Vol.III No.XI Pg.5
December 1966

The Glorious Church

Robert F. Turner

Christ "loved the church, and gave Himself for it;" (so reads Eph. 5:25)

'THAT" (Greek "hina"---"so that, in order that") "he might sanctify and cleanse it..." (vs. 26).

'THAT" (hina) "he might present it to himself a glorious church." This "glorious church is defined as one "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing;" but one that is "holy and without blemish." It is a fitting description of the bride of Christ.

Love is the motive that prompted Christ's sacrifice; and the instruments of sanctification and cleansing are here stated as "the washing of water by the word."

Carefully read Eph. 5:25-27 and ask yourself these questions: (1) HOW is the church sanctified and cleansed; and (2) WHEN does this take place? We note that some seem to think there is a future time when, by some process undefined, Christ will cleanse the present filthy, sinful church. Current imperfections are thus excused. We beg to differ with this traditional interpretation. We do not question the future reception of the church as the bride of Christ; (2 Cor. 11:2-3; Rev. 21:2) but we believe the "setting apart" and "cleansing" is NOW taking place, and has been in process every since the gospel of Christ was first preached. To be in the "glorious" church of the future, one must be sanctified and cleansed NOW.

Christ died for a church yet in prospect. (Matt. 16:18) He "purchased with his own blood" individuals of the first and following centuries who would receive Him gladly. (And in a very real sense, for those of past centuries who had put their trust in Jehovah.) The church does not save, i.e., one is not saved because he is in the church; but the church IS the saved. Upon being saved from past sin one is added to Christ's church. Christ is the saving power; "church" views "as one" those who are saved.

Our text says Christ sanctifies and cleanses "with the washing of water by the word." We believe this refers to the water of baptism, to the act by which we "put on Christ." (Gal. 3:27) But baptism is valid only as a divine injunction, done in keeping with God's word. We are sanctified by truth. (Jn. 17:17)

One by one, individuals are forgiven of their sins as they obey the gospel of Christ. Thus, they come into the church cleansed and pure. But the future sins must also be cleansed; so "we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." In 1 Jn. 1:5-f. we are shown the means of fellowship with God, and are assured of Christ's assistance in maintaining this fellowship. Repenting of each sin, we pray God through Christ (Acts 8:22-24) for continual cleansing.

Then I must conclude that the church distributively is cleansed, as saints repent and turn to the Lord day by day. The "glorious" church is that group of saints who serve Christ faithfully NOW---and are NOW being made ready for that great day when the Lord shall return in the clouds to claim His own.