25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 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 (Ephesians 5:25–27)
1) CHRIST LOVES THE CHURCH…
The main application of this passage, of course, is that husbands are to love our wives. But how? The same as Christ also loved the church. Well, how did Christ love the church? He loved her with a sacrificial love that led to her sanctification. Our focus in this part of the lesson will be on this special love that Christ has for His church. Christ loves the church…
1.1) With A Sacrificial Love…
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
There are couple things to note about Christ’s sacrificial love:
1.1.1) Christ Loves The Church Despite Our Sin
Have you ever asked yourself: “How can Christ ever love me after doing that sin?” We need to remember a foundational fact:
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Chew on those words awhile, “…while we were yet sinners…” Christ loved us enough to die for us even when we were sinners.
He did not wait for you to shape up. He doesn’t have a certain qualifying level that people must reach before they can be saved. It’s pure and simple: “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Christ loved you this way before you became a Christian—He’s not going to change His love for you after you’ve become a Christian. Christ loves the church despite our sin and…
1.1.2) Christ Loves The Church Sacrificially
Christ loves the church so much that He “gave himself for it.” The word “gave” is understood in the sense of someone turning themselves over to someone else, for example, the police. Christ voluntarily gave Himself over as a sacrificial offering for the church (cf. Ephesians 5:2).
Now, many people would sacrifice their lives for someone else. A parent will jump in a river to save a child. A soldier will leap on a grenade to save his buddies. In most cases, there’s a mutual love driving them to do this. But Christ sacrificed Himself for people who did not love Him back—who were His enemies.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8–10)
You see, there’s a war going on between man and God. Man has rejected God and pursued his own ambitions, interests, and pleasures. Violating God’s law is not a little thing, in fact, some have compared it to treason.
Treason is a crime against your own country. Spiritual treason is a crime against your own Creator. The punishment for treason against your country has often been death. The punishment for spiritual treason is always eternal death:
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
How can there be pardon for our treason against our Creator God? By having someone else take the punishment for us.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
When the perfect and sinless Jesus Christ died on the cross, God punished Him for our sin instead of punishing us. Jesus literally paid it all on the cross.
When you place your trust in Jesus, God completely forgives your sin and places you into a right relationship with Himself. In the words of Romans 5:10, we are reconciled to God. The charges of treason are dropped…you are pardoned, all because Jesus loved you and gave Himself for you as a sacrifice.
Christ’s sacrificial love for the church has a purpose. It’s not that Jesus sacrificed Himself for us and says, “Well, see you in Heaven someday.” No…
1.2) Christ’s Sacrificial Love Leads To Sanctification
Ephesians 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
Ephesians 5:27 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.
The word “sanctify” (hagiazō) means to make holy or set apart. Just as in a marriage, the wife is set apart for her husband (and vice versa), so the church, the bride, is also set apart for Christ, her groom.
Look at the phrase, “cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” This phrase recalls an image from Jewish and Greek culture: on her wedding day, a bride would take a ceremonial bath. Then she would dress herself in an embroidered linen dress and her wedding sandals. Then she would wait for the groom, without spot or wrinkle. The Jews called this ceremony, “The Sanctification [the setting apart] of the Bride” (IVP Background).
The basic point of these verses is that Christ will take the church that He sacrificed to save and He will sanctify her—make her holy. He’s going cleanse His church. All so that He can present the church as a glorious, spotless bride to Himself.
What a wonderful wedding picture this is! The Lord comes and stands by the church, His bride! And, in that future day, the Lord will have purified the church so that she is like a bride on her wedding day—glorious, spotless, without a single wrinkle. If you are Christian, you are going to be part of a glorious bride.
2) SO THE CHURCH SHOULD ALSO LOVE THE CHURCH
The direct application of what we just studied, of course, is that husbands should love their wives like Christ loves the church. They should be selflessly and sacrificially love their wives. They should work to help their wives grow in holiness and work to protect their purity.
But we’re not going in that direction in this lesson (you can breath easy, guys!). There’s another implied application here—the church should love the church as Christ loves the church.
Christ loves the church so much that He died on the cross for the church.
Surely Jesus doesn’t expect us to love the church as much as He does? That’s impossible! But Jesus didn’t think it was impossible, in fact, He commanded it:
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34–35)
And Paul agrees. In Ephesians 5:2, notice the reason he says that we should walk in love:
2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. (Ephesians 5:2)
We are to “walk in love” because Christ loved us and gave Himself for us. This is the basis for our love. When we find it difficult to love or forgive someone, we are supposed to remember and be motivated by Christ’s love for us (see Ephesians 4:32).
There are two applications I’d like to draw out from this command to love the church as Christ loves the church.
2.1) Love The Church By Attending Church
Okay, I’m using two different meanings of the word, “church,” but you get my drift. God designed the church to be a community that regularly meets together. It’s hard to imagine why we want to argue against God’s design.
It’s nice to have the radio ministry, but it cannot replace coming together. It’s nice to have internet access to untold millions of sermons and worship songs—but they cannot replace coming together and hearing a sermon and singing together (even if that sermon and the singing aren’t so good).
I do not say this because I’m the preacher and I want more people in church on Sunday morning and afternoon and Wednesday night. I say this because it is what the New Testament tells us:
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24–25)
Exhorting or encouraging one another is something that cannot effectively be done over the internet or radio or television.
We are to do this more as the day of Christ’s return approaches—not less. We are closer than ever before to the return of Christ.
Someone is apt to say, “But we don’t have to attend church to be a Christian!” This is correct…but it really misses the point. Someone said that being a Christian who doesn’t attend church is like:
- A student who will not go to school.
- A soldier who will not join an army.
- A salesman with no customers.
- A football player without a team.
Church is an integral part to being a Christian because the church is the body of Christ. To not attend church is to say to Christ that you want to pick and choose what parts of Him that you love!
Love Christ and love His body by attending church. Another important application that comes from this one is that we should:
2.2) Love The Church To Learn To Love More
Some people think they should find a church that they are most comfortable in. I think this is a misguided mistake. Yes, find one with good doctrine.
But to find a church where the people are all the same—that’s a mistake. To not attend a church because you have a disagreement with some of the people there—that’s a mistake. To avoid a church because of differences in minor doctrines—that’s a mistake.
Why do I say this? Think about the disciples—Jesus had a tax collector mixed in with fishermen (who probably hated taxes) and others. Can you imagine how Peter, James, and John—ordinary tax-paying fisherman—felt when Matthew the despised tax collector joined them?
We also know that there were tensions among the disciples—they argued about who was the greatest (Luke 9:46; 22:24). Either Jesus did a lousy job picking compatible disciples or, maybe He wanted to show the power of the gospel to help them to love one another.
The gospel proves its power when we can love people who are very different from us. Just as Christ loved us and showed His love for us by sacrificing Himself for us, so we are called to love one another with the same sacrificial love. And we do that by keeping His sacrificial love for us in mind. For instance, if you need to forgive—remember Christ’s forgiveness of you:
32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)
The saying, “No pain, no gain” applies here. If there are no people in your life that are difficult for you to love—you won’t grow in your ability to love. But when there are those who are hard for you to love, it should drive you to prayer for strength. And the exercise of loving those you don’t like will stretch you into being a more loving person!
It’s also far greater witness to the world when they see people from different backgrounds—who might not even cross paths during the week—attending church together. It shows them the power of the gospel to make us one in Christ.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35)
Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to grow in loving people who are different from you. Don’t avoid those that you disagree with—hang around them instead, and learn to love them despite your differences.
Why did a group of twenty Christians decide to form the Baker First Baptist Church in March of 1931?
I don’t have that information, but I can imagine what I would be thinking if I was part of twenty people who had just became Christians.
I’d be thinking about how we had just became part of something bigger than us—the body of Christ. I’d be thinking about how we were now brothers and sisters in Christ.
I’d be thinking about the special connection that the group of us now had.
How could we not want to be together?
How could we not want to love each other like Christ loved each one of us?