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Ephesians 5 v 28 – 29 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

To read the whole of the chapter click HERE

We are considering the whole question of

The Kind of love that a man should have for his wife.

– Of the kind of love that Christ has for His church, and that Christ expects every man to have for his wife. We have already dealt with

1. A sacrificial Love.

Which is the husband making sure that his love is of such a quality that, come what may, his wife will reign so supremely in his heart that no sacrifice would seem too great for him to make for her.

This is keeping before him the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and His great love for His church.

v 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Secondly we have considered a husband’s love as

2. A Sanctifying Love. v 26 – 27.

26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

The purpose of Christ’s death on the cross with regard to His Church was to SANCTIFY, CLEANSE and ultimately GLORIFY His people who make up His church. This preparation work goes on in the life of the Christian from conversion to promotion to glory – a washing of the soul by preaching and teaching to make it ready for glory, removing the blemishes caused by sin. This is a process involving God who cleanses, and the believer who learns how to keep clean from the defilement faced every day in this sinful world. We learnt that a husband also has the responsibility of leadership in the marriage relationship to so love his wife that he organises this cleansing for both of them – husband and wife – leading in righteousness and godliness through the Word of God and its washing function.

This morning we come to the third aspect of a husband’s love modelled on Christ’s love for His Church – it is

3. A Satisfying Love. v 28 – 30.

28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

It has been said that,

“Husbands should love their wives for what they are and should also love them sufficiently to help them to become what they should be.” (William Hendriksen)1

Immediately we can realise that this is Christ’s way of dealing with us His church, his wife/bride. He loves us as we are – in our tendency to sin and rebel and fail in our duties to God. He loves us even though we are what we are – sinners, unholy, sometimes unlovely, unlovable, and unloving. Are we conscious of the unconditional love of our Blessed Lord and saviour? He has loved us His children with a quality of love unique to Him because He is God –

Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

This quality of love is the ultimate in love. Christ loved us before the foundation of the world – before we existed – in eternity past. He came to die and give Himself a sacrifice driven by this everlasting love that never fails. And He has promised to love us for eternity from hereon. This is the uniqueness of it!

More than this He has imparted this love to us in such a way that we too can be stimulated to love in almost the same way –

1 John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.

I say almost because our love can never be the same as His – we have spent some of our lives loving ourselves exclusively. We have not loved anyone from eternity past as He has. However we can learn to love like Him from now on INTO eternity. And this is the aspect of love that satisfies – stated in the next three verses. We will think about these verses in three headings – but we will only have time for two of them today –

1. A Mandate for Men v 28

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

Christ’s love for the Church forms the pattern for a husband’s love for his wife.

2. A Mutuality in Marriage v 29

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

Christ’s nurture of the Church forms the pattern for a husband’s nurture of his wife.

3. The Meaning of Membership v 30

For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

Christ’s care for His church forms the pattern upon which a husband’s behaviour towards His wife is modelled and points to the relationship between Christ and the members of His church.

1. A Mandate for Men v 28

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

The title for this first point – a Mandate for men reflects the presence of the little word “so” at the beginning of the verse. So leads us to follow on in our thinking from the previous verses and what we have learned about sacrifice and sanctification. As Christ has sacrificed Himself so the husband should be sacrificial in His love for his wife. As Christ sanctifies and cleanses so the husband should take His part in ensuring His wife’s growth in grace. In this way we men have a glorious opportunity, an authority, to look at the Lord Jesus Christ, observe His ways with us His church, and seek to model our lives on His. The word ought therefore is not an imperative. The words are not So MUST men love their wives. This is not a command – it is more of a moral obligation on the part of husbands to realise that their wives are part of themselves. Wives and husbands are not two – they are one. And the Apostle Paul opens up a new area of thought.

He has mentioned the Church as the Bride then moved to illustrate the Church as the Body –

v 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

Then he moved from the body to the bride as he begins to instruct husbands in verses 25 – 27.

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

His thought process moves from a man and his wife to Christ and His church, from the Church as a bride to the church as a body. What was in Paul’s mind, as he desired to explain this relationship in terms that the Ephesians and we could understand?

Surely he was thinking back to the very beginnings of the human race – the Garden of Eden. Adam was caused to sleep and his body was opened up. A bone was removed from his side and that bone was used to form a body – which became his bride. Two concepts – bride and body – yet these are wonderfully bound together in that very first marriage in human history –

Genesis 2 v 21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Notice that phrase

They shall be one flesh

at the end of verse 24. On the foundation of this phrase Paul faithfully communicates God’s doctrine of marriage. In marriage two people become one not only physically but spiritually and psychologically too. This is why the modern trends in marriage are away from the God given pattern. Men and women are questioning God’s plan when the sacred marital relationship is violated. When this happens mankind challenges God’s foundation – that the marriage bond of two people, one man and one woman, into one is permanent – for life. Consequently bigamy, polygamy and voluntary divorce are all inconsistent with the God designed nature of marriage. Also all casual liaisons outside of marriage are bound to be unblessed and, what is more, earn God’s judgement; and if unconfessed and unforsaken will bring inevitable retribution. Today’s society needs to know this – there is even confusion amongst professing Christian people who listen to the world and take the world as its standard instead of God’s word.

Paul moves to the second phrase in verse 28 from the plural

men ought to love their wives

to the singular –

he that loveth his wife loveth himself.

There are two things that need to be said here.

1. A partner is not a wife or a husband – they are not equivalent terms.

It is insufficient to regard husbands and wives as mere partners. Certainly there is an aspect of partnership in a marriage – but the members of a marriage according to God are MORE than that. You can be a partner in a business firm – but you are not married in that partnership. It may be a little out of date but there are some who regard their spouse as their “other half or better half.” This is nearer the Biblical model “They two shall be one flesh.” The difference is this – partners are two units joined together in partnership. A married couple is two halves joined together to make ONE!

Whenever someone introduces you to his or her partner remember this difference. Partners may separate and retain their individual integrity as two separate people – but spouses if they separate, and indeed when death separates one spouse from another, there is something missing – half has gone. John Calvin, commenting on Matthew 19 when the Lord Jesus Christ deals with divorce says this,

“Now Christ assumes as an admitted principle, that at the beginning God joined the male to the female, so that the two made the entire man; and therefore he who divorces his wife tears from him, as it were, the half of himself. But nature does not allow any man to tear in pieces his own body.”

This is why the modern trend is to partnership – it is easier to call it a day and go separately without too much trauma. People want to think of themselves as two single people getting along nicely but retaining the right to preserve their individuality.

But marriage is different. Paul says, God says, that that would be quite impossible in marriage because

He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

He is not loving somebody else he is loving himself. Let us, as Christian people, not fall into the world’s trap of equating partnership with marriage.

2. There is a good “self-motive” here.

It is a sign of well-adjusted people that they love themselves. We do not mean that well-adjusted people are selfish – loving yourself and being selfish are quite different things. A normal and wholesome love of self in its proper place is not sinful. God helps us to understand this in the context of marriage. In Genesis 5 v 2 God addresses Adam and Eve as Mr and Mrs Adam –

1. this is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; 2. Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.

It was God who officiated at the wedding of Adam and Eve. He pronounced them husband and wife with ONE NAME – ADAM – two people with one name. A bride surrenders her family name on marriage and takes her husband’s name. Whereas I remain Mr David Kay my dear wife has become Mrs David Kay and I understand that she is more than pleased to do so.

This is the outworking of

He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

The husband gives his wife his name because now he is not alone. His thinking about life includes his wife for he is no longer isolated or in detachment. When he is joined to his wife she becomes part of him. Therefore if a man is cruel to his wife he is in essence cruel to himself. If he is thoughtless; if he is mean; if he is indifferent he is thoughtless, mean and indifferent to himself – because he is only half of the one – half of the one is bound to affect the other half.

Positively if the man in kind, tender, thoughtful and loving towards his wife then he is kind, tender, thoughtful and loving towards himself. This is the sense in which loving oneself is legitimate –

He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

As a husband I am no longer free to be one man on my own – my wife must be involved in all of my desires. She is not an addition to me – she is part of me. Some men treat their wives as if they are a burden, an encumbrance, and a drain on their individuality. Such men do not appreciate Paul’s words here

He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

This teaching cuts right across any thoughts of selfishness in either the man or the woman in marriage. The antidote to selfishness in the wife is submission. The antidote to selfishness in the man is the reminder that he cannot exist without his wife she is his other half – his suitable helper – the object of his love – indeed his very self.

Brethren this is our mandate. When we are tempted to complain about our wives let us catch ourselves first. Say something like this to yourself before you criticise or pull her down – say “That is me I am talking about – that is myself – that is my other half – when I complain about her I complain about myself.” And then the opposite is true as well. When you praise your wife and appreciate her personality and grace and all the other things that you admire in her you are appreciating yourself. This my brethren is the level of oneness taught in this verse

He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

Will we modify our thinking from today on? Will we truly get hold of this teaching and recognise our wives to be ourselves? This is Christ’s model and pattern for us and we should pay close attention to it.

We must move on to our second point this morning.

2. A Mutuality in Marriage v 29

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

Christ’s nurture of the Church forms the pattern for a husband’s nurture of his wife.

Continuing his theme Paul adds to what he has already said about the man loving his wife as himself. Men are very good at looking after their own bodies. They have strategies to make sure that their bodies are fed. They know how to protect their bodies from danger by clothing them and providing shelter from weather and hostility. But that is stating the basics. Men actually are motivated further to care for their bodies in a bountiful way, often elaborate and sympathetic to our every feeling. We know how to look after ourselves using our common sense. We desire to be well, safe and comfortable. Rather than making this sound selfish just consider what happens when I get a headache – I want to be rid of it; when I become hungry – I want to eat; thirsty – I want to drink; tired I want to sleep. As a normal human being I will do what I can to solve the problem. We usually respond to bodily needs by wasting little time in seeking to meet those needs – because for better or for worse we are wedded to our bodies.

Since that is true for a man that a man cannot ignore his body because he loves his body – and this is the same as saying as the text here says

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it,

then a married man, who believes God’s word that his wife is as his own body, will therefore treat his wife and her body and whole life with the same care and tender concern that he has for himself. It is not just the DUTY of a husband to love his wife as his own body, but it is as NATURAL as loving his own body.

This is the truth of Mutuality in marriage. The husband has the power to care not only for himself but also for his other half – his wife. God equips him to do so. It is unnatural for a man to ignore or neglect his body. So it is in marriage – unnatural to ignore or neglect his wife, a part of himself. Some men are ascetics when it comes to their wives. Ascetics are those who starve themselves, inflict themselves for some religious purpose. But while they look after their own bodies they neglect their wives, not just physically but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. They only do harm to themselves as these verses show.

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh

which teaches too that no man should ever have an ounce of hatred for his wife – any hatred like this is sheer madness demonstrating that such a man has no conception at all of what marriage means. A man’s wife is his own flesh – so he is to love his wife as his own body.

But there is even more in this verse.

but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

The two words in the original here - nourisheth and cherisheth - are full of helpful meaning for us.

Nourish is EKTREPHEI which strictly means to “feed from oneself.” TREPHO means to nourish in the sense of a mother nourishing her child with milk or later with weaning food. But the word EKTREPHO is “nourish oneself.” So the husband is the provider of food for himself and his wife, the nourisher, the one who feeds and cares for them both.

The other word in Cherish – THALPEI that means to heat, to soften by worming or to keep warm. It is the kind of warming that a bird uses to incubate her eggs in the nest. She covers her eggs and young with her feathers to insulate and protect. The translators of the Old Testament into Greek (LXX) used this word in Deuteronomy 22 v 6

If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young:

Sitting in this verse is cherishing. So it emerges that the word means to care for with tender protective love – this is a husband’s duty and role in cherishing his wife. The only other place in the NT that the word is used is in 1 Thessalonians 2 v 7

But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:

The word is accepted further to be one that indicates affection as well as protection and warmth. The husband who is loving his own wife is nourishing her and cherishing her – and as we have said nourishing and cherishing himself as one flesh.

When we thought about Ephesians 4 v 16 we noticed that love is the circulatory system of the body –

From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Love is the nourishment of the home and there should be no starvation of love in the Christian home. The husband and wife should so love each other that their physical, spiritual and emotional needs are met. When both husband and wife are submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ and to each other, they will be so satisfied that they will not be tempted to look anywhere else for fulfilment or satisfaction.

What a wonderful pattern this is for us to admire and then seek to follow. The world has a warped and cynical view of marriage. That is because it does not know the truth of the scripture, of God’s plan for married people.

The relationships within marriage have become blurred with men neglecting their leadership roles. We have been thinking of the nourishing and cherishing role of the husband in the sense of him being half of the one person in the marriage.

But let us not forget that the husband has also been appointed as the head of the wife. This metaphor fits well in these verses that have been our focus this morning. The husband reflects Christ’s headship over the Church. In a human body it is the head that feeds the body, nourishes the body and cares for the body. The head doesn’t run off on its own but is always concerned about the body. The head preserves and cares for the body by constantly sending out the messages that will bring restoration and provide safety and welfare for various parts of the body.

The kind of leadership that husbands are called to exercise over their wives is precisely the same as Christ’s headship over the Church that involves a deep concern for her. It is a headship that ministers to the wife that is concerned about her. It is constantly thinking, “What can I do for my wife? How can I make her life better? How can I truly cherish her?” Husbands should try to understand what being a woman is like – Peter tells them that in 1 Peter 3 v 7

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.

Husbands should not expect their wives to act like men but should be tender and understanding towards them in their role.

Our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ knows how to nourish and to cherish us the members of His church and we will have to leave verse 30, which speaks of this, until next time.

But as we close there is a question that comes out of these thoughts this morning.

It is the Lord who nourishes the church. Are you being nourished my friend? In other words are you a member of Christ’s church? Have you been saved by God’s grace? Have you turned to God for mercy, peace and forgiveness of all your sins, confessing them and owning up to them? All of this teaching will not make the slightest difference to you if you have not come to a personal faith in the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. You have to come to believe that Christ’s death on the cross was for sinners and that he is able to deal with your sins too. Turn to Him, the only one who can help you – trust Him with your whole heart – yield to Him your whole life and start a new life that will end only in glory in heaven where He is – and from where He rules and loves His church with such a tender and satisfying love.



1William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary on Galatians and Ephesians – Banner of Truth – 1968 – page 254



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