holy and without blemish”


The same truth expressed in positive form, which in the preceding clause is

xpressed in the negative. Nothing could more clearly denote perfection of

character — the full development of the character with whatever of variety

may arise from differences in natural gifts and constitution, or convey a more

glorious idea of the destiny of redeemed humanity. To be, as it were, the bride

of Christ is a high destiny in point of condition; but it would be miserable if

character did not tally with condition; this agreement, however, is secured, for

the Church is to be holy and without blemish.


v. 28 – “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.  He that loveth

            his wife, loveth himself”


His wife is part of himself, so that not to love her as himself is not only a sin

against law, but a sin against nature.


v. 29 – “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and

            cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church”


To hate one’s wife is as irrational as to hate one’s own flesh, and as, on the

other hand, men constantly nourish and cherish their flesh, protecting it from

hurt, seeking to heal it when hurt, and generally to promote its welfare and

comfort, so ought husbands to act towards their wives. In this aspect of the case,

too, the sharp eye of the apostle finds an analogy between the relation of the

wife to the husband and that of the Church to Christ, expanded in the next verse.


v. 30 – “For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones”


The reference is to the original formation of woman as narrated in

Genesis 2.  Her very name indicated that she was “taken from man.” She

was taken from him and given to him. So the Church is taken from Christ

and given to Him. Taken from His body, sprung from His incarnation and

His crucifixion and resurrection, the spiritual offspring of His humanity, and

then given to Him, to be His servant, nay, above a servant, His companion,

friend, and confidant for evermore. If it had not been for the body of Christ

(Hebrews 10:5) the Church could have had no existence. No bride fit

for the King of heaven could have sprung from the earth. As Eve came

from the opened side of Adam, so figuratively the Church springs from the

pierced side of Jesus.


v. 31 – For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother,

and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall come to be one flesh”.


Quoted in substance from Genesis 2:24. It seems to be introduced

simply to show the closeness of the relation between man and wife; it is

such as in a sense to supersede that between parent and child. The apostle

(as appears from the next verse) has in view, at the same time, the parallel

truth — the closeness of the relation between Christ and the Church; it too

in a sense supersedes the relations of nature (Luke 14:26; Matthew 12:50).




v. 32 – “This is a great mystery:  but I speak concerning Christ and the



The matter referred to is the typical relation between the marriage of man

and wife, and the union of Christ and the Church. It is called a mystery,

and it is not said, as is said of another mystery, referred to before (Ephesians 3:5),

that it has been completely explained. Some light has been thrown upon it, but that

is all. It is implied that there is something of mystery in many of the relations

between things natural and things spiritual, but that in the depth and grandeur of

the subject, the mystery connected with the marriage relation is pre-eminent — it

is “a great mystery”.  The analogy of the wind to the Holy Spirit; the

springing up of plants to the resurrection; the melancholy sounds of nature

to the prevalence of sin; and many other analogies, present vague shadows

of truth, the clear, full forms of which we cannot see. When the day breaks

and “the shadows flee away,” such things will appear in a clearer light.


v. 33 – “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife

            as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband”


The “nevertheless” refers to the unsolved part of the mystery: whatever may

be mysterious, there is no mystery as to this, as to the duty of each husband to love

his wife even as himself. The wife is not is not to look to her husband with the slavish

fear of one terrified and trembling because of a stronger being, but with the holy

respect due to one to whom, by the will of God, she stands in a subordinate relation.

The relation of Sarah to Abraham may again be referred to as indicating the

true ideal of the relation of the wife to the husband.



One of my favorite scriptures is I Peter 3:7 – “Likewise ye husbands, dwell

with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto

the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that

your prayers be not hindered”


In the heathen world the relations between men and women were degrading.

One found in the pagan family neither purity nor love. At the moment

when Jesus Christ came, it had reached the last degree of degradation.  In this

passage of Ephesians we have an insight into what Christ has done for the family.

He has made of marriage the choice symbol of His own relation to the Church, and

so family life is lifted into a Divine and spiritual light. Husbands and wives thus owe

to Christ the purification of their relations and the sanctification of the home!



In v. 31 it is evident that the parallel between the son leaving father and

mother that he may cleave unto his wife, and Jesus leaving the bosom of

the Father to be united to the bride, the Church, is what is in the apostle’s

mind. He says that he speaks of Christ and the Church (ver. 32). And in no

more beautiful way can the self-denial of Jesus in leaving heaven be

presented. Heaven had been from all eternity the happy home of the only

begotten Son. He had lain in the Father’s bosom and enjoyed ineffable

bliss. But thoughts of marriage came, and the Father favored the Son’s

idea. The morning dawned when Jesus must leave the homestead, and go

forth to win his bride. Angels may well have wondered at the step and

doubted its wisdom. But the step is taken. The home is left, and never

again can it be what it once was. It is to be tenanted in due time with a

bride, the Lamb’s wife, composed of a multitude that no man can number,

happy souls, each and all in deepest unity with the Son. We do not

sufficiently appreciate the magnificent design of God in the marriage of his

only Son, or the condescension of the Son in forming such an alliance as he

has done. For no condescension in earthly marriages can more than feebly

illustrate the condescension of the Divine Son in taking a human bride.

Princes may marry paupers, but the difference between poverty and

princely wealth is as nothing compared with the difference between human

nature and what is Divine. But besides, the human nature was not pure

upon which he set his love; it was sinful, lost, ruined. Imagine a prince, out

of pure as distinguished from passionate love, singling out some poor,

abandoned woman, and arranging for her education and health and

elevation in thought and feeling, until at last he can fairly marry her and

give her share of his glories and his home; — this is but a faint image of


what Jesus the Son of God has done in selecting as a bride the ruined

human race. He determined to win his bride, and so he took sinless human

nature on him, and arranged for the union of once sinful, but through grace

sanctified, human nature with himself.


The battle of the faith is to be won through the family. The family is God’s unit.

The Church is but a family enlarged; heaven, again, is only a family still more

enlarged. God as a Father overshadows all! If Christianity ensures a holy family;

if she wins families from worldiness to holiness of life; — then she may indeed

lift up her head assured that redemption is drawing nigh. Christian homes on

earth, paradise restored, — these are really the creations which we look for;

and beyond the shadows a still statelier home arises in “the Father’s house with

its many mansions” prepared for the reception of the bride.


Revelation 19:8-9 tells of the Bride of Christ, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb

and the glories associated with it.  DON’T MISS IT – WHAT SHALL IT PROFIT