We have just sung a very charming hymn, and I would like you to retain your seats and again sing one of its verses:
“Still sweet ’tis to discover,
If clouds have dimmed my sight,
When passed, eternal Lover,
Towards me, as e’er, Thou’rt bright.”
I greatly desire that the two words ‘eternal Lover’ should be deeply imprinted on every heart; for whoever or whatever may change, He is unchanging, and loves His saints with an everlasting love. May this most blessed fact be kept before us, as we meditate, this afternoon, on the unceasing activity of that love. This will, I hope, present itself to us in the three Scriptures which I would bring under your notice.
The first of them you will find in Ephesians 5:25-27, “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, That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” And what is before my mind is the future presentation of the church to to Himself by our Lord Jesus Christ. We have heard already much about the foundation in which we rest by faith, the death and resurrection of the Lord, and also the rich provision made for us by Christ in glory for all the exigencies of the way. For this we may well render thanks to our God and Father.
We read, in our passage, that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it”. The measure of that gift was infinite. It was Himself! All that He had was willingly surrendered, and all that He undertook in trial, suffering, denial, shame, reproach, desertion and opposition was most readily borne; but, while all this was true, He did far more, He gave Himself—Himself! There love reached its climax: It could do no more. Yet it did even this. Now that is past. It was the one great and necessary act of total self-sacrifice which, under the judgment of God against sin, wrought atonement for it, and freed all His people from condemnation. Well may we bless Him for such a work and for the love that led the Lord to accomplish it, But His people, as they traverse the desert, become weary and feeble, and contract defilement, so that, though made meet for glory, they need the constant exercise of His care; but we have read that He “sanctifies and cleanses the church by the washing of water by the Word”. This cleansing is His present work. It is like the offering of the red heifer (see Numbers 19) which met the defilement of the people as they crossed the desert of old, though here it is the spontaneous work of our eternal Lover, and is continuous.
His grand object is to present it to Himself a glorious church, no longer militant as today, but triumphant and worthy of such a Lord and Saviour, not having spot (no trace of earthly contamination), nor wrinkle (no vestige of decrepitude), nor any such thing (not the faintest mark of the long wilderness journey), nor a single stain that would reflect on His unremitting attention; but that it should be holy and without blemish, in perfect moral suitability to Himself; thus will the church appear on the coming Presentation-day, when He shall “see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied”. What a day for us and for Him. What an answer to all His agony!
Let us now refer to 1 Corinthians 11:1-4, “I have espoused you”, says the apostle, “to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ”. The Presentation-day fills the soul of this true servant of the Lord. He was jealous of the saints in Corinth with a godly jealousy. He feared, and had abundant reason to do so, lest, as the serpent beguiled Eve—a fact largely repudiated today—so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity—the absolute truthfulness—that is in Christ. If the serpent used duplicity in perverting Eve, and accomplishing the fall of man, the Spirit of God employs the truth, and only that, in the formation of the mind of the believer.
That which the Lord does in the cleansing of the saint “by the washing of water by the word”, the apostle, who had drunk deeply into his Master’s Spirit, did in his solicitude for the church. His great object was to present it as a chaste, pure, unworldly, undefiled virgin to Christ.
Just as a father would hand over an only daughter to the hand of her lover, so did this faithful servant seek to present the church to her true and eternal Lover on the coming day of glory. Were it possible to preach another Jesus, or for saints to receive another Spirit, or accept another gospel, he need not to have been so zealous, but the “Jesus” preached by Paul is inimitable, the Spirit received was the Holy Spirit of God, and the Gospel accepted was that by which they were saved. Outside of this was only error and corruption, and a fearful danger and snare of Satan. The apostle laboured, like his Master, that the bride should be worthy of her Bridegroom on the day of her presentation to Him.
The last Scripture is in the epistle by Jude 24-25. It is one of the finest doxologies in the whole Word of God. “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy; to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”
Presented faultless before the presence of His glory! What a thought and what a prospect. For a victorious army to be marched before a monarch, or a veteran to be presented to his king, that were an honour; but here is the church—the saints—presented before the very glory of God, by whose grace they have, in a day of sore temptation, if not actual apostasy, been kept from falling, and are now presented in a blaze of glory, as faultless, by virtue of the atoning death of the Son of God, as victors over the seductive powers of evil, and as, most assuredly, trophies of His saving and sustaining grace. It is well to look forward to that great presentation, and to all the glory attaching to it; while, in view of it, chanting heartily the exultant doxology: “To Him be glory and majesty, dominion and power, from before the whole age, and now, and to all the ages. Amen”.
And so, when the clouds and sorrows, the temptations and trials of this quickly passing ‘now’ are all forgotten, we shall discover that He to whom we are so deeply indebted has, indeed, been our “Eternal Lover”.
May we all prove His love more fully day by day till He come.