What does Ephesians 5 Teach Husbands About Biblical Love?

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:25–33)

Ephesians 5:25-33 makes it clear that men are called to action within the context of our marriages. These verses contain five action words that remind us we are called to take action, not live in complacency.

  1. Love – What a woman wants, needs and responds to.
  2. Give – This is the man sacrificing his own self, his own needs and his own desires to put the needs of his wife before his own.
  3. Sanctify – Her holiness and walk in the Lord is the highest importance.
  4. Cleansed – A man is to take his wife’s holiness serious and make it his priority.
  5. Present – Give an answer or give an account for her and the way he loved her and led her.

3 Characteristics of Active Love

Husbands, we must exhibit biblical love to our wives. Continue learning to understand how your wife needs to be loved. Paul points to 3 characteristics of biblical love:

  1. Sacrificial love (Ephesians 5:25)
  2. Sanctifying love (Ephesians 5:26-27)
  3. Self-love (Ephesians 5:28-30)

1. Sacrificial Love

“…as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself up for her.”

Virtually all men practiced adultery in the Greco-Roman world. People expected it as a normal part of life. Paul’s statement could not have been more counter-cultural for Gentiles. To say God commanded people to have one wife was laughable. But, to direct husbands to lay down their lives in love toward their wives was appalling! It was easy to take the legal steps of divorce, but Paul completely challenged the logic of the day. The Gospel is contrary to the logic and morals of man and marriage flows in the same vein.

God ordained that the marriages of Christians would serve as a picture of the Gospel to those outside the Church. So, husbands needed to lead the way in loving their wives with the sacrificial love of Christ.

Characteristics of Sacrificial Love:

  • Unto death – Death to self, in life. Jesus said we are to die daily by taking up our cross, and Paul said that we die daily. Can I live for my wife in this manner? (Any man will die physically for his wife)
  • Prays for his wife (like Jesus).
  • Attentive to the needs of the bride (like Jesus).
  • Faithfulness. One-woman man. (Emotionally and physically)

2. Sanctifying Love

“…that he might sanctify her having cleansed her with the washing of The Word.” 

Men, we are to live under God’s Word, loving it and growing in the knowledge of it daily. This is our job and our joy. A husband’s love is powerful when he cares about the holiness of his wife more than anything else. Nothing should be more important to him.

Kent Hughes has written an excellent commentary on Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. He points out some key truths applicable to our marriages now:

“Her salvation and sanctification are solely due to the work of Christ, nevertheless, a prominent instrument in her progressive sanctification has been her loving husband…How did this come about? He was a man in whom God’s Word richly dwelled (Col. 3:16). As God’s Word and Spirit filled him, he lived out the ethics of the Kingdom.” (Ephesians Commentary, p. 190)

Ask yourself: “Is my wife more like Christ because she is married to me?”

3. Self-love

“He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:28).

  • One flesh
  • Sensitivity to my wife’s feelings
  • Sensitivity to my wife’s needs
  • Practice patience
  • Be long-suffering (this is where I trust in the Lord to work in my wife, giving time for that to happen)
  • Extend grace

What do we do now?

Husbands, our mission is to love our wives like Christ loves the Church. This requires a supernatural power that produces a love within our hearts that no man could muster on his own. Abiding in Christ is the only way you will be able to exhibit the love that Scripture commands husbands to give to their wives. This love is utterly sacrificial, completely sanctifying for our wives, and fulfilling for both of you.

Holy love is what God requires of us. This will fulfill us both and empower mutual respect within marriage.

Learn More – Snowbird Marriage Conference


This article is based on Brody Holloway’s sermon at the 2018 Snowbird Marriage Conference.