Rainy days in Southern California occur at this time of the year. After a good rain, the sky and landscape appear crisper and cleaner. The smog and haze no longer plague the city for at least twenty-four hours. The rain cleanses and refreshes Southern California. This reminds me in part of what the apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:26-27 about the effect that Christ and his word exert upon his bride, the church: “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 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.”
When I peer outside my kitchen window, I see the clouds looking whiter, and the sky looking bluer. The rain has washed away the dirt and grime. There’s a richness to the clouds and sky and the surrounding city landscape that the rain has released. Just like the rain’s effect upon Southern California, so is the effect of Christ’s word upon believers and his church. The light of his word pierces through the darkness to illumine what is really there, and to burn up what is false. Once the burning up ceases, the word is then like water washing away the ashes. Christ’s words clean the believer’s soul in order to restore him to a richer or fuller expression of God’s image.
If each believer undergoes the sanctifying process in Christ by the Spirit and the word, then the bride as a whole experiences a richer relationship to Christ. She becomes more and more the pure and spotless bride, which is one of the goals of Christ’s redemptive work. In fact, this is what Paul states in the Ephesians text “that he [Christ] might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27, ESV). This is a glorious hope and promise. It’s certainty has been cemented by Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and exaltation at the right hand of the Father.
Finally, the water of Christ’s word accomplishes his purposes. What he says doesn’t return to him void. The basis for this concept is in Isaiah 55 verses 10-11. In this text, the prophet records God’s words about them being like rain and snow, which waters the earth causing the plants to grow. Water enables life to happen. It’s an indispensable part of the life-bearing, life-sustaining process. God tells Isaiah that his word is the same way as “…it shall not return to me empty…, [but it] shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11, ESV). Believers and his church stand upon Christ and his word. He’s the solid rock upon which we stand…all other ground is sinking sand.