Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Radiant Church

Eph 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansingb her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. NIV
       The bride stood at the front of the church, holding tightly to her father's arm. She smiled shyly at the groom and looked expectantly toward the pastor. "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?" the pastor asked. The nervous father's reply was barely audible. He said in a trembling voice, "Her mother and I." Then he placed his daughter's hand gently in the groom's, kissed her, and wiped away a tear as he turned toward the pew where his wife was waiting.
This scene has been replayed countless times in weddings from generation to generation. Traditionally, it is the parents who have presented the bride to the bridegroom. This was also true in New Testament times. In Jesus' day, a betrothal gift was given by the parents, and the bride was led to the groom's home in a procession (Matt 25:1-13). The scene will be slightly different, however, when the bride of Christ is joined to her Lord. At that time, according to Eph 5:27, the bride of Christ will be presented "as a radiant church" by Jesus Himself.
In the original text, the term radiant literally means "glorious." Glory is one of the attributes of God. He is called the "King of glory" in Ps 24:7 and the "God of glory" in Ps 29:3. God shows His glory through what He has done. God's glory is evident in creation (Ps 19:1). According to Ps 96:3, He declares His glory among the nations through His "marvelous deeds." However, God's' glory is most clearly revealed in Jesus Christ (John 1:14).
This glory was a reflection of the Father's glory, possessed by Jesus before the world began and fully restored to Him after His resurrection (John 17:5). Jesus is: ". . . the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation" (Col 1:15).

Like Jesus, our ancestor Adam once reflected the Father's glory. Prior to the fall, he was created in "the image of God" (Gen 1:26-27). One of the consequences of Adam's sin was that it caused him and all who came after him to "fall short" of God's glory (Rom 3:23). As a result of sin's blinding effect, humanity exchanged the glory of God and recast it in the image of the things that God Himself had created (Rom 1:25). Those who come to know Christ by faith regain the knowledge of this glory (2 Cor 4:6)
God is protective of His glory (Ex 34:14). This is not because He is "jealous" in a human sense but because He is aware of His own uniqueness. In Isa 42:8, we are warned: "I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols" (cf. Isa 48:11). Yet despite this, the Scriptures promise that when Christ presents us to Himself, we will share in His glory to such an extent that we will be glorious.
This new status springs from two actions of Christ. It is rooted first in the fact that Jesus loved us with a love that was reflected in His actions when He "gave himself up" for us. This is the language of sacrifice and refers to His work on the cross (Eph 5:2). Secondly, Christ cleansed us "by the washing with water through the word" (Eph 5:26). Together, these provide the basis for our sanctification. Christ's death was a single and unrepeatable event that reversed the effect of sin and provided a righteous standing for those who had fallen short of God's standard. The washing of the word is an ongoing process that God uses to transform our minds and guide our actions, as we rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to obey its directives. As a result of both, we will stand before Christ on the day of judgment genuinely holy and without blame, an unblemished bride who has no stain or wrinkle.
It is important to note that what Paul has to say in this verse is more than abstract theology. These words provide the foundation for a very practical command: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church . . . ." The husband who would love his wife as God intended must have a clear understanding of the work of Christ. If he thinks of love in a purely worldly sense, he may look at this command and say, "I have loving feelings for my wife; I must be doing all right." Or the opposite may be true, and he may say, "I don't have any feelings for my wife, so I can't obey this command." In reality, though, biblical love is demonstrated in action.
The husband who loves his wife as Christ loved the church will be available for her and sensitive to her needs. Availability means that his wife will have regular access to him. Unfortunately, his physical presence is not always a guarantee of this. A husband who is truly available has also learned how to listen and communicate. A sensitive husband understands the needs of his wife. He has learned how to live with his wife "in an understanding way" (1 Peter 3:7 NASB).
Because the marriage bond reflects the relationship between Christ and the church, there is more at stake in our obedience to Paul's command than mere happiness (Eph 5:32). Ultimately, Christian marriage is a form of witness and a method of instruction. It provides a world that has been blinded by sin with a living analogy of the love of Christ.
The bride is not the only one who is given away at the marriage ceremony. By promising to love his wife as Christ loves the Church, the groom gives himself to the bride. A cynic has called marriage an institution where "a man gives up privileges he never realized he had." In reality, the husband gives up much more. He gives up his very life. When Jesus loved, He gave up Himself. The husband who follows Christ's example can do no less.
Lord Jesus, thank You for giving up Your life for me. Show me the opportunities You have placed before me today to follow in Your steps. I will give myself to You as I give myself to others. Amen.
   Thanks to John Koessler for allowing us to publish his
John Koessler serves as chair and professor of pastoral studies at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of ten books and numerous articles. He also serves as a contributing editor for the Moody Bible Institute publication Today in the Word, where you can read his monthly “Theology Matters” column. You can contact John via email at or by phone at (312) 329-4077

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