Summary: 1) The Manner of Christ’s Love (Ephesians 5:25–31) and 2) The Motive of Christ’s Love (Ephesians 5:32-33) for His "Glorious Church"
Those who provide premarital and marital counseling often hear couples express deficient ideas of love. When asked what they mean by “I love you,” one or the other is likely to answer in self-centered language about being loved, feeling good, enjoying the other’s personality and so on. But here in Ephesians the dominant idea is giving oneself for the good of the other (Liefeld, W. L. (1997). Vol. 10: Ephesians. The IVP New Testament commentary series. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.).
In salvation we leave the life of habitual sin and hold fast/cleave to Christ. In marriage, a new family is begun and the relationships of the former families are to be severed as far as authority and responsibilities are concerned. Parents are always to be loved and cared for, but they are no longer to control the lives of their children once they are married.
In Ephesians 5:25–33 the topic of marriage actually is intended to be illustrative of Christ’s love for His Church. In it, we see 1) The Manner of Christ’s Love (Ephesians 5:25–31) and 2) The Motive of Christ’s Love (Ephesians 5:32-33) for His "Glorious Church"
1) The Manner of Christ’s Love (Ephesians 5:25–31)
The command in Ephesians 5:25a for husbands, to love your wives, continues Paul’s explanation of the mutual submission mentioned in verse 21. This is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE which is the only IMPERATIVE in the paragraph. The husband should set the spiritual atmosphere in the home by continuing to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Utley, R. J. D. (1997). Vol. Volume 8: Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon, then later, Philippians). Study Guide Commentary Series (130). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.).
The quality of the love that husbands are required to give to their wives is first shown by the word that is used for love. Three other words might have been used in Greek for the love of husband for wife, and classical writers would more naturally have used them. There was the word eraō that expressed the deep sexual passion of man for woman, and the words phileō and storgeō were used for affection within the family. None of these is used here; instead Paul chooses the typically Christian word agapaō, love that is totally unselfish, that seeks not its own satisfaction, nor even affection answering affection, but that strives for the highest good of the one loved. This love has as its standard and model the love of Christ for his church. ‘It means not only a practical concern for the welfare of the other, but a continual readiness to subordinate one’s own pleasure and advantage for the benefit of the other. It implies patience and kindliness, humility and courtesy, trust and support (1 Cor. 13:4–7). This love means that one is eager to understand what the needs and interests of the other are, and will do everything in his power to supply those needs and further those interests’(Foulkes, F. (1989). Vol. 10: Ephesians: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (162–163). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.)
To “love” (ἀγαπα̂τε, agapate) is to care for the needs of someone, even when that person is unlovely and undeserving. This divine kind of love is not motivated by self-interest or the attractiveness of the one loved, but by a sincere interest in that person’s well being. Love based on self-interest will fail whenever the object of love fails to gratify selfish lusts.
Love based only on attractiveness will fail whenever the object of love grows older, fatter, sicker, or balder. True agapē love can include sexual desire and appreciation for attractiveness, but it is based on a permanent concern for the one loved. It is the only kind of love that goes on loving whether circumstances are better or worse, whether richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, until death parts the lovers (Boles, K. L. (1993). Galatians & Ephesians. The College Press NIV commentary (Eph 5:25). Joplin, Mo.: College Press.).
Jesus Christ loved the church before He brought the church into existence. The use of a past tense form of loved to some might suggest Christ’s love of the church at one time but not later. Yet, He chose and loved His own even “before the foundation of the world” (1:4), because God’s love is eternally present, having no past and no future (Bratcher, R. G., & Nida, E. A. (1993). A handbook on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. UBS handbook series; Helps for translators (141). New York: United Bible Societies).
Christ loves the Church with a a) Sacrificial (5:25b) b) Purifying (5:26–27) c) Caring (5:28–30) and d) Unbreakable Love (5:31) that tells us how far he went in showing His love for "The Glorious Church". This picture of this love is applied in Ephesians 5:25–31 to show husbands how they likewise must loved their wives.