“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body.”
Have you ever been gripped by a love story on a TV show or movie, so much so that you felt emotionally connected to the characters? That happened to me a few years ago when LOST was airing on cable TV. In this series, a man named Desmond was separated from his true love, Penny, after being lost at sea. He was stuck on an island somewhere in the Pacific, while she remained in London and there, he began to lose his mind. To help Desmond find mental stability, a friend suggested that he find something or someone to be his “constant.” This constant would serve as an anchor for Desmond’s mind, and of course, he chose Penny. One of the best episodes was when he finally talked to Penny on a phone, initiating his rescue from the island. The viewer was left with the sweet satisfaction of knowing that Desmond had made it through okay, all because Penny was his constant. And just like Desmond needed an anchor to rest his soul and mind upon, so we, the church, walking in a crazy world of unknowns, need a constant.
We’ll see today in Ephesians 5:29-30 that Christ is the Constant for us. He is the Source of hope for the church because He nourishes her, cherishes her, and unites her to Himself. The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church at Ephesus in AD 62 while he was incarcerated in the city of Rome. The ESV Study Bible teaches us that this epistle has two main themes, one of which is the truth that “Christ has united all people from all nations to Himself and to one another in His church.” Today’s passage deals with this theme. Take a moment to read Ephesians 5:29-30 out loud, very slowly: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” These two verses are normally taught (and rightly so) within the context of how a husband should love his wife.
The Apostle is giving instructions to men on how to sacrificially love their wives “as Christ loved the church.” This phrase gives insight into how the marriage relationship should be based upon the very gospel of Christ. It is as if Paul is telling the Ephesian men, “you: love your wife by looking to the extent of Christ’s love for His bride.” This leads us to ask the question: how does Christ love the church? We have several answers from the chapter, three of which we see in verses 29-30.
The Church Is Nourished by Christ
When we think of the word “nourish”, we are probably instantly thinking “food!” That is, if you happen to love chicken, steak, fries, pie, etc. as much as I do! Notice, however, that the word “nourish” is a verb and the text implies that nourishing is something Jesus does, presently and actively, for His church. But what does nourish mean? What is this that Christ is doing for us, even now? In the original language of the Bible, the word “nourish” literally means “to bring up to maturity; to bring up from childhood.” It is His work to cause you to grow up, as Paul earlier hinted in Ephesians 4:13, that you might attain “mature manhood (or womanhood), to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children.” But how does Christ nourish us? Surely, it is through the sustenance of His Word. Jesus even prayed the church would be nourished in such a way in John 17! Our great Intercessor asked the Father to sanctify us in truth, mainly the Word of God. Jesus nourishes believers by the Word of God, applied to the soul, through the power of the Spirit! We could stop there and our joy would be overflowing. However, not only does Jesus nourish the church, but He also cherishes her.
The Church Is Cherished by Christ
It is interesting to see in verse 29 that the word cherish literally means “to warm; to tenderly care.” The idea, as John MacArthur describes, is of a mother bird caring for her baby, feeding him and warming him with her own self. Dear friend, know today that you have a Savior who tenderly cares for you, His bride. He is one hundred times more faithful to you than the spouse who promises on the wedding day to love, honor, and cherish you. Jesus’ care for you, before you were born, to your dying day, to your glorification with Him in heaven, is ever bright, ever warm, ever constant. Be warmed by Christ, for “in Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8a)! As Martin Luther once said, I encourage you to “entertain no doubt of God’s love and kindness” toward you if you are in Him! And being in Him is the key and leads us to see thirdly that the church is united to Jesus.
The Church Is United to Christ
The text says, “we are members of His body.” He is the head, and we are a part of Him, like your arm or your leg is a part of you. Christ nourishes and cherishes the church because she is a part of Him! We can be encouraged that He will take care of us because we belong to Him; we are His own. As you continue to grow up in Him, let your heart and mind contemplate what John 17:21 teaches, mainly that the Father is in Christ, Christ is in the Father, and you are in Them. You are united to Jesus in His incarnation and sinlessness – that is the perfect, righteous life that Jesus lived on this earth has been credited to you (1 Corinthians 1:30); you are united to Jesus in His death and resurrection – that is when He died, you died and you have been raised, your life is now hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3); you have been seated with Him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). You are invited into the near presence of God, because Jesus is in the presence of the Father now interceding for you (Hebrews 7:25) and sin and death have no power over you (1 Corinthians 15:56-57).
It is on this topic of union with Christ that surely the great hymn writer, Charles Wesley, was thinking when he wrote: “No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine; alive in Him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine; bold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own.” I challenge you to rest in the truth of Christ’s care for you by looking up and singing Wesley’s hymn “And Can It Be?” and by reading the entire book of Ephesians (15-30 minutes), noting in list form 1) how Jesus nourishes you; 2) how Jesus cherishes you; and 3) how many times it states that you are in Him. Then ask the Holy Spirit to apply these truths to your heart. Never forget, dear friend, that for the church, Christ is our Constant.
The ESV Study Bible
Commentary on the Whole Bible by Matthew Henry
Second Christmas Sermon (Titus 3:4-8, 1522) by Martin Luther
God’s Pattern for Husbands, Part 2, Ephesians 5:25-33, March 3, 1996 by John MacArthur
Word Pictures in the New Testament by A.T. Robertson
A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and the Hebrew Bible by James Strong