World English Bible translation
5:25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; 5:26 that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 5:27 that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 5:28 Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.
For Paul, everything around him reminded him of Christ. Even in the relationship of a man and a woman, Paul could see a picture of the living Christ at work in the world. In this passage, he expands on that loving relationship and paints a portrait of the Son who was willing to sacrifice everything for His beloved.
Husbands love you wives as much as Christ loved His own people, the church. He was willing to suffer and die for it. He was willing to set aside His divinity and clothe Himself as a man that He might redeem a people unto Himself. He gave Himself up that He might sanctify them. He made them holy by washing them in the water of His word. He came and spoke the truth of God and that truth serves to make us holy.
His sacrifice was so that He might create for Himself a bride that is spotless and without blemish in regard to holiness. Because the blood of the Son of God was shed for its cleansing, it is re-created without wrinkle or blemish. In order to be bound to a holy God, the bride would have to become as holy as her bridegroom is. So, He created a bride that shared His own righteousness and His own nature.
In the same way, a man ought to love his own wife just as he does himself. When they are bound together before God in marriage, they become one flesh. They are no longer separate individuals. Their union has created something new and something unique. In our culture, we talk about this, but we don't understand it. That's why we don't understand what Paul is saying in this passage.
For Paul, there is no longer a husband and wife. By faith, he sees one flesh, bound together by sacred bonds that should never be separated. In the same way, the church and the Lord are bound inextricably through all time, forever one in union. This is part of the mystery that Paul was given to reveal. In the person of Jesus of Nazareth, God was joining Himself with His creation in a new and unique way. God was creating a body. God was creating a bride. God was creating a living temple to indwell.
That is why to look at this passage and to see Paul as being sexist and degrading women is so mistaken. A husband must love his wife above all others short of God. And in a real sense, his love and concern for his wife express a man's love of God. Far from being a domineering sexist, Paul elevates marriage into a holy union that few of us can fully appreciate or comprehend.
This is a high burden and lofty goal. Am I willing to become one with my wife and to be bound with her forever? Am I willing to give my life for her, as Christ was willing to give His for me? Am I willing to see no separation between her life and mine? To be one flesh?
These are the challenges Paul addresses to husbands.
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