TODAY’S READING: Ephesians 5:25-32
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless...32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” EPH 5:25-27, 32
In a Hebrew wedding, the groom takes responsibility for all the arrangements; he even signs a contract called a ‘Kettubah’ which is a binding oath that is read out loud. He is responsible for preparing a place for the couple to live, for organising the wedding celebration and feast and even provision of a dress of “fine linen” (Revelation 19:8). The bride’s only job is to prepare herself.
There is so much in these traditions that is captured in the picture of the church being made ready for the return of Christ. Our Lord is preparing a room for us and a day of celebration and feasting, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Rev.19:9). The responsibility of the church, the bride, is in the preceding verses, “For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready”. Here in the fifth chapter of Ephesians, Paul’s apostolic jealousy for the bride of Jesus is restated as in 2 Corinthians 11:2, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.”
What does our preparation look like? Ephesians 5:26 describes a washing – a picture of baptism. Before a Hebrew wedding, the bride would take a special purifying ‘mikveh’ bath like the one Esther would have taken. The mikveh had to be filled with clean, living water & scented with fragrant oil. Every part of her went under the water. For us, this means fully pursuing holiness. As already seen in earlier chapters, we set aside sin and the ways of the world so that our fragrance is that of Jesus.
The second part of the preparation that the bride was responsible for was to adorn herself with beautiful jewellery. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery says, “A bride’s jewellery represents her readiness for the groom…often this jewellery was given by the groom and his family” and Isaiah 61:10 says that the bride “adorns herself with her jewels”. The jewels that will adorn us as the church will be the gold, silver and costly stones that survive judgement day. This is why it is so important for us to build our lives and churches on the foundation of Jesus. “If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward”. 1 Cor.3:12-14
As we leave chapter five of Ephesians, we move on with an insight into the “profound mystery” that Paul describes of how we are being made ready to marry Jesus, how we must prepare in holiness and build His way.
• Re-read the full chapter five of Ephesians
• Pray for the church and yourself, that we might live holy lives and build His way, not ours.
• Commit to sharing a reflection from this week with your Pastor, Life Group leader or an Elder. God bless!