The Love of Christ for the Church

Eph. 5:25.---' Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it.'

What is love? Love is one of the dethroned words in human speech; it goes about without its crown. And we have got to restore something of its lost majesty and authority before we have even a passable canon for interpreting the love of our Lord. We cannot make any headway in Scriptural exposition until we have redeemed our minds from all little and belittling conceptions of love, and until we have re-enthroned the word in its essential and appointed sovereignty.

Let us, then, begin here. The primal and central element in all true love is HOLINESS. When sin is in the heart love is frightfully stricken. Sin half-slays love and makes her blind. Holiness is the innermost secret of Fatherhood, and in love's temple the holy of holies is holiness itself.

And the second element in all true love is BENEVOLENCE, the genius of sacrifice, the spirit of self-impartation. Love can never be self-contained. The very life of love is found in movement away from self. Love leaves home to be at home. Stop its exodus, you kill its genesis. 'God so loved . . . that he gave!' 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.'

And the third great element in all true love is SYMPATHY, a fine sensitiveness of discernment, an exquisite fellow-feeling, a sort of mystical divining-rod which discovers the waters moving in another man's life, a vicarious strength which apprehends another's spiritual estate, and thrills to hidden joys and sorrows.

Now what is the figure in the text by which the Apostle to express the relationship of the Lord to His Church. It is the figure of the husband and wife, and of that relationship in its tender and exquisite springtime, the communion of the Bridegroom and bride. 'Christ also loved the church'---that is the declaration of the Bridegroom's affection for His bride; 'and gave himself up for it'---that is the Bridegroom's dowry for His bride; 'having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word'---that is the bride's preparation for her wonderful Husband; and this is the crowning day of festal triumph---'that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.' Let us note how this Love-ministry of the Bridegroom ministers to His bride. He Himself will prepare His bride for the festal day. He will provide clean, white raiment, in place of her own unclean and bedraggled attire. And how will He do it? 'By the washing of water with the word.' In what other way can mental habits of a life be changed? If you want to purify a man's mind, to give him clean mental attire, you can do it only by the washing ministry of new ideas. Give any man a new set and circle of ideas, sweet thought of Jesus, pouring into a mind, washes it like the passing of the tide over the littered sands of the seashore. The bride is to be cleansed by the gracious conveyance of the Bridegroom's thought, 'by the washing of water with the word.' She is to receive 'the mind of Christ.' When we have gained a new mental heaven we shall have a new earth; all things will become new; for we are to be transformed by the renewing of the mind.

But the Bridegroom does more than cleanse His bride; He cleanses that He may sanctify. And the whole purpose of sanctification is just that the cleansing may be carried forward to richer and more advanced attainment. Sanctifying is cleansing with a plus; it is purity beautified. The bride is to be not only pure but lovely; not only righteous but winsome. The King's daughter is to be 'all glorious within,' her clothing also of fine gold. What is the Bridegroom prepared to do for her in the way of making her lovely? 'That he might present the church to himself a glorious church.' Whatever else the phrase may mean, it surely denotes that about the Church there shall be nothing of cheap showy finery, nothing flimsy, nothing thin; but a weighty splendor like the glory of the noonday sun. That is the love-purpose of the Bridegroom concerning His bride, the Church. It is His will that His Church be weightily impressive, radiantly conspicuous with a strong and consistent glory; that amid all the false lights, and cheap fireworks, and dim uncertain lamps of the world she may be like a blazing planet, of incomparable and constant splendor.

When I read over again this glowing picture of Paul the Apostle. I say the words over to myself, 'sanctified,' 'cleansed,' 'glorious,' 'without spot or wrinkle,' 'holy and without blemish,' and it dawns on me that this is what Christ was, and I come to the conclusion, from which I must never depart, that He loved the Church and gave Himself up for it, that He might make it like Himself; that He loved me and gave Himself for me that He might make me like Himself, and I believe that that miracle of transformation may take place in me, and in you, and in all men, and that if it is not taking place, then as far as I am concerned He has died in vain. How it takes place I cannot tell, save that I know if I live with a powerful personality, and do not resist his influence, I shall grow like Him.

In Christ, timothy. Maranatha

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