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Ephesians 5 v 26 - 27 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

To read the whole of the chapter click HERE

3 weeks ago we began by asking a question –

Husbands – do you love your wives enough to DIE for them?

The Kind of love that a man should have for his wife.

The nine verses from Ephesians 5 v 25 to the end is a comprehensive description of the kind of love that Christ has for His church, and that Christ expects every man to have for his wife.

1. A SACRIFICIAL LOVE. V 25.
2. A SANCTIFYING LOVE. V 26 – 27.
3. A SATISFYING LOVE. V 28 – 30.
4. A SEPARATED LOVE. V 31 – 32
5. A SUMMARY OF LOVE. V 33.

1. A sacrificial Love.

Sacrificial love is the husband making sure that his love is of such a quality that, come what may, his wife will reign so supremely in his heart that no sacrifice would seem too great for him to make for her.

This is keeping before him the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and His great love for His church.

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

This morning we come to the second of the elements of the description of how a man should love His wife –

2. A Sanctifying Love. V 26 – 27.

26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

At the beginning of both verses 26 and 27 the little word THAT appears. It is there to indicate to us the grand purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ in His showing His great love towards His church in dying for her. To die for her is a marvellous thing in itself – but now Paul tells us the reason that He did it – the purpose of His death on the cross with regard to His Church – it was to SANCTIFY, CLEANSE and ultimately GLORIFY His people who make up His church. We can see the IMMEDIATE purpose of the Lord’s self-giving in verse 26 and the ULTIMATE purpose in verse 27. Verse 26 describes what He does for us as believers through His death, and verse 27 describes the end to which He did it – why He died – to present the church to Himself in brilliant purity and holiness. We must understand however that the Church is already right now the Bride of Christ. But there is preparation for her to go through before she can be made manifest in all her beauty.

As we study this Purposeful Love on the part of the Lord Jesus Christ this morning let each of us who believe listen thankfully to the doctrine that the Lord Jesus Christ has ordained that He will sanctify us in this life and glorify us in the next!

1. Sanctification and Cleansing.

26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

The word SANCTIFY means to set apart. It is the Greek word HAGIADZO and is variously translated sanctify, hallow or be holy. It is a word that indicates many things. It describes the separation of holy things from profane things. It speaks of consecration and dedication of people to God, cutting themselves off from worldly pollutants in order to be wholly devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ. It also has the sense and meaning of purify – to cleanse externally, to be purified internally by the renewing of the soul and to be made free from the guilt of sin.

In the marriage ceremony the husband is set apart from all others to belong to the wife. The wife is set apart from all others to belong to the husband. Any interference with this God ordained and God given arrangement is SIN.

As far as the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is concerned because He or she was chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world then historically speaking the elect Christian was set apart to be married to Jesus before time began. And the Lord Jesus was set apart to be the husband of all believers also before time began.

He determined to love His bride before the creation of the world and is called the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

Because He is God then He has kept His promise to be married, set apart to His Church – all believers. He has not once failed in that promise. None who were chosen for Him have been lost, can be lost, from amongst those alive today, nor will be lost from those who have yet to be born.

The problem with the bride – us that is – is that we are born in sin as rebels and decided early in our lives, acting in our rebellious nature, that we would not be set apart for Him as part of His bride. Our fallen natures made this inevitable about us and we had to be wooed, courted and loved so that by the Holy Spirit we felt that love. The Lord Jesus Christ came from heaven to seek His bride. He bought her paying the dowry of His own blood and then died for her on the cross.

But the Church now needs to be made ready for eternity as the wife of the King of creation the Son of God the Lord Jesus Christ. She has been polluted by her sins and rebellions. She needs to be made holy like her husband. She needs to be washed and cleansed from her sins. This is the immediate purpose of Christ’s love - the Lord Jesus Christ is sanctifying His church in order to make her Holy like Him and He does it through His unique cleansing agent – the Ministry of the Word.

Two statements made by the Lord to His disciples confirm that this is His work –

John 15 v 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

John 17 v 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

In a marriage the love of the husband ought to be cleansing her (and him) so that both husband and wife are becoming more like the Lord. Even their physical relationship should be so controlled by God that it becomes a means of SPIRITUAL enrichment as well as personal enjoyment. The husband must not use his wife for his own pleasure, but rather is to show the kind of love that is mutually rewarding and sanctifying. The marriage experience should be one of constant growth with the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lord of the home. Love enlarges and enriches, whereas selfishness does just the opposite. How do the husband and wife become cleansed and sanctified?

Through the Word – the Ministry of the Word. Is this merely coming to hear the word preached? Certainly that is part of it because it is one of the means of grace and every believer ought to be present when there is public ministry of the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ. But it is more than that. Husbands should be taking the lead in ministry of the word in their families. And that is not just a daily Bible Reading with wife and children. Ministry of the Word is also living the word, practical Biblical Holiness demonstrated as a loving leader in the home and in the community. It means making decisions based on the Word. It means ruling, loving, disciplining and nurturing wife and children with the principles and precepts of the Word. For the single it means a unique direct feeding on the Word of God as the Lord Jesus Christ ministers to you through fellowship with other believers and preaching that you hear and study that you engage in. Whatever happens there is provision from Christ our Bridegroom for all of us to be made holy – to be sanctified.

Can we say that this sanctifying process is going on in us? The Lord intends us to grow – we have to be prepared to do so. He desires to separate us for His holy service. But are we erecting any barriers to His sanctifying influence? Do we go to places; get involved with activities that will do our souls no good and indeed could harm them? Do we allow certain worldly influences to dominate our thinking so that the voice of the Saviour is never much more than a whisper? When we have heard preaching – the Ministry of the word – do we allow other inputs into our minds that can snatch away the power of what we have heard? Does music, radio or TV get turned on, on the Lord’s Day, when you come home from hearing the word? My friends do not expect to grow in holiness through the ministry of the word if you shut out its message to you not long after you have heard it!

This then is the first part of the sanctifying process of the Lord’s love to us. The second is

2. Cleansing by the washing of water by the word.

When we look around at one another and other members of Christ’s church in other assemblies, all too often we see the spots and blemishes, faults and failings in those who like us have been redeemed from lives of sin and corruption. We tend to make much of the negatives. We see a church that is weak and divided. Yet we do not see the Church as the Lord Jesus Christ sees the church and as He has always seen it. He sees His church as complete and perfect, glorious and bright as the morning, fairer than the day. HE sees the church as it will be when His transforming work is done. HE sees the church as a mirror image of Himself. It is all because He is able to cleanse the church by the washing of water by the word.

Some people have understood this phrase to only mean Baptism. They have deduced that Baptism is an agent of regeneration and that people are saved by being baptised. The Chancellor and his wife believed that, along with many millions of others in the world, when their little girl Jennifer, who died this week, was sprinkled with water and words and prayers were said over her tiny frail body.

But the Bible says that we are saved by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ not by the water of Baptism. We sympathise of course with all who have had children who die in infancy and our prayers are with such who grieve today. But this scripture does not teach that if you are baptised then you are cleansed from your sins. It is ever the other way around – those who have been saved by the grace of God and are trusting that the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ has washed them clean from their sins, want to be Baptised in order to acknowledge what has happened to them, by grace.

The Greek word translated washing here is LOUTRON. The only other place in the NT where this word is used and translated WASHING is in Titus 3 v 5

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

This Titus passage speaks of the work of God the Holy Spirit regenerating us, making us alive, by the action of washing us from our sins through the Word of God.

Even though these two passages are closely related they are not identical. Here in Ephesians the passage mentions the washing of water in connection with THE SPOKEN WORD. The word is WASHING and indicates a continuous process – indeed it is process that lasts from conversion for the rest of the believer’s life! So it cannot refer to the event of Baptism and the words spoken by the minister in the Baptistry as some have suggested.

The key to the use of LOUTRON is its connection to the symbolic rite of washing the hands and body by the priests in the Temple in the Old Testament. LOUTRON is the Greek word used to translate the laver. The priest, when he approached God, came first to the brazen altar where an animal was sacrificed and its blood was shed. This ritual symbolised the radical cleansing for sin, which is the basis of our salvation. Sin is so deep a stain that it can only be washed away in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Having been to the altar, the priest proceeded towards the tabernacle where the mercy seat behind the veil symbolised the awesome presence of God amongst His people. Coming to the laver the priest saw that although he was only a few steps away from the Holy place he was already defiled from contact with the world. He did not need a new sacrifice at this point: he needed to be washed in water to remove the revealed defilement. He needed recurrent cleansing.

The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ secures our regeneration. The water of the Word, the Ministry of the scriptures, acts like a laver. The word of God reveals to us the defilements that we have picked up just by walking through this evil world. The Word of God – the cleansing agent – removes the defilement. Psalm 119 has a familiar verse –

9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

How does a husband cleanse his wife and himself? By taking heed to the Word of God. By recognising that he and his wife live in a rotten world fraught with dangers and wickedness and likely to infect and pollute their marriage, their family and in a wider sense the community. The Lord Jesus knows what this world is like – He has been here! We are not yet in His glory – heaven – we are stuck here, temporarily. This world is not our home. But the Lord is patient with us. He works with us while here on earth so that one day we will be seen in all of His glory and perfection. His love travails and transforms. His love is the divine model for the husband’s role in marriage. Are we men taking our cleansing role seriously? Are we serious about the word of God? Do we know its power in our lives to walk worthily of our calling as men? And do we minister that same powerful word to our wives and families? More widely, are the men of this assembly concerned for each other and for all of our fellow members – to experience the cleansing of the word of God in our midst?

Many churches have closed for one reason – a departure from the centrality of the washing of the Word of God week by week, year by year. When the Bible is thrown out of the window of a home or a church, death is not far away! But the Lord Jesus loved the church and gave Himself for it – so

26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

Some maybe labouring in this and find the washing of water by the word a difficult concept. Some have shared with me their frustration at not being able to retain the word either when they read it in private devotions, or when they hear it in family worship or in the public services. They despair of their forgetful minds ever benefiting from the Word of God and the washing effect of it. Yet you do not remember the wash that you had three weeks ago do you? Or that soak in the bath? But it made you clean did it not – until you became dirty again?

The washing of the word has been described as the action of a colander. A Christian once likened himself to a colander – every week the Word of God was poured into his mind and soul – but every week it seemed to just pass through and became lost to him. That was until a sister described the straining of her vegetables – the hot water was poured on and passed through the colander – nevertheless after wards the colander was much cleaner due to the action of the water being passed through it. We receive these effects Sunday by Sunday. The preached word of God cleanses us in its very action of being poured out – and we are not to be worried when we cannot remember what has been taught – because despite of the apparent loss there has been a cleaning activity going on in the soul.

The next element of the Lord’s purpose is found in verse 27

That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

3. Glorification of the Church.

The process of sanctification leads to glorification. There is that necessary work in our lives that removes certain things from our souls. It is the ultimate purpose of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ for His church.

It seems to most young people who are maturing at school and noticing changes in their bodies, that one of the worst things that can happen to you is SPOTS! There are blackheads and pimples, unwanted freckles and septic things that appear to be huge when observed in the mirror and feel like they stick out several inches from the face when they occur – so that everybody in the world can see them – it is most embarrassing and humiliating.

I can remember buying some foul smelling ointment in a tube to deal with the problem when I was younger but it wasn’t all that effective and I learnt to live with the spots.

Spots indicate some kind of defilement on the outside of us. The Church today is like a spotty teenager. The Church faces defilement day in day out so that we can never say that there is such a thing as a perfect Church – here on earth that is! Because the church becomes defiled by the world it needs constant cleansing and the Word of God as we have been seeing is the cleansing agent. Spots are unsightly – but the cleansed church will in heaven have no spots on her at all. Her face and skin will be beautiful and pleasing to the eye of the Lord Jesus Christ her bridegroom. In the meantime we will have spots. The Lord will have us to be without spots when we get to glory – so He has called us to avoid getting spots any more – James says in his epistle –

James 1 v 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

But for our part – how are we to keep ourselves free of spots – unspotted? Again the Word ministers to us –

Colossians 3:2 set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Spots must be dealt with now – avoided and treated because a glorious church will have no spots! Regular cleansing is needed through the word of God and the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ applied to our souls.

At the other end of life we have the crows feet and the stretch marks – in other words – wrinkles. Someone has coined a name for senior citizens as “wrinklies.” Wrinkles are certainly not popular with some people. The aging process has provided some pharmaceutical companies with a very nice income from the sale of anti wrinkle creams, moisturising preparations and so on. The theory is that wrinkled skin is undernourished and needs to be fed. Whereas spots are caused by defilement from the outside, wrinkles are cause by decay on the inside.

But here is a wonderful thought that should encourage us all – as the Church is nourished by the Word of God, the wrinkles ought to disappear. For the soul of the Christian the Bible, the Word of God is the ultimate treatment for wrinkles – the wrinkles will vanish – the soul wrinkles caused by indwelling sin will be smoothed out – and then we ourselves will vanish – to appear in the presence of His glory with exceeding joy – like Him! Perfect! Cleansed! Sanctified! The Lord wants His church to be presented in her glory to Himself on that day – the great day. She, that means we, will be perfect in knowledge and holiness. No deformity, no defilement, pleasing to His eye with no moral or spiritual stains. What a prospect!

The verse goes on to say more – no blemishes. The soul will be free from all remnants of indwelling sin. Those besetting sins of ours that constantly trip us up – all gone my friends – removed, cleansed, and perfect! Oh brothers and sisters – can’t you get excited about this? What glory is before us!

However this perfect beauty of the bride of the Lord Jesus Christ has not yet been made plain. That is because the wedding is in the future.

We should remind ourselves of the marriage customs implied in scripture which are slightly different to ours.

First there was the BETROTHAL. This is more binding an arrangement than our engagement. In the betrothal the terms of the marriage are accepted in the presence of witnesses and God’s blessing is pronounced upon the union. From the date of the Betrothal the man and woman are from that date husband and wife.

Next there is an INTERVAL between the betrothal and the wedding feast, during which time the bridegroom raises the necessary dowry to pay the father of the bride.

Then there is the PREPARATION and PROCESSION with a view to the marriage feast. During this time the bride adorns herself and prepares. The groom also puts on His best clothes and he goes, along with his friends and torches, to the home of the bride to RECEIVE HIS BRIDE. After this he takes his bride to go to the place where the wedding feast is being held. After this the feast itself – and this festivity can last between 7 days to a fortnight.

We the church are in the INTERVAL period which lasts from the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ from earth to heaven right up to His coming again. It is during this time that the bride must make herself ready. But looking at the preparation period from the Lord God’s point of view it is the Lord Himself who makes the church ready AS WELL as the bride getting herself ready. She owes all of her beauty to Him. This picture well illustrates the prospect of the Church’s glory – a perfect future that will last forever. The Lord Jesus Christ is coming for us His church – and we are being made ready, and making ourselves ready – both processes side by side.

But only those who are sanctified in this life will be glorified in the next! Let us put it more plainly – only those who have been saved by God’s grace will be transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ to be made like Him. This means that unless the Lord has made you clean through the miracle of regeneration and conversion, revealed by the Word of God, then He will not be coming for you! If you are not a Christian today then you are in danger. When the Bridegroom comes you will not be ready. Conversion, becoming a Christian makes you ready! Therefore turn to Christ today – believe in His work on the cross. Trust that work as the only way that you can become ready to meet Him with joy, and not with sorrow, when He comes. Repent of your sins and trust this wonderful loving saviour and be ready for His coming to take His church to glory!



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