In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul goes deep into the nature and form of Church.
He waxes lyrical about the riches of Christ that we can enjoy together as we live and love one another as his Church. Not far from the end of the letter, Paul calls husbands and wives to live in unity by pointing to a deeper truth as their model: the relationship between Jesus and his Church.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
There are some interesting word-pictures here that show how the Church is to express the heart of God. We need to get under the skin of the writer.
Paul compares the relationship between Jesus and his Church to that of a husband and wife. This is a ‘profound mystery’, he says. Paul’s clearly enthralled, and he wants us to ponder and fathom it.
Church has to be relational. We need to tap into the love, commitment and devotion that Jesus feels for His people. Have we ever, or do we still, experience this depth of intimacy with Jesus? It’s not an arms’ length thing. Marriage is complete abandonment and commitment to a relationship. The wholehearted abandonment makes it intimate, and the commitment makes it secure, building trust over time. That’s the attitude that we the Church should nurture toward Jesus in our worship, prayer and obedience.
Finally, God’s purpose for the church is that she should be holy (v27). This is the essence of Church: united with the love of Jesus, growing in it and expressing it to the world. When any church lives like this it proves to the world that Jesus is alive.