CHRIST LOVES THE CHURCH
Now let us read Ephesians 5:28-29. "In the same way the husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his own wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ also the church." Husbands should love their wives, because loving their wives is loving their own bodies. Men always nourish and cherish their own bodies, and Christ also nourishes and cherishes the church. In the eyes of Christ, the church is His own Body, bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. These verses show us that the church is the Body of Christ, and that His work toward the church today is to nourish and cherish it, because the church is Himself. He certainly will nourish and cherish us, because we all have come out of Christ. We know how well we nourish and cherish ourselves. In the same way, Christ will nourish and cherish us. It is a fact that "no one ever hated his own flesh." If a normal person hurts his hand, he carefully cherishes his hand; if his foot is injured, he tenderly cares for it. Men always nourish and cherish themselves. Similarly, Christ loves the church, because the church is His very self.
Let us read Ephesians 5:25-27. "Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her that He might sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing of the water in the word, that He might present the church to Himself glorious, not having spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that she would be holy and without blemish." These three verses speak of the church as the Bride of Christ. "That He might present the church to Himself" presents a scene of God bringing Eve to Adam. In like manner Christ will bring the church and present it to Himself. This presenting, however, is in the future. The church today has not yet attained to this place. Christ is working step by step in the church until that day when He presents her to Himself. In other words, Ephesians 5:25-27 speaks of the path from redemption to the kingdom. Step by step the church is now being prepared so that Christ may present it to Himself in that day.
Why does it say here that the church must be "cleansed"? It is because this is Ephesians 5, not Genesis 2. God’s highest revelation of the church is seen in the book of Ephesians. The outstanding feature of this book is that it does not start with sinners being saved but with our having been chosen in eternity. Romans 1 speaks first of sin—how we sinned and then were saved. But Ephesians 1 starts from eternity and our being chosen before the foundation of the world. The problem of sin is not mentioned until chapter two. The book of Ephesians reveals two lines: one is from eternity to eternity, and the other is from man’s fall to his redemption. In Ephesians something transcendent is revealed to us. We see how the church comes out from Christ, how it was chosen before the foundation of the world, and how it will forever manifest the glory of Christ in eternity. At the same time, it shows us that man’s fall is a fact, that man’s committing of sin is a fact, and that the existence of our natural life is also a fact. Therefore, chapter five says that Christ will cleanse us by the washing of water in the word until we are sanctified. He wants to restore us to the point that we completely match God’s eternal will.
On the one hand, we need the vision to see that the church has never failed, sinned, or fallen. The church has never touched sin; from eternity to eternity she has been on a straight line. On the other hand, we need to see that we are just a group of sinners saved by grace; therefore, we need the washing of the water in the word. We need His life, by means of His word, to sanctify us and restore us to the highest point. May God grant us grace so that we may reach that point.
(The Glorious Church, Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)