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Ephesians 5:21-33 (Part 1)

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour …

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless …

This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. (verses 22-23, 25-27, 32)


My Bible titles this section, “Wives and Husbands.” Rightly so. It’s a classic passage on the marriage relationship.

But first and foremost, it’s about Jesus and us. Having spent much time talking about the interaction of wives and husbands, Paul says simply: “This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.” We’ll look at marriage tomorrow; but today, first things first.

Our relationship with Jesus is to be characterized by submission, a word that raises our collective hackles. But regardless of our gut response, the word is clearly appropriate when applied to our relationship with the Lord. He is the head of the church, Paul says. Whether we understand “head” to refer to hierarchical position or primacy or source of life, like head of a stream, when spoken of the Sovereign Lord it’s clear that submission is our only appropriate response. Of course.

As head, he is intimately connected with us, his body – couldn’t be more so. What we discover, further, is that the relationship was established through great sacrifice. He is the “Saviour,” Paul says, reminding us that as Good Shepherd, he laid down his life for the sheep. He “gave his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He expressed the greatest of all love, laying “down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13) – us.

But there’s more. Not only did he save us, he “gave himself up for (us) to make (us) holy, cleansing (us) by the washing of water through the word.” Immediately, we’re taken back once again to the Upper Room, to a scene I love, with Jesus, towel-clad, washing each of the road-dirtied feet of the disciples. He did it so that they might be connected with him, for apart from that cleansing they never could – in so doing he expressed “the full extent of his love”(John 13:1, NASB). “He loved them to the end” (NIV).

Beyond anything we could ever conceivably manage on our own, he has made us clean! Indeed, he is making us “radiant … without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish” – how could it be? Certainly not in our own strength, but only through a Saviour who has loved us so fully, so completely,

This is indeed a profound mystery! The Lord of all has loved us so.

Gladly I receive his embrace. Gladly I submit to him who is the head.


Lord Jesus, once again I stand in awe of your love. Praise you for salvation, won for me at such enormous cost. Praise you for the cleansing, which you have brought – and for the fullness that you will complete. Dear Lord, I willingly submit to you again. You are Good Shepherd. You are Friend. You are Head. Praise your name.


Reflect: What does it mean for you today, right where you are, to submit to Jesus, your Lord? Talk with him about the challenges. Praise him for his love. Submit to him again for cleansing. Watch for his lead.


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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