I was reading this passage in Ephesians tonight in the TNIV.
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, people have never hated their own bodies, but they feed and care for them, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Traditionally this passage has been used to support submissive wives….and the chapter heading normally sits above verse 22, saying something like Wives Submit…. yet clearly the chapter heading should sit above verse 21 and saying Submit to one another.Paul finishes this chapter off in verse 33 saying that submission is respect….and the husband is to love his wife; in the same way he loves himself….
Yet I believe this passage is speaking more deeply than just about human relationships and instead is centred on Christ and the relationship he has with the church. For in the era and community Paul was speaking to; it was common for husbands to treat their wives like crap. And by using the illustration of husbands and wives he is elevating the extreme nature of what Christ actually did and continues to do for the church
Some time ago I made the proposition that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was a call for unity between the Jewish and Gentile believers and that Paul was making a point to an uppity Gentile church who were looking down on Jewish believers. Here I believe that Paul is making a profound statement that has been built up throughout the book to bring about complete unity between Jew and Gentile, such as is found in his prayers in chapter 3. In verse 32 Paul speaks of the mystery that Christ and the Church are one; using the metaphor of marriage, and that verse 33 supports the idea that Paul is speaking about how husbands and wives are to live only as an aside and is not his main point.
He makes it clear there is only one wife and that the church represents the wife and therefore both Jew and Gentiles are one… and Christ laid his life down for them both equally with no favouritism, for they are one with Christ.