What does Ephesians 5:31 mean?
ESV: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
NIV: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.'
NASB: FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND HIS MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.
CSB: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
NLT: As the Scriptures say, 'A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.'
KJV: For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
Verse Commentary:
This verse is a paraphrase of Genesis 2:24. Paul reminds readers that marriage turns two people into "one flesh" or one body or unit. God's original design for marriage was one man and one woman in lifelong relationship. When asked about divorce, Jesus referred to this same passage to support that marriage is intended as a lifelong relationship (Matthew 19:5–6; Mark 10:8), though the New Testament elsewhere provides some legitimate reasons for divorce. Paul also quotes Genesis 2:24 in 1 Corinthians 6:16, emphasizing purity in Christian sexuality.

Another reason for this verse's importance is that Paul added a prior biblical principle to support his argument. Though Paul's letter is inspired revelation, it is further strengthened by its use and consistency with prior revelation. Marriage has been defined for God's people since the earliest times and was not changed in the early church. Instead, Paul restated this teaching and gave an even higher standard by comparing the marriage relationship with Christ and the church.
Verse Context:
Ephesians 5:22–33 is an often-cited but frequently misunderstood passage. Here, Paul explains how Christian husbands and wives should apply their understanding of salvation within their marriage. Wives are commanded to ''submit'' to their husbands as they would to Christ, and to show them respect. Often overlooked, however, is that men are equally obligated. Husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church: with humility and sacrifice, as if caring for their own bodies. Despite popular myth, the Bible does not permit either sex to be abusive or unloving within a marriage.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 5 begins with an admonition to imitate Christ. In order to do so, Christians must avoid sexual immorality, vulgar language, foolishness, and other inappropriate attitudes. Paul warns that those who persist in these behaviors are not part of the kingdom of God. The passage then transitions to an explanation of mutual submission, including that between husbands and wives. Wives are to submit to their husbands, and respect them. Husbands are to love their wives in a Christ-like, sacrificial, and humble way.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 5 continues the very practical second half of the book of Ephesians. Chapter 4 encouraged Christians not to live as unbelievers do, but worthy of the gift we have been given. Chapter 5 gives even more direct application of these principles. Paul details impure attitudes and habits which Christians ought to put aside. He then details the proper approach to marriage, rooted in a Christian understanding of the gospel. This style of advice will continue through chapter 6. Paul's advice will culminate in a famous analogy about applying Christian principles to all of life, using the symbolism of a suit of armor.
Book Summary:
Ephesians follows a theme common in Paul's writings: connecting theory with practice. In this book, however, he goes into greater depth before making the transition. As a letter meant to be read by more than just the believers at Ephesus, this is an important look at how Christian belief should translate into Christian action. The first three chapters lay out spiritual ideas, the last three chapters show how these truths should be applied in the life of a mature believer. Paul focuses heavily on love, the unity of the Christian church, and the incredible value of our salvation through Christ.
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