It appears to me that Paul has it backwards. I’ve struggled to understand this verse.

Men understand respect, it comes naturally to a man yet he asks the husbands to love the wives; and wives tend to be very loving yet he tells then to respect their husbands. Not to mention that women are not specifically instructed to love (specifically αγαπατω) their husbands anywhere in Scripture. Isn’t this somewhat backwards? Why aren’t wives instructed to love or husbands to respect for that matter?

What is Paul trying to convey?

“However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:33‬

  • Does not Titus 3:4 mention how wives should love their husbands?
    – Joseph
    May 9, 2020 at 21:03
  • “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,” ‭‭Titus‬ ‭3:4‬ ‭? @Joseph May 9, 2020 at 21:37
  • I think you meant Titus 2:4 where it’s not agape love but fileo love whereas husbands in Eph5:33 are instructed to agapeo their wives @Joseph May 9, 2020 at 23:09
  • For the same reason children are to honor and obey their parents, and not the other way around.
    – Lucian
    May 10, 2020 at 0:15
  • @Lucian please elaborate because the way I read your comment only confuses me further. May 10, 2020 at 1:14

2 Answers 2


Marriage is a very different institution now from first century Roman times. In Roman times, there was a significant power imbalance because of its highly patriarchal society and law. Paul goes to some lengths to redress this power imbalance in a number of contexts without completely rewriting Roman law. Here is a sample.

All relationships, regardless of their origin, are predicated on some level of trust. It is when this trust breaks down that abuse is created. The genesis of all abuse in any relationship is abuse of that relationship by the stronger side and the responsibilities it entails. This can be seen in numerous cases.


Wives should be subject to their husbands as in the Lord (Eph 5:22) but this must be balanced by the instruction that all Christians should be subject to one another (Eph 5:21), AND, that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her (Eph 5:25)! Therefore, this does not give licence to men to abuse their wives, quite the contrary; it increases men's responsibility to be kind and supportive.

Masters & Slaves

“Slaves, be obedient to your masters” (Eph 6:5), but this must be balanced by Paul's instruction to masters to stop threatening (read abusing) slaves because in heaven we will all be equal and there is no partiality (Eph 6:9). Therefore, this does not give licence to masters or work bosses to abuse employees but increases their responsibility to be kind and supportive.

Governors and Citizens

Christians are instructed to be subject to every governing authority (Rom 13:1-7), but this must be balanced by God's instructions to rulers and judges (eg, 2 Chron 19:5-11) to exercise their authority on God's behalf without partiality or bribes. Therefore, this does not give licence to rulers to abuse their subjects but increases their responsibility to be kind, just and fair.

Parents and Children

Children are instructed to obey and honor parents (Ex 20:12, Deut 5:16, 27:16, Eph 6:1-3, Col 3:20, Prov 6:20, 23:22, etc) but this must be balanced by the instruction that fathers should not exasperate (read abuse) children (Eph 6:4, Col 3:21) but must take their parental responsibility very seriously (Ps 127:3-5, Deut 6:6, 7, Titus 2:7, See also 1 Peter 5:2, 3). Therefore, this does not give licence to parents (most often fathers) to abuse their children but increases their responsibility to be examples of the good, kind and just.

God and Us

The most extreme example of this is our relationship with God. God is in a much more powerful situation by being omnipotent (Dan 4:17, 25, 35, Matt 19:26, Rev 19:6) and so takes correspondingly greater responsibility in our relationships. In fact, God Biblical even takes responsibility for our sin and has implemented a plan to solve our sin problem (Rom 5:8, Gal 3:13, 2 Cor 5:21). In imitating God (John 13:34, 35, 15:12, 1 John 4:8, 11, 19, Eph 5:1, 2, Phil 2:5, 1 Cor 2:16, Luke 6:34, 35) we must do the same.

All these are examples of the principle that Jesus offered in Luke 12:48 – “to whom much is given, much is required” – a sobering idea for those in responsibility in any relationship.

This pattern can and should be extrapolated to all relationships, because, even in largely equal relationships, there will be times when one side of the relationship has an advantage over the other. For example, when parents become aged and dependent on their children, children should not exploit their parents with financial, verbal or physical abuse.

  • Appreciate your response, I was assuming Paul was speaking from equal footing for both men and women in the Lord. Still don’t understand why women are not told by example how to respect their husbands or why they are told to respect them instead of the husbands. May 9, 2020 at 22:13

i think you answered it, about what comes natural. That women want to love, and have less problem with loving, so they're reminded to submit. And men have less problem being the head, so they're reminded to love. Meaning women (as anyone) may be reluctant to submit, and men may lack in displaying love to their wives.

  • Maybe I didn’t explain myself well enough. Earlier verses at least explain how a husband should love his wife (by laying down his life and like his own body) but where is the example of how a wife is to respect her husband? When men respect each other they don’t necessarily submit or do they?!? Or are you implying men are to teach their wives how to respect? Something that is innate is not so easily explained and taught (at least not for me) especially to someone who crosses the line of ‘respect’ that men generally don’t cross. May 9, 2020 at 20:14
  • The example of how a wife is to respect her husband is Eph 5:24. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be subject to their husbands in everything.
    – Walter S
    May 10, 2020 at 2:33
  • Truthfully it doesn’t simplify my question it complicates it because v24 says to submit and v33 to respect the husband. I’d say it’s talking about two different things. How are you bridging these two together? Please help me understand May 10, 2020 at 3:26
  • It looks to me like 'be subject to' (21, 22, 24) and 'respect' or 'fear' (33) are the same. Aren't they bridged by 33 summarizing wife+husband/Christ+assembly 22-33? The whole Ephesians is on these two: Christ+Body,wife,assembly,new man,temple,dwelling,warrior. The church as new man enters at 4:17-24 and concludes with all us believers submitting to each other in Him (5:21). Then the "Bride" is in 22. There's no problem with the Husband, Christ, cuz God is Love. In fact: He's Her total supply (23, 26, 29-30). She's commanded to submit. But saved husbands do need agape love (25, 28-29, 33).
    – Walter S
    May 10, 2020 at 4:52

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