“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
HERE, WITHIN THE SPACE OF JUST A FEW WORDS, WE HAVE ONE OF THE PROFOUNDEST STATEMENTS OF THEOLOGY EVER MADE. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Here is the heart of the truth about Jesus Christ and also our main motivation for obeying His gospel. And since the statement is part of Paul’s discussion of husbands and wives, we should add: if husbands are to love their wives with anything close to the love Christ had for the church when He went to the cross, they’ve got their work cut out for them.
Christ loved the church. When Jesus said to His disciples, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18), He spoke of a future event. Even when He died, the church He said He would build did not yet exist. So how can it be said that He gave Himself up because He “loved the church”? We can say that He loved the church prospectively, knowing it would soon come into existence, but it was not the church in the aggregate that He died for. He died for individuals who needed to be saved. So when Christ died, those whom He loved were the individuals who would obey the gospel and receive the forgiveness His death would make possible. We all need to see ourselves in this picture. Even if I am one who has not yet obeyed the gospel, I need to envision myself coming to be a part of the church that Christ loved so much. How could I not want to do so?
And gave himself up for her. None of us could have been saved without Christ’s sacrifice. It was His death that atoned for the guilt of our transgressions and opened up the door of God’s grace to us. Surely no one in the history of the world has ever made a greater sacrifice for others than Jesus made when He put Himself in our place and was executed. And for whom did He do this? His church.
When all is said and done, it is sacrifice that shows the extent of love. Christ did more than speak words of love; He gave Himself up for us. So let’s celebrate Christ’s sacrifice. And let’s not be reluctant to celebrate the church which, by His love, became His bride.
For Christ, our dear Redeemer,
For Christ, the crucified;
For the church His blood hath purchased,
The church, His holy bride.
(E. E. Hewitt)