Welcome to the gospel saves podcast, a program that discusses all matters related to the Christian faith. I’m Wade Stanley, an evangelist with the Church of Christ. Please visit the gospel saves dot me for blogs, videos, and bible studies. You can also find the gospel saves on youtube, Facebook, and Instagram.
Introduction to Episode
Welcome back to my ongoing study of the church. This is episode 13, “The Bride of Christ,” part two. Keeping the church’s relationship with christ pure depends on each Christian individually. Just like each spouse must work to keep a marriage relationship pure, we must all work to keep our relationship with christ free from third parties. There is one potential suitor that is a greater threat to this relationship than any other, and we must all be wary of letting our spiritual eyes wander.
Before I get into the study, let me do a little housekeeping. If you’re listening to this podcast on Spotify or Apple, and you find this or any of my other content helpful, please consider giving the podcast a five-star rating and leaving a review. If you’re watching this on the gospel saves YouTube channel, please give the video a thumbs up, subscribe to the channel, and click the bell icon to receive notifications when I upload new content. All of these small gestures help the good news of Jesus reach more people so you can help me preach the gospel and teach the doctrine of christ church to as many people as possible. I appreciate your help. Now let’s talk about the church as the bride of Christ.
Husband and Wife = Christ and the Church
On our program last week, we began studying about how the church is the bride of Christ, and in particular, we focused our attention on Ephesians chapter 5 verses 23-27. That’s a passage that teaches us about the marriage relationship between a man and a woman, but it also tells us that the marriage relationship between man and woman parallels the relationship between Christ and his church.
And from that passage, we drew several different lessons. Number one, we concluded that as the bride of Christ, we belong to him; we belong to no one else. He’s died for us. He’s purchased us, and we need to follow him, submit ourselves to him, and that it’s no longer should I consider my life my own I’m to submit myself to him and follow him regardless of what I think or want.
Our Marriage with Christ Begins in Purity
Another idea we drew out of that passage was that christ died to purify the church and that our marriage relationship with him begins on pure terms as Ephesians 5:26 teaches, “that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.” And he’s talking about the church. The church is cleansed with the washing of water by the word.
This is a definite allusion to baptism, talking about how our relationship with the Lord begins at the moment that our sins are cleansed, that they are washed away. Baptism isn’t a ceremonial cleansing. Peter makes this point in First Peter 3:21. Instead, it’s the moment when God cleanses our hearts our souls from the impurity of sin, and this is the moment we become married to Christ.
We Need to Keep the Relationship Pure
We also draw out of that fifth chapter of Ephesians that Christ expects his bride to remain pure. One day, Jesus wants to present his bride “to himself as a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing but that she should be holy and without blemish.” Just like that bride who wants every hair to be in place; every dab of makeup to be just right; for the dress to be without wrinkle, without blemish, without spot. That’s the sort of bride that Christ seeks, and that’s the sort of bride we want to be.
We don’t want to introduce third parties into the relationship. We don’t want to bring in things that will come between ourselves and the Savior. So if I’m a part of Christ’s bride, if I’m a part of the church, then I need to endeavor to live a holy and blameless life. And if I don’t, serious consequences await.
Purity is an Individual Responsibility
Now continuing on with this idea, I would just like to note that purity in the church begins with each one of us individually. In Second Corinthians chapter seven, verse number one, Paul urges us to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
It’s true that I cannot be justified — I cannot be declared righteous — apart from the blood of Jesus Christ. The blood of Jesus removes all sins from me — that is true. But equally true is that I now have a commitment to purify my life as a part of the bride of Christ. As an individual within that body, I have an obligation before the Lord to cleanse myself, as Paul says, of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit and perfect holiness in the fear of God.
The Hopeful Purify Their Lives
John says it in even more clear terms in first John chapter 3 verses 2 and 3,
Beloved now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure.
Now verse number two talks about the hope that we have in Jesus, and the hope is that one day my body is going to be transformed into a new body. It’s a great mystery what that body is going to be like. All I know is that body that I will one day inhabit is exactly like the body that Jesus Christ now inhabits.
John says if I have that hope that one day I’m going to be raised from the dead and given a new body, then I need to purify my life. I have an obligation before the Lord to purify myself.
Every Member Must Focus on Purifying His or Her Life
So as we talk about the church being the bride of Christ, I think it is incumbent upon us to first recognize that for the church to be pure and undefiled in the eyes of God, we must all, as members of the church, commit ourselves to living a holy and righteous life.
At the end of the day, my friends, that’s all we can control. We can beg people, we can plead with people, we can urge people, rebuke people, exhort people. There are all sorts of words we can use to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to do better. But at the end of the day, they have to decide that they are going to do better. The only person I can control is myself. And so, if I want to see the bride of Christ pure and undefiled, then I need to commit my life to living a pure and undefiled life.
Cheating on God with the World
Now, as we think about the things that could possibly interfere with our relationship with God — the third party, so to speak, that might come in between ourselves and the Lord — I just want to admit from the outset that the list could be very long.
So instead of identifying a specific thing, a particular thing, I want to talk instead in more general terms. I want to talk about what I perceive as the greatest threat to the church in our day and age. I know that’s quite a statement to make. But it seems to me that one of the greatest threats to the church in today’s day and age is worldliness.
In first John chapter 2 verses 15 through 17, John says,
Do not love the world or the things in the world if anyone loves the world the love of the father is not in him for all that is in the world the lust of the flesh the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world and the world is passing away and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever.
But What About…?
There are many things in this world that I love: my wife and my children are in this world, and I love them very dearly. As I look around me, I see a beautiful creation that surrounds me, and I love it. I have friendships with dear, dear people who are here in the world that I treasure.
So there are good things in the world that we can love. And I don’t think that these things are in and of themselves evil unless we take them to an extreme that is unhealthy and sinful in the eyes of God.
In reality, I think what John is talking about when he talks about the love of the world, he’s talking about sin that falls under these three categories: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Those are the “types of worldliness,” if you will, that will take us away from God.
And John’s point is pretty clear: if I love those sorts of things, then the love of God does not abide in me. That’s one of the things I really admire about John’s first epistle is it’s very black and white. There is no gray area; there is no in-between. He says if I love the things IN the world, the things that are OF the world, then God’s love does not abide in me.
Worldliness is Adultery
Because worldliness takes me away from God, it’s a little like what James talks about in James chapter four verse number four. He says, “Adulterers and adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
If I’m on friendly terms with the world (and don’t get me wrong, we need to love our neighbor as ourself we need to do good to everyone who is around us), if I get too deeply involved in the things of this world (the things that will not last as John talks about in first john 2 verse 17), the things that are going to burn up and be destroyed one day. If I get too involved with those things, I make myself an enemy of God.
Either I Love the World, or I Love God
You see, I cannot be a friend of the world and a friend of God. I need to choose one or the other. Either I’m an enemy of the world and a friend of God. Or I’m a friend of the world and an enemy of God.
And this is why John calls those who are friends with the world adulterers and adulteresses: you see there’s an implication I’m married to God. I have a relationship with him. And when I allow worldliness into that relationship, that means I’m bringing in a third party that pulls me away from the Lord.
Are We REALLY Christians?
Staying in that same book of James in James chapter 1 verse 27, James says true religion involves keeping oneself “unspotted from the world.” The definition begins a little bit earlier: he says, “true and undefiled religion is this to visit the widows and orphans in their time of trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
As our time draws to a close today, I’d like to ask you a question to think about: if you talk like the world, act like the world, set worldly priorities, watch worldly movies and television, marry worldly people, spend most of your time with worldly friends, read worldly books, play worldly video games, but you go to church one to four hours a week, who are you are you? A Christian? Or, are you part of the world?
You know there’s a saying that circulates around. I see it pop up from time to time on places like Facebook and other social media. It’s a pretty good little saying. It goes something like this: saying that you’re a Christian just because you go to church is like saying you’re a car because you’re standing in the garage.
You see, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. As James says, true and undefiled religion is this to keep oneself unspotted from the world. If your speech, your actions, your priorities, your activities, who you marry, who your friends are if all those things are of the world and you go to church, are you really a Christian?