Ephesians 5:25–33 contains vital instructions for husbands in their relationship with their wives. Verse 25 gives the basic command: “Husbands, love your wives.” In case anyone wonders, the Greek word for “love” here is a form of agape. Husbands are to love their wives with God’s kind of love selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional. For a husband to love his wife, he must truly desire what is best for her, and he must work for that best, regardless of the cost to himself.
The standard by which husbands are to love their wives is stated outright, and it’s a high standard, indeed: “Just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). The love of Christ took Him to the cross; the love of a husband for his wife will involve a similar giving of himself, even if the end result is not as bloody. Such is the nature of true love that it is willing to sacrifice for the loved one. Such is the nature of marriage that God intends husbands to sacrifice for their wives.
“Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:28–29). The “one-flesh” principle comes into play here. Selfishness has no place in a marriage. And, ironically, as a husband meets the needs of his wife, he will find that he himself reaps the benefits. Note, too, that the standard for husbands’ love of their wives comes back to Christ’s love of the church.
Too often, husbands look earlier in Ephesians 5 and latch on to verse 22: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” However, verse 22 was not written to husbands. It is specifically addressing wives.
What is a husband’s responsibility? To love his wife. Without selfishness, without reservation, and without condition. Love her as Christ loved the church unto death (see John 13:1). Love her, seek her best, sacrifice for her benefit, give yourself to her wholeheartedly, and, when that’s all done, love her some more.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A GODLY WIFE?
To define a godly wife, we must first consider what the word godly means. In 1 Timothy 2:2, Paul uses the word in conjunction with being “peaceful,” “quiet,” and “dignified.” The Bible says the Spirit, who is in every believer, produces visible and invisible acts of godliness, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). The decisive definition of godliness would be “Christlikeness.” Godliness involves a genuine striving to imitate Christ, to be like Him in thought and action as the apostle Paul strived to be (1 Corinthians 11:1). These characteristics of a godly disposition apply to every believer, whether male or female. Fortunately, the Bible gives more specific qualifications as to what a godly woman—particularly, a godly wife—looks like.
In the book of Proverbs, there is a beautiful word picture painted of a godly wife. The virtues of a godly wife have not changed, even over thousands of years. A godly wife is one who has the complete trust of her husband. He doesn’t have to worry she will be tempted by the wilese of another man, overcharge the credit cards, or spend all day watching soap operas. He knows she is dignified, wise, and devoted (Proverbs 31:11, 12, 25, 26). He is confident of her support and sincere love because she is not vindictive or critical. Her husband has a good reputation in the community, and his wife never speaks ill of him, never gossips about him. Rather, she is always lifting him up and giving him praise. She maintains the household thoroughly and is well-respected herself (Proverbs 31:12, 21, 23).
A godly wife spends less time in front of the mirror than in sharing her goods with the poor and needy because she is selfless and benevolent (Proverbs 31:20, 30). But she doesn’t neglect herself; she keeps her body and spirit strong and in good health. Although she works hard and keeps long hours, she is not haggard; she cares about beautiful things to enhance herself and her family (Proverbs 31:17, 21, 22).
Contrary to what many believe a biblical portrait of a godly wife to be, Proverbs 31 reveals she is enterprising and ambitious. The Proverbs 31 wife is a small business owner—she makes and sells garments. She makes her own business decisions independently, and she alone decides what to do with her earnings (Proverbs 31:16, 24). Notice, however, her earnings do not go toward shoes or bags, but to buy a field where she can plant a vineyard—something that will benefit the whole family.
Through all of her endeavors, service, and hard work, the godly wife maintains joy. She can discern all she is doing is profitable, which spurs her on to a sense of gratification (Proverbs 31:18). A godly wife doesn’t worry about what the future may bring. She smiles at the future because she knows her Lord is in control of everything (Proverbs 31:25, 30). Verse 30 is the key to the entire passage because a woman cannot be a godly wife without first fearing the Lord. It is the godly wife’s pursuit of Jesus and her abiding in Him that bring the fruit of godliness to manifestation in her life (see John 15:4).
Finally, a godly wife should be submissive to her husband (Ephesians 5:22). For a wife to be submissive to her husband as Christ is submissive to the Father means she willingly allows her husband to lead. Jesus went willingly to the cross, although not without distress (Matthew 26:39). Christ knew the Father’s way was best. A godly wife may find the path of submissiveness painful at times, but following God will always result in spiritual rewards that last for all eternity (1 Timothy 4:7–8).
The Bible equates submissiveness to one’s husband to submissiveness to God (Ephesians 5:22). In other words, if a wife cannot submit to her husband, it may be a reflection of her struggle to be submissive to Christ. Submission does not imply weakness; a submissive wife is not “unintelligent” or “unimportant.” Submission requires strength, dignity, and devotion, as we learn from the Proverbs 31 woman.
Proverbs 31 presents the ideal. A woman can be a godly wife without being perfect (we know there is no such thing as human perfection). But as a wife grows more intimate in her relationship with Christ, she will grow increasingly godly in her marriage. Godliness is often in opposition of what secular society says a woman should aspire to. However, as women of God our first concern must always be what pleases God.