Love's Constancy
Arthur Pridham (Notes on Ephesians)

Verses 25b, 26--"…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." The sanctification and purifying of the Church are here referred immediately and exclusively to the act of Christ, and are held up to our adoring admiration as the triumphant effort of His love. When previously contemplated as the workmanship of God, it was seen that the security and perfection of the Church are found solely in the Divine competency of the Workman. Now, it is the self-devotion of the love of Christ that is commended to us as the pledge and assurance of her freedom from all stain. For He "gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14).  

The effective means of this purification is here said to be "the washing of water by the Word." If we have heard Him, we are clean (John 15:3). The power of all true purification is in the Word of grace. The laver of regeneration applies its virtue to the soul through the active medium of faith. It is by the Word of God that we are born again. The Church, thus cleansed, is clean forever, being maintained in its sanctification by the grace and power of Him, who for our sakes has sanctified Himself. It is to be observed, that what Christ does for His Church is now our subject, not what He is for her to God. In the latter point of view, He is her Righteousness, her Sanctification, and her Redemption. 

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." We have here a very strong _expression of the doctrine of Christ's appropriative love. The Name of the Father is not mentioned-- the grand moral result of mediatorial redemption in our fitness for the presence of God not being the prominent idea, but rather the entire contentment and complacency of Christ the Lord in the Church, as the chosen partner of His own blessedness. He has cleansed her from her natural pollutions, to prepare her for her destined place, as the companion of the Lord of glory. He will present her to Himself a glorious Church. She will be a perfect reflection of Himself. Free from all natural deformity, and purged by His precious blood from every acquired defilement, she will be holy and unblemished in His eyes. Neither weakness nor sin will have left any trace or memorial of themselves in that day of light.  

And she is already beheld in that completeness by His love. What the Holy Spirit now testifies of her perfections was eternally before the mind of Christ. And when by incarnation He had come into the place of weakness and affliction, and hope became his comfort, because grief was His companion, the expectation of this fair fruit of His travail was the chief solace of His lonely sorrow: "For the joy which was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2). That she might live, He died. That she might shine in righteousness, He took her sins upon Himself. He has made her comely with His own perfections, and keeps in reserve for her His own new Name. Although, in fact, she is neither ready nor complete while the present work of edification is proceeding, yet when the day for her presentation has arrived, because the time for the marriage of the Lamb is come, she will be found suitably adorned. Fine linen has been granted to her for her raiment in that day, when no sad remembrance of her former state shall remain to detract from her faultless beauty in His sight. She will be all fair to Him, and He will be to her, forever, the satisfying portion of her joy. 

It is the certain and triumphant result of the love of Christ to His Church that is set before us in this verse. All is, accordingly, referred to Him. The Comforter, who is not expressed by name, fulfills His gracious office by thus showing us these things of Christ. The intended effect of such communications is to establish our hearts in the grace wherein we stand, and, in the clear view of our most sure hope, to draw out our love in dutiful devotedness to Him who is to be its everlasting Object. When we surrender our hearts, in the simplicity of faith, to this sweet and holy assurance of the love of Christ, we find no room for agitating questions or surmisings. All our attention is engrossed by Him. What He does, and how He feels, become the true subjects of interest to our souls.  

And when we see that the Church, which He calls glorious, owes all her comeliness and all her praise to Him who first washed her from her sins, the weakest saint may joyfully assure himself that the fellowship of all that rich inheritance of blessing which belongs to Christ's beloved is indeed, through grace, his or her own. For not merit, but pure mercy, is the order of the Church's blessing. She is represented as the passive subject of the Savior's love. It is when she hears in the Gospel the evidences of this love, and sees by faith its tokens, both in the body of the Lamb once slain for her offences, and in the many crowns of glory which now rest upon Him as the Lord of lords--and is instructed by the Comforter that all that glory has been won for her participation, that she becomes aware of the true nature of her calling, and begins to separate herself in readiness for the approaching day

Verses 28, 29--"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself." It is interesting to observe the way in which the Apostle is led by the Spirit to unfold this great doctrine of the special love of Christ, by interweaving with it the practical exhortation to the Christian husband. The last verse has set the Church in the full results of the grace of Him who has re-deemed her for Himself. That He has loved her is shown by what He has suffered for her sake. That He does love her with a gracious kindness which is never to be wearied, is evinced abundantly by the watchful mercy which now waits upon her steps, as she moves slowly, and often painfully, through the present wilderness, towards His rest.  

It is this present manifestation of His love which is now regarded, and which is set before the Christian husband as the pattern of his kindness towards his wife. He is to look on her, not as his own only, but as himself. She is as his body; and no man ever yet hated his own flesh. But that which is a needed exhortation to men is a fulfilled truth in the mystery of Christ. Men are conscious of their love to their own flesh; and according to the quickness of this natural instinct, they are to estimate the present love of Christ to the Church. Instead, therefore, of being divided against themselves, they are charged to nourish and cherish that which is their own flesh, even as the Lord the Church. For He also has His gracious instincts, which He willingly obeys. And if He nourishes His mystic spouse, it is upon Himself that she is fed. His very flesh and blood are, to the believing soul, the daily nourishment by which she is preserved alive. By the gracious operation of the Comforter, He cherishes the feeble vessel of His grace

The foregoing chapter has shown to us the instrumental means by which this still-continuing care of the Lord Jesus is bestowed upon His growing Church. But the doctrine of the present passage tells more immediately upon our hearts, in sanctifying power, by connecting us experimentally with this near and active love. 

Verse 30--"For we are members of His body" (JND). We have been taught this blessed truth hitherto in its bearing on our mutual fellowship in the Spirit, as members of the one body, and united to one common Head. Here we drink more deeply into the mystery of our personal interest in Him. It is not so much the symmetrical perfection of the Divine workmanship that now engages our thoughts, as the portion which we severally have in the Lord, according as our faith is enabled to realize in power His special title of Husband to the Church. We are married to Him that is risen from the dead (Romans 7:4). While, therefore, the Church in its unity remains full in our view, it is our individual appropriation of that which in truth is the common portion of all saints that is the prominent idea here. "My Beloved is mine, and I am His" (S of S 2:16) is an _expression of particular (individual) faith in the Lord Jesus, as well as the natural language of the collective Church. "He loved me, and gave Himself for me," is the responsive echo from the heart of each living member of that Church that draws its nourishment by faith from the Word of grace, which tells us of His dying love. 

The Lord does not hate His flesh. But as many as He loves, He rebukes and chastens, when their ways are wrong. His own holiness being the measure of our walk, if we willingly fall short of it, He is too faithful to leave us to ourselves. He is purposed to have His Church worthy of Himself; and He has counted all the cost of that great venture of His love. And because He is wise as well as fervent in His love, He deals practically with His Church, according to His knowledge of her need. He is her Lord forever, amid all the endearments of His love, and seeks for subjection on her part. Hence words of sharpness may be used to recall her heedless steps from the way of evil. But He can never put away His wife. Grace and not law being the order of the marriage contract, it can never be dissolved. No bill of divorce can be drawn by Divine righteousness against a Church which is a faultless image of its Maker. For the declared undertaking of His grace is that she shall be both spotless and glorious.  

Instead, therefore, of disappointment and repudiation, the day of His espousals* will be the consummation of an endless joy. --  


* The Church is a betrothed bride, not yet actually wed. But as the love of Christ is the Apostle's subject, its sure results are administered to our faith as present things.