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Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,

that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:25-27‬

The text seems plain at first, but what does it mean for a husband to continually “love his wife… and to: give himself for her”?

Christ gave Himself both in His obedient life & death.

Q: So what does Ephesians 5:25 mean? Is Paul prescribing a readiness to die or a “selfless mentality”?

NOTE: I’ve read a book on marriage, I’ve studied the context, and yet I am not fully convinced of one interpretation or the other yet.

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  • In what sense or reason is it confusing to you since the whole point of the motivation and objective to do good and love each other is to imitate the way God or Christ loved us, and be gracious to others as he was to us, to pay him back and pay forward. John 13:34. Every example of love command is pushed on the account of Christ's love to us in the whole NT.
    – Michael16
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 10:37
  • @Michael16 1.) I’m doing marriage research both on this site, and off the site. 2.) Eph 5:25 doesn’t necessarily indicate at first glance (to me) that we are to love our wives “sacrificially” or “selflessly” it would appear in first order to mean we are to “lay down our lives” cause that’s what Christ did for us (Rom 5:6-8). I couldn’t tell for certain if there was a double meaning. (1 Peter 3:7) seems more about living with your wife in an understanding way; which would imply “selfless & sacrificial” devotion to her. Eph 5:25 also sounds similar to 1 John 3:16, compare that.
    – Cork88
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 15:13
  • You understand it correctly; Eph 5:25 similar to 1 John 3:16. moreover the whole passage explains it in detail, you shouldn't have to limit to one verse. There is nothing to be confused here. It doesn't talk about dying but a complete love that is willing to die for. There are no double meaning anywhere in the bible. It simply means fully give yourself to your wife: in all ways, physically and emotionally etc.
    – Michael16
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 15:35
  • @Michael16 Certainly such a hermeneutic doesn’t always seem obvious (at least for me), where in Ephesians 5:25 does it mention giving yourself for your wife “physically or emotionally”? In the gospels, Jesus death isn’t said to have been for our emotional well being, even if our emotions are eschatologically dealt with (as in Revelation). But the following context, (Eph 5:26-27) seems to indicate the husband giving himself for his wife’s sanctification, no? As opposed to your suggestion of “physically & emotionally”. I’m aware Christ’ desires to wash His church with the Word though.
    – Cork88
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 15:54
  • My reference was about the complete love in providing sexual, emotional financial needs of the wife. You are failing to see the comparison for Christ dying for sanctification and blamelessness of the Church is an analogy, a metaphor. Don't take it too far. Verse26-27 are the purpose of his love for church; The purpose of marital love may not exactly be the same, it is shown as loving our own body to nurture and keep it healthy, since the two are one body. Related hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/33240/16757
    – Michael16
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 16:11

3 Answers 3

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In the text of Ephesians 5:22-33 Christ’s relationship to the church is presented as a model for the relationship between husband and wife.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

The love of a husband for his wife should mirror Christ’s love for the church (v 28).

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.

Christ’s love is not presented as an example of sacrificial love as much as love for one’s own self. However, that self does not refer to an individual but to a union. In marriage the self is a union in which two are joined together and become as one.

28 So husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are parts of His body.

31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. (cf Mt 19:5, Gen 2:24)

Distinct from other kinds of love, marital love is a commitment to the life of union. Though it may not require the literal sacrificing of one’s life, inherent to this union is the relinquishing of the individual notion of self. If you will, it requires a dying to the self. The effect of the comparison to Christ’s love for the church is to elevate the marriage union and call it to a higher purpose, that of the sanctification of one's spouse (vv 25-27), the highest goal of love being the greatest good for the other.

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The simplest and most direct way of understanding Eph 5:25 is that Christ is asking husbands to selflessly love their wives to the extent that a husband would be willing to give his life for his wife.

Benson expresses it this way:

But how are they to love them? The apostle says, as Christ loved the church — Namely, with a love that is sincere, pure, ardent, constant, and persevering, and notwithstanding the imperfections and failures that they are chargeable with. The true model this of conjugal affection! with this kind of love, with this degree of it, and to this end, should husbands love their wives. Christ loved the church, and gave himself a ransom for it, when it was in a state of slavery and misery; and husbands, if called to it by God, should lay down their lives for their wives.

Barnes is more detailed:

Even as Christ loved the church - This was the strongest love that has ever been evinced in this world. It follows, that a husband is in no danger of loving his wife too much, provided she be not loved more than God. We are to make the love which Christ had for the church the model.

And gave himself for it - Gave himself to die to redeem it. The meaning here is, that husbands are to imitate the Redeemer in this respect. As he gave himself to suffer on the cross to save the church, so we are to be willing to deny ourselves, and to bear toil and trial, that we may promote the happiness of the wife. It is the duty of the husband to toil for her support; to provide for her needs; to deny himself of rest and ease, if necessary, in order to attend on her in sickness to go before her in danger; to defend her if she is in peril; and to be ready to die to save her Why should he not be? If they are shipwrecked, and there is a single plank on which safety can be secured, should he not be willing to place her on that, and see her safe at all hazards to himself? But there may be more implied in this than that a man is to toil, and even to lay down his life for the welfare of his wife. Christ laid down his life to save the church; and a husband should feel that it should be one great object of his life to promote the salvation of his wife.

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  • Which physical book commentary on Ephesians would you recommend? I can look myself, but if you have one that you know; can you link me. +1 for answer too.
    – Cork88
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 4:57
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    @Cork88 - I do not have a favorite but usually consult a large variety of common commentaries. However, look for the works of N T Wright and similar.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 5:37
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Husbands are called to love their wives and lay their lives down for them. Love puts others’ needs above their own. Consider the earlier passage in Ephesians 5, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

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