In summary, Paul listed several things that are part of being filled with the Spirit:
1. singing to the Lord;
2. giving thanks always; and
3. submitting to each other out of reverence for Christ.
These verses are a specific application of the call to submit to one another. However, although Paul’s call is for mutual submissiveness in the church, he does not call for it in the family.
There are no spiritual or moral distinctions among believers. We are all one in Christ. (Galatians 3:28) But God has created distinctions in matters of our roles and functions.
First, Paul calls for wives to submit to their husbands, as to the Lord. (22) As the wife would submit to the Lord, she is to submit to her husband out of reverence for the Lord.
The reason for this is that the husband is the “head” of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, which is his body. (23) Headship means authority and leadership. God has appointed the husband to be the head of the wife. The wife’s submission to the headship of her husband is part of her obedience to Christ.
In verse 33, Paul changed the instruction somewhat, saying the wife should see that she respects her husband. It is really uncomfortable to be in a group where a wife disrespects her husband in front of other people. In the home, disrespect not only destroys the husband-wife relationship, it also hampers the ability of the husband to discipline children and demand their respect. It is also a fact that husbands want their wives to be proud of them. Disrespect hurts them.
This goes both ways. The husband’s love for his wife, discussed in the next section, would include respect as part of his duty to love his wife. Demeaning comments are not loving.
The command for the wife to submit to the husband does not mean the husband can beat the wife into submission, figuratively or literally. The command is to the wife.
Paul’s instruction to husbands is much longer than his instruction to wives. Husbands are to love their wives. This is not talking about having warm feelings, but actions that manifest love. He is to love her in the same way that Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. That means a sacrificial love that has the wife’s well being in mind.
The husband is not to be a dictator or tyrant. This is not about making the wife get a refill for the husband’s glass, or bringing him his pipe and slippers. This is about his doing what is necessary and appropriate for the wife’s spiritual growth and well being.
Christ sought to sanctify the church to present it to himself as holy and without blemish. (27) The husband should lead the wife in spiritual matters with her sanctification in mind. For example, the husband should lead in taking the wife and family to church. The wife should not have to nag him or drag him to church. The husband should lead in making Christ and his church the priority of the family to teach the children what is important.
The husband should also work to make the home a safe place and an enjoyable place for the wife. She should not be afraid or stressed out at the prospect of his coming home.
Paul describes this love a second way, that husbands should love wives as they love their own bodies. Jesus had already said that the second greatest commandment was to love others as we love ourselves. (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:35-40; Mark 12:31) So, it should be no surprise that husbands are to love their wives as they love their own bodies.
It is just a specific application of a general commandment. All of the things the Bible says should govern our relationships with others should be applied to our relationship with our spouse.
Paul also make the comparison to Christ and the church, again, saying Christ loves and nourishes the church because we are members of his body, the church. (30) So, the husband should love and nourish his wife. Nourish means to provide whatever is necessary for growth, health, and good condition.
Paul then quotes Genesis 2:24, the conclusion to the story of the first marriage. (31) After Moses wrote that God made the woman from the rib of the man, and presented her to Adam as his helper, Moses concluded the story by explaining marriage. He said a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh. So, when the husband loves his wife as his own body, or flesh, he actually is loving his own flesh in accordance with Paul’s instruction in verse 29.
Verse 32 speaks of a mystery. The mystery is the teaching of Genesis 2:24 and verse 31 of this chapter, concerning the man and woman becoming one flesh. Paul sees this as profound. It takes great wisdom and discernment to figure it out. Paul thinks he has done so. He says this is about and refers to Christ and the church. So, way before Christ came, lived and died, right after the creation, this event between a man and a woman was meant to refer to the relationship of Christ to the church. It was also to be a testimony to it and a prophecy of it.
Every Christian marriage is to be a witness to the relationship of Christ to the church. He lived and died for it so that he could sanctify it and present it to himself as holy on the last day. This very picture appears at the end of the book of Revelation, when John saw the new heaven and the new earth, and saw the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:1-2)
We, as believers, should live in our marriages with more than our own self satisfaction as the goal. Certainly, we should seek the best for our spouse. But we should also consider that the quality of our marriage reflects on Christ and the church.