Tuesday, August 9, 2016

As Christ His Church (Ephesians 5:25b-27)

“…as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25b–27, NASB95)

Sometimes it is really easy for me to get so deep into the words and all of their meaning that I forget to step back and put them all together for their greater message. Think about the love of Christ and what He did for us. He gave Himself up for us. He sanctifies us which means to purify us and make us holy. He continually cleanses us in our lives so that we might more closely resemble who we are already made to be in Him; fully forgiven and made righteous with His righteousness put to our account. This word “sanctify” is the Greek word “hagiazo” which comes from another word simply meaning “holy.” Sanctifying us is making us holy as He is holy. This means that we are then separated from the things of the world and set apart and dedicated to Him fully purified. Dedicated is the other part of this great picture. This word is also used of things such as His temple and His people, which and who were made to set apart, consecrated, or dedicated to His service. This was to affect their entire being and usage such that everything about it or them would reflect His glory. This required moral purity and excellence in entirety. This is who we are made to be in Christ and it is the work that He is doing in us which we are to fully cooperate with.

He did this by cleansing us. We saw this in John when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and Peter objected saying that Jesus then needed to wash all of Him. Jesus responded saying, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean…” (John 13:10, NASB95) The cleansing of the believer happens once, but there still remains the need for continued washing or bathing to deal with the other stuff that comes along. God’s Word continues to direct us in how we are to live as these cleansed vessels who need attention in order to shine as they were fully intended.

In the Old Testament I think of the pictures of the people of Israel who when they were given the land we charged to go in a rid it of all that was not of God. We see the impact that the word of God had on young King Josiah when the high priest found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord (2 Kings 22-23). Josiah responded with repentance and action. In chapter 23 he had the word of the Lord read to the people, and then he proceeded to do away with all that was wrong with their worship and the priest and idols who had led them astray. But Josiah was only one bright light among many dark rulers. We read in 2 Kings 23:25, “Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.” (2 Kings 23:25, NASB95) Immediately after these words we read how the people had not all responded and God moved forward with His judgment of His people. What Josiah could not do; Christ did come to do. He has cleansed us and has made it possible for us to continually grow having our feet regularly washed as we follow Him by faith.

The picture in this passage continues as we read that Christ did this for His church of whom we are individually members so that we will be made a glorious bride to be presented to Himself, and His method for this is by giving us His word to direct our steps. The word “word” is the Greek word “rhema” which represents not the entirety of the Word but the individual or specific pieces of it. His word speaks to our lives and it provides the direction for how we are to live before Him. It is the fulfillment of His word that assures us of what He has done. It is the faithfulness of the His word that gives us hope. And it is the content of His word that lights our paths to walk in between. We hide His word in our hearts, and that word is made alive by His Spirit such that we are continually being shaped into His perfect image.

And as we are shaped, the world is then able to see the change. God, of course has a perfect picture of what He has done and His doing, but as we grow it is done in such a way that others are able to see it as well. When we go to a wedding we see the bride presented in such a glorious way on this most special day. What Christ does in us is to shape us and prepare us for that day which His church will be presented before Him as His bride in all of her beauty and glorious splendor.

What an incredible picture this is!! Just look at the word used to describe her—us. “…that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”

Glory means honorable or esteemed, to have a place of honor and a splendid, radiant, or glorious appearance. The picture of the wedding day could not be more dramatic, and the hope we have for that great wedding feast in His presence is because of Him and what He has done and promised for us.

To be without spot or wrinkle is to be perfectly prepared and presented. My dad was in the military, and I remember the nights before an important inspection. The attention given to his uniform was precise to the smallest detail. It was unacceptable to have a spot or stain in it, and I remember even his hat sitting in an oven having been starched such that it was perfectly stiff and without a single wrinkle. He would spend time examining it, and making sure it was just right. There was no slackness in his preparation. And there is in an infinitely perfect way no slackness in the preparation of our Lord in us. The work that He began in us He indeed is faithful to complete (Philippians 1:6).

We read that He sanctifies and that the Greek word used is “hagiazo.” The end of this is that we are then presented holy and blameless. Holiness is the end result of sanctification. He “hagiazo’s” us so that we might be presented “hagios.” He does this so that we might be presented back to Himself as holy, pure, and without blame. We are His holy ones that He does the work of continually conforming into the reality of who He has made us to be. We as His church and His people are made to be into His perfected bride.

This is the picture of what Christ does for us, but it also the picture of what husbands are charged to do for their wives. The big difference is that He is God and husbands are not. I think about myself and how miserably I fail at times and how I can frequently look to my own self-interests and not those of my wife. It is in these times that I am also to remember that God is doing a work in me as I am charged to work to this end in my wife. And in this I am also extremely grateful for her love that gives me wiggle room as I make mistakes. Looking to the pictures of Robin on our wedding day in her dress brings back wonderful memories, but the greatest joy in being with her is not that one day but in what God has done in all of the days since. And now, as we are waiting on next Sunday to see if He is leading us to a different state and a new church, I cannot imagine doing it without her by my side. 

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