Christ Washes the ChurchDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Christ, as head of the church, loved the church and gave himself up for her. But his sacrifice was not merely a demonstration of ultimate love. It also had a purpose: “to make [the church] holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (5:26-27). How are we to understand this language and what difference does it make in our day-to-day lives?
The language of 5:26-27 echoes the opening portion of Ephesians: “For [God] chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (1:4). The “washing with water through the word” is reminiscent of baptism. In 1 Corinthians 6:11, for example, Paul writes, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The “word” associated with washing with water could be something proclaimed in baptism or even the gospel itself. It is also possible that 5:26-27 reflects the story of God bathing his people as found in Ezekiel 16:8-14. There, the Lord sought out forlorn Israel, washing, anointing, and dressing her as a bride for her wedding. In language suggestive of Ephesians 5:27, the result of the Lord’s care for Israel was international fame, “because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect” (Ezek. 16:14).
Ephesians 5:26-27 reveals that Christ’s love for the church leads him to prepare the church to be fully holy and radiant. The word translated in the NIV as “radiant” has a basic meaning of “being held in high esteem, honored, distinguished, eminent,” suggesting that the church will shine radiantly for all to see the glorious result of Christ’s love (see 3:9-11).
Does Ephesians imply that husbands should love their wives so that they might be glorious, like the church? The placement of 5:26-27 does suggest that husbands should see their love as a means of their wives becoming more Christ-like. The beginning of verse 28 underscores this connection: “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives … ” Husbands imitate Christ by loving their wives sacrificially so that their wives might become all that God intends them to be for his purposes and glory.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: If you’re a husband, do you ever think of yourself as a crucial part of God’s work of making your wife holy and blameless? In what ways might God be doing this through you right now? How might this perspective change the way you think about your marriage? How might it change the ways you act toward your wife? No matter your marital status or gender, how does Ephesians 5:25-27 alter the way you think about marriage?
PRAYER: Gracious God, when I consider Christ’s effort to sanctify the church and to present her as radiant, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless, my first response is one of wonder. You have saved us, not only to draw us into relationship with you, but also to help us experience the new life you have for us, a life of holiness, a life that glorifies you in every word and every deed.
As a husband, Lord, help me to see my relationship with my wife in a new perspective. Use me in your work of making my wife holy and blameless before you. Help me to love my wife, Lord Jesus, as you love the church. Amen.
It takes work to create good. It takes time and energy and resources and, well, work. Somewhere along the way, you might feel discouraged or worn out or frustrated by the whole thing, so we've asked a few people in The High Calling network to talk to us about creating and cultivating good things. We hope the series, Create Good, inspires you to keep looking up, pressing on, and doing good. We pray you find the inspiration to "not grow weary in doing good." God sees your work. God knows your desire to do good, to create good, to celebrate and cultivate good in the world. God is for you. And so are we.