October 18, 2015
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
Ephesians 5: 25-33 speaks to us about what true love looks like and where it comes from. Paul, the author, uses two word pictures to show this love to us: Christ’s love as shown by Christ to the Church, and marital love as shown by husbands to their wives. May we be filled with love for Christ and learn to truly love one another, whether married or single, as we meditate on true love in Ephesians 5.
1. The Nature of True Love (Ephesians 5: 25-33)
- True Love is Sacrificial
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25).
The phrase “gave himself up” means to turn one’s self over, or turn one’s self in…just as Jesus deliberately set up the circumstances that led to his death when he chose to die in our place, for our sins. In marriage, we are to place our spouse’s well-being above our own.
Paul encourages married couples to sacrifice for their partners. Wives are encouraged to give respect (Ephesians 5:33); husbands are not to demand respect. Respect will come naturally when husbands consider the welfare of their wives above their own.
Walter Trobisch, German pastor and missionary, in his book I Married You, suggests that for the husband, “I love you” means “you, you, you shall reign in my heart… I will wait for you, I will protect you, and I will give all that I possess to you.” It seems that this kind of love is in short supply today with our modern cynicism at marriage, negotiating for and demanding our individual rights.
- True Love Purifies
In the image of Ephesians 5:26, 27, we see that the true love of a husband cleanses his bride, which moves her toward her best: “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Here we see the image of Jesus cleansing His Church (His bride), using the water of his Word (Ephesians 5:26) to set believers apart for Holiness and make us more like him. We also see the image of a Middle Eastern bride preparing for marriage with a ritual bath before the ceremony.
In our American culture, our marital preparation customs are the reverse. The groom is not allowed to see the bride before the wedding ceremony to dazzle the groom and to honor the bride. This is her incredible, radiant moment at her best!
This passage in Ephesians, however, suggests that in true love, the husband/Christ loves the bride as she is. The groom/Christ will come and take her away to love her in her imperfection in order to bring her to her best, to make her holy (Ephesians 5: 26, 27).
True love of spouses is to be a purifying love, which accepts others with their flaws, in order to make them lovely…just as Jesus loves us.
- True Love Invests
“…Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body”(Ephesians 5:28, 29).
Paul’s logic here is based on incorporation and permanence. The couple becomes one flesh in marriage (Genesis 2:24), as they invest in each other’s lives in a caring, nurturing relationship where they share the same future. Similarly, Christ has invested himself in the Church, nurturing and caring for them, united to them as his own body” (Ephesians 5:32). Ultimately Christians will share the same future with Jesus in eternity.
2. Christ is both the model and source of true love.
In order to make true love work in marriage, as presented in Ephesians 5, Christ must be both its model and its source. We must have the model of Christ sacrificing for His purified church, which is like His own body, but this is not enough. We cannot love this way on our own by simply following a pattern.
We are helpless to find true love with others on our own. Thankfully, Jesus has done it all for us.
The model: For His Church, His bride, Jesus left His Father and chose to become a part of the body by allowing Himself to be sacrificed while we were still sinners. He died for us at our worst so that He could bring us to our best.
The source: Jesus gave us His Spirit while we are here on earth in order to help us share His love, His true love, especially with our married partners, and more broadly with all the world, through His power, which He gives believers as we turn to His Spirit and allow Him to work in our relationships.
Jesus, you have taught us clearly to love one another. We confess that we need you in order to live this way. Thank you for your ultimate example of true love, your love for your Church, and for giving us the power to share your love for our spouses and others through your Holy Spirit in us.