“Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (22) Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord … (25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:21-22, 25)
In an effort to answer the question posed in our title, our answer began in Attitude; which is founded in the Love of God. When this Attitude is centered and empowered by the Love of God; then the second step is Action, or Fruit-bearing, produced by the indwelling Spirit of Christ.
The first action was a “leaving and cleaving”; which flows from the attitude of commitment, determination, and endurance; and from this attitude being total and complete.
The second step in the “Action” is submission and love, as the text reveals. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (verse 21). This is a general statement for all the members of Christ’s body. Then Paul specifies the responsibility of the wife’s action and of the husband’s action:
1) First the wife is to submit “unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (verse 22). The original word that is here translated as “submit” means “to rank under.” It is a military word; it has nothing to do with quality, or value, but refers to position. The husband is the head and the wife is the body; just as Christ is the Head and His wife, the Church, is His Body. Paul was defining the wife’s action in her God-ordained position.
In the military, the ranks of General to Private speak only of position and order, not of inequality; for all men are of the same blood (Acts 17:26a); and God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11; Acts 10:34). So it is in the marriage relationship of husband (the head) and wife (the body). Submission flows from the love of God and to God “as unto the Lord” (verse 22), and covers her entire being “in every thing” (Ephesians 5:24e). (For more information, see the commentary on “The Home” by R.V. of HOHPM.) A wife’s submission is not out of fear or retribution, but out of love to God, whom the husband represents. Her desire is to please Christ (Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Timothy 2:9-15; 1 Peter 3:1-6).
2) The husband is to love his wife. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” The husband’s love for his wife is a giving love, a sacrificial love, a love of purpose, and a total love.
Ephesians 5:28 “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.”
1 Peter 3:7-8 “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (8) Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.”
The first reason for this is to sanctify and cleanse by washing the wife with the Word of God; which will lead her to holiness and perfection (Ephesians 5:26-27). The second reason is to type out Christ and His Bride (Ephesians 5:32) and His love for her. “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).
Then Paul concludes in Ephesians 5:33, “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”