We need not guess about how the Lord intends His inspired holy Word to function in our lives because He tells us both directly and metaphorically. Today, we will examine the purpose God expresses for His Word when He describes it metaphorically as water. The key passage in this regard is found in the book of Ephesians: “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” (5:25-27).
Not for drinking. We sometimes speak casually of the water of the Word as something to be drunk. Doubtless this arises from the account of the Lord’s encounter with the woman at the well in the village of Sychar in Samaria. But a careful examination of this account (see: John 4, esp. vv. 10-15) along with John 7:38, 39 suggests that the water that the Lord offers the Samaritan woman, water that is to be “drunk,” is not the Word of God, but the Spirit of God. This water is referred to in the fourth chapter as a “gift,” (v. 10) as something which when drunk causes the drinker to “never thirst” (v. 14), and as that which when drunk becomes a “well of water springing up into everlasting life” (v. 14). Similarly, in chapter seven we read that “Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him should receive . . .).” Drinking water, metaphorically speaking, refers to the life-imparting, life-sustaining, and refreshing work of the Holy Spirit.
For cleansing. But as out text suggests, under the figure of the “water of the Word,” we are intended to understand that the Word of God has cleansing properties. One of the most significant ministries of the Word is its ability to purge and purify us, to “wash” us (Eph. 5:26), to remove spots (v. 27), and eliminate every “blemish” (v. 27). This is a marvelous truth and refers most directly to that cleansing from sin which occurs at salvation when the Spirit of God applies the Word of God to the heart, thus cleansing the believer from all sin. As Hoehner suggests, the holiness to which Paul refers speaks of the unique and separate character of God Himself, and the cleansing speaks of particular sins. Through the mysterious power of God, the application of His Word to our hearts produces a sanctifying effect that separates us from sin unto righteousness. It is in a similar vein that John speaks when he records the words of the Lord in his gospel: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (15:3). This cleansing of the water of the Word is a one-time act tantamount to salvation.
But it would appear from Scripture that there is an ongoing cleansing function that the Word of God performs as well. Regarding His disciples the Lord prayed: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Once born again through the ministry of the water of the Word, we are sanctified and cleansed by daily administration of the Word to our hearts and minds. It is through the Word that we believers find conviction of our sins and are brought to repentance. It is through the Word that we come to hate sin and to love righteousness. It is through the Word that we are strengthened to stand against sin and unrighteousness and for the Lord. The Word of God, then, under the guise of water, is said to cleanse us and set us apart from sin and unto God, both initially at salvation and then daily when we fall into sin. May it be our desire and prayer to be sanctified by God’s truth, the cleansing water of the Word.