Useful Bible Studies > Ephesians Commentary > chapter 5

Respect is the proper reaction to love

Ephesians 5:33

Many people today believe that there should be no differences between men and women. In particular, they say that husbands should have the same responsibilities, rights and duties as their wives. People with those opinions will probably consider Paul’s choice of words here to be uncomfortable.

That is because Paul here expresses the responsibilities of husbands and wives towards each other as opposites. Husbands should deeply love their wives, but wives should deeply respect their husbands. In the original language, Greek, Paul’s words express this even more clearly. His word for respect is PHOBEO, which in this form really means to fear.

However, the word ‘fear’ in English almost always expresses the idea of something terrible. The Bible, on the other hand, recognises a good type of fear as well as a bad type of fear. So, for example, Mary called God’s people: the people who ‘fear’ God. She then added that such people benefit from God’s mercy (Luke 1:50). Mercy is the help that God gives to people because of his kindness and love. So by ‘fear’, Mary is not referring to an awful feeling, but to a right and good attitude. That is why we prefer to translate these uses of the word as ‘respect’.

In the Bible, this respect is often the proper reaction to love. God loves us, so we should respect him. So, this respect is really a different kind of love. For example, children who love their parents must also respect them. With this kind of love, we accept someone else’s authority. This is the kind of love that gives us a desire to obey that other person.

Next part: 'Obey your parents in the Lord' (Ephesians 6:1)


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© 2019, Keith Simons.