“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (NIV Eph. 5:25-27)
I read this verse again for the first time yesterday. I was going to use it for a devotional I was writing regarding how husbands ought to love their wives. I often see this verse in such devotionals. I have also heard commentaries on the “washing with water through the word,” and the “radiant church.” This time something else struck me, though. Actually, three things.
Stains, wrinkles, and blemishes. I chuckled to myself. What woman does not worry about stains, wrinkles, and blemishes? I wear an apron all the time now. I am forever spilling something on my shirt. The result: stains on everything I own. Honestly, I am worse than my kids in this respect. When my husband leaves the house in his Navy dress whites, I stare in amazement. I think, ‘that uniform is still white because I have not laid a finger on it!’
And blemishes? Well, forget about it! After three kids, blemishes are the rule rather than the exception around here. Stretch marks on me and pen marks on the walls. And wrinkles? After three decades, I’m just now starting to worry about them. Let me rephrase that. I’m not worried about them. Once they come, they will be here to stay. I’m not buying any creams which promise otherwise, either.
Of course in these verses, Paul is not referring to the condition of my home or even my own outward appearance. Here he is referring to our sin-stained souls. According to this verse, Christ cleanses us through the word to present us to himself as “a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish…” That sounds so wonderful to me; my heart is filled with joy and anticipation at the very reading of it! Let’s delve a little deeper and look up the meanings of stain, wrinkle, and blemish.
Stain (spiloo) means spot, stain, defile. Wrinkle (rhutis) means to draw together or contract. Without blemish (amomos) is used metaphorically here to indicate the absence of internal blemish and aspilos, that of external spot.*
In other words, Christ cleanses us inside and out! These verses speak of the glorification of the church and of it being presented to God as holy and without blemish. How I look forward to that day when I will be presented to Him holy and blameless!
I am sanctified by His grace. I can try as hard as I want to tidy up my soul myself for Jesus. I can read self-help books, try twelve step programs, hypnosis, even years of psychotherapy. No amount of self-scrubbing of my soul will remove the stains of sin. Only the blood of Jesus. So what is my part? I think this verse gives a pretty good clue:
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (NIV Phil. 2:12, 13)
How I anticipate the day when I will forever exchange my own filthy rags for His robe of righteousness! Then I will be spotless for all eternity!
*Definitions from The Complete Word Study Dictionary, edited by Spiros Zodhiates.
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