The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
October 21, 2012


1) Ephesians 5:26-30 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Ephesians 5:26-30
by Tom Edwards

Ephesians 5:26 not only shows that Christ died so a people could be sanctified (and be a part of the church), but also implies the need for the individual's compliance in the phrase, "having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word."   For this "water" is referring to baptism, which is "for the forgiveness sins" (Acts 2:38).  Following His resurrection, Jesus gave the "Great Commission" to His apostles by telling them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved..." (Mk. 16:15,16).  Going along with that, Peter also declares that "baptism now saves you" (1 Pet. 3:21).  For it puts one into Christ (Gal. 3:26,27), enables one to benefit from the death of Christ and to arise from the water to "walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:3,4), thus making one a "new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17), and freeing from the condemnation of sin (Rom. 8:1).  

Ephesians 5:26 can be compared to Titus 3:5, which states, "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit."  This "washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit" corresponds with what Jesus taught Nicodemus in John 3:3-5: "...'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'  Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?'  Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly,  I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'"

When you think of "washing" (Titus 3:5), you probably think of "water" (Jn. 3:5). And since the term  "regeneration" (Titus 3:5) is defined as a "spiritual rebirth," it is synonymous with being "born again" (Jn. 3:3).  So this shows the necessity of baptism for the "washing of regeneration."

Because there is a cleansing of iniquity, and water is used in baptism, sin is figuratively referred to as being washed away in Acts 22:16: "Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name."  But we realize that we can't literally scrub away sins in the water -- any more than just the water itself could heal Naaman of his leprosy by merely dipping seven times into the Jordan River, as he was commanded (2 Kings 5).  Rather, it was by God's power that Naaman was healed, after he obeyed the Lord's command to do so.   And by being baptized, and meeting the Lord's other conditions, our sins are forgiven -- with a forgiveness that actually takes place in the mind of God who will then remember the person's sins no more (Heb. 8:12).  As Peter declares, "...baptism now saves you -- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience..." (1 Pet. 3:21).  So, again, we see that baptism saves, but not by merely getting clean in the water.  Rather, it is the means whereby we make our "appeal to God for a good conscience."  In other words, baptism is one of the necessary steps through which we "call" on the Lord (cf. Acts 2:21).  So that "calling" is not done by praying a "sinner's prayer" to become a Christian; but, rather, consists of submitting to the gospel plan of salvation by hearing God's word (Rom. 10:17), believing in Christ (Jn. 8:24), repenting of sins (Luke 13:5), acknowledging faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10), and being baptized in water (Acts 2:38).  All of these conditions are involved and necessary.  In Acts 2, the "they that gladly received his word" (v. 41) were those who had believed, repented, (and we would infer from elsewhere, such as Romans 10:9,10 and Acts 8:36-38, confessed their faith in Christ), and were baptized in order to be forgiven and become Christians (Acts 2:36-38), on that day the church was established, and which is to continue throughout time.   

We are saved "with the word" (Eph. 5:26) because it is the gospel that shows what we must do to be saved; and that message is "the power of God for salvation" (Rom. 1:16).  Notice also 1 Peter 1:23: "for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God."  

Commenting on this phrase "with the word," E.M. Zerr writes, "Baptism will mean nothing to a man unless he submits to it in obedience to the word of the Lord."  How true that is.  For just because a youngster is dunked by some friends, while swimming in a pond, doesn't make it Bible baptism.  Rather, it must be done for the reason the Bible shows.  Paul declares, "But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" (Rom. 16:17,18).  To be "obedient from the heart" is more than merely "going through the motions" or in a perfunctory way.  Rather, "from the heart" indicates a sincere and purposeful obedience.

After speaking of Jesus who gave Himself up for the church that "He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word," Paul then shows that this was carried out so "that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless" (Eph. 5:27).  

It would seem that those today who view holiness as being a type of "optional thing" have really not read the Bible.  For from this passage, Jesus died in order that His people would be able to be "holy and blameless."  This might also remind you of what Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:15: "and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf."  So Jesus suffered and died that we might live for Him, and the importance of our doing so can be seen throughout the New Testament:  For instance, Hebrews 12:14: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Holiness itself is something we need to work at: "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1).  

That the church is to have no "spot" comes from the Greek word  "spilos" and is used in just one other place in the New Testament (2 Pet. 2:13) and translated there as "stains," in referring to the false teachers who revel in their deceptions.  Thayer shows not only its literal meaning of "spot," but also its figurative meaning of "a fault" or "moral blemish."  In the figurative sense, we think of James' exhortation to the individual Christian to "...keep oneself unstained by the world" (Jms. 1:27).  And that is done by not only abstaining from that which is sinful, but by also striving to do that which is right.  For in so doing, one is maintaining a life of holiness.  

And if one is truly holy, then that person will also be living a "blameless" life (Eph. 5:27), which is the most common rendering in the New Testament for this Greek word (amomos); but it is also seen as "above reproach," where Paul gives the following instruction to the Christians: "Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God ABOVE REPROACH in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain" (Phil. 2:14-16, emphasis mine).  It is also used in 1 Peter 1:19, where it likens the precious blood of Jesus to a lamb "unblemished"; and the offering of Himself in sacrifice as being "without blemish" to the Father in heaven in Hebrews 9:14.  

The universal church, of course, is made up of individual Christians.  So for the church to be holy and  blameless it involves each one striving to be that way, which is exactly how God had planned it to be, even prior to the creation: "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him" (Eph. 1:14).  So this is God's desire, but the manner in which this holiness and blamelessness can be obtained is not specified in these verses.  Rather, we see elsewhere of our need to submit to God's rule, and what those rules are, in order for this to be so.  Compare, for example, Colossians 1:28: "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ."  That wisdom is now in the gospel, which we each need to examine for ourselves and use to mold our lives.

Paul then returns, in his message, to the love of the husband for his wife in Ephesians 5:28, by expressing it in the following manner: "So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself."  

Adam certainly viewed Eve that way.  He declares: "...'This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man'" (Gen. 2:23).  And the Bible then says, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (v. 24).  So the husband can love his wife as his own body for they have become one flesh.  And, as Paul shows in Ephesians 5:28, "He who loves his own wife loves himself."  

Again, when we think of Christ's relationship to the church, the church is referred to as being "His body" -- implying that the Lord truly does want to provide for and take care of that body.  This is what Paul then goes on to say: "for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body" (Eph. 5:29,30).  Commenting on this, E.M. Zerr writes, "Self-interest will cause a man to be concerned about his own body, and if he is neglectful of his wife's welfare, it indicates that he does not realize she is a part of him."

Thayer defines the Greek word for "nourishes" (ektrepho) in Ephesians 5:29 as "1) to nourish up to maturity, to nourish  2) to nurture, bring up."  It is the same Greek word in Ephesians 6:4, but rendered as "bring up," where Paul instructs, "And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but BRING them UP in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."  So we see that this word is used literally with regard to nourishing the body, which is how it is used in Ephesians 5:29; and also metaphorically, as in Ephesians 6:4 with regard to moral and spiritual development.  

In the Lord providing for His own and telling them to not worry for what they will eat or clothe themselves (Matt. 6:31-33), this should also be true of the husband toward the wife.  He will care for her and provide for her needs, and she can be confident in that.  

The husband is to also "cherish" (thalpo) his wife (Eph. 5:29).  The Greek word originally meant "to warm" or "keep warm," as Thayer shows.  But he also gives a secondary meaning of "to cherish with tender love, to foster with tender care."  The only other place "thalpo" is used in the New Testament is in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, where Paul states, "But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother TENDERLY CARES for her own children" (emphasis mine).  

Various commentators define "nourishes and cherishes" as to feed and to clothe, which, of course, is part of how a husband loves his wife, just as he does his own body.  And in this passage, we, again, see the example of Jesus, whom the husband is to pattern his love for his wife after.  For what reason is given in Ephesians 5:29,30 for why Christ nourishes and cherishes the church?  Paul says, "because we are members of His body" (Eph. 4:30).  Paul had also told the Corinthians this: "Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it" (1 Cor. 12:27).  In the KJV, Ephesians 5:30 includes an additional phrase.  The verse states: "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones."  This appears to be an allusion to Genesis 2:23, where Adam refers to his wife Eve as being "...'bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh....'"  So here in Ephesians 5:30, it is expressing the close connection between Christ and the church.  They are one, which is another similarity between husband and wife.  

From Ephesians 5:29,30, we can also infer that it is a natural thing for a man to care for his own body, such as in providing food and clothing for it.  He doesn't want to do anything that would injure the body; and when that isn't the case, we often view the person as having a psychological problem, such as in the case of those with particular mental disorders who feel compelled to do their bodies harm by inflicting suffering on themselves.  

But there are also other ways in which a person can do themselves harm.  Consider, for instance, the following situations:

"The merciful man does himself good, But the cruel man does himself harm" (Prov. 11:17).  Being cruel to others is actually a way in which one can hate himself.  For that cruelty shown can adversely affect the one who has it.  As Adam Clarke writes, "We seldom see a peevish, fretful, vindictive man either in good health, or good plight of body. I have often heard it observed of such, 'He frets his flesh off his bones.'"  But even if the cruel man appears to be prospering in this world -- and actually enjoying his cruelty -- it will eventually lead to his ruin.  For in this passage,  the cruel man is seen in contrast with the merciful man; and note what we can infer about the unmerciful in Matthew 5:7: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."  Yes, the merciful man will do himself good -- for that will help lead to his receiving mercy from the Lord.  But to the unmerciful and cruel, an everlasting punishment awaits.  

Also Ecclesiastes 4:5: "The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh."  Rather than providing for his needs with labor, the fool ends up perishing for lack of making provision.  He, therefore, does harm to his flesh; and, by his doing so, it is not surprising that he is called a "fool." 

Sometimes people have even done their bodies harm by mistakenly thinking that it would bring them nearer to God.  For instance: "These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence" (Col. 2:23).   One example of this would be flagellation (or self-scourging) that some religious people had inflicted on themselves to try to obtain a better relationship with God. But the Lord had never commanded them to do such a thing.  

Since we who are Christians are members of the body of Christ, may we always live in a manner that exemplifies that, in order that we will be that "...glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing..."; but that we should be "...holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27). 


News & Notes

We extend our condolences to the family and friends of Linda Lefort (Harris Lefort's sister-in-law) who recently passed away.  She was from Larose, Louisiana.  Let those of us who are Christians be remembering all her loved ones in prayer.

Let us also be continuing in prayer for the following:

Kay Babin recently had to make a couple trips to the emergency room, due to severe, prolonged headaches.  A spinal tap indicated an infection.  And though the more serious bacterial meningitis has been ruled out, Kay could possibly have either viral meningitis or the West Nile Virus. She is still awaiting a test result to find out more.

Jean Calloway had been back in the hospital, due to the reoccurring fluid build-up around her heart; but she is now back home and doing better.

Let us also continue remembering in prayer Pam MacDonald who is having serious back trouble; Bill Barfield (Virginia Fontenot's brother) who has been hospitalized in a step-down unit for the last several months; Shirley Young, for her continual trouble with fibromyalgia; and Cheryl Crews, for her various and chronic health problems.  

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)