Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…Ephesians 5:25-26
The marriage metaphor appears many times throughout the Bible. both in the Old and New Testaments. You find it un Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Matthew, John, Ephesians, and Revelation. All point to the covenant between the Lord and his people. Within this imagery, the people of God are often depicted as a bride, and the Lord as the bridegroom.
In Today’s scripture, Paul uses it to uphold marriage in pagan Ephesian culture. In that city, the culture has to powerful influences that affect Christian marriages; the temple of Artemis, and the paterfamilias.
The former was the main temple in the city that focused on the goddess of sexuality and fertility. Her worship involved priestesses, prostitution, and more. Not a great influence for former pagans transformed by Christ, the one true God.
The latter was the traditional Greco-Roman understanding of the family (familias) ruled by the father (pater). In this understanding, the wife is more like property rather than a covenant partner.
Notice how Paul describes a husband giving himself (his life) up to sanctify the wife. The Greek word here is the same as the word translated as “hallow” which means honored as holy, or greatly revered. This is radically different than treating one’s wife as a possession or subservient member within the household.
What does all this say about how Christians should approach marriage?