It is written:
Ephesians 5:26-that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
One of the most important (and perhaps most unappreciated) texts about baptism is the one found here in Ephesians 5:26.
One second century Christian named Marius Victorinus said of this passage:
“Here we take “the church” to mean every believer and everyone who has received baptism. The believer is brought to faith by the washing in water and the invocation of the Word.” (Epistle to the Ephesians 2.5.25-26. [BT 1972:197 [1287C-D].])
“There is very likely a reference to baptism in 5: 26. Christ gave himself up for the church “in order that he might sanctify her, purifying her by the washing [τ λoυτρ, bath] of water with the word [ἐν ῥήματι].” The context compares the relations of husbands and wives with the relations of Christ and the church. In view of this marriage context elements of a wedding ceremony that could be related to Christian practice are likely being drawn on. The bride took a bath before the wedding, hence the reference to a washing expressly said to be in water, which would parallel the baptism of Christ’s “bride,” the church, taking place in the conversion of each of its members. There was also a wedding contract, an exchange of vows, hence the reference to a “word.”” (Everett Ferguson, Baptism In The Early Church: History, Theology, And Liturgy In The First Five Centuries, 3503-3509 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
Likely, the “word” spoken of in this passage refers to the good confession” that Paul discusses in Romans:
Romans 10:9-10-that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Some believe that Paul is teaching in Romans 10:9-10 that God pardons the sinner as soon as he believes in Jesus Christ and confesses Him as Lord. However, the context shows that this is not the case.
It is extremely important to remember that when Paul addresses the Christians between Romans 9-11 (and usually through the entire Book), he addresses them with the pronoun “you” (simply study the 163 uses of this word in Romans). When Paul (in Romans 9-11) speaks of unbelieving Jews (i.e., the lost), how does he describe them? With the words “they” and “them” (cf. Romans 9:22-27, 32; 10:1-3). With that in mind, when Paul speaks of those “confessing” with their mouths, who is he addressing? “You.” “You” who? Christians, of course! This is not talking about non-Christians being saved; it is talking about Christians who keep on being saved by continuing to believe and confess Jesus.
It would be wise to remember that Jesus declares there are many who believe in Him and confess Him who will not be in Heaven (Matthew 7:21-23). Saul confessed Jesus as Lord (Acts 9:6) and was praying and fasting as a believer in Him for three days and nights until he was baptized into Christ and there had his sins washed away (Acts 22:16).
Furthermore, the Greek verb tenses of this text shows that the “confession” was ongoing, and did not have reference to a one-time event. Rather, according to the early church fathers, this “good confession” began when a person was being baptized into Christ, and then continued throughout his Christian life!
“BAPTISMAL PROFESSION . AUGUSTINE : This condition is fulfilled at the time of baptism, when faith and profession of faith are all that is demanded for one to be baptized. T HE CHRISTIAN LIFE 13. 63 AUGUSTINE : This profession of faith is the creed which you will be going over in your thoughts and repeating from memory. THE CREED 1. 64 AUGUSTINE : We who expect to reign in everlasting righteousness can only be saved from this wicked world if while for our neighbor’s salvation we profess with our lips the faith which we carry about in our heart, we exercise a pious and careful vigilance to see that this faith in us is not sullied in any point of belief by the deceitful snares of heretics. F AITH AND THE CREED 1. 65″ (Thomas Oden, iAncient Christian Commentary On Scripture: Romans, 12467 (Kindle Edition); New York, N.Y.; Routledge Taylor & Francis Group)”
Ephesians 5:26 refers undeniably to baptism. With that in mind, let’s notice several facts about baptism from this text.
First, the fact that baptism is a willing entrance into marriage covenant with Christ speaks to us about the maturity of the person being baptized. If an individual is not able to understand the ramifications and responsibilities of marriage, then he is not ready for baptism. This was, indeed, one of the main reasons why several Second and third century Christians rejected the notion of infant and young child baptism.
Second, this imagery reminds us again of the necessity of baptism. As Peter clearly demonstrates, baptism is part of God’s plan of salvation. Indeed, every passage which mentions baptism and salvation places baptism before salvation (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 5:26; Colossians 2:12; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Peter 3:20-21).
Third, this speaks to every Christian about the fact that the Christian life is a relationship with the God of Heaven. All through the Word of God, the Lord uses several metaphors to illustrate what He desires with us: personal relationship. Fathers and sons, mothers and sons, servants cared for by the head of the home, intimate friendships, marriage, etc. are all used as examples of this. In Ephesians alone, we see several examples of the personal relationship that God has with His people! We are the sons and daughters of God for which relationship God created the universe (Ephesians 1:1-11). In Christ we are the ones that God has reached out to when we were far away (Ephesians 2:14-16), so that we could become part of the household (family) of God (Ephesians 2:19-22). We are the Lord’s precious people (Ephesians 4:1-6), His bride (Ephesians 5:22-33), His army (Ephesians 6:10-18), and His body (Ephesians 1:22-23). All of these examples speak of the personal relationship with God that Christians enjoy, and need to excel in.
Finally, this reminds us of the covenant faithfulness of Christ. When we fall short in our relationship with Christ (as we all will do-1 John 1:8), what is Christ’s response when we return to Him? He lovingly forgives, pardons, and sanctifies His bride.
Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection on the third day had made salvation possible for all who will come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30). Let Him cleanse you today and add you to His church (Acts 2:47). Today, repent of your sins and confess your faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 3:19-21; 8:37). Be baptized into the Lord to have your sins forgiven (Acts 2:37-38; 22:16). Be faithful to Him as you continue to grow (Revelation 2:10; 2 Peter 3:18). When you sin and fall short, repent of that and confess it to the Lord in prayer, accepting His forgiveness (1 John 1:9-2:2).
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.