Ephesians | marital sexuality

Ephesians | marital sexuality March 6, 2023

Ephesians | marital sexuality

We’ve got some ground to cover and this is a sensitive topic, but . . .
I’ve found that sexuality is like money. Christians have to talk about both. We don’t want to learn too much about either one from the wrong sources

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, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5.25-27, ESV)

consider the poetry of Paul

love . . . sanctify . . . cleansed . . . washing of water with the word . . . splendor, without a spot or wrinkle . . . holy and without blemish

Pastor Robert Morris asks:

“Do you take a bath every day? This question isn’t about your body. It’s about your soul – your mind, will, and emotions. Your soul is in a battle with Satan, who constantly tries to flood your thoughts, desires, and feelings with lies. Many Christians are losing this battle, and the reason is simple – they are not being washed by the Word (Ephesians 5:25–26). Simply put, they’re not bathing in God’s Word every day.”[1]

The phrase the washing of water with the word has at least 3 implications:

  1. This is sexuality language a married couple understands a little better with a metaphor-ish reference.
  2. There are many other metaphors for washing and water in the New Testament (NT).
  3. There are various Greek words for the term word in Scripture.

sexuality and the washing metaphor

Paul only uses this type of language in 1 other place.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3.4-7)

This is a parallel passage because washing is NOT only about sexuality, although Paul is not denying the physical aspect of it. Washing is also a spiritual process, “the washing of regeneration.”

This passage shows us that washing refers to the physical and to a form of sanctification. So Paul uses washing only twice, and both can refer to cleansing the soul beyond the immediate application.

the use of the Word

We have to consider the term Word in Eph 5.26. The term Word is NOT the Greek term logos. Logos often refers to the Word of God – Scripture.

This word for Word is the term rhema: meaning the spoken word. A rhema word can be a prophetic word or ANY divine utterance.

what does this tell us about the marital bond?

The husband participates with Christ, speaking rhema in the house. These rhema words can transform lives of the wife and children. Husbands, never underestimate your value in the home!

An article on the family in 2016 shared some interesting findings about families and church.

If you were to pick only 1 partner, the husband or wife, to send to church, which one would you pick?

The study showed that when the husband goes to church alone, family quality is 19 points better than if the wife attends church alone.


The research just reported the stats and didn’t try to interpret them. Of course the quality of the family increases when both husband and wife attend church. The research also showed that inside the home, the single greatest factor for a better home is a couple that prays together! It’s greater than any other demographic.[2]

The man receives the rhema word at church in a sermon or small groups. The couple can share rhema words together in the home through prayer.

what about cleansing a home? what about self-denial?

There is a lot of literature about sanctification through self-denial. Regarding sexuality, the ancient virtue of chastity was discussed by the Greeks, in the NT, and in the Early Church.

“CHASTITY: Purposefully turning away for a time from dwelling upon or engaging in the sexual dimension of our relationship with others – even our husband or wife – and thus learning how not to be governed by this powerful aspect of our life.”[3]

We’re all called to a form of chastity or abstinence unless we are married.

To control our drives, spiritual directors still say fasting from food is the best way.

Remember #7 of the 10 Commandments: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20.14).

I think we all get it.
We don’t get IT until we’re married . . .
but what do we get?

Paul’s unique approach

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5.28-33)

We want our marriages to remain pure, but Paul has a different approach. He encourages Christian married couples to indulge . . .
to express faithfulness.

The 7th Commandment is a negative command – don’t participate.

Paul’s command is a positive one – participate within the bonds of marriage.

So are they the same? We don’t see that in this case. A Christian couple can spend their entire lives obeying the 7th commandment, but never enjoying marriage as Paul encourages them to do.

Paul is hearing from the same God that Moses is, yet there is a difference.

sanctification is not only staying away from what is wrong

Sanctification is participating in what is right, enjoying what is good.

What freedoms does the Bible give married couples and singles to enjoy?


pic credit: Hannah Busing | girl wearing floral dress reading bible alone in grass | 04.13.22 | unsplash

  1. Robert Morris, “Washed by the Word,” in the New Living Translation Fresh Start Bible: Direction for Every Day, ed. John Andersen (Southlake, TX: Gateway Press, 2019), 1045.
  2. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Wolfinger, “Better Together: Religious Attendance, Gender, and Relationship Quality,” Institute for Family Studies, February 11, 2016, https://ifstudies.org/blog/better-together-religious-attendance-gender-and-relationship-quality
  3. Richard J. Foster, ed., Spiritual Disciplines Index: Chastity, in New Revised Standard Version: The Life with God Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 514.

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