How to Love Your Wife

Ephesians 5

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
July 2019


We are studying the Book of Ephesians.  Last week, we began looking at one of the most important passages on marriage in the Bible.  It is in Ephesians 5.  This passage is huge.  Every Christian needs to study Ephesians 5. It is desperately needed in the church today.


We saw last week that this chapter is UNPOPULAR.  Many don’t like what it says.  It contains some of the most hated verses in the Bible.  Submission is a dirty word in some circles.  It is not the F word.  It is the S word.  People hate the doctrine of submission and the world flat-out rejects it.

Ephesians 5 says that the husband is the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23).  The world turns this around and says that the wife is the head of the husband.  Many marriages fit that model.  Some say that there is no head in marriage.  Marriage is just a partnership.

Ephesians 5 says that the wife is to submit to the husband (Ephesians 5:22, 24) but that is explained away by the whole concept of mutual submission.  It is the notion that every person is to submit to every other person

Ephesians 5 says that marriage is between a man and a woman (Ephesians 5:31).  Paul here quotes the OT (Genesis 2:24).  The world says that two men or two women can get married.  We live in a day in which marriage is under attack today.  It is in a state of crisis.  There is a war on marriage.

This chapter is RADICAL.  What Paul says to wives is radical.  What he says to husbands is radical.  It is counter-cultural.  It seems too hard to do but here is the truth.  If a wife actually does what Paul says here and submits to her husband in everything, that will COMPLETELY transform a marriage.

if a husband does what Paul says here and loves his wife as Christ loves the church, if he nourishes and cherishes her as he does his own body, that will COMPLETELY transform a marriage.

Chuck Missler tells a personal story about his marriage. After he was married, working and and involved in ministry.  He traveled a lot and his marriage suffered.  He did not always do what he should have done as a husband.  His wife read Ephesians 5, he came home one night, and all of his favorite drinks were in the refrigerator and he said that he felt like a king.  That one act of the wife doing what she was supposed to do, even when the husband did not deserve it, helped changed their marriage.

The problem is that people have gotten away from the Word.  Christians have gotten away from the Word.  People who have problems in their marriage, they don’t need a bunch of psychology from some marriage counselors.  They don’t need a high powered attorney.  They just need to turn to God.  The answer is always found in the Word.

God was the one who created marriage.  He was the one who started it.  Read the Book of Genesis.  Marriage is a divine institution.  It is NOT a human institution.  It was God’s idea.  He initiated the first wedding ceremony.  He knows how to fix broken marriages.

This chapter is also SYMBOLIC.  Paul talks about marriage, but he calls it “a great mystery” (Ephesians 5:32).  Paul takes his doctrine of marriage from the OT (intimate one-flesh union) but he also believed that the marriage of  believers is also symbolic.  It represents something.  It is a picture of something.  Marriage is to represent the gospel.  It is displayed through marriage.  That is why gay marriage is wrong.  It is actually a gospel issue.

A believing husband and wife are a picture of Christ and his bride, the church.  Christ is the head of the church. The husband is the head of his wife.  The church submits to Christ.  The wife submits to the husband.  Christ loves the church.  The husband loves his wife.

Paul deals with the topic of Christian marriage in Ephesians 5. He gives instructions to husbands and wives.  He spoke to the wives first.  Last week, we focused on the women.  Today, we will focus on the men.

Paul gives only one job for wives and one job for husbands in a Christian marriage.  Paul gave one command for wives – SUBMIT.  Paul gave one command for husbands – LOVE.  Wives are called to submit, husbands are called to love.

In the modern world, because of feminism, many have a problem today with what Paul said to the wives.  In the ancient world, they would have had more of a problem with what he said to the husbands.  The ancient world had a very low view of women.  Women were not even to be educated.  Menander said, “A man who teaches a woman to write should know that he is providing poison to a snake.”[1]

One ancient Greek writer said, “We keep prostitutes for the sake of pleasure, females slaves for our daily care and wives to give us legitimate children and to be the guardians of our households.”[2]  That was the only value of wives, to give you children.  Women were considered just property.  Husbands would not give themselves up for their wife.

God’s Word to Husbands

God calls husbands to do just one thing. They are NOT called to submit.  They are called to love.  Notice how many times we see this word in our passage.  The word “love” is used six times in three verses.

Husbands, LOVE your wives, as Christ LOVED the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25 ESV)

In the same way husbands should LOVE their wives as their own bodies. He who LOVES his wife LOVES himself. (Ephesians 5:28 ESV)

However, let each one of you LOVE his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33 ESV)

Paul devoted more space talking to the husbands, than talking to the wives. He told the wives to submit to their husbands just two times (Ephesians 5:22, 24) but he tells the husbands to love their wives three times (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33) and he talks to the husbands longer.

Paul spent only three verses talking to the wives (Ephesians 5:22-24).  He spent eight verses talking to the husbands (Ephesians 5:25-33).  He spends only three verses telling wives to submit to their husbands, but he spends eight verses telling husbands to love their wives.  That is strange.

Why does Paul spend more time telling husbands to do their job that he telling the wives to do their job?  Is it because the husbands are a little dull?  The wives are smarter.  They are more responsible.  They get it the first time.  The husbands need repetition.  No.  The reason is that husbands have the harder job to do.  They are the head of the wives.  They have a much greater responsibility.

God calls wives to do the very thing that is really hard for them to do.  It is hard for wives to submit to husbands.  Submission is hard for anyone.  That involves giving up your will to the will of someone else.  Why should you have to do that when your ideas are better?  In some cases, wives are smarter and even more spiritual than their husbands, and yet they are still told to submit.

God calls husbands to do the one thing that they have trouble doing and that is to love their wives.  Most men are selfish.  Tim Keller said, “the main problem in any marriage is self-centeredness. That’s what kills marriage. That’s what the heart of every marriage problem always is. That’s the most basic problem you have”[3]  We are all naturally self-centered.  We always looking out for number one.  That is why Paul gave this command to husbands.  Husbands, love your wives.

Did Paul Hate Women?

Many believe that Paul hated women. He didn’t that is a myth. Paul was the one who said, “Husbands love your wives.” Pagan writers of the ancient world did not say to do this (Aristotle). The Jewish Talmud did not say to do this. The OT did not explicitly say to do this. It said, “love your neighbor” but it never says, “love your wife.” Paul was the one who said this, and he says it three times in this one chapter (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33).

He does NOT say, “Husbands, rule your wife.” He does NOT say, “Husbands dominate and control your wife.” He does NOT say, “Husbands show your wife who is in the charge. Show her who is the boss and who wears the parts in your family. Put her in her place. Exercise your authority over her as the head of the home.” Paul did not say, “Husbands, crush your wife. Treat her like a dog” Instead, he said, “Husbands LOVE your wife.”

He not only said, “Husbands LOVE your wife,” he said, “Husbands love YOUR wife.” It is an exclusive love. Too many husbands love other women. They have affairs. They love strippers and prostitutes. They love mistresses. They love porn stars. Paul says, “Love your wife.” What does Paul mean by love?

Greek Words for Love

The word Paul uses for love in Ephesians 5 is ἀγάπη or the verb form of the word (ἀγαπάω).  In fact, every time in Ephesians Paul speaks of “love,” (and he uses it about seventeen times in the book), he uses this word ἀγάπη or ἀγαπάω.  Άγάπη is a love of actions, not feelings.

When we think of love in marriage, we think of romance or sex (married love or sexual love).  There is a Greek word for that kind of love.  It is the word ἔρως or ἐράω (verb form).  It is sexual love.  The words “erotic” and “eroticism” come from that Greek word.

There is nothing wrong with that kind of love.  It should be in a marriage.  A whole book of the Bible was written about this kind of love (Song of Solomon) but Paul does not use that word, nor does any other writer of the New Testament.

There is a difference between ἀγάπη love and ἔρως love.  We usually think of ἔρως as getting something, while ἀγάπη focuses on giving something.  One tends to be selfish.  The other is unselfish.

When we think of love, we think of feelings of love (emotions).  We think of close friends who love each other and have a strong bond.  There is a Greek word for that kind of love.  It is the word φιλία or φιλἐω (verb form).

It is the love of affection leading to a close bond of friendship.  When Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, the Jews used this word (John 11:36).  They said, “Behold, how he loved him” (Ἴδε πῶς ἐφίλει αὐτόν).  It is also assumed that a husband will have feelings for his wife but that is not what Paul commands for husbands in Ephesians 5.

Three Ways to Love Your Wife

It is easy for Paul to tell husbands to love their wives.  He was single.  Paul makes all of the husbands feel guilty.  The million-dollar question is, How do you do it?  How should a husband love his wife, according to Ephesians 5?  What does that love look like?

There are three ways, based on this passage.  Have I always done them perfectly in my own marriage?  No.  My wife will be the first to tell you but I am working on them.

1) Love your wife by putting her needs above your own needs

That is what Jesus did.  He put the needs of the church above His own needs.  He left the comfort of heaven and came to earth.  He became a servant.  He washed the disciples’ feet.  He was tortured and died for the the church, all out of love.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER (Ephesians 5:25 ESV)

Instead of asking what do I need? we should ask, What does my wife need?  How can I help her?  This type of love puts your wife’s happiness ahead of your own needs.  It is unselfish.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking (I Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV).  The ESV reads, “It does not insist on its own way.”   Do something special for your wife and expect nothing in return.

2) Love your wife by helping her to grow spiritually

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives (Ephesians 5:25-28 ESV)

The husband’s love should not only be a selfless love, it should be a sanctifying love.  In many marriages, the wife has to be the spiritual head of the home.  She has to push the husband along spiritually.  She tries to drag him and the kids to church each Sunday.  In Ephesians 5, we see that it is the husband’s job to sanctify the wife, not the wife’s job to sanctify the husband.

Paul says that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 THAT HE MIGHT SANCTIFY HER” (Ephesians 5:25-26 ESV).  It is a picture of a bride who is presented perfect.  No bride wants a big spot on her wedding dress.  The church right now is not spotless.  It has plenty of spots and wrinkles but the church in glory will be spotless.

Ephesians 5:25 is PAST (Christ game himself up for her).  Ephesians 5:26 is PRESENT (that He might sanctify her).  Ephesians 5:27 is FUTURE (that he might present the church to himself in splendor…holy and without blemish).  In heaven, we will not have any blemishes (physically, morally or spiritually).  We will all be perfect.

Notice how Jesus sanctify His church today?  He does it “by the Word.”  Many people downplay the importance of the Bible and Bible study. We are saved by the Word of God and we are sanctified by the Word of God (John 17:17).

There is a true story about a man named Richard Eby.  He was a physician.  In 1972, Dr. Eby leaned against the railing of his Chicago apartment building, and accidentally fell several stories head-first.  His body was in bad shape and he almost died.  He was taken to heaven.  He saw Jesus and asked him all kinds of questions and Jesus said to him, “Didn’t you read my book?”

“It is all in the book.  My son, if you would have read my book carefully, everything you will ask of me has already been answered.  Everything is in there.”  He added, “Sadly enough, my son, there has never been anyone who has studied my book carefully enough so that he knows everything in it.”[4]

Jesus said, “Didn’t you read my book?” to him more than once.  How many Christians spend seventy years on earth and never really read it or study it?  That describes most of the church today.

There are many books of the Bible, especially in the OT that we never open.  Many Christians have no idea what is in these books.  That is why all we do is study books of the Bible in this class.  We do not waste our time studying books that are not inspired.

When I first got saved, I read many Chick Tracts.  They are Christian tracts written in comic book form to lead people to Christ.[5] I will never forget one I read about a fictitious man who died and went to heaven.  While in heaven, he ran into the prophet Habakkuk.

Habakkuk asked him if he ever read his book.  The man was embarrassed to admit that he did not even know that he had written one.  After reading that tract, I immediately read the Book of Habakkuk, in case I bumped into him in heaven.

Husbands are responsible for their wife’s spiritual well-being.  Now that scares a lot of people.  You don’t have to be a Bible scholar.  There are a lot of things you can do together.

You can make sure that she goes to a good church and go to church with her.  You can make sure that she is in a good woman’s small group.  You can go to Bible study together.  You can listen to a sermon or podcast and discuss it.  You can support any ministry she is involved in.

3) Love your wife by nurturing and cherishing her

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.  (Ephesians 5:28-30 ESV)

This is interesting.   Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39) but he was not the first to say this.  He was just quoting the OT.  Moses also said to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).   Now Paul says it.  He applies that principle to the marriage relationship.  Paul says that we are to treat our wives the same way that we treat ourselves and our own body.  We feed our body.  We take care of our body.  We clothe our body.  We pamper our body.

We provide for our body.  We protect our body.  We do things to make us feel special.  Do something to make your wife feel special.  We do things to make us feel good about ourselves.  What do we do to make our wife feel good about herself?

[1] Menander, Fragments

[2] Pseudo-Demosthenes 59.122

[3] Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.


[5] One example of these tracts is entitled “This was Your Life.”  You can read it online at

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