"You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you" (John 15:3). "Husbands, love your wives, just 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" (Ephesians 5:25-27). These scriptures tell us that the word of God has a cleansing effect in our lives and in the church as a whole. Do we know what this is, and have we given it importance in our lives?
This passage refers to the sacrifice of Christ. As the Word of God, He gave Himself, opening the door for God to dwell within man by the Spirit. In so doing, He brings the word of God into our lives. We are "already clean" after we have responded in faith to the word that comes to us to repent, based on Christ's work at the cross. Not only did Jesus cleanse us initially from sin, He continues to wash us by the living word as we respond in faith to that word. As we live in His presence, the flow of the water of the word has a purifying and cleansing effect in our lives. He touches every part of us, removing every spot and wrinkle, that we may be a pure expression of his nature.
From this scripture, we understand that God does not settle for anything less than a perfect expression of His nature through the church. Spots and wrinkles detract from the beauty and testimony that God desires. If not dealt with, they are also weaknesses which leave a place for the enemy of our souls to bring us down again into sin.
The initial cleansing we receive from Christ is a cleansing from sin, and it is a complete work. But the effects of sin are still with us. At new birth, Christ gives us a new heart, but we do not get a new body or a new mind. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of our relationship with God is the renewing of our minds. If we do not take on the mind of Christ, how can we see ourselves brought completely under God's control, in order to do the will of God in all things?
To see every spot and wrinkle removed, we must experience the continual washing of the word. For this to happen, we must be in an active faith relationship with God. We must know that Christ dwells within by the Spirit. From this place of grace, in God's ability, we respond to the living word. The word of God is the foundation, and as we have seen, the word takes effect through obedience. This is faith revealed in works. To see the character of Christ formed in us in this faith relationship, consistent diligence over a period of time is the price of success.
The ministry of the word in the midst of the church is beyond the scope of this discussion. However, this is one of the primary ways God has chosen to bring his word to the church. The word must come through God's chosen vessels who have been called of God and prepared. They must be men who are first living the word, who see what God is doing, and who are willing to labor to see God's word take expression in others. The ministry of the word should hold a central place in the gathering of God's people.
A God-directed ministry will keep Christ as the living Word, God's answer to every need, before the entire body. As the church gathers, we all need to come ready to feed and allow the word to wash us as we respond in faith. To truly hold before us Christ and the vision of what God is doing is a demanding labor, and the flock has a responsibility to constantly uphold God's messengers before the throne of grace in prayer.
Although God-given ministers are God's provision for the overall direction that we need, there is also a place for every member in the ministry (or serving) of the word. Just before Christ went to the cross, He took a towel and washed the disciples' feet (John 13). He said they were clean already because of the word He had spoken to them, but that they needed to have their feet washed. He told them to wash one another's feet as He had given them an example. Does not the primary teaching of this passage refer to the work that is taking place in our lives as we serve the living word of God to one another? This is not just speaking the word to one another (although it includes that), but serving the word, which is really Christ Himself, to the other members of His body. This is a full ministry, and there is a place for everyone.
Not only are we called to wash the feet of others; we need others to wash our feet. We need the cleansing effect that this has on our lives. We cannot make each other clean, as only Jesus can do that work in the heart. But as we serve the word of God to one another through our lives in a multitude of ways, we will find that the church, the body of Christ, is being washed of every spot and wrinkle, as a bride prepared for her husband.
Often we try to affect other brothers and sisters in the wrong way by using the Bible and quoting "a verse that they need to consider." There is a place for this under the direction of the Holy Spirit, but the expression of the living word by example can be done on a continual basis. When the word becomes flesh in us and we are an expression of the living word, our brothers and sisters will read our lives and God will use us as a great encouragement to each other. This is demanding, because it requires that our whole lives be lived in the power of His life. We will speak to our brother or sister, but when we speak, we must speak out of the word that is living in us. Then it will minister grace to the hearer. In this way, we will serve Christ to each other, and wash one another's feet.
The word of God also comes to us through the spiritual gift of prophecy. This is also beyond our discussion here. As those who have an "ear to hear" God, we need to "earnestly desire" all of God's "spirituals," and not settle for anything less than everything God has for us (I Corinthians 14:1). Each of God's provisions has its place in bringing the word of God to us and meeting needs in our lives. All are given by God, and none are without meaning.
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In summary, the revelation of "the word of God" needs to take on a much fuller place in our hearts. Yes, the Bible is the word of God that came to others who have gone before us. But we cannot live on that word. We must have fresh bread from heaven--today. It must be life to us today. If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, that word is coming to us by the Spirit. And if through obedience we are allowing the word to become engrafted in us, God is making us an expression of His living word to others. This is a continual process that never stops. It is not automatic, however. It only happens as we have ears to hear the word of God and faith to act on that word as it comes to us.
Brothers and sisters, the kingdom of God is not in word but in the very presence and power of God. Listen to Jesus: "You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life" (John 5:39,40). Is it the all-consuming passion of our hearts to be living the very life of God in the Spirit? If not, we are likely living according to the dead letter which kills. (See II Corinthians 3:6.)
Let us have ears to hear God today. He is not hiding, but communicating the riches of Himself when we are listening. Let us be diligent to respond in faith to the word of God, that we may not miss God and His purpose. God will be glorified and His will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.