Washed by the Word: What Does Ephesians 5:26 Mean?

Ephesians 5:26, “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” (KJV)

TranslationEphesians 5:26
ESVthat he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word
NASBso that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word
NIVto make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word
NLTto make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word

Also see the meaning of God Does Not Tempt

Washed by the Word: Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

5:22-33 The duty of wives is, submission to their husbands in the Lord, which includes honouring and obeying them, from a principle of love to them. The duty of husbands is to love their wives.

The love of Christ to the church is an example, which is sincere, pure, and constant, notwithstanding her failures. Christ gave himself for the church, that he might sanctify it in this world, and glorify it in the next, that he might bestow on all his members a principle of holiness, and deliver them from the guilt, the pollution, and the dominion of sin, by those influences of the Holy Spirit, of which baptismal water was the outward sign.

The church and believers will not be without spot or wrinkle till they come to glory. But those only who are sanctified now, shall be glorified hereafter. The words of Adam, mentioned by the apostle, are spoken literally of marriage; but they have also a hidden sense in them, relating to the union between Christ and his church.

It was a kind of type, as having resemblance. There will be failures and defects on both sides, in the present state of human nature, yet this does not alter the relation. All the duties of marriage are included in unity and love.

And while we adore and rejoice in the condescending love of Christ, let husbands and wives learn hence their duties to each other. Thus the worst evils would be prevented, and many painful effects would be avoided.

Also see the meaning of The Spirit of the Lord Is Upon Me

Ephesians 5:26 | Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

26. sanctify—that is, consecrate her to God. Compare Joh 17:19, meaning, “I devote Myself as a holy sacrifice, that My disciples also may be devoted or consecrated as holy in (through) the truth” [Neander] (Heb 2:11; 10:10; 13:12 see on [2371]Heb 10:10).

and cleanse—rather, as Greek, “cleansing,” without the “and.”

with the washing of water—rather as Greek, “with,” or “by the laver of the water,” namely, the baptismal water. So it ought to be translated in Tit 3:5, the only other passage in the New Testament where it occurs. As the bride passed through a purifying bath before marriage, so the Church (compare Re 21:2).

He speaks of baptism according to its high ideal and design, as if the inward grace accompanied the outward rite; hence he asserts of outward baptism whatever is involved in a believing appropriation of the divine truths it symbolizes, and says that Christ, by baptism, has purified the Church [Neander] (1Pe 3:21).

by the word—Greek, “IN the word.” To be joined with “cleansing it,” or “her.” The “word of faith” (Ro 10:8, 9, 17), of which confession is made in baptism, and which carries the real cleansing (Joh 15:3; 17:17) and regenerating power (1Pe 1:23; 3:21) [Alford].

So Augustine [Tract 80, in John], “Take away the word, and what is the water save water? Add the word to the element, and it becomes a sacrament, being itself as it were the visible word.” The regenerating efficacy of baptism is conveyed in, and by, the divine word alone.

Also see the meaning of Where the Spirit of the Lord is There is Freedom

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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