“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-7
What can look more beautiful than a bride on her wedding day? Of all the beautiful sights and sounds on earth, the marriage service in church is hard to beat . We are there reminded of the nature of Christian marriage and we witness the joy of the highest human love.
This picture of the bride in white points us to the illustration used by Paul. Christ will have a bride which is pure and holy, a radiant church clothed in splendour. This is the vision of St. John in Revelation 21,”I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
The church on earth by comparison appears in rags and tatters, stained and ugly, despised and persecuted; but the day is surely coming when she will be seen as the radiant bride of Christ, free from stain, spots, wrinkles and blemishes, beautiful and glorious. This transformation is achieved by the Lord Jesus Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom, the Head of the church.
There are five things which He does for the church: firstly He loves with deep everlasting, covenant love, agape love; secondly He sacrifices Himself, and during this season of Lent as we look upon the suffering and death of our Saviour, may we wonder afresh at this highest form of love, to give us life He sacrificed His own. Through this sacrifice Christ cleanses the church from sin, He did everything necessary to gain our salvation; He sanctifies the church, makes her holy, and finally presents her to Himself, perfect.
Paul is telling us to shape our marriages on the heavenly pattern, that of the relationship between Christ and the church. The word “as” is important and demanding. The Christian husband is to love with the agape love that we may receive from the heavenly Bridegroom. He is to sacrifice himself for his wife and be prepared even to die for her.
His aim is that his love may beautify his wife, particularly in developing her Christian character and growth, so that she may develop her full potential in Christ and be part of that glorious body of the Bride of Christ. This love is binding and deep. Its quality is self-sacrifice. Its purpose is the growth of the loved one . This love can only be effected by Christ Himself in the life of the believer through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Father, we pray that You will help us in our relationships on earth to love as Christ as loved us, and to lay down our lives in the service of others. We thank You for the wonderful, sacrificial love of our Saviour, and we pray that we will keep our eyes fixed on Him so that we will be part of the heavenly Bride. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.