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What does it mean that the church should be without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27)?

without spot or wrinkle

In a discussion about marriage using Christ and the church as a metaphor, Paul writes of Christ’s sacrifice in Ephesians 5:25. He then explains the purpose of Christ’s death on behalf of the church: “‭‭He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault” (verse 27, ‭NLT‬‬).

‬‬‬ Ephesians 5:27 is part of broader instructions given to husbands, who are directed to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the church—with a self-sacrificing love (verse 25). Paul explains that Christ’s sacrifice was intended to “make her [the church] holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (verse 26). Having been cleansed, the church will be “glorious . . ., without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish” (verse 26, NLT).

When Scripture states that the church should be without spot, wrinkle, or blemish, it signifies the church’s complete holiness, as the remainder of Ephesians 5:27 shows: “She will be holy and without fault” (NLT). Here, spots, wrinkles, and blemishes symbolize impurity—not a physical deformity, but a spiritual impurity caused by sin. The church is already positionally holy through Christ’s perfect sacrifice. She is presently being sanctified, progressively set apart from the power and practice of sin, and in eternity she will be freed from the presence of sin. All these transformative processes are achieved through Christ.

It is evident in Ephesians 5 that the church holds a special place in Christ’s heart. Regardless of the mishaps and imperfections of the church, Christ’s work of sanctification remains steadfast. Those who are concerned about the many issues faced by the church today should recognize that Christ continues to work, even in the chaos. He intimately knows His bride and is committed to completing the work He has started.

Christ’s sanctifying work also has implications at the individual level. As children of God, we are positionally sanctified. We are currently being transformed to become more like Jesus, and we must remember this as we engage in spiritual disciplines such as prayer and feeding on the Word. We can be confident that the Son lavishes unconditional love on His bride. Just as a devoted husband would not dream of abandoning his wife, Jesus will not forsake His bride or the promises He made to her. This assurance provides us with ample motivation to lead a holy life, knowing that God is actively working in us to conform us to His image (Philippians 2:13)

The love that Christ has for His church and His commitment to cleanse her of spots and blemishes should serve as a model for our marriages, especially for husbands. The husband loves his wife with the aim of “sanctifying” her. He should care for her, keep her best interests in mind, and be genuinely concerned about her growth in all aspects, including her spiritual well-being.

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What does it mean that the church should be without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27)?
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This page last updated: January 23, 2024