Thursday, 27 October 2016
…that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, Ephesians 5:26
There are subtleties here that need to be looked at carefully. First, this verse is speaking of Christ’s love mentioned in the previous verse. It is then being made as an example to husbands for how they are to treat their own wives. Christ “gave Himself” for the church “that He might sanctify and cleanse her.” The words actually should be rendered “…might sanctify having cleansed her.”
We are cleansed through the work of Christ. We stand forgiven and justified before God because of the giving of His life. In that act, we are sanctified “with the washing of the water by the word.” There is a two-fold aspect of sanctification that the Bible speaks of. The first is that we are sanctified, “set apart” unto God, through the work of Christ. There is also a sanctifying process which is on-going in nature which we actively participate in. This is actually seen in Jesus’ words of John 13:10 –
“Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’”
It is further explained in John 17:17 –
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
We are cleansed (having bathed); we require sanctification (periodic washing). It is a two-fold and distinct process. The original picture of this goes all the way back to the book of Exodus and the ordination of Aaron and his sons for the priesthood of Israel. They were fully washed and consecrated as priests in Exodus 29. However, they were instructed that they were to continue to wash their hands and feet at regular intervals in Exodus 30. Those washings made specific pictures of Christ and His work, both for our cleansing and our on-going sanctification.
It is these most important points which are seen here, and which explain very carefully what Christ has done for us. It also shows what He will continue to do for us if we apply His word to our lives. This “washing of the water by the word” is what occurs when we hear the word, the gospel of our salvation, and then accept it. At that moment, we are saved by God and sealed with the Holy Spirit. This is the baptism of the Spirit. The rite of water baptism is an outward demonstration of the inward change which has already occurred. It is not specifically what is spoken of here. The spiritual baptism, and on-going spiritual cleansing, is the reference being made.
Again, these words are given to us as an example of what Christ did for us, and thus what the husband is to do for his wife. Just as Christ gave Himself up for us in order for us to be a perfect and spotless bride, so husbands should be willing to expend themselves for the sake of their precious wives.
Life application: We have been cleansed by the work of Christ. We are also to grow in Christ through the study and right-application of His word. Let us endeavor to do these things and not allow ourselves to get pulled back into the world from which we are called out.
Lord God, Your word shows us that the work of Christ has cleansed us from all unrighteousness. We are cleansed and purified by it. But Your word also says that we are to continue to go through a process of sanctification, washing ourselves as in water with the word. It sure would be great if Christians actually followed through with the second after having received the first. Grant us wisdom to look into Your perfect word, and then to apply it to our lives. Help us to not be sappy, weak, and impotent followers who add nothing but confusion and disharmony to Your precious church. Amen.