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“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” — Eph 5:25-26
View the Church without the sanctifying operations and influences of regenerating grace. She is far from Christ; she has no desire towards him, no manifest union, no communion with him; no faith in his blood, no hope in his mercy, no love to his name. Were she left always thus, where would be her fitness for heaven? But when the word of truth comes with power, and is accompanied by the influences of the Holy Spirit to the heart, then there is not only a cleansing of the conscience from the guilt and filth of sin, but the communication of a new heart and a new spirit. How plainly is this spoken of by the prophet Ezekiel, where, after the promise, “From all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you,” it is added, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.”
We have not only therefore to be washed from our sins in the blood of the Lamb, not only to be pardoned and forgiven and thus have a title to heaven, but we need a fitness for heaven; we need a new heart and a new spirit given to us, whereby we may taste, handle, feel, and enjoy the love of Christ as shed abroad in the heart, and experience the flowings forth of love to him in return. As then the blood cleanses, so the Spirit sanctifies. John therefore says, “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood” (1 John 5:6). The blood is the blood of the atonement; the water is the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit.
Observe the order in which these blessings come. First, is the love of Christ in eternity; secondly, the gift of himself in time; thirdly, the cleansing by blood; fourthly, the sanctifying by the Spirit. Now look at these things for yourselves. Are your sins pardoned? Have you any evidence that you are washed in the blood of the Lamb? Do you believe that you are going to heaven? What does your belief of this, or your hope in it, rest upon? Where are your evidences? Surely not from merely seeing these truths in the Scripture as the bare revelation of God, or believing them from my statements. Such a faith and such a hope, if you have no better, will prove delusive, and will leave you in the hands of him who is a consuming fire. If your hope of eternal life is well grounded, it is because the word of life has come into your SOUL, and you have been not only cleansed by the application of the blood of sprinkling to your conscience, but sanctified and renewed by the power of the word, through the Holy Spirit, upon your heart.