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“. . . so that [Christ] 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 5:27).

IT IS INTRIGUING TO THINK OF CHRIST “PRESENTING THE CHURCH TO HIMSELF.” The basic image is that of a bride being presented to her bridegroom (as in 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 21:2), but here Christ is pictured as presenting His own bride to Himself. Christ gave Himself up for His bride, in the words of Richmond Lattimore’s translation, “so as to set the church next to himself in glory, with no spot or wrinkle or anything of the sort upon her, but to be holy and without flaw.” Or as Ronald Knox renders it, “[Christ] would summon it into his own presence, the Church in all its beauty, no stain, no wrinkle, no such disfigurement.” The idea is that if the church is at any time to be a bride worthy of the Lord’s own purity, He Himself will have made her so.

In the ESV, “splendor” is the word used to describe the Lord’s bride, the church. Other possible translations would be “glory” or “radiance.” These are words that all refer, in their literal sense, to things that shine brightly, but we often use words like “glory” to mean “majestic beauty” (American Heritage Dictionary). And that phrase — majestic beauty — wouldn’t be a bad way to characterize the church which Christ died to cleanse and set apart for Himself.

The object of Christ’s sacrifice was a bride “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” This object will be fully realized in heaven, but even now those who have been washed from their sins in baptism (Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26) are in a process leading to that goal: “beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). For after all, Jesus Christ is the key to the church’s splendor, both now and in eternity. The bride’s beauty is that of her Bridegroom.

“The enemies of Christ are triumphant, Christianity is a failure, they say, and the church of God herself looks on in pain at the shortcomings in her midst. But lo, at length from the very heart of the shadows appears the majestic figure of Jesus, his countenance is as the sun shining in his strength, around those wounds in brow and side and hands and feet — those wounds which shelter countless thousands of broken hearts — are healing rays” (Oswald Chambers).

Gary Henry — +

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