What Jesus Died to Give
“…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 splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
– Ephesians 5:25-27
This verse comes to us in the context of a teaching on marriage. Paul is calling husbands to the weighty and wonderful task of loving their wives as Christ loves His Bride, the Church. This is an absolutely critical passage for husbands to mediate on as they seek to love their wives – however, today I want to look at what it teaches us about Christ’s love for His Church, and specifically about what is the great gift of that love.
In these verses Paul unfolds to us the act of Christ’s love and two successive achievements or purposes of that love. I want to quickly consider these three things (His love and its accomplishments) in order to better understand the love of Christ for us.
Christ Gave Himself Up
What sort of love moves God to give Himself up? To pour Himself out? Just consider for a moment the universe-staggering wonder of that truth…..God gave Himself up. Gave Himself up to shame, gave Himself up to unjust treatment, gave Himself up to the loss of His rights, gave Himself up to unappreciated service, gave Himself up to death, gave Himself up to wrath. GOD gave Himself up. Why? Because of love. Because love gives itself, love pours itself out, love lays itself down, love is ever outgoing and never in-gathering, and in the atmosphere of our fallen world, that means Love dies.
So the foundational love of Christ for His Church, for you and for me if we are His, is that He gives Himself up for us.
In order To Sanctify Her
What did this infinitely lavish love achieve? What – vulgarly speaking – do we “get”? Often the answer someone will give is “Jesus died to forgive my sins” or, “Jesus died to make me righteous.” Amen – that is what we find in this second of three steps.
In both verse 26 (“that He might sanctify her…”) and then reiterated again in verse 27 (“that she might be holy and without blemish…”) Paul explains that Jesus Christ gave Himself up in order to sanctify, to purify, to wash His Bride.
This is heart-gladdening news. Christian, God the Son died to make you clean….do you think you can thwart His purposes? Do you think that the One who purchased you with His blood will hand in a certificate of divorce because you don’t measure up to His standards? No, He is committed; He has given Himself up IN ORDER to purify us. Our sinful self has already been damned in Christ, and we are already clothed in His purity, and He will ensure that we are brought home to Him without blemish on the last day.
So, the second step is that Christ’s love for us sanctifies us, it makes us clean.
However, I think many people stop there. “I am forgiven, I am righteous, I am on my way to heaven – that is what Jesus died to give.” Yes….but that is not all. That would be like a bride saying, “I am engaged, I have my wedding dress and I’m headed to the wedding site – that is what my husband’s love gives me.” …..there is one glaring omission in that line of thinking – the GROOM Himself. This is the final and great gift of Christ’s love and we see it in the next step
In Order To Present The Church To Himself
Here is the climactic gift of Christ’s love for us – we are presented to Him. God’s love does not merely lift His Bride from the ash heap of her sins, it does not merely clothe her in the white gown of His own righteousness, it does not merely carry her into the New Heavens and Earth, ultimately, His love for His Bride gives her to Himself and Himself to her. GOD in CHRIST is the supreme gift of Jesus’ love for us! What else could be the gift purchased for us at the cost of our God’s own life but God Himself?
Christ as our life, Christ as our joy, Christ as our food and our drink, we His and He ours – this is what Jesus gave Himself up to achieve, this is why we are forgiven and made righteous, this is why we are resurrected and brought into the New Heavens and Earth: communion with the living God in the person of Jesus Christ, we as His people, He as our God, we as His Bride, He as our Groom.
So, may this be our great hope for the future and our great joy in the present. The treasure of the Christian is not primarily the spotless white robes of righteousness that Christ has given us – though it is a precious reality! – the treasure of a Christian is primarily the One into whose presence those spotless robes give us leave to enter. And this communion that we enjoy in the present and anticipate to an exponential degree in the future, this fellowship with God in His Son by His Spirit together with His people IS eternal life…
“This is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
– John 17:3
Just as the heart and vibrancy of marriage is the relationship of the husband and wife, so the heart and vibrancy of Eternal life is our relationship with God in the person of His Son.
May our greatest joy in salvation be over the greatest gift of salvation, namely, that we are presented to God the Son as His holy and beloved people, He Himself as our life and joy and treasure, now and into eternity. Amen.