The Perfect Love Of Christ -His Work And His Purpose

Ephesians 5:25-27

There are two things here which bring out the perfect love of Christ to the church. First, what He has already done; second, what He is about to do; or, in other words, His work and His purpose-"Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it."

The way in which we value a thing is according to what it costs us; the greater the price a man pays for it, the more he values it. Thus, Christ values the church according to what it cost Him to possess it. He paid an infinite price, He gave up everything-His place, His rest, His glory with the Father, all His rights and glories as Son of man {Mt. 8:20; 2 Cor. 8:9}, and, beyond all, He gave Himself. Gave Himself to God for us, to glorify God on our behalf, to suffer all that was due to us; laid down His life to pay the ransom price, that He might redeem us to God. He could not have given more, done more, or suffered more. His love was proved to the utmost, but endured firm as a rock. The many waters could not quench it.

But there is another way in which we value a thing; namely, for what it is in itself, according to our own estimation of its worth, which may exceed the actual cost at which we purchased it; it has to ourselves a peculiar value beyond all cost.

So also, from eternity, Christ's heart was set upon the church: He formed His own estimate of its worth, to Him it possessed a peculiar value and beauty, to Him it was like a pearl of great price; the one object which His heart was set upon, full of beauty and loveliness in His eyes. He gave up everything to possess it.

But here His estimation of its preciousness was formed before He purchased it, He would possess it at any cost. What wondrous love was His-to see beauty in such an object, found in such a condition of sin, poverty, and degradation! It seems almost too marvelous to be true. And yet His own Word assures us that it was so-"My delights were with the sons of men" (Proverbs 8:31).

However, this truth is often lost sight of, or only feebly apprehended when thinking of the love of Christ to us, and of His death as the great expression of it. We think of His grace in dying for us, as if His object in doing so was merely to set us free from the state in which we were found; of how He bore the judgment in our stead and set us free, of how He died for us and secured our salvation. But this, though all true, is not half the truth. He died, in order, not merely to set us free, but to possess the church for Himself, and having possessed it to bring it to His own estate (1 Thess. 5:9,10).

Let us suppose, by way of illustration, that the son οf the Queen heard of some poor creature in prison, that he has compassion for her, and is willing to become her substitute; that he leaves his own estate, the comforts and honors of his home and position, comes down to the prison to endure the penalty resting upon this poor creature, and suffers the whole term of her imprisonment to set her free. What compassion! What condescension! What kindness! Beyond anything we can conceive as possible. Yet after all, this would not be perfect love. Wondrous compassion and kindness, but not perfect love. He has secured a great benefit for her: she gets freedom from the judgment of the law, and from the prison, but there he leaves her. Now, if he really loved her perfectly, what more would he do, having set her free? He would desire to possess her for himself, take her for his wife, and clothe her in attire which would suit himself; bring her to his own home to share equally with himself all his own riches, blessings, and honor: that is, in every way he would raise her up to his own estate. Nothing less would satisfy perfect love.

Such love, and such ways in any human creature, are altogether beyond conception. But such has been, and is the perfect love of Christ for the church. And here we have brought before us the present activity of His love, in what He is now doing for the church: "That he might sanctify it, purifying it by the washing of water by the Word" (Eph. 5:26). It is because He loves the church so perfectly that He desires it should be separated from all that is defiling, that its moral condition should be what is suitable to Him. He is therefore seeking by the Word to cleanse it from everything of the world, from everything not befitting the high and holy relationship into which He has brought it, having redeemed it for this by the giving of Himself. His perfect love could not be satisfied with anything short of its present moral condition being worthy of Himself. And, if we think of His love, we shall surely appreciate this present service of Christ, and it will awaken in us the corresponding desire to answer to His desires for us; and we shall not be satisfied with less than being separated from everything unworthy of Him. We shall value the Word because of its cleansing effect.

This brings us to the second part of our subject-the purpose of Christ for the church, what He is about to do for it. He gave Himself for the church, not only to redeem it, but to possess it, and with the purpose of bringing it up to His own estate, to His own place, and in a state suitable to Himself, "That He might sanctify it by the washing of water by the Word, that He might present the church to Himself glorious, having no spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it might be holy and blameless." His love will never be satisfied until He has brought us to His own place, raised us up to share with Him His own honor and glory, brought us into the full enjoyment of the place and condition in which He is at present in the Father's house, to share with Him all His own rest, joy, and glory, as far as He can give it us, when will be fully realized the truth: "He that sanctifieth and those that are sanctified are all one" (Hebrews 2:11). Then His desires will be fulfilled, and He will rest in His love.

For this, He is waiting in patient expectation. He must bring the object of His love into the enjoyment with Himself of all His own delights, the joys, the blessings, the glory of His own place, and in a glorious condition in every way suited to the place and to Himself. What is said in Psalm 45:13-14 of His Jewish people, will be even more fully true of His heavenly bride: "The King's daughter is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold, she shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework." Then the church will be seen as a "bride adorned for her husband." Such is the purpose of Christ for the church, and this is what He is about to accomplish for her. He could not do more, and He will not do less.

Now comes a question for us; namely, How far do we respond to such love? How far are our affections and desires in accordance with it? I do not mean as to any return we can make, for to do so in any adequate manner would be impossible. But I speak of the receptivity of our hearts to His thoughts and His love. Do we take them in, do we really believe this love? Are we really looking away from and beyond everything here, to that which is before us-the coming glory? Do we really believe that in a little while we shall have done with everything here, shall have left this world in which we now are, and all the things with which we are occupied on earth, and shall in a moment be translated to be in the place where Christ is, with, and like Him? That soon, the last time will have arrived, when we shall gather around His table to celebrate His death; that before another Lord's day comes, the moment of our rapture may have come, and we may be with the whole church, glorified, and in the presence of our Lord above, to be with Him forever.

I ask, do we really believe these truths? Are we reaching forth with earnest desire, pressing towards the mark for the prize of our calling on high? Does the patience of our hearts correspond with the patience of His heart? How little our minds and hearts are impressed and imbued with these thoughts of Christ about us.

In Paul (Phil 3), we see a man whose heart was so possessed by the love and purpose of Christ for him, that he relinquishes everything here, in his longing desire to realize the fullness of blessing of being with Christ, and like Him. He could say with truth, "One thing I do, forgetting the things behind, and stretching out to the things before, I pursue, looking towards the goal, for the prize of the calling on high of God, in Christ Jesus."

But if we find with ourselves that the hope has waned, that we lack this ardent desire which separates the heart from everything where Christ is not, then what shall we do? What will put our hearts in a right state towards the Lord, and that which He has set before us as our hope? Well, it is of no use dwelling upon our failure, our feeble love and response to Him. We must seek, rather, through the ministry of the Word, by the Spirit to our souls, to get our hearts more occupied with, more possessed by His perfect love to us, and His thoughts and purpose concerning us. This is the only thing which will rekindle our love and desire for Him.

May God accomplish this in us all, that we may be found as a people waiting and prepared for the Lord.