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Paul's epistle to the Ephesians is, in some ways, a continuation of his epistle to the Romans. It enlarges upon Romans 1-8 in regard to the believer's position and right standing with God. We are "seated" with Christ, so we must "walk" according to our calling, and "stand" in the full armor of God against those who would oppose us.
Category - Bible Commentaries
Paul quotes Gen. 2:24 in Eph. 5:31, writing,
31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
In Genesis, “for this reason” refers to the previous verse, telling us that the woman was “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” On account of this, she was called “woman, because she was taken out of man.” In other words, the womb was taken out of Adam and placed in a separate body.
This speaks of unity, derived from the fact that the two had been one from the beginning. Just because God separated man into male and female later did not mean that this unity had been broken. The unity had simply been altered from a physical unity to a legal (i.e., spiritual) unity. (Note that “the law is spiritual,” Rom. 7:14).
Paul cites Gen. 2:24 to emphasize the same principle of unity in regard to the “members of His body” (Eph. 5:30), as well as the unity of husband and wife. Such was the condition of the man and woman prior to sin that broke this unity. Full unity, as God intended it, is possible only by eliminating the effects of sin. From a New Testament perspective, it is clear that unity with Christ is what makes possible full unity in all relationships, the chief of which is the marriage of a man and a woman.
In Gen. 2:24, the prescribed path to unity is for a man to leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. Strangely enough, it is not the woman who must leave her parents and be joined to her husband, as one might think. Neither Gen. 2:24 nor Eph. 5:31 comment on this wording. In my view, it is prophetic of the fact that Christ, “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45) would leave His Father in heaven and be joined to His wife here on earth.
In other words, when Christ and His Bride are married, the marriage will be consummated here on earth, rather than in heaven. The church will not go to heaven to live with Christ for eternity, as so many have been told. Instead, Christ will come to earth to live in unity with His Bride. So Christ said in Matt. 5:5 (KJV), “The meek will inherit the earth.”
Again, we read in Rev. 5:10, “they will reign on the earth.” The purpose of Christ’s coming is to leave His Father and be joined to His wife here on the earth, so that Jesus’ prayer in Matt. 6:10 will be fulfilled, saying,
10 Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
The kingdom will include both heaven and earth, for His kingdom and dominion is defined in Gen. 1:1,
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Heaven was always His kingdom, but when He created the earth, the kingdom was extended beyond its original borders, so to speak. Whatever He creates, He owns by right of creation and by the law that secures and protects the rights of the laborer. This fundamental law is expressed in a negative form, “You shall not steal” (Deut. 5:19).
When Jesus’ prayer is answered fully, earth itself will be in unity with heaven in the greatest example of marriage. Those who are fully perfected through the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles will have access to both heaven and earth—as if they are one.
Paul says in Eph. 5:32,
32 This mystery [mysterion, “hidden thing, secret”] is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
The great secret is God’s plan of unification, which, as we have said, means that the pattern of broken unity caused by sin must be fully overcome. How to accomplish this is the main theme of Scripture from beginning to end. The failure of the first Adam had to be overcome by the success of the last Adam. The last Adam did indeed leave His Father and come to earth so that He could restore unity with His New Covenant Bride.
The Old Covenant marriage at Sinai, under the mediatorship of Moses, was good, but it failed and ended in divorce. Even so, Moses, as a type of Christ, established the basic pattern of marriage between Christ and Israel. The main difference is that the Old Covenant marriage was based on the promise of men (Exodus 19:8), while the New Covenant marriage is based on the promise of God (Rom. 4:20). Men were unable to keep their promise, but God is able.
“This mystery,” as Paul puts it, has been revealed from the beginning, but men did not understand it, because it was written in symbols, parables, and stories that were obscure and hidden to most people. The prophets shed more light on this mystery, but it was not until the New Testament was written that the church began to comprehend it better.
Even so, the secret was lost to the church at large, because they fell back into an Old Covenant relationship with Christ, based on their own promise to God, instead of seeing that their salvation depended on the promise of God through the New Covenant. For this reason, a certain blindness came upon the church that was comparable to the blindness of “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38, KJV) in the days of Moses. Deut. 29:4 says,
4 Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.
The Israelites did not realize that their blindness was rooted in the fact that they were Old Covenant believers, whose faith was based on their own promise to God. The people thought that if they prayed, God’s assistance would result in an ability to keep their promise of obedience. This worked only partially, but no one could be perfected in this way. It is not the plan of God for any flesh to succeed (even with God’s help), for then the flesh would be given a measure of glory. Success must come from God fulfilling His promise, that no flesh may glory or take credit.
The point is that blindness is attached to the Old Covenant itself, and that no flesh can be saved through the Old Covenant.
Eph. 5:33 says,
33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love [agape] his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects [phobeo, “fear, respect, reverence”] her husband.
Here Paul applies the principle of marriage to the family unit itself as individuals, using the larger pattern of Christ and the church as the model. It is perhaps curious that husbands are commanded to love (agape), while wives are commanded only to respect (phobeo) their husbands. In connection with this, Paul says in Titus 2:4,
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior… teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love [philandros] their husbands…
The word philandros is from phileo, “brotherly or sisterly love.” It is certainly a valid form of love, but yet it is not agape, which is the highest form of love. There is no specific command that wives should agape their husbands. Instead, they are commanded to phobeo (“fear, respect, reverence”) their husbands and to love them with phileo.
It is not that women are incapable of agape love, as some may conclude. Yet it appears that husbands are responsible to a higher standard of love. In that authority and responsibility always go in equal measures, it appears that the greater authority of the husband means also that he has a greater responsibility toward his wife.
To love on a phileo level can be linked to the Old Covenant, even as agape can be linked to the New Covenant. Likewise, when Paul tells women to fear or respect (phobeo) their husbands, a different nuance is presented.
1 John 4:18 says,
18 There is no fear in love (agape); but perfect love (agape) casts out fear (phobos), because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love (agape).
In the previous verse, John says, “By this, love is perfected with us,” implying that love has to be perfected (completed, matured). Phileo love teaches respect for the rights of others, but agape goes beyond respect by adding grace and the ability to absorb injustice. Hence, phileo demands equal justice, seen so often among siblings during their years of immaturity, whereas agape is mature love that characterizes the God of love.
So the presumption in Eph. 5:33 seems to be that the husband is mature, while the wife is still in the process of maturing in love. In those days, it was normal for an older man to marry a young wife who was yet in her teens. Thus, Paul lays the responsibility upon the husbands of bringing the wife to the place of mature love, so that they can truly enjoy the unity of New Covenant marriage.
Of course, in our modern culture, it is no longer common to see a big age difference in marriage. In fact, because women tend to mature sooner than men, it is perhaps more common today for wives to achieve agape before their husbands.
In such cases, a wife ought to love her husband while he is yet in the phileo level of love. I speak from personal experience, because in my first year of marriage, I needed a lot of help from my wife to learn how to love her as Christ loved the church. In those days, I respected and reverenced her enough to be teachable.
It was only years later that our roles were reversed. After I began to learn how to hear God’s voice in 1982, it was inevitable that this would make me responsible to bring my wife into the same capability, so that she could truly provide a double witness in our marriage. I found this responsibility to be nearly impossible to fulfill, and so I prayed for her. Fortunately, God intervened directly and worked circumstances to correct the situation in 1992.
This brought a new unity in an agape relationship that we had not known previously. Though we did not realize it at first, we stumbled into the great mystery of unity and marriage (Eph. 5:32). Though not yet perfected entirely, it is clear that we were able to move from a Gen. 3:16 relationship into the Gen. 2:24 marriage relationship.
We have never regretted it.