The Greatest of These is Love

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

This sermon is my take on the Ephesians advice about marriage.

Biblical Marriage

“Wives submit to your husbands” has been a highly disputed (and often misused) piece of scripture throughout the centuries.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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 Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

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. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church — for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33)

This passage in Ephesians is written using a literary device known as a chiasm.

A chiasm uses a reversed repeating pattern. Instead of A B A B, a chiasm uses A B B A (crossing the last line so that the arrows form an X, the Greek letter chi).

Finish These Chiasmschiasm

  • All for one and…
  • Ask not what your country can do for you…
  • People don’t care how much you know until…
  • I’m stuck on Band-Aid…
  • If you can’t be with the one you love, honey…
  • Whoever exalts himself will be humbled but…

A Noah Chiasm

Noah and his sons (Gen 6:10)
___All life on earth (6:13:a)
______Curse on earth (6:13:b)
_________Flood announced (6:7)
____________Ark (6:14-16)
_______________All living creatures (6:17–20)
__________________Food (6:21)
_____________________Animals (7:2–3)
________________________Entering the Ark (7:13–16)
___________________________Waters increase (7:17–20)
______________________________God remembers Noah (8:1)
___________________________Waters decrease (8:13–14)
________________________Exiting the Ark (8:15–19)
_____________________Animals (9:2,3)
__________________Food (9:3,4)
_______________All living creatures (9:10a)
____________Ark (9:10b)
_________No more floods (9:11)
______Blessing on earth (9:12–17)
___All life on earth (9:16)
Noah and his sons (9:18,19a)

The bracketing verses repeat the same topics (Noah and his sons appears at the top and the bottom), but sometimes negate them (waters increase / waters decrease), yet still complete the pairing.

An Ephesians Chiasm

Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord
___For the husband is head of the wife, as Christ head of the church
______He himself is the Savior of the body
_________But as the church is subject to Christ, and wives to their husbands
____________Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church
_______________That He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the word
__________________That he might present to himself the church in all her glory
_______________She would be holy and blameless, having no spot or wrinkle
____________So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies
_________No one hates his body but nourishes it, as Christ does the church
______Because we are members of his body
___For this cause a man shall cleave to his wife, and the two become one flesh
______This mystery is great, but I refer to Christ and the church
___Nevertheless, let each among you also love his own wife even as himself
And the wife is to respect her husband

The chiasmus verse (the “centers” of the x) is the crux of the passage; the theme that ties together the entire thought.

That he might present to himself the church in all her glory
This mystery is great, but I refer to Christ and the church

In this example, Paul wrote two chiasmus verses. He must have gotten an A+ on his essay test. (Or an aleph plus.)

So, wives should submit to their husbands because husbands are the head because Christ is the head who makes the church holy because he loves us so that He and His pure bride can give themselves to each other.

Submit to One Another

The Ephesians chiasm is prefaced by this verse:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Submit is translated from the Greek ὑποτασσόμενοι (hupotasso) which has two meanings.

  • Military – to subordinate
  • Civilian – to cooperate

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church

Looking at the two commands for submitting and loving, each comes with the same qualifier – as.

Give, and it will be given to you. With the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord! (Colossians 3:23)

Do you want your spouse to give more of themself to you? Give more first.

Wives, submit yourselvesto your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. (1 Peter 3:1-2)

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life. (1 Peter 3:7)

Submission isn’t one-way here. Peter exhorts husbands to submit in the same way as he’d just outlined above.
Christ saves us from what we deserve. The only cost is who we were.

The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:4)

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

Putting others first in marriage shouldn’t come as a surprise. We’re commanded to do the same to others.

Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

None of you should seek his own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:24)

Humbly value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but to the interests of the others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, But made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in the likeness of man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death: even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:3-8)love

The Church is the Bride

“Wives submit to your husbands” can be taken a step further in our spiritual lives.

The church is several times referred to as the bride of Christ.

The bride belongs to the groom. The friend who attends the groom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the groom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. (John 3:29)

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the groom fast while he is with them? The time will come when the groom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:15)

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) (Revelation 19:7-8)

Study Questions

As the perfect groom, how did Christ love the church?

How can we as a church become a better bride?

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