What keeps us functional for Christ? Is it faithful church attendance, prayer, or altogether something else? While church attendance and prayer are integral parts of a Christian’s life, it is God’s Word that the Holy Spirit uses to cleanse us and make us fit for His service.
“That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.”(Ephesians 5:26)
This verse has been used to say that we are sanctified and cleansed by a washing of water, i.e., through baptism, and different translations have handled it variously, yet an examination of the original language does not appear to substantiate this contention.
The word translated “by” is the Greek word “en,” meaning “in or remaining in,” (Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study New Testament) so that sanctification and cleansing comes from the washing (“bath” in the Greek) of water in the word.
Clearly, there is no water in or remaining in God’s Word except the cleansing and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, about whom Jesus had previously taught in John 7:38, 39a, “‘He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive…” Thus, rather than appearing to be a reference to baptism, this verse seems to confirm a doctrine already presented elsewhere in Scripture–that it is the Word of God that sanctifies and cleanses us:
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3)
A brief, yet excellent, explanation of this is provided by Henry Morris, Ph.D. in his article The Washing of Regeneration (http://www.icr.org/article/1751/).
Sanctify and cleanse me through the power of Your Holy Spirit–through the washing of the water in Your Word. Amen.