Our study today comes from Ephesians 5:28-33 where we conclude Paul's discussion about the relationship between Christ and his body by way of comparison with the marital relationship.Verse 28: So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. Remember as we are reading through this that Paul is going to say in verse 32 that he is talking about Christ and the church and is merely using the marriage relationship as the example. So, we must pay attention to the interpretation before worrying about the application.
I believe this verse is a reference to the one flesh mentioned in Genesis 2:24 which says, Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Albert Barnes says of it, "If a man wishes to promote his own happiness, he had better begin by showing kindness to his wife". He also said, "A man's kindness to his wife will be more than repaid by the happiness that she imparts". He that loveth his wife loveth himself means that when you love your wife, you benefit yourself.
Verse 29: For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: We all do what is in our own best interest. Therefore, it is in our own best interest that our wives are cared for! It's like the old adage, "Happy Wife, Happy Life"!
Verse 30: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. The Lord loves the members of his body. The application is that the man should love his wife in the same way.
Verse 31: For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. The verse seems to be an earthly illustration of the relationship that God has with his church.
Verse 32: This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. This verse explains the previous ones (verses 22-31). Context seems to dictate that. Keep in mind that the issue is still unity and he is just using marriage as an example. That being said, some commentaries seem to ignore this verse.
One said, "It would be easy to think that the Genesis 2:24 passage (also quoted by Jesus in Matthew 19:5) only speaks about marriage. Paul wants us to know that it also speaks about the relationship between Christ and the church.
Another said, "This is true in regard to the pattern of the first man and the first woman. Woman was made at the beginning as the result of an operation which God performed upon man. How does the church come into being? As the result of an operation which God performed on the Second Man, His only begotten, beloved Son on Calvary’s hill. A deep sleep fell upon Adam. A deep sleep fell upon the Son of God, He gave up the ghost, He expired, and there in that operation the church was taken out. As the woman was taken out of Adam, so the church is taken out of Christ. The woman was taken out of the side of Adam; and it is from the Lord’s bleeding, wounded side that the church comes.”
Albert Barnes comes the closest when he said, "This, it seems to me, is an explicit disclaimer of any intention to be understood as affirming that the marriage contract was designed to be a “type” of the union of the Redeemer and his people. The apostle says expressly, that his remarks do not refer to “marriage at all” when he speaks of the mystery. They refer “solely” to the union of the Redeemer and his people. How strange and unwarranted, therefore, are all the comments of expositors on this passage designed to explain marriage as “a mysterious type” of the union of Christ and the church! If people would allow the apostle to speak for himself, and not force on him sentiments which he expressly disclaims, the world would be saved from such insipid allegories as Macknight and others have derived from this passage. The Bible is a book of sense; and the time will come, it is hoped, when, freed from all such allegorizing expositions, it will commend itself to the good sense of mankind. Marriage is an important, a holy, a noble, a pure institution, altogether worthy of God; but it does not thence follow that marriage was designed to be a type of the union between Christ and the church, and it is certain that the apostle Paul meant; to teach no such thing."
Verse 33: Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. It all comes back to love and submission.