Οἱ ἄνδρες, ἀγαπᾶτε τὰς γυναῖκας, καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς ἠγάπησεν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἑαυτὸν παρέδωκεν ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς, ἵνα αὐτὴν ἁγιάσῃ καθαρίσας τῷ λουτρῷ τοῦ ὕδατος ἐν ῥήματι, ἵνα παραστήσῃ αὐτὸς ἑαυτῷ ἔνδοξον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, μὴ ἔχουσαν σπίλον ἢ ῥυτίδα ἤ τι τῶν τοιούτων, ἀλλ᾽ ἵνα ᾖ ἁγία καὶ ἄμωμος. Husbands, love the wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order that he might sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of water in word, in order that he himself might present to himself the glorious church, not having spot or blemish or any such things, but in order that she might be holy and blameless.
After having described what wives are to do in marriage in light of the command for all believers to submit to one another, Paul now describes what husbands are to do. While wives are instructed to submit to their husbands by their own choice of the will, husbands are instructed to love their wives. This command to love is also based on the relationship of Christ to the church, just as this relationship provided the basis for the exhortation for wives. We see the same analogy: Christ is to the church as husbands are to their wives, with respect to the former sacrificially loving and caring for the latter. Christ’s love for the church is described in several details. Christ sacrificially loved the church in order that he might sanctify her, in order that he might present her to himself in splendor, and that she might be holy and blameless, not in imperfect.
While these details do not directly apply to the husband, they enable us to see in what sense Christ loved the church. Christ loved the church by caring for, tending to, and investing in her. He gave himself up in order that he might sanctify her, cleansing her through the washing of water. The participle, καθαρίσας, “cleansing,” is a participle of means, and it further clarifies what Paul means by ἁγιάσῃ, “he might sanctify.” To sanctify is to set apart from moral impurity and include as holy. Christ sanctifies–sets apart as holy–the church through cleansing it by the washing of water in the word. This phrase, τῷ λουτρῷ τοῦ ὕδατος, is difficult to translate. Is it, “by the washing of the water”? Is it, “by the washing in water”? Since λουτρῷ, “washing,” consists of water, we can understand τοῦ ὕδατος to be a genitive of material; it attributes the material for the washing. The washing itself is the means of the cleansing, and therefore we translate the entire phrase in this way: “by the washing (consisting) of water.” If the washing is the means of the cleansing, what is ἐν ῥήματι? This phrase is also the means for the cleansing. The word works along with the washing of water for cleansing. What is this word? It is the gospel message, God’s word (Eph. 6:17). Christ also sacrificially loved the church by giving himself up for her in order to present her in splendor to himself. Christ is emphasized here to present to himself his own bride. No one else needs to present his bride to him. He does so himself. But he is going to present her in splendor. And he died for the church in order that she might be holy and blameless, not having a spot, blemish, or any such things. One of his purposes for sacrificially loving the church was to make her to be without moral imperfection. He loved the church despite her shortcomings, so that he could be her Savior, sanctifying and purifying her, and ultimately presenting her to himself.
Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of water along with the word, in order that he himself might present to himself the glorious church, not having a spot, blemish, or any such things, but in order for her to be holy and blameless.
Christ loved the church in a self-giving, self-sacrificial way. Husbands are called to emulate Christ in relationship to their wives by loving them in a similar way. Husbands bear a responsibility to love their wives, and to do so by investing in them, caring for them and tending to them. While wives are called to submit themselves to their husbands, husbands are called to love their wives. This relationship is based on Christ’s relationship to the church. We saw already that wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. Now we see that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Both parties are submitting; both are self-sacrificing. Wives sacrifice their position of authority; husbands sacrifice their own lives. Together, the two roles seen here reflect the call for all Christians to submit themselves to one another. This relationship provides an example of what it means to submit to each other out of fear of Christ. It is an organic relationship. Wives submit and husbands love. In this way, when a husband is given the opportunity for a job offer that demands relocating, he should not hastily decide to uproot his family. Instead, he should talk it over with his wife, obtain her feelings and thoughts about the situation so as to include her in the decision in order to do what is best for the relationship and not for his career. He is not to rule his wife, he is to love her. In those situations, he should sacrifice the job offer and stay where he is at if uprooting would prove to be unloving towards the wife. And this act of loving, as it is for wives and submitting, is a choice of the will. Husbands are not obligated to have feelings of love. They are obligated to choose to love their wives and to practice love. Husbands are expected to place their wives’ well-being ahead of their own, to tend to their wives, helping them to grow, and to invest in them.