Paul's Passing Thoughts

Ephesians 5:22-33: The “Church” is NOT the Bride of Christ nor an Institution

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 9, 2016

We often hear references to the “institution of marriage.” However, evangelicals usually shy away from the idea of the “institutional church” because that detracts from the we are family motif that they want to portray. The church continually presents itself as a living body that has the market cornered on love while functioning as an institution.

In Ephesians 5:22-33, a passage often used to make the case that the church is the bride of Christ, the apostle Paul is making the following point: like the body of Christ is one body with many parts, the two married are also one body in the exact same way, like the body of Christ—like marriage.

The institutional churches and their marriages are train wrecks for the following reason: Christ’s body is not an institution, and marriage is not an institution, both are bodies. Evangelicals claim their local temples are bodies, but the smoking gun is authority versus love. Authority is the deal breaker. Consequently, almost every evangelical who reads this passage will interpret it as Christ having authority over His church, and in the same way, the husband has authority over the wife. And likewise, Christ has authority over the church because He is the husband of the bride, viz, the church. NOT.

Where does this passage say those things anywhere?

No, like a real body, Christ is the head of the body in the same way that the husband is the head in the one-body marriage relationship. Um, actually, I use “relationship” in a manner of speaking—marriage is a body. “Head” is not used in regard to someone having authority over someone or something, it refers to the actual head of a body. I mean, read the passage for yourself and note what the words mean. in context.

As the head of your body, if you are wise, you make good choices because, “ 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.”

Get the picture? And look, if you want to say that you have authority over all of your body parts, like your heart, go ahead, but authority isn’t the point—love is. People submitting to your pseudo authority will not bring love to bear. Your heart will do what you want it to do if you, “nourish(es) and cherish(es) it, just as Christ does the church.” That means you eat heart-healthy foods etc.

And that is done with the word of God—the law of love—not condemnation.

Also husbands, if you want to know how to be one, merely study how Christ led his body. When did he ever demand submission? Where is it? Where are the verses? No, He persuaded, He led, He taught, He set the right example, He served need, He…“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.”

That’s done by loving leadership, not being the boss.

Because of church orthodoxy, troubled Christian marriages usually come to you for advice with two things: the authority issue and two sets of condemnation lists. You know…“if she would just obey me,” or…“if he would just obey the elders,”…“we would have a good marriage.” Really? Well, that apes the words of every tyrant that ever lived.

Just stop it, and start living this way: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Husbands, leave your parents, and especially John Calvin, and cling to your wife. Wives, respect your husband—not the “under shepherds.”

Where are they in this passage?


4 Responses

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  1. Kyle said, on January 13, 2016 at 11:13 AM

    That’s an important distinction to make between the body and it’s individual members regarding submission to Christ.

    Would it be accurate to say husbands have proper authority (rule) over their own households per qualifications for church leaders in 1 Timothy?


    • Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on January 13, 2016 at 10:06 PM


      Authority is so drilled into our heads via Protestant orthodoxy that it is an epistemological prism that is very hard to shed. let me answer your question, “yes” in regard to the LEADERSHIP qualification of a home fellowship elder which is a gift and not an office. By the way, in some English translations, the word “office” is actually added to texts that deal with elders.

      I consider myself qualified to be an elder because not long ago the Potter’s House was full of relatives who are not serving the Lord, and one might even argue that they are somewhat hostile towards things of the Lord in one way or another. Nevertheless, the Potter’s House, for the most part, was a very orderly and peaceful place. Yet, it was NOT at all because of any authority that I had. The order was due to one thing and one thing only: leadership.

      Elders have no authority. Where there is authority, leadership is not needed. Eldership is a leadership gift. Most of the time in the Bible, the word translated “obedience” in our English Bibles is an imperative to be persuaded.

      And when it gets right down to it, our wives don’t have to do one thing that we say. They will heed Scripture and follow the head if the head is leading.

      Hope that answers your question, and maybe Susan can add perspective on this as well.


  2. Kyle said, on January 14, 2016 at 5:46 PM


    If I read you correctly, you’re saying authority can only exist where there’s law. We must submit to whomever God grants his law- giving authority. Therefore, we are only commanded to submit to the government and (all of creation) to Christ, him being the end of the law.

    For family relationships love fulfills the law; leadership not authority rules.


    • Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on January 14, 2016 at 6:54 PM

      As one trying to define it better for myself, I have never framed it that way, but I think it has merit. God has given government the sword, but not husbands. However, a government has authority when it is a minister of God “according to His purpose.” Same with election; God elected His soteriological purposes, and those who believe are therefore “the elect.” Many government officials are elected by people, but they are not God’s ministers unless they serve His specific purpose: “To punish evil and reward those who do good.” God elected government, but not everyone who becomes a government official is a minister according His purposes. God elects means, not people. God elected Christ for a specific purpose, but obviously Christ has never needed salvation. God elected Israel, but not all Jews are the elect, only the true Jews…so on and so forth.

      Back to your point which is an interesting one. If we are not under law, but under love, why would it be different in our marriage or family relationship?

      20Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,c 27and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,d 28even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

      Moreover, the goals for unity and oneness are the same for marriage as the body of Christ…that’s Paul’s main point. The goal is oneness which is never achieved through authority. Really? Are there husbands out there who would be content with a marriage unified by his authority? Such a man would not be on my Christmas card list.


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