Wives and Husbands (Ephesians 5)

How do you spot a Spirit filled Christian? Maybe you look for that radiant glow. It’s like they float into the room and their face shines. Maybe, it’s all about their gifts. Can they speak in tongues, heal, prophesy?  Maybe it’s whether others recognise them and give them a title like pastor, prophet, missionary …

Well as we get on to these next verses in Ephesians, it’s really still all about being filled with the Spirit.  There’s one long sentence that starts back in verse 15 “Do not be drunk on wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Then it lists all the things to do with being filled with the Holy Spirit

Speak to one another in Psalms hymns etc – encourage each other

Sing praise – glorify God

Give thanks

AND submit to one another

How are we filled with the Spirit and how do we fight spiritual warfare against the forces of evil and darkness? We do it in our everyday lives – at home, church and work.

Now these verses are not easy. They are controversial because they have that word “submit.” We don’t like to submit to anyone do we? Also the emphasis is often on wives submitting to husbands and that gets used by some men to boss their wives around to be cruel and abusive. As we look at the verses we will see there is no justification for such behaviour.

Finally, they are hard for some of us because some are single and would desperately love to be married and these verses hurt. Maybe some are single and never want to be married and they all sound a bit irrelevant.


  1. It’s good for us to listen to instructions to others -we want to help support and encourage each other in our callings
  2. There’s some wonderful special good news for all of us, single and married at the end.

So I want you to notice three instructions

  1. What are we to do?[1]


  1. We are all to submit to one another (v21)

This is mutual submission. It means that we are all equal in God’s family. We do not have a hierarchy.  I’m a pastor but I’m not to lord it over others.  I must be willing to serve and help. It means I listen to what the other elders say and take time to hear the needs and ideas of church members.

I hope we all see each other like this in Nueva Vida. If someone asks you to help with something, help them. Show that you value and love each other.

  1. Wives to husbands (22-24)

This is actually the first of a series of examples.  It’s not that women are subservient to men. It’s specifically wives relating to their husbands. Their husbands have already submitted to them in v21 as part of the church -and there’s more coming in minute.


  1. It’s something done willingly -not forced
  2. It’s done because your husband is called to be the “head” in the home. The idea here is that he should take spiritual responsibility if he is a believer and seek to make sure that the whole family are following Jesus. I think God asks husbands to do this because Adam failed to take spiritual responsibility.
  3. It is “in the Lord” in other words -really we submit to each other because we want to please Jesus. It’s really him I submit to trough others and this will help me if I don’t feel like submitting.

It will mean showing respect. Not joking about or undermining your husband. This is important. Some of you have husbands who aren’t believers yet. You can’t follow their spiritual lead. You can still show them love and respect and that can be a good witness as you pray for them.

  1. Husbands Sacrificially love your wives (25-29)

Ah -at this point the men are getting very proud. We are the heads. Our wives must submit to us. But no -this isn’t meant to be our behaviour.

Remember I said that submission goes both ways. Husbands you are to submit to your wife in a very special way.

Paul says that we are to love our wives like Christ loved the church.

How did Christ love the church?

He took on the nature of a servant. He washed the disciples feet. He died in our place.  That’s costly, sacrificial love.

Husbands must put their wives needs first (that’s not always the same as wishes) after the Gospel. We should be willing to protect and care for them. We must be willing if necessary even to give our lives for our wives.

This means we don’t put our wives in danger.

This means that men should respect women. No vulgar comments, stares, inappropriate sexual touching of someone who isn’t your wife. No physical violence. No demanding she does what you want.

Some of us may realise at this point that we have let our wives, female friends etc down and we may feel guilty and ashamed. It’s good news to know God’s grace at this point  – we’ll come to that in a minute.

  1. Why are we to do this?


  1. Because we are meant to become “one flesh”  (v31)

The objective is not hierarchy but unity.  Husbands and wives are meant to have a close bond.  This is also a reason why those who are not married need to hear sermons on marriage. It’s important that we never do anything to harm or undermine another person’s marriage.

  1. Because marriage is really a picture of Christ and his church (v32-33)

I promised you good news for all of us.  The picture here is of Christ being the husband and the church being the bride. Marriage is to help us understand that.

It’s good news because if any of us felt a sense of guilt and shame earlier -we are told that we have been washed and cleansed by Jesus.

He is making his bride the church beautiful and ready for him.

It’s good news because being single is only temporary. We will all one day experience true marriage because this life is a preparation for the “The marriage feast of Jesus and the church.”

Here we are learning to love and be loved.  Because Jesus loves us perfectly and invites us to love him back

Here we are learning to submit and obey him

If any of us got big headed thinking others were going to be submitted to then we have a big problem

If any of us got angry and resented being told we might have to submit then we have a problem too.

I say that knowing that actually we all do struggle with both those things.

But actually, the point is this. Yes, we are all called to submit to Jesus. There’s no point trying to be top of a human hierarchy because actually there’s only one person who is really important -who really matters. Its him


There’s lots of practical things about everyday life in this passage and next week’s passage. Let’s encourage each other to be filled with the Spirit as we willingly submit to one another. We can take questions as well in a minute -so if you did not like something I said, don’t go away cross at me tonight. Ask your questions, give your objections and I’ll try and answer.

But don’t miss the even deeper point here. Do you know what it means to be loved by Christ?  Have you received forgiveness?  Are you submitting to him as Lord?  If you have not done that yet, I’ like to encourage you to pray the prayer.

Thank you Lord God that you are my heavenly father and love me

I know that I am a sinner, I deserve your judgement.

Thank you for loving me and sending your Son Jesus to die for me.

I repent from my sin and ask you to forgive me.

I promise to love and obey you.

I ask that you will fill me with your Holy Spirit


Going Further

This was a sermon preached at Nueva Vida.  If you’d like to look at this subject in more detail, check out our PDF E-book “Marriage at Work” which can be downloaded from our publications page.