This mystery is profound, but I am speaking about Christ and the church.
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A HUSBAND'S LOVE.
1. It is peculiar in its nature, unlike the love of parent or child, friend or neighbor. "He is to love his wife even as himself."
2. It is single, exclusive, and undivided in its object; for the husband is to devote to his one wife all the affection of his life. "Rejoice with the wife of thy youth" (Proverbs 5:18, 19). This fact is the condemnation of bigamy and polygamy.
3. It is to be considerate and tender, excluding all bitterness. "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them" (Colossians 3:19). Husbands are "to dwell with their wives according to knowledge" (1 Peter 3:7); that is, with a due consideration to their condition as "the weaker vessel," and with a disposition to hide or bear with their weaknesses or infirmities. It is to be a love that will make it unnecessary for the husband ever to command his wife. The gospel counterpart of "Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands," is not "Husbands, command our wives." but "love your wives."
4. It is to be mutual. The wife's love is presupposed, though elsewhere it is expressly commanded (Titus 2:4). The husband is to love her as she loves him. The rightful confidence and sympathy of married life are impossible without mutual affection. All marriages of convenience or self-interest are thus condemned. Love must be the basis of marriage.
5. It is to be constant and lasting, notwithstanding all the weaknesses or failings of the wife.
II. THE METHODS IN WHICH THIS LOVE IS TO FIND EXPRESSION.
1. In providing for the temporal support of a wife. The husband is to "nourish and cherish" his wife. He that provideth not for his own is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:3).
2. He must consult her happiness and pleasure; for "he that is married is to care that he may please his wife" (1 Corinthians 7:33).
3. He must protect her life, her honor, her good name; for she is "the weaker vessel." He must "give honor to the wife" (1 Peter 3:7).
4. He is to seek her spiritual welfare. He is to pray for her and with her, remembering that she is an heir with him of the grace of life, "that your prayers be not hindered."
III. THE REASONS FOR THIS COMMAND.
1. The original law of marriage. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the twain shall become one flesh." The union implies such an identification of interest, property, and relationship to the world as to make them almost one person.
2. The wife is the husband's other self. She is not only one flesh with himself, but she is his very body. "No man ever yet hated his own flesh," except the fanatics of ascetic devotion.
3. The help, comfort, and blessing she brings to him. She is given to him as "an helpmeet;" she is his companion. "Yet she is thy companion and the wife of thy covenant" (Malachi 2:14). The heart of the husband "safely trusts in her" (Proverbs 12:4).
4. She is the weaker vessel. A spirit of chivalry ought to surround her with the shield of protecting love.
5. She is "the glory of the man (1 Corinthians 11:7) - his honor and ornament and delight.
6. His union with her is typical of the blessed union that exists between Christ and the Church. All the love and self-sacrifice and service Which Christ expended upon the Church supply the type of a husband's duty to his wife. - T.C.
This is a great mystery.
I. Look, for instance, at Christ as born of a pure virgin in a stable at Bethlehem. The incarnation of the Son of God is not one of those facts which lose their mysteriousness through being examined and pondered. Familiarity may indeed make us less alive to its wonders; but the more we consider, the more must we be amazed.
II. But the apostle mentions the Church as well as Christ, and forasmuch as it is the union between Christ and the Church as typified by marriage which led him to express himself in the words of our text, we must briefly see whether there be not mystery — mystery to be thankfully acknowledged, not timidly concealed — in regard to true believers as well as their Divine Lord. Indeed there is mystery. That through such a system as the Christian there should be produced in believers that holiness without which there can be nothing of the oneness between Christ and the Church which marriage supposes — this indeed seems hardly to have been expected, and is not easily to be explained. We are nowise surprised that there should be so vehement an outcry as to the probable tendencies of the gospel; that those who preach as the alone mode of salvation the resting wholly on the merits of another, should often be regarded as advancing a tenet which strikes at the root of all moral energy. Now, in conclusion, we trust that you will thoroughly understand under what point of view the mysteries of the Bible should be regarded by the Christian. These mysteries are not to be shrunk from or concealed, as though Christianity would be the better for their removal; they should rather be gloried in and thankfully acknowledged, as though Christianity would fall to bits if they were taken away. It is the tone which we admire in our text, the frankness of the confession, the avoidance of all controversy. "This is a great mystery." "I do not attempt to deny it," says the apostle; "I do not wish to evade it. How can there be other than mystery when I am speaking 'concerning Christ and the Church'?" But, my brethren, what is mystery now may not be mystery always. "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now we know in part, but then we shall know, even as also we are known." It must be that with our present imperfect faculties and limited capacities we are incompetent to the understanding much of the revelation which God has given us of Himself, but we shall understand more hereafter if we persevere to the end in fighting the good fight of faith.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Baxendale's Anecdotes.There is a story in Fox's Book of Martyrs of a woman who, when she came to be tried for her religion before the bishop, was threatened by him that he would take away her husband from her. "Christ," was her reply, "is my husband." "I will take away thy child," said he. "Christ," said she, "is better to me than ten sons." "I will strip thee," said he, "of all outward comforts." And again came the answer, "Yes, but Christ is mine, and you cannot strip me of Him."
1. In His union with the Church God gives Himself to men, and men give themselves to God. Matrimony should correspond with this idea (Genesis 2:24).
2. In the relations between Christ and the Church we admire perfect unity. This ought also to characterize Christian matrimony.
3. Unity involves indissolubility (Matthew 19:6).
4. Another consequence of unity is the reconciliation of authority and obedience.
5. Forbearance. Christ bears patiently all our imperfections, infirmities, and sins. In a similar manner married people should bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ; as the members of the same body bear the infirmities of one another.
6. The objects to be attained by the union of Christ and His Church are the honour of God and the sanctification of men. The objects of matrimony are the same — the honour of God, the sanctification of the married couple, of the family, and of others who see their good works.
(Bishop W. E. Ketteler).
I. THE MUTUAL LOVE OF THE CHURCH. This is the grand characteristic of believers: love in active exercise, love expressed in word and deed. In order to love, there must be knowledge or acquaintance.
II. THE WORSHIP OF THE CHURCH. The seat of worship is the heart. And the believer cannot neglect the exercise of private or secret worship. Then, those whom God has set in families should have a home altar, around which morning and evening the whole household should gather. As to the worship of God's house, it is your privilege to be partakers of it, and you are under a solemn obligation to observe the ordinances of the sanctuary.
III. THE WORK OF THE CHURCH. This work is two-fold — edifying believers, and converting sinners.
IV. THE FINANCES OF THE CHURCH.
V. THE SPIRITUAL TONE AND TEMPER OF THE CHURCH.
(A. G. Maitland, M. A.)
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