ESV - 27 So that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
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The opening words ("So that He might...") in the first part of Ephesians 5:27 (as cited in the question) indicate that the verse is referring to something described in the immediately preceding verses that Jesus did in order to be able to present the Christian church to Himself with no spot, wrinkle, or blemish of sin. That "something" (as described in Ephesians 5:25-26) was that "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word". All of us would fall short of heaven if we were depending on our own effort to be free of sin, since not even those redeemed by Christ can achieve such freedom in this life (Romans 7:15-25). However, faith, which comes by hearing the word (Romans 10:17) of how Christ cleansed us and purified us by His sacrificial death (which paid God's full penalty for the sins of the faithful), and by His subsequent resurrection, allows the faithful to have Christ's perfect righteousness credited to them by God. This cleansing process, which begins in this life through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Christians, will be fully realized and accomplished in eternity, where the redeemed will be free of sin.
I'm glad you asked. We see in Ephesians 5:26-27(Life Application Bible Notes) that Christ's death sanctifies and cleanses the church. He cleanses us from the old ways of sin, and sets us apart for his special sacred service(Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 13:12.) Christ cleansed the church by the "washing" of baptism. Through baptism, we are prepared for entrance into the church, just as oriental brides were prepared for marriage by a ceremonial bath. It is God's Word that cleanses us (John 17:17; Titus 3:5.)
Ephes. 5:17 is teaching us the purpose of God's love to cleanse the church through Christ. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish. (John 3:16) Our sanctification and righteousness is by Christ, who sanctifies as many as believe in Him that He gives them right to become children of God. Therefore we understand that the purpose of Christ's death and love for the church is to cleanse us as we believe and look to Him. Dr.Kizza Henry
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