Ephesians 5:21-6:9 – Christian Husbands and Wives are Complementary and Mutual Servants


Ephesians 5:21-6:9


The bond between Jesus Christ and the church is extended to the similar duties of wives and husbands whose duties of raising Children are of equal weight in the sight of God. The sense and practice of mutuality starts with husbands who are immeasurably summoned to love their wives, echoing God’s creation of both male and female. Spiritually, the two are in an equal relationship of protecting and guarding the family, consequently, an analogy used in being stewards of the body of Christ.


The author continues to employ Pauline ethos of what defines members and followers of Jesus Christ. Followers of Jesus Christ who are living as an embodiment of their master are to live in love, shining the light of Christ, and be guided by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Living responsibly and intentionally, submission and obedience to Christ should be the guiding formula governing the relationships and responsibilities between husbands and wives, as well as in raising and shepherding children. The concept of discipleship is well situated here, and it is in the home that children learn to love, respect, care, and honor others. In the context of the Global South and Christian faith, discipleship begins with one’s sensibility to humanize others. We may surmise that Paul as a Jewish–Christian disciple drew much from his cultural milieu that informed him to be the person he later became–an ambassador, defender of the Gospel, and church planter. In a similar fashion, the writer of Ephesians is probably from the Pauline school where the apostle’s teachings were used to train and raise new leaders of the hurch.  

Living in the light of Jesus Christ, spouses are called to walk as ambassadors of the Gospel (5:8-9). As followers of Jesus Christ, the author connects the life of married spouses to that of Jesus Christ who is the bridegroom of the church. Christ as the husband of the church sacrificed his life to save, cherish, and nourish his bride. Similarly, husbands should imitate Christ’s care and nourishment to their wives. Reciprocally, wives are to mutually submit to their husbands out of respect and as a response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Mutual submission is not meant to oppress or objectify either spouse, but rather it is all done out of reverence for Jesus Christ. In other words, submission is an equal opportunity employer for spouses and their children. It is possible that the author of Ephesians drew some lessons from Genesis 2:24 where a man is said to leave his parents and be united to his wife. This union is both discipleship and a heavenly oriented marriage.  The result of mutual living for husbands and wives led to a gospel formation of family lives in the early Christian movement, and in the 21st-century global church.

The text echoes Paul’s teaching on the meaning, role, and function of love. As equal members of the same household, parents and children are to love each other, and in doing so, they edify each other. The phrase common in Paul’s letters is “In Christ,” a gospel lesson that calls on believers to put off their cultural and human old selves and their attitudes. Instead, believers are to have godly attitudes that will build fellow members of the household and those of the church. The theological, faith, and spiritual lessons in this chapter are that believers should be kind, loving, empathetic, forgiving, and compassionate (4:31-32). With these virtues in their being, believers will grow in their walk as followers of Jesus Christ, and they will conduct themselves in wisdom. Christian growth is a daily living, and it leads to believers working in redeeming the time and steadily grasping the wisdom of the Lord (5:15-17). 

The practice of mutual submission and love is underscored as the pivotal point in any Christian household with Paul pointing to the sacred role of husbands and wives whose mission, ministry, and life is to raise children in love. The submission extends to masters or perhaps company owners that they too should not oppress their personnel because Jesus Christ is the master of all humanity (5:22-6:9).