Transcript – “The Bride of Christ,” pt. 1
This is episode 12, “The Bride of Christ,” part 1. God often depicts his people as his bride, a symbolism that reaches back to the earliest days of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai. As we move into the new testament, the metaphor continues with Jesus depicted as the husband of his bride the church. In this episode, I begin exploring what lessons we can apply from marriage to our relationship with our husband, Christ.
God “Married” His People
Before we get to the new testament passages related to this idea, I’d like to lay a little bit of a foundation. As we look back historically at God’s interactions with his people — I’m talking about all the way from the very beginnings when he first formed a covenant with the children of Israel at Mount Sinai under the leadership of Moses — from those earliest days, God has always viewed his relationship with his people as a marriage.
He warned the children of Israel in the Old Law that if they went to follow after other gods, they would be acting like a prostitute. And when we get to the books like Hosea, where God, in a very literal way, has Hosea depict his relationship with Israel as a marriage relationship, we can see that God has always viewed his relationship with his people as a marriage.
An Old Idea
So when the New Testament calls the church the bride of Christ, that’s a very old idea, an idea that’s been around for a long, long time that God has viewed his relationship with his people as a marriage relationship. And what we learn is that God has a very specific meaning when he describes the church as the bride of Christ. What he intends to teach us is that he wants the church to be faithful to him and to keep itself pure.
Ephesians 5 Teaches us About the Bride of Christ
The primary passage in the New Testament that that describes the church in this way is Ephesians chapter 5 verses 23-27. many times when I’m conducting a wedding ceremony many times the bride or groom will ask for Ephesians 5 to be read. The reason why is because, in this passage, we see God teaching us that our relationship with our spouse is much like his relationship with his people, and from that parallel, we can draw certain lessons.
Oftentimes when we look at Ephesians 5, we’re looking at it from the perspective of what can I do to be a better spouse for my husband or my wife (depending upon which gender you are). Instead of going that direction, though, I’d instead like to look at this passage as it relates to the Lord’s relationship with the church.
The Bride of Christ Must Submit to Him in EVERYTHING
In Ephesians, 5:23 Paul says,
“For the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church and he is the savior of the body therefore just as the church is subject to Christ so let wives be to their own husbands and everything.”
A couple of years ago, we studied the book of Ephesians, and we talked about what these verses meant within the marriage relationship. But when it comes to our relationship with Christ, these two verses tell us that we as the church are to submit ourselves completely to the Lord. What I want no longer matters. What matters is only what the Lord wants because I no longer belong to myself. I now belong to someone else, in this case, Jesus Christ.
The Bride of Christ Belongs to Christ
Over in the sixth chapter of the book of First Corinthians, in verses 19 and 20, Paul describes each of us individually as a temple. He says that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit “who is in you whom you have from God, and we do not belong to ourselves; we are not our own.” He says no “we were bought with a prize, so we are to glorify God in our body and in our spirit which are God’s.”
When we become a Christian, when we become a part of the Lord’s church, we should do so with the understanding that we now belong to God. I now am a part of the bride of Christ. It’s no longer what I want to do. What I want to do does not even enter into the consideration whatsoever unless what I want to do is in line with what God wants me to do.
So back in Ephesians 5:23 and 24, what that teaches us is that as the bride of Christ, we belong to him. We’re to be submissive to him. What he wants us to do is what we need to do without question.
Jesus Purifies the Bride of Christ
Another lesson that we can learn in this passage is that Christ died to purify the church. in Ephesians 5:26, he says “that he might sanctify and cleanse her talking about the church with the washing of water by the word.” Jesus died so that the church can be pure and our relationship with him begins on pure terms.
When we become a part of the bride of Christ, we are washed with water by the word. This is a definite allusion to baptism and the role that baptism plays in the cleansing of our sins. Now it’s not an external cleansing; it’s not a bath. Peter makes that point in First Peter chapter 3 verse 21. But it is an internal cleansing that this is the moment in time when the blood of Jesus washes away our sins.
So our relationship with Jesus begins on pure terms on terms of righteousness and faithfulness and loving-kindness and mercy and justice. It’s not like the relationship God had with Israel in the old testament. He knew full well that Israel was not going to be faithful to him. And yet he married them, so to speak. Now our relationship with Jesus begins with an understanding, and it begins with purification. We are made a part of the bride of Christ through the cleansing of our sins.
Also, Christ expects his bride to remain pure. So not only are we purified in the marriage relationship, so to speak, when the marriage covenant is formed, we’re also supposed to keep ourselves pure while we are married to Christ.
God Wants a Pure Bride of Christ
In the next verse in Ephesians chapter 5 and verse 27, Paul says, “That he might present her to himself a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing but that she should be holy and without blemish.” You see, it’s Christ’s intention to have a pure, undefiled bride on that final day.
You know, the day of judgment, the day of christ’s return, is often depicted in terms of a marriage ceremony. When John sees the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven in revelation chapter 21, he describes her as a bride prepared for her groom. There are other instances where our dwelling with God is described as a wedding feast, where Jesus has married his bride, so to speak.
The Bride of Christ Must Keep Herself Pure
And all these are not to be taken literally. These are all symbolic. And the message that, in my estimation, God is trying to get across to us is like our marriage relationship where we are trying to keep that relationship between just two people. We’re keeping out all others where it’s just about my connection with this other person.
So too, the church is to put nothing between itself and the savior. We are to keep ourselves without spot or wrinkle. And by the sacrifice of Jesus, we can’t be holy and without blemish.
Israel “Cheated” and Paid a Dear Price
If we violate this covenant, if we choose to introduce third parties, so to speak, to commit spiritual adultery, if you will, then dire consequences await. That’s one of the lessons we learned from the Old Testament, in particular the book of Hosea. one of the things that Hosea teaches us is that Israel had spent centuries following after other gods.
They had worshipped Baal and Asherah and all the other gods and goddesses associated with those gods in that particular region in the world. God considered this adultery spiritual adultery, and after putting up with it for centuries, God said I’m done, and I’m going to divorce you, and he divorced them by sending them into captivity.
Now one of the prevailing messages of the book of Hosea is one of hope. Even though this divorce has taken place, there is a time of restoration in the future. But the message should come across to us today: we are in a marriage relationship with God. if we are a member of the Lord’s church, and we should let no third parties in, no one should stand between ourselves and God.
We Defile the Bride of Christ at Our Own Peril
And if we choose to bring in things that will defile, there are dire consequences that await. In First Corinthians chapter 3 verses 16 and 17, Paul again compares the church to a temple. he says
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you. if anyone defiles the temple of God will destroy him. for the temple of God is holy which temple you are.”
We talked about the church as the temple a few weeks ago. But the warning is the same. If God is trying to tell us that in viewing his relationship with us as marriage, he’s trying to help us understand that we need to be faithful to him, that we need to keep our relationship pure. But the warning of First Corinthians 3:16 and 17 should be the same: if I bring in anything impure into this relationship, the only thing that awaits me is destruction. Christ wants his church to be pure, undefiled, holy, and without blemish.
Remember Your Vows
So as you think about your relationship with the Lord, think about it in terms of a marriage relationship, of how you have made vows to the Lord. You have told the Lord that “you will be my God, and I will be a part of your people.” you’ve made that vow. You have pledged yourself to him. You are now in a committed relationship. and you’re not to allow other things into that relationship that would come between the two of you.
You see, God expects us to be spiritually monogamous to keep ourselves from false gods like the children of Israel, and as we’re going to talk about next week, from other things as well.