"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it; 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." (EPH. 5: 25-27).
IN this passage the apostle, under the guidance of the Spirit, is teaching wives and husbands their duties to one another. To the wives he enjoins submission--a loving yielding to their husbands in all lawful things; to the husbands, love; and he puts before them the highest of all patterns--Christ and his Church.
I. Christ's love to his Church.
1. The object of his love. The Church--all who are chosen, awakened, believing, justified, santified, glorified--all who are finally saved--all who shall stand with the Lamb--the hundred and forty and four thousand redeemed ones--all looked on as the bright company; the Church--all who are awakened and brought to Christ--all who shall sit down at the marriage supper. I believe Jesus had compassion for the whole world. He is not willing that any should perish. Still, the peculiar object of his love was the Church. He loved the Church. On them his eye rested with peculiar tenderness before the world was. He would often say: These shall yet sit with me on my throne; or, as he read over their names in his book of life, he would say: These shall yet walk with me in white. When they lived in sin, his eye was upon them. He would not let them die, and drop into hell: "I have much people in this city." I have no doubt, brethren, Christ is marking some of you that are now Christless, for his own. When they came to Christ, he let out his love toward them on the land where they dwelt--a delightsome land. His eye rests on the houses of this town, where his jewels live. Christ loves some streets far better than others--some spots of earth are far dearer to him than others.
Christ loved his Church. Just as a husband at sea loves the spot where his dear wife dwells, so does the Lord Jesus: "I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands." (Isa 49:16) He loves some in one house far more than others. There are some apartments dear to Christ--where he is often present--where his hands are often on the door: "Open to me, my love."
2. The state of the Church when first loved. (1) They were all under the curse of God--under condemnation--exposed to the just wrath of God--deserving nothing but wrath; for "he gave himself for it." The Church had no dowry to attract the love of Jesus, except her wrath and curse. (2) Impure. For he had to "sanctify and cleanse it"; unholy within--opposed to God--no beauty in the eye of Jesus: I am black, spotted, and wrinkled. (3) Nothing to draw the love of Christ. Nothing that he could admire in them. He admires whatever is like his Father. He had eternally gazed upon his Father, and was ravished with that beauty; but he saw none of this--not a feature--no beauty at all. Men love where they see something to draw esteem--Christ saw none. (4) Everything to repel his love: "Polluted in thine own blood"--cast out--loathsome (Ezek 16); yet that was the time of his love. Black--uncomely: "Thou hast loved me out of the pit of corruption." (5) Not from ignorance. Men often love where they do not know the true character, and repent after. But not so Christ. He knew the weight of their sins--the depths of their wicked heart.
Nothing is more wonderful than the love of Christ. Learn the freeness of the love of Christ. It is unbought love. "If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned." (Song 8:7.) He drew all his reasons from himself: "I knew that thou wast obstinate." you have no cause to boast. He loved you, because he loved you -- for nothing. O what a black soul wast thou, when Christ set his love upon thee!
3. The greatness of that love: "He gave himself." This is unparalleled love. Love is known by the sacrifice it will make. In a fit of love, Herod would have given away the half of his kingdom. If you will sacrifice nothing, you love not. Hereby we know that men love not Christ--they will sacrifice nothing for him. They will not leave a lust--a game--a companion, for Christ. "Greater love than this hath no man." But Christ gave himself. Consider what a self. If he had created ten thousand millions of worlds, and given them away, it had been great love--had he given a million of angels; but he gave the Lord of angels--the Creator of worlds. "Lo, I come." He gave the pearl of heaven. O what a self!--Jesus!--all loveliness!
4. What he gave himself to. He gave himself to be put in their place--to bear their wrath and curse, and to obey for them. We shall never know the greatness of this gift. He gave himself to bear the guilt of the Church. There cannot be a more fearful burden than guilt, even if there be no wrath. To the holy soul of Jesus, this was an awful burden. He was made sin: "Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up." (Ps. 40.) "Mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me." (Ps 38.) He endured the cross, despising the shame. He laid his soul under their guilt--shame and spitting; silent like a lamb.
To bear their wrath. A happy soul shrinks from suffering. Ask one that has always been in the love of God, what would he give to cast himself out of that love--bear as much wrath as he is bearing love--to receive the lightning instead of the sunshine? Not for ten millions of worlds. Yet this did Jesus. He became a curse for us: See how he shrank back from it in the garden. Yet he drank it.
"God commendeth his love to us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Pray to know the love of Christ. It is a great ocean, without bottom or shore.1 In the broken bread you will see it set forth so that a child may understand: "This is my body, broken for you"--"This is my blood, shed for many."
II. His purpose in time. (Verse 26.) Christ's work is not done with a soul when he has brought it to pardon--when he has washed it in his own blood. Oh, no! The better half of salvation remains--his great work of sanctification remains.
1. Who is the author? He that gave himself for the Church--the Lamb that was slain. God having raised his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning every one of you away from your iniquities. He is exalted by the right hand of God, and, having obtained the promise of the Father, sheds him down. There is no hand can new-create the soul, but the hand that was pierced. Many look to a wrong quarter for sanctification. They take pardon from Christ, then lean on themselves--their promises--for holiness. Ah, no! You must take hold of the hand that was pierced--lean on the arm that was racked--lean on the Beloved coming up from the wilderness. You might as well hold up the sun on its journey, as sanctify yourself. It needs divine power. There are three concerned in it. The Father--for this is his will; the Son, he is the Shepherd of all he saves; the Holy Ghost.
2. The means: "The Word." I believe he could sanctify without the Word, as he created angels and Adam holy, and as he sanctifies infants whose ear was never opened; but I believe in grown men he never will, but through the Word. When Jesus makes holy, it is by writing the Word in the heart: "Sanctify them through thy truth." When a mother nurses her child, she not only bears it in her arms, but holds it to her breast, and feeds it with the milk of her own breast; so does the Lord. He not only holds the soul, but feeds it with the milk of the Word. The words of the Bible are just the breathings of God's heart. He fills the heart with these, to make us like God. When you go much with a companion, and hear his words, you are gradually changed by them into his likeness; so when you go with Christ, and hear his words, you are sanctified. Oh, there are some whom I could tell to be Christ's by their breathing the same sweet breath! Those of you that do not read your Bible cannot turn like God--you cannot be saved. You are unsavable; you may turn like the devil, but you never will turn like God. Oh, believers, prize the Word!
3. The certainty of it. Some are afraid they will never be holy: "I shall fall under my sin." You shall be made holy. It was for this Christ died. This was the grand object he had in view. This was what was in his eye--to build a holy Church out of a world of lost sinners--to pluck brands out of the fire, and make them trees of righteousness--to choose poor, black souls, and make them fair brothers and sisters round his throne. Christ will not lose this object.
Look up, then--be not afraid. He redeemed you to make you holy. Though you had a million of worlds opposing you, he will do it: "He is faithful, who also will do it."
III. His purpose in eternity--twofold.
1. Its perfection: "A glorious Church." At present believers are sadly imperfect. They have on the perfect righteousness that will be no brighter above; but they are not perfectly holy; they mourn over a body of sin--spots and wrinkles. Neither are they perfectly happy. They are often crushed; waves of trouble go over them. But they shall be perfectly glorious. Perfect in righteousness--White robes, washed in the blood of the Lamb. Perfect in holiness--Filled with the Holy Spirit. Perfect in happiness--This shall be. It is all in the covenant.
2. He will present it to himself.--He will be both Father and Bridegroom. He has bought the redeemed--he will give them away to himself. The believer will have nearness--he shall see the King in his beauty. Great intimacy--walk with him--speak with him. He shall have oneness with him--"All that I have is thine."
1"It is as if a child could take the globe of earth and sea in his two short arms."--SAMUEL RUTHERFORD.
St. Peter's, Jan. 3, 1841