Ephesians 5:32
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
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(32) This is a great mystery.—Rather, This mystery is a great one. The words apply to the type, as well as to the Antitype. (1) The indissoluble and paramount sacredness of marriage, as all history shows, is “a mystery”—that is (see Ephesians 1:9), a secret of God’s law, fully revealed in Christ alone. For in heathen, and, to some extent, even in Jewish thought, marriage was a contract far less sacred than the indissoluble tie of blood; and wherever Christian principle is renounced or obscured, that ancient idea recurs in modern times. It may be noted that from the translation here of the word “mystery,” by sacramentum in the Latin versions, the application of the word “sacrament” to marriage arose. (2) But the following words, “But I” (the word “I” being emphatic) “speak concerning Christ and the Church,” show—what indeed the whole passage has already shown—that St. Paul’s chief thought has passed from the type to the Antitype. He has constantly dwelt on points which suit only Christ’s relation to the Church, and to that relation he has, by an irresistible gravitation of thought, been brought back again and again. (3) Yet the two cannot be separate. The type brings out some features of the Antitype which no other comparison makes clear; and history shows that the sacredness of the type in the Church has depended on this great passage—bearing, as it does, emphatic witness against the ascetic tendency to look on marriage as simply a concession to weakness, and as leading to a life necessarily lower than the celibate life.

5:22-33 The duty of wives is, submission to their husbands in the Lord, which includes honouring and obeying them, from a principle of love to them. The duty of husbands is to love their wives. The love of Christ to the church is an example, which is sincere, pure, and constant, notwithstanding her failures. Christ gave himself for the church, that he might sanctify it in this world, and glorify it in the next, that he might bestow on all his members a principle of holiness, and deliver them from the guilt, the pollution, and the dominion of sin, by those influences of the Holy Spirit, of which baptismal water was the outward sign. The church and believers will not be without spot or wrinkle till they come to glory. But those only who are sanctified now, shall be glorified hereafter. The words of Adam, mentioned by the apostle, are spoken literally of marriage; but they have also a hidden sense in them, relating to the union between Christ and his church. It was a kind of type, as having resemblance. There will be failures and defects on both sides, in the present state of human nature, yet this does not alter the relation. All the duties of marriage are included in unity and love. And while we adore and rejoice in the condescending love of Christ, let husbands and wives learn hence their duties to each other. Thus the worst evils would be prevented, and many painful effects would be avoided.This is a great mystery - The Latin Vulgate translates this, "sacramentum hoc magnum est" - "this is a great sacrament" - and this is the proof, I suppose, and the only proof adduced by the papists that marriage is a "sacrament." But the original here conveys no such idea. The word "mystery" - μυστήριον mustērion - means something which is concealed, hidden, before unknown; something into which one must be "initiated" or instructed before he can understand it. It does not mean that it is "incomprehensible" when it is disclosed, but that hitherto it has been kept secret. When disclosed it may be as intelligible as any other truth; see the word explained in the notes on Ephesians 1:9. Here it means simply, that there was much about the union of the Redeemer with his people, resembling the marriage connection, which was not obvious, except to those who were instructed; which was obscure to those who were not initiated; which they did not understand who had not been "taught." It does not mean that no one could understand it, but that it pertained to the class of truths into which it was necessary for one to be "initiated" in order to comprehend them. The truth that was so great a mystery was, that the eternal Son of God should form such an union with people; that he should take them into a connection with himself, implying an ardor of attachment, and a strength of affection superior to even that which exists in the marriage relation. This was a great and profound truth, to understand which, it was necessary to receive instruction. No one would have understood it without a revelation; no one understands it now except they who are taught of God.

But I speak concerning Christ and the church - This, it seems to me, is an explicit disclaimer of any intention to be understood as affirming that the marriage contract was designed to be a "type" of the union of the Redeemer and his people. The apostle says expressly, that his remarks do not refer to "marriage at all" when he speaks of the mystery. They refer "solely" to the union of the Redeemer and his people. How strange and unwarranted, therefore, are all the comments of expositors on this passage designed to explain marriage as "a mysterious type" of the union of Christ and the church! If people would allow the apostle to speak for himself, and not force on him sentiments which he expressly disclaims, the world would be saved from such insipid allegories as Macknight and others have derived from this passage. The Bible is a book of sense; and the time will come, it is hoped, when, freed from all such allegorizing expositions, it will commend itself to the good sense of mankind. Marriage is an important, a holy, a noble, a pure institution, altogether worthy of God; but it does not thence follow that marriage was designed to be a type of the union between Christ and the church, and it is certain that the apostle Paul meant; to teach no such thing.

32. Rather, "This mystery is a great one." This profound truth, beyond man's power of discovering, but now revealed, namely, of the spiritual union of Christ and the Church, represented by the marriage union, is a great one, of deep import. See on [2373]Eph 5:30. So "mystery" is used of a divine truth not to be discovered save by revelation of God (Ro 11:25; 1Co 15:51). The Vulgate wrongly translates, "This is a great sacrament," which is made the plea by the Romish Church (in spite of the blunder having been long ago exposed by their own commentators, Cajetan and Estius) for making marriage a sacrament; it is plain not marriage in general, but that of Christ and the Church, is what is pronounced to be a "great mystery," as the words following prove, "I [emphatic] say it in regard to Christ and to the Church" (so the Greek is best translated). "I, while I quote these words out of Scripture, use them in a higher sense" [Conybeare and Howson]. This is a great mystery; either, this that was spoken before of a marriage union between Christ and the church, and its being of his flesh and of his bones, is a great mystery, and so in the latter part of the verse the apostle explains himself. Or, this that was said of the conjunction of Adam and Eve was a great mystery, (i.e. a great secret in religion), as being a type of Christ’s marriage with his church; though not an instituted type appointed by God to signify this, yet a kind of natural type, as having a resemblance to it.

This is a great mystery,.... It has something mysterious in it; it is a figure and emblem of the mysterious union between Christ and his people: for so it follows,

but I speak concerning Christ and the church; or mention this law and institution of marriage, with respect to them; for the leaving of father and mother prefigured Christ's coming forth from the Father, and coming into this world in human nature, and his disregard to his earthly parents, in comparison with his people, and his service for them; the man cleaving to the wife very aptly expresses the strong affection of Christ to his church, and the near communion there is between them; and their being one flesh denotes the union of them; and indeed, the marriage of Adam and Eve was a type of Christ and his church; for in this the first Adam was a figure of him that was to come, as well as in being a federal head to his posterity: Adam was before Eve, so Christ was before his church; God thought it not proper that man should be alone, so neither Christ, but that he should have some fellows and companions with him: the formation of Eve from Adam was typical of the church's production from Christ; she was made of him while he was asleep, which sleep was from the Lord, and it was not an ordinary one; which may resemble the sufferings and death of Christ, which were from the Lord, and were not common; and which are the redemption of his church and people; and which secure their comfort and happiness, and wellbeing: she was taken out of his side, and built up a woman of one of his ribs; both the justification and sanctification of the church are from Christ, from the water and the blood which issued out of his side, when on the cross: the bringing and presentation of Eve to Adam has its mystery; it was God that brought her to him; and she was the same that was made out of him; and to the same Adam was she brought of whose rib she was made, and that not against her will: so it is God that draws souls to Christ, and espouses them to him, even the same that he has chosen in him, and Christ has redeemed by his blood; and to the same are they brought, who was wounded for their transgressions, and bruised for their sins; and they are made willing in the day of his power upon them, to come and give themselves to him. Adam's consent and acknowledgment of Eve to be his wife, shadow forth Christ's hearty reception and acknowledgment of the saints, as being of him, and his, when they are brought unto him under the influences of his grace and Spirit.

{15} This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

(15) That no man might dream of natural union or knitting of Christ and his Church together (such as the husbands and the wives is) he shows that it is secret, that is, spiritual and such as differs greatly from the common capacity of man. And it consists by the power of the Spirit, and not of the flesh, by faith, and by no natural bond.

Ephesians 5:32. For the understanding of Ephesians 5:31 in the sense of the apostle an exegetical gloss was necessary, which is here given: This mystery is great, is important and exalted in its contents, but I say it, adduce it (namely, this mystery, by which is meant just the declaration of Genesis 2:24), in reference to Christ and the church.

τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο] So Paul terms those Old Testament words just employed by him, in so far as they have a hidden meaning not recognised without divine enlightenment. With the Rabbins, too, the formula mysterium magnum (Jalkut. Rub. f. 59, Ephesians 4 : דא רזא יקירא) is very common. See Schoettgen, Horae, p. 783 f.

ἐγὼ δέ] ἐγώ, which Holzhausen even declares to be superfluous, has emphasis: I, however (δέ metabatic), opposed to the possible interpretations which might be given to the mysterious utterance.[289]

εἰς Χριστὸν καὶ εἰς τὴν ἐκκλησίαν] so that we have thus under ἌΝΘΡΩΠΟς to understand Christ, and under ἡ γυνὴ αὐτοῦ the church. This has been rightly discerned already by the Fathers (see Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Jerome), only they should not have thought of the coming of Christ in the flesh (in connection with which Jerome interpreted τὴν μητέρα of the heavenly Jerusalem; comp. Estius), but of the Parousia. See on Ephesians 5:31. Lastly, it is worthy of notice simply under a historical point of view, that Roman Catholics (but not Erasmus, Cajetanus, or Estius), on the ground of the Vulgate, which translates ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ by sacramentum, proved from our passage[290] that marriage is a sacrament. It is not this that is conveyed in the passage, as indeed in general marriage “non habet a Christo institutionem sacramentalem, non formam, non materiam, non finem sacramentalem” (Calovius, and see the Apol. Conf. Aug. p. 202), but it is rather the sacredly ideal and deeply moral character, which is for ever assured to marriage by this typical significance in the Christian view. We may add that monogamy is presupposed as self-evident, but does not form the set purpose of the passage, which would be purely imported (in opposition to Schwegler, p. 387).

[289] Later Rabbinico-mystical interpretations of marriage may be seen in Schoettgen, Hor. p. 784. Philo, p. 1096, allegorizes those words in reference to reason, which forsakes wisdom and follows the senses.

[290] See also Catech. Romans 2:8; Romans 2:16 f.

Ephesians 5:32. τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο μέγα ἐστίν: this mystery is great. Not “this is a great mystery,” as it is rendered by the AV and Rhem.; nor “this is a great secret,” Tynd., Cran., gen. The term μυστήριον (on which see under Ephesians 1:9 above) cannot mean allegory or dark-saying, but must have its usual sense of something once hidden and now revealed, a secret disclosed. It cannot refer, therefore, as Mey. makes it do, to the quotation from Genesis 2:24 as a passage with a hidden typical or mystical meaning, one deep (μέγα) and difficult to reach. Nor can it well refer to the spiritual union of Christ and the Church by itself (Beng.), or to the comparison between the union of husband and wife and that of Christ and the Church (Est.), as the ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω would then lose its point. It is simplest to take it as referring to Christian truth touching the relation between husband and wife as set forth in these verses. That truth is described by μέγα as great, i.e., in the sense of grandeur and importance. The Vulg. rendering sacramentum (followed by Wicl. and the Rhem.) has induced many Roman Catholic theologians to found on this as a passage presenting marriage in the character of a sacrament—a perverted interpretation which was disavowed indeed by distinguished scholars like Cajetan and Estius in the Roman Catholic Church itself. It may be added that Alford understands by the μυστήριον “the matter mystically alluded to in the Apostle’s application of the text just quoted; the mystery of the spiritual union of Christ with our humanity, typified by the close conjunction of the marriage state”. And Von Soden, taking the τοῦτο, as in 1 Corinthians 15:51, to refer to what follows, supposes the sense to be “this secret, that is, what I am about to say as the secret sense of this sentence, is great”. Hatch, again, who regards μυστήριον as closely related in sense to τύπος, σύμβολον and παραβολή and interchangeable with them, gives μυστήριον the sense of “symbol” (which he thinks is its meaning also in Revelation 1:20; Revelation 17:7), and renders it “this symbol (sc. of the joining of husband and wife into one flesh) is a great one” (Essays in Biblical Greek, p. 61).—ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω εἰς Χριστόν, καὶ [εἰς] τὴν ἐκκλησίαν: but I speak with reference to Christ and the Church. The second εἰς is omitted by LWH, as not found in [715] [716], Iren., Tert., etc.; it is inserted, however, in [717] [718] [719] [720] [721], Orig., Meth., Theodor., Cypr., Hil., etc. The formula λέγω δέ is used in various Pauline passages where an explanation of something previously said is in view (e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:12; Galatians 3:17; Galatians 4:1; Galatians 5:16; cf. τοῦτο δέ φημι, 1 Corinthians 7:29; 1 Corinthians 15:50). Here too, the sense is not “I interpret it,” but simply “I say it,” “I mean it”. The δέ has here its disjunctive force, introducing an explanation and separating it from the thing explained (Thayer-Grimm, Greek-Engl. Lex. of N. T., p. 125). The εἰς is the prep, of ethical direction, indicating that towards which the mind is looking (Thayer-Grimm, ut sup., p. 184; and cf. Acts 2:25), = “with reference to Christ,” not “of Christ,” far less “in Christ” as the Vulg. unhappily renders it. The emphatic position of the ἐγώ gives it to be understood that what immediately follows is the writer’s own way of putting the matter just stated, or his own application of the words of Scripture. The sense, therefore, is this—“the truth of which I have spoken, the relation of husband and wife as one flesh, is a revelation of profound importance; but let me explain that, in speaking of it as I have done, my meaning is to direct your minds to that higher relation between Christ and His Church, in its likeness to which lies its deepest significance.

[715] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[716] Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.

[717] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[718] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[719] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[720] Codex Augiensis (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Trinity College, Cambridge, edited by Scrivener in 1859. Its Greek text is almost identical with that of G, and it is therefore not cited save where it differs from that MS. Its Latin version, f, presents the Vulgate text with some modifications.

[721] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.

32. This is, &c.] More precisely, This mystery is great. For the word “mystery” see above, Ephesians 1:9, Ephesians 3:3-4; Ephesians 3:9; and below Ephesians 6:19. The word tends to mean something of the sphere of spiritual truth not discoverable by observation or inference, but revealed. The thing answering to such a description in this context is, surely, “the mystical union and fellowship betwixt Christ and His Church.” It can scarcely be the marriage union of mortal man and wife. That, as this whole passage bears witness, is a thing most sacred, Divine in institution, and, in the popular sense of the word, “mysterious.” But it scarcely answers the idea of a revealed spiritual truth.

We paraphrase the verse, then; “This revealed mystery, the Union of Bridegroom and Bride, is great; but I say so in reference to the Bridal of Redemption, to which our thought has been drawn.”

The Vulgate Latin, which forms in its present shape the authoritative Romanist version, translates here, “sacramentum hoc magnum est, ego autem dico in Christo et in ecclesiâ”; from which the Roman theology deduces that “marriage is a great sacrament in Christ and in His Church” (see Alford here, and the Catechism of the Council of Trent, pars ii. qu. xv.—xvii). The “Old Latin” read “in ecclesiam,” “with reference to the Church.”

but I] The pronoun is emphatic, possibly as if to say, “I, as distinguished from the narrator of the marriage in Eden.”

On this whole passage Monod’s remarks are noteworthy. He declines to see, with Harless, a mere accommodation of the words of Genesis. For him, those words, narrating true facts, are also a Divinely planned type. “When St Paul quotes, by the Holy Spirit, a declaration of the Holy Spirit, it is the Holy Spirit’s thought and not his own that he gives us … The relation which he indicates between the two unions … is based in the depths of the Divine thought, and on the harmony established between things visible and invisible … The marriage instituted in Eden was really, in the plan of God, a type of the union of Christ with His Church.”

For a reference by the Lord Himself to the passage in Genesis, though with another purpose, see Matthew 19:4-5; Mark 10:6-9. For Him, as for His Apostle, the passage was not a legend but an oracle.

Ephesians 5:32. Μέγα, great) Paul felt more than those to whom he wrote could comprehend. It is not a marriage among men that is called a mystery,[92] Ephesians 5:33, but the union itself of Christ and the Church.[There are in all three kinds of duties which the Law prescribes to the husband, Exodus 21:10. The apostle had mentioned the two former in a spiritual sense, Ephesians 5:29; now the order would lead him to the third, of which that expression of Hosea is a summary, Ephesians 2:20 (see Ephesians 5:19 also), Thou shalt know the Lord. But the apostle suddenly breaks off. Minds of the rarest character and capacity are required.[93]—V. g.]

[92] Or sacrament, as the Romanists argue from this passage.—ED.

[93] To appreciate spiritually the third of the three duties, “food, raiment, the duty of marriage,” requires a spiritual mind. A carnal mind cannot comprehend it save carnally.—ED.

Verse 32. - This mystery is a great one; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the Church. 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. Ephesians 5:32A great mystery

Great is predicative, not attributive. Rev., correctly, this mystery is great. The reference in this mystery is to the preceding statement of the conjugal relation of the Church with Christ, typified by the human marriage relation.

Concerning Christ and the Church

Rev., in regard of (εἰς). Not calling your attention to the mere human relationship, but to the mysterious relation between Christ and His Church, of which that is a mere semblance.

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