THE CHURCH WASHED IN THE LOUTRON
Dr. W.A. Criswell
3-23-86 10:50 a.m.
Now to the fifth chapter of Ephesians; Ephesians, chapter 5, Ephesians, chapter 5. It is a joy unspeakable for us here in the First Baptist Church of Dallas to welcome the throngs of you who share the hour on radio and on television. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Church Washed in the Kiyyôr, Washed in the Loutron, and we will see what it means in just a moment. We want you to read it out loud with us, this beautiful passage. “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it,” Chapter 5 of Ephesians, beginning at verse 25, and we will read to the end of the chapter. Now in the presence of our Lord, may we all stand together and read aloud Ephesians 5:25, beginning:
Husbands, love your wives, even 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.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mysteryz; but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
Thank you now. Looking at the passage and the message this morning is an exposition of this beautiful word from the apostle Paul:
Christ 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, without spot, or wrinkle; but that it should be holy and blameless.
Now I have looked in every way that I know how to find out why the translators use that word washing, “That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” [Ephesians 5:26]. And I cannot even find any scholar in any generation in any publication that can give any reason for the translation of that word “washing.” The word is loutron, loutron. That’s the Greek, loutron. It is an exact translation of the Hebrew kiyyôr, kiyyôr, in Hebrew kiyyôr; in Greek loutron.
We have a distinguished Hebrew scholar and professor who sits every Sunday right here in front of me. And if I were to ask him, “Why did they translate that word washing?” he’d say, “I have no idea, Nor does anyone else.”
The loutron, the kiyyôr is the laver that stood between the great altar of sacrifice and the door into the Holy Place of the tabernacle and of the temple. And in that loutron, in that kiyyôr, in that laver, the priest washed his hands and his feet before he entered into the presence of God [Exodus 30:17-21]. Why they want to say, “washing,” I do not know, it’s the laver. It is the laver in which the priest prepared himself to come into the presence of the holy God.
What Paul writes here is a beautiful and impressive image. The church that Christ loved, and gave Himself for, the church is bathed in the loutron, in the kiyyôr, that it might be holy, and acceptable, and glorious, and loving, and all of these things that we’re going to speak of this morning that Paul enumerates in the passage.
So let’s begin. The church that is bathed, that is washed in the loutron of God’s Word: what kind of a church would it be? Paul describes it beautifully: a church washed in the word, in God’s blessed revelation. What kind of a church would it be? It would be a church of prayer, first of all.
“My house,” said our Lord, quoting Isaiah, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” [Isaiah 56:7]. In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Luke in the first verse, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” [Luke 18:1]. In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, “Paul kneeled down, and prayed with them all” [Acts 20:36]. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” If the church is bathed in the loutron of the word of God [Ephesians 5:26], it would be a house of prayer. It would be a praying congregation.
I don’t know of anything that ever overwhelmed me more than the first Sunday that I preached in this sacred place after they had called me undershepherd of the congregation. I was called as pastor of the church in September of 1944. And I came here to preach my first sermon as pastor of the church the first Sunday in October. The title of the message was Make It a Matter of Prayer. I was forty-three years younger than Dr. Truett, and he had been here forty-seven years. Well, what happened I cannot explain. I do not know why some of these things come to pass. When I finished the sermon, I knelt here to the side of the pulpit desk and prayed. That was the first time that the church had ever seen someone kneel in the pulpit to pray. When I kneeled and began to pray, the entire throng of people that had jammed this sanctuary that day, the entire congregation burst into tears—one of those unusual visitations from heaven, a moving of the Spirit of God. Oh dear! I could never in a thousand lifetimes forget it. “My house, a house of prayer” [Isaiah 56:7], calling upon the name of the Lord; the church bathed in the word, in the washing of water by the word, in the loutron, in the kiyyôr of God as a church of prayer [Ephesians 5:26].
A second thing: a church bathed in the word of the Lord, in the kiyyôr of God, would be a word of witness, naturally—just like breathing, just like greeting, to say a good word for Jesus. Denny Dawson and I made a journey to a conference in Atlanta, Georgia, this last week. And coming back, we were just talking about many things. And one of the things that I said to him was, “I’ve been a pastor now sixty years.” Sixty years have I been a pastor. And in those years, I have knocked at the doors of families—just walking down the street, just knock at one door after another. Been around the world three times, the Lord only knows how many people I have talked to, spoken to. And in all of those sixty years with every kind of a people that you could think for, I have never been rebuffed in speaking about my Lord, not once. Not once.
They don’t all respond saying, “I also love the Lord Jesus,” or, “I will open my heart to the blessed Savior,” but I have never been rebuffed, never. Anytime I have ever said a word about Jesus, I have been graciously entreated. Somehow it’s second nature. It just comes out of the fullness of your heart. It is a church of witness, and in our congregation here, every time preaching about Jesus, lifting up the Lord, making an appeal for Him.
And beyond this sacred sanctuary, we have meeting even now twenty-five chapels that we support. The message is being preached in Cambodian, in Laotian, in Vietnamese, in Spanish, in Chinese, in Japanese. There are twenty-five congregations that we support this moment, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ—a church of witness.
And may I say a word, not of criticism about any kind of a government or civic program, but just a word of observation? When the government seeks to minister to a section of the city that is substandard, or poor, or poverty stricken, all the government does is generate generations of welfare people. I can point you here in the city of Dallas to the fifth generation of people who are living on welfare. They don’t change anybody. They’re just the same after they have given them largess, and money, and checks, and family and food stamps, and God only knows what all. The government taxes the rest of the people in order to give it to somebody else; they never change, never change.
But when we go into some of those communities and build our chapels—I so well remember a Christmas night we had down here at the church, and we had our chapel people there. And I don’t exaggerate it when I say to you I wept for three solid hours. Time and again, and again and again, and again, and yet again did they stand up from those sub-marginal communities, say in West Dallas, and the man would say, “I was a drunkard; came home and beat my wife and children every Saturday night. They dreaded my appearing. And we lived in poverty and in want and in rags.” Then he’d say, “That man of God,” and point to one of our chapel pastors, “that man of God came to see me. And he prayed for me. And he won me to Christ, and now,” he says, “I have a good job and we’re paying for our house. And my family,” and he’ll point to them seated there, “we rejoice in the Lord. And when I come home, they’re happy to see me.” That went on for three solid hours! The way to turn and change people is not by some kind of a governmental welfare program, it’s by the gospel of the Son of God. That does it. That does it.
I’ll tell you one other observation, and I’ve checked on it I don’t know how many times. I have asked men who give their lives to that kind of a correctional institution, “Do prisons change men? Do prisons change criminals?” And without exception, the answer always to me, “It just hardens them. They come into these correctional institutions, and they go out twice as hardened.” But the other is also universally affirmed, “When men in prison are touched by the power of God and they are saved and they’re changed, when they go out, they go out new creations. Many of them pastors, preachers.” We have some in this school and church now, who have been out of prison, who are getting ready to preach the gospel of Jesus. They were saved inside of the prison.
It’s a witnessing church, and we have chaplains paid by our church who witness in these correctional institutions. Almost every Sunday night, one or two of those chaplains will bring young men here whom they have won to Jesus in these “detention homes,” they call them. They are boys who have fallen into serious trouble. But too young to sentence to the penitentiary, they put them in these correctional homes, these detention homes. And our chaplains win them to Jesus, and they come here on a confession of faith and are baptized into the family of God. That’s the Lord’s work and will for His church—a witnessing congregation.
What kind of a church bathed in the kiyyôr, in the loutron, in the word of God [Ephesians 5:26], what kind of a church? It will be a supporting church. Is that a burden for me? No! I love to be counted among those who love the Lord, who love the church Christ loved and who support it [Ephesians 5:25].
I read the funniest thing: a man, a pastor was asked, “How many members do you have in your church?” He said, “I have 1,119 members.” And then the second question, “How many tithers do you have in your church?” He said, “I have 1,119 tithers.” And the questioner was amazed, as I would be. “What? You have 1,119 members and 1,119 tithers? How could such a thing be?” He answered, “Well, about a hundred of them bring their tithes to the church, and God collects it from the rest of them.”
I have another human observation to make—one advantage of having been in the pilgrimage a long time—I have another observation to make: there is nobody in God’s creation that keeps His tithe, God’s tithe. He never does it. You can’t do it; you can bring it to the house of the Lord with joy and gladness, or God will collect it. I have talked to some of the richest families in this world, some of whom live in our city of Dallas. He’ll make a mistake in judgment that will cost him $50,000,000. He’ll make a mistake in investment that will cost him continuing millions and millions of dollars. Or there will be an illness, or there will be a providence, or there will be an accident. It will come. You will not keep that tithe. God will collect it.
How much and infinitely better is it to sit down before the Lord and say, “Lord, what would I give You for my eyes? I don’t know; I wouldn’t sell them. What would I give You Lord, for my hands and my feet? I don’t know, they’re priceless. What would I give You for breath, Lord, and life? And this is but a token of the indebtedness in gratitude and love I feel toward Thee.” How much better, infinitely better, is it to be that way before God, coming before Him faithfully with a tithe and an offering, than it is that God collects it in some kind of a tragic providence. The church bathed in the kiyyôr, in the loutron of God’s word [Ephesians 5:26].
Now he says some glorious things about it. And may I take just a moment to follow through what the inspired apostle says in describing this church bathed in that loutron? “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the loutron of the water by the word” [Ephesians 5:26]. He says it will be holy and without blemish; it will be “holy” [Ephesians 5:27]. Well, that word hagiazō or qādôsh—one’s Hebrew, one’s Greek—both of them are congruent; they mean exactly the same thing. Anything that is hagiazō or anything that is qādôsh, anything that is “holy,” as we translate it, is sanctified, set apart, dedicated to the Lord.
You can have an instrument that is “holy” according to the word of God; that is, it belongs to the Lord, it is used for the service of the Lord. Anything dedicated for the service of God is hagiazō; it’s qādôsh, it is “holy.” Now he says that we are to be hagiazō, qādôsh, holy to the Lord. We’re to be sanctified to the Lord, we’re to be dedicated to the Lord [Ephesians 5:26]. And that’s why he calls us an ekklēsia. That’s the word translated, “church.” We are an ekklēsia, a called out, a kaleō, a called out family of God [Ephesians 5:27].
Now let me ask you something. Isn’t it reasonable to say, “If there is an addition to us, wouldn’t that be a subtraction from them? If we are an ekklēsia, a qādôsh, a hagiazō, if we are sanctified and added unto the Lord [Ephesians 5:26-27], wouldn’t that mean we are subtracted from the world?” Isn’t that reasonable to say? And isn’t it right to avow it and to affirm it? An addition to us means a subtraction from them, isn’t that right? Isn’t that reasonable? Isn’t that rational?
When I was a youth, I had a friend in one of the great city churches, and I went with him several times to his church. There was a very wealthy family in the church that was as worldly as it was wealthy, and they had a beautiful teenage girl. And that girl in that church was marvelously saved, wonderfully saved, and gave her whole heart and life to the blessed, blessed Jesus. But the family was as worldly, as I say, as they were well-to-do. The young people were getting ready for a revival meeting, and were having an all night prayer meeting. And that night, there was a big dance in a ballroom downtown, and the girl was interdicted from attending the prayer meeting of the young people and was dressed and sent to the dance. She was beautifully attired with a gown and jewels, placed in a limousine and the chauffeur instructed by the family to take her to the ballroom. When the teenager got inside the limousine and the chauffeur drove off, she said to him, “You’re not taking me to the ballroom. You’re taking me to the church, and you’re to come for me about one o’clock in the morning. I’ll be in a prayer meeting at the church.” She walked into that young people’s prayer meeting, and they looked at her in amazement, dressed in the beautiful gown and her jewels.
Now, I want to ask you, had I gone to the ball and counted them at the dance—one, two, three, four, ten, twelve, fifteen—had I counted them at the dance, then had I gone to the prayer meeting and counted them at the prayer meeting—one, two, three, four, ten, twelve—tell me, wouldn’t they have had one less at the dance and one more at the prayer meeting? Wouldn’t they? Is it not that an addition to us is a subtraction from them?
And ought not our lives to be like that before God? We are not a part of the world, “in it, but not of it”; separated, hagiazō, qādôsh, holy unto the Lord. He says it is a glorious church, glorious church, glorious [Ephesians 5:27]. The basic word there is doxa, and we get our “doxology” from that. Doxa, glorious, praises, happiness, wonderful visitation from heaven. I don’t believe in religion that’s that way, downwardness; I believe in religion that is this way, upwardness. If anybody has a cause to rejoice and clap their hands and smile and be happy and praises, it’s God’s people. Everything, God is with us, glorious church, a glorious church.
One of these teenagers went out on the farm and looked at a donkey and said, “What a wonderful church member you would be with your long face.” Think of that: long face, wonderful church member.
A fellow was asked, “Have you been to church?”
“No,” he says, “I’ve just been sick.”
Oh, what a tragic—what a travesty!
If anybody says, “It’s wonderful. God is so good, everything is for us,” that is you. That’s you! Man, the Lord is with us, and He is opening the doors of heaven for us, and we are a pilgrim people heaven bound. God: glorious, wonderful, my best Friend.
A man was asked, “How did you succeed?” And he said, “I have a Friend.” So many times will you find that true in the business world: somebody befriended him, somebody helped him. That’s Jesus with us; He is our Friend.
The golden sun, the silvery moon, and all the stars that shine
Were made by His omnipotent hands and He is a friend of mine.
When He shall come, with trumpet sound, to head the conquering line…
The whole, wide world will bow at His feet, and He is a friend of mine.
[“He Is A Friend of Mine,” John H. Sammis]
I’m overwhelmed by the thought; the great God of this universe is my personal Friend. I can walk with Him, I can talk with Him, I can lay every problem and sorrow of my life before Him, and He has promised to see me through [Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5-6]. O Lord, what a richness and a glory just to follow in Your train.
Now may we bow our heads? Our precious and wonderful Lord, more than life and breath are You to us. We have no hope outside of Thee. When we come to the hour of our death, who could stand by us and walk with us across that sullen river, but Thee? Who Lord, can open the doors of heaven, but Thee? Who can wash our sins away, but Thee? [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. Who can walk with us through every sadness of life, but Thee? [Hebrews 4:14-16]. And who can strengthen us for every trial that we face, but Thee? Oh, Christ, that there might be less and less of me, and more and more of Thee until there is nothing of me, and everything of Thee. Thank You Lord for speaking to my soul, coming into my heart and life, writing my name in the Book of life, writing my name in the Book of Glory and someday welcoming me to heaven.
And sweet, wonderful people, while we pry and while we wait, you, to give your heart to the Lord, or to come into the fellowship of our precious church, or to answer a call of God in your heart; while our people pray, and while the choir sings a hymn of appeal, while we’re seated in prayer, would you just get up and come down here to the altar? “Pastor, I have decided for God and here I stand.” In the balcony round, down one of those stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, just where you are, while our people pray and while the choir sings, just stand up and come down and kneel with us at the altar. And may the Spirit of God give you strength in the decision, and may the angels of the Lord attend you in the way, while you come. While we pray, while we sing, while we wait.
THE CHURCH WASHED IN THE LOUTRON
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-23-86I. In the loutron, kiyyor, laver of water in the Word(Ephesians 5:25)
A. The laver stood between the great altar and the door into the Holy Place
1. In it the priest washed his hands and feet before entering
2. Imagery of Paul – the church is bathed in the laver of God’s Word
B. The kind of church that is washed in the Word
1. A church of prayer(Matthew 21:13, Isaiah 56:7, Luke 18:1, Acts 20:36, 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
a. My first sermon here in 1944 I kneeled in prayer
2. A church of witness(Acts 1:8)
a. Here in this sacred place
b. Beyond the sanctuary – our 25 mission chapels
c. Failure of government programs
d. Prisons – only changed in Christ
3. A church of support(Hebrews 7:8)
a. God will collect His titheII. Present it to Himself holy and without blemish(Ephesians 5:26)
A. Holy – separated unto God, set apart for Him
1. Ekklessia – called out family of God
2. An addition for God is a subtraction from the world
a. Young girl skipping dance for prayer meeting
1. Doxa – glorious, praises, happiness