Ephesians 5:21-33

A Model for Marriage

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church. Ephesians 5:29 (NASB)

My husband, Mace, and celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in 2015, but we don’t consider ourselves marriage experts. Like many marriages, ours has been filled with numerous mistakes and a few regrets. But by God’s grace, none of the setbacks we’ve encountered or the errors we’ve made have destroyed our marriage. In some ways, the obstacles we’ve overcome have made our commitment stronger.

A lot of Christian couples cringe when they read God’s marriage counsel in Ephesians 5:22-33. Many women can’t get past the s-word (submission) in verse 22, and many men misunderstand the h-word (head) in verse 23.

For me, the key to implementing both those words in the way God intended is to better understand verse 29. Specifically, we need to better grasp two words in that verse: nourish and cherish.

To nourish something is to provide an environment in which it can grow to maturity. That is God’s desire for each of us. He works everything in our lives together for our eternal good and his eternal glory. He is ever mindful of our individuality—our strengths and weaknesses, our skills and our disabilities. He uses our family background, our education, our jobs, and our marriages to complete the good work he has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).

We need to be that dedicated to our spouse’s well-being. My daily prayer is this: “Lord, I don’t want to hinder the nourishing work you’re doing in Mace’s life. Show me how to make it easy for you to complete it.”

The other word used in verse 29 is cherish. We might associate cherish with syrupy endearments or smothering actions, but that’s not what God means. To cherish is to promote the growth or development of something with considerate, consistent care. Again, it suggests a mindfulness of what is best for someone else—from both an earthly and heavenly perspective.

Verse 29 also gives us the model to follow: Jesus’s love for the church. In the gospel accounts, Jesus responded to people with grace, compassion, mercy and patience. The more closely we follow his example, the stronger our marriages will be.

Whose model for marriage are you following?


Read 1 Peter 5:5-6 and Philippians 2:1-4. What do these passages teach us about the relationship between submission and humility? Why are they attributes we should cultivate?

Compare Ephesians 4:25-30 with John 15:9-14 and 1 John 3:16-18. What does sacrificial love looks like on a daily basis in your home?

Read verses 24-25 of Jude’s epistle in several versions of the Bible. What is God’s goal for us according to those verses? What words would you use to describe your goals for yourself and your spouse?

For other perspectives on these verses, read Bride and Helper under Dig into Words.

Denise K. Loock

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