Ephesians Sentence by Sentence: 5:32

τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο μέγα ἐστίν· ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω εἰς Χριστὸν καὶ εἰς τὴν ἐκκλησίαν. This is a great mystery; but I speak to Christ and to the church.

After having quoted from Genesis 2:24, Paul makes a statement with these words: “This is a great mystery.” Since the noun contains the article but μέγα is anarthrous, we have to translate it as a predicate adjective. As a result, we must translate the phrase in this way: “This mystery is great.” Paul is specifically referring to Christ and the church when he is speaking of the “mystery.” He says, “. . . but I am speaking to Christ and the church.” The preposition, εἰς, is used as a marker of reference, so that we translate the phrase in this way: “. . . but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” Paul understands that the union between Christ and the church is a mystery. Earlier, in Eph. 3, Paul had referenced the union between the Judeans with the non-Judeans as a mystery. This term, mystery, refers to the new person in Christ. But now this term is being used in reference to the union between Christ and the church. The word μυστήριον is consistently being used in reference to unions, but its context is not the same. The first instance refers to the Judean and non-Judean union in Christ. The second refers to Christ’s union with the church. Both are a mystery. But both are part of God’s plan of salvation. The former refers to God’s work–he has joined the Judeans with the non-Judeans. The latter refers to Christ’s love–he has sacrificially loved the church and has taken it as his bride. It is this latter mystery, which is part of God’s overall plan of salvation, that provides the basis for the instruction for husbands to love their wives.

This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

Husbands, you are called to love your wives precisely because Christ loves the church. Christ’s love for the church is described as a mystery just as the union between the Judeans and the non-Judeans is likewise described. What is not a mystery is your responsibility to love your wives. Christ has been joined to the church, and you have been joined to your wives. Take care of them as Christ takes care of the church. Resort to tender care and sacrificial love with your wives. And remember, it is in your benefit to love your wives in this way.

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