So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. Ephesians 5:28
Having been to the glorious heights in our understanding a husband’s love as modeled in Christ’s eternal love for His church, some might consider verse 28 as an anti-climax, in its consideration of marital love as loving oneself. Even so, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. On the surface this may appear to lower the standard from the perfect eternal love of Christ, to one’s imperfect and fallen love of oneself. But this is not speaking of the measure or quality of a husband’s love – it is not saying, husbands love your wife as much as you love yourself, or in the same manner that you love yourself, but rather, it reveals the nature of the marital relationship. Husbands and wives are by nature, one flesh, and so they make up one body. When a husband cares for his wife He cares for himself because they are one; what he does for her he does to himself. Contrary to what one might think at the outset, this is no less important a metaphor than that already described in verse 25 (just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her). For in verse 29, Paul compares one’s love for himself to Christ’s care for the church. Picking up near the end of verse 29, he says the husband nourishes and cherishes his own flesh “as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” In other words, just as the husband is one flesh with his wife, so the church is one body with Christ. So martial love is a portrait not only of the sacrificial death of Christ for the church (described in v. 25), but our union with Christ (described in vss. 28-32). When the husband cherishes and nourishes his wife, he cherishes and nourishes himself; and when Christ cherishes and nourishes the church, he cherishes and nourishes himself. Verse 32 amplifies this by describing the one flesh relationship between the husband and wife as a great mystery, which portrays Christ and the church. So the metaphor is just as important – just as the husband and wife are one flesh, so Christ is in union with His people.
If you want to understand God’s meaning for marriage you have to grasp that we are dealing with a copy and an original, a metaphor and a reality, and parable and a truth. And the original, the reality, the truth is God’s marriage to his people, or Christ’s marriage to the church. While the copy, the metaphor, the parable is a husband’s marriage to his wife. Geoffrey Bromiley wrote, “As God made man in His own image, so He made earthly marriage in the image of His own eternal marriage with His people.”
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