31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:31–33 (ESV)
The Holy Spirit brings the Apostle Paul’s instructions concerning husbands and wives to a climatic conclusion. Paul begins vs. 31 with the familiar word therefore (οὗτος; ouotos) meaning a conclusion.
Paul writes, ““Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Quoting from Genesis 2:24, the apostle wants the Ephesian church, and believers today, to know that the role of husbands and wives remains the same in God’s perspective and should remain the same in our own. Marriage is between a man and a woman: a male husband and his female wife.
A man shall leave (καταλείπω; kataleipo) is a strong phrase for Paul to use. It means to literally abandon, to leave behind, to neglect, and to avoid association. Rather than utterly forsaking one’s family prior to marriage, the apostle means that the bond between a husband and his wife is greater than that of a parent and child.
The man is to hold fast to his wife. The phrase hold fast (προσκολλάω; proskollao) means to join and be united to his wife (Mark 10:7; Eph. 5:31+; Matt. 19:5; Acts 5:36). It refers to the most intimate union a man and woman can have.
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “The union of marriage is intimate and unbreakable. “Hold fast” is a phrase used to express having been glued or cemented together, emphasizing the permanence of the union.”
This intimate union between a husband and wife is also described by the phase and the two shall become one flesh (εἰμί σάρξ εἷς; eimi sarx eis). This phrase not only refers to the physical union of marriage but also to the social, emotional and spiritual union that is to exist in marriage. In natural marriage, the husband and wife combine all four elements of one complete human being: the one being incomplete without the other.
It is my understanding that the intimate union a husband is to have with his wife begins with their spiritual unity in Christ. They are both believers in Christ. It is that unity which guides their own personal union with each other. Emotional, social, and then physical unity is to follow. The physical unity, or the sexual relationship, is the least important and should be understood in light of the previous three areas of marriage unity.
However, even a superficial glimpse at the current culture reveals that the emphasis in marriage, or human relationships, has been reversed. In other words, it has been turned upside down. The physical, or sexual, union is stressed above all else. This is often at the expense of the other three categories of unity.
Take time today to evaluate your own marriage. What is the priority in your marriage regarding the spiritual, emotional, social and physical union? Is the spiritual union with your spouse the most gratifying and important or is it being neglected? What steps are you willing to make to ensure that you are fostering and nurturing the most important aspect of your intimate relationship with your spouse?
Soli deo Gloria!