Christ’s Self-Giving Love for the Church

By Mark D. Roberts

December 2, 2019

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)


Ephesians 5:21-33, though offering instruction on the marriage relationship, actually has more to say about Christ and his relationship with the church than it does about husbands and wives. This passage reveals truths about Christ and the church that are not found explicitly anywhere else in Scripture. In fact, this is the only place in the Bible where it says plainly that Christ loves the church. We could derive this by implication from many other biblical texts, of course. But Ephesians 5:25 puts it plainly: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Christ’s love for the church is seen, first of all, in his saving sacrifice for her (Ephesians 5:23). His love for the church is also revealed in his tender washing of the church in order to make her holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:26-27). Plus, Christ’s love for the church is shown in his feeding of and care for the church, which is his body (Ephesians 5:29). His love for the church is an expression of his profound unity with her (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Earlier sections of Ephesians show how important the church is to God and God’s plan for the cosmos. The church is the body of Christ, “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:23). The church is the product of Christ’s reconciling work on the cross (Ephesians 2:11-22). The church is the means by which God proclaims to the cosmos God’s own eternal purpose in Christ (Ephesians 3:10-11). The church is the locus of God’s work in the world today (Ephesians 4:7-16). All of this demonstrates the importance of the church, both theologically and strategically. The church really matters in God’s plan.

And also in God’s heart. God, incarnate in Jesus Christ, doesn’t think of the church only instrumentally. It’s not only a means of accomplishing God’s eternal purpose. Rather, God in Christ loves the church. Out of love, Christ gave up his life for the church. Out of love, Christ washes and sanctifies the church. Out of love, Christ feeds and cares for the church. The church is not just Christ’s project, but his bride, his beloved.

This truth leads me to wonder: If Christ loves the church so much, shouldn’t we also?

Something to Think About:

How do you respond to the fact that Christ loves the church?

What difference does this make, or might it make, in your life?

How might you think about, feel about, and act toward the church if you were to imitate Christ’s love for the church?

Something to Do:

Read all of Ephesians 5:21-33 carefully and slowly. Pay attention to your own thoughts and feelings as you read. How do you respond to what is said about Christ’s love for the church?


Lord Jesus Christ, today I’m reminded that you love the church. I thank you for this love, since I am a member of your church and therefore a beneficiary of your love. Thank you for loving the church so much that you died for her. Thank you for cleansing the church so that she might become radiant, holy, and blameless.

O Lord, given how much you love the church, I ask that you help me to love what you love. Teach me to act out of love for your church. May I honor you by the way I honor your church. May I serve you as I serve your church. Amen.

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
Introduction to Ephesians

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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