Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;…
The apostle unites, with an exposition of the duties of conjugal life, a very impressive statement of the nature of the union between Christ and the Church This statement is exceedingly important, quite irrespective of its supplying an illustration of the ground and measure of a husband's affection for his wife. There are three truths here exhibited respecting the union of Christ and his Church.
I. CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH AS WELL AS THE SAVIOUR OF THE BODY. He not only saves the Church, but governs it; he not only redeemed it by his atoning death, but is its continuous Preserver and Director, his life the very life of his people: "Because I live, ye shall live also."
II. CHRIST PREPARES THE CHURCH FOR HIMSELF AS HIS SPOTLESS BRIDE.
1. The language implies that the Church was originally impure, in fact, like the foundling infant of the prophet exposed on the day of its birth, "to the loathing of its person" (Ezekiel 16.). If she had not been so, there would have been no need of Christ's glorious cleansing.
2. It was through his death that Christ designed to make his people holy. "He gave himself" for them (ver. 25). The language is clearly sacrificial. The gift involved a death of unutterable anguish, yet he shrank not from it in his unutterable love. It is the death which secures our ultimate holiness, for it reconciles us to God and secures to us the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are redeemed from the curse of the Law, that "we might receive the promise of the Spirit" (Galatians 3:13, 14).
3. The application of the atonement. "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word;" or, rather, "that, having purified it, he might consecrate it." The Church is thus set apart as his bride - "the Lamb's wife." It is thus that Christ sanctifies his people with his blood (Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 13:11, 12), not merely by way of expiation, but by way of consecrating them to himself. The instrumental means of the Church's sanctification is "the washing of water by the Word." This points clearly to baptism, which is elsewhere described as "the laver of regeneration;" but it is baptism inseparably linked with "the Word." What is the spiritual import of this baptism? It neither regenerates nor secures the remission of sins. It is true that it is called "the laver of regeneration" (Titus 3:5), and that remission of sins is connected with it. "Arise, be baptized, and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16). But no more is ascribed in Scripture to baptism than to the Word of God. Baptism cleanses from sin as the Word does. We are saved by the truth, begotten by the truth, sanctified by the truth. But this language does not imply that the Word regenerates every one who hears it, or that it possesses a magic power to work saving results. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17); but many who hear do not believe. Besides, salvation, as in the case of infants, is not linked inseparably with the Word. Historically, we know from the instances of baptism recorded in the New Testament that faith preceded baptism. Therefore baptism cannot regenerate. We believe, however, that baptism is both a sign and a seal of the covenant of grace, without believing that it has any regenerating, power m itself. The Lord connects the blessings of salvation with a believing reception of baptism, just as he does with a believing acceptance of the Word. For the apostle is here speaking of the effect of baptism on the Church, not upon those who are aliens from its blessings.
4. The design of the Lord in this purification of the Church. "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."
(1) This refers evidently to the time of our Lord's second coming, when he is to be admired in all them that believe. It cannot refer to the Church in this world, which, even in its best states, has many a spot and many a wrinkle.
(2) It implies that the Lord will himself present his Church "as his purchased possession," and he and no other will receive the Church as his bride to himself.
(3) The condition of the Church will be One of spotless glory. She will have neither the spots of sin or error to mar her beauty nor the wrinkles of decay, but will be "holy and without blemish."
5. It was love that prompted and directed the whole process which is to have such a glorious result. "As Christ also loved the Church."
III. CHRIST AND THE CHURCH ARE ONE MEMBERSHIP. "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (ver. 30).
1. This does not refer to the incarnation, for the assumption of human nature allied our Savior to the whole race of man. This membership applies to believers only.
2. Neither does it refer, as Romanists say, to the Lord's Supper, in which, partaking of his flesh, we are flesh of his flesh.
3. It signifies community of life, like that which connected Eve in her creation with the flesh of Adam. We are elsewhere said to be saved by his flesh (Ephesians 2:15), by his blood (Ephesians 2:13), by his body (Romans 7:4), by the body of his flesh (Colossians 1:22); and his flesh is called our life, and described as essential to eternal life. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53, 54). There is, no doubt, great mystery here, and therefore the relation between Christ and his Church may well be called so (ver. 32). - T.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;