26 “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:26–27 (ESV)
The Apostle Paul continues his comparison of the love a husband is to have for his wife with the love Christ has for the church. Christ’s love is the standard of self-sacrificial love of the will. A husband’s love for his wife is based and established on this sacrificial standard by the Lord Jesus. This holy standard, not only of God the Father’s love but also Christ’s love for the church, was previously spoken about by Paul in Ephesians 2:1-4.
What was the purpose of such love by God for sinners? Paul sets forth three purposes of Christ’s love in today’s text.
The first is “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” The second purpose of God’s love in and through Christ is “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”
The third purpose of Christ’s atoning love is “that she might be holy and without blemish.” As the bride of Christ, the church is referred to in the feminine gender.
Christ’s love is intended to make the church holy. Holy (ἅγιος; hagios) means to be pure, dedicated, divine and separate from sin. Holiness is a fundamental characteristic of believer’s in Christ (1 Cor. 6:2; 2 Cor. 13:12; Php. 4:22; I Peter 1:13-16; Rev. 18:20; 22:21). The phrase without blemish (ἄμωμος; amomos) means to be without fault, defect and perfect in the sight of God.
Dr. John Walvoord writes, “These last two adjectives (hagia, “set apart,” and amōmos, “without blemish,” like a spotless lamb) are stated in Ephesians 1:4 as the purpose of God’s election: that Christ may present His church to Himself in all its perfection (cf. “make holy” in 5:26; also cf. hagious and amōmous in Col. 1:22). Whereas human brides prepare themselves for their husbands, Christ prepares His own bride for Himself.”
During the wedding ceremony, there is a moment when the impending bride enters the sanctuary to present herself to the wedding guests, but most especially to her prospective husband. It is as that moment that the groom could announce to all in attendance that his future bride, arrayed in white, is the one for whom he will self-sacrificially live for and love. He presents her in all her beauty, splendor and purity; symbolized by her wedding dress. It is a special moment.
This is what the Apostle Paul addresses when he writes about Jesus Christ presenting His bride, the church, in heaven in all her heavenly glory. The church’s honor and glory is not inherently her own, but what she has received from her husband, the Lord Jesus Christ.
May each of us reflect, as the bride of Christ, how we may demonstrate our future heavenly glory in the present earthly lives.
Soli deo Gloria!