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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Bride of Christ

I know ... I may not be "typical" (most people assure me I'm quite strange), but this concept of "the Bride of Christ" is at once both marvelous and, well, quite odd.

In Eph. 5, when Paul is telling husbands how to act toward their wives, he puts it this way:
25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:25-32).
As you can see, he has a running parallel between husbands and Christ -- how husbands treat their wives and how Christ treats the Church. In verse 32, he speaks of it as a great mystery. Truer words were never spoken.

In Rev. 21, there are references to the "bride of the Lamb", but, oddly enough, this refers not to the Church, but to the New Jerusalem. However, in Rev. 19:7-8 we read:
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

And Paul says, "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin" (2 Cor 11:2).

So ... the Church, composed of the true believers, is the Bride of Christ. What, exactly, does that mean?

In biblical times there was a set process by which a bridegroom obtained his bride. First, he would pay the price for her. At that point, she was betrothed to him, but note that since the price was paid, "betrothed" meant much, much more than our use of the term today. She would need to keep herself pure. She was "owned", at least in a sense, and not merely her own. Most importantly, she was to wait with eager anticipation. You see, the next thing the bridegroom did was to leave. He would go to his father's house and prepare a place for her. When the time was right (and only he knew when that was), he would return for her with the sound of the trumpet and a shout and take her away to be with him.

Is any of this sounding familiar? Who paid the price for us? Who went away to prepare a place for us? Who is coming back at an unknown time to take us home to be with Him?

All of this is marvelous to think about. There are many facets to ponder. He paid the price. Amazing! He is preparing us (Eph. 5:25-27). Fantastic! He is preparing a place for us. Great! He is returning for us! Wonderful! How about this? He redeemed us "for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10), and then uses those works which He prepared beforehand as the fine linen of our wedding gown (Rev. 19:8). Simply stunning! It's truly a marvelous thing to think about.

So ... here's where I'm odd, I suppose. While I am able to describe quite nicely many of the spectacular ideas behind "the Bride of Christ", if truth be told, I just don't get it. Oh, I get what I've explained here. But there is a final step, a last connection, that is never made with me because I have never been nor will I ever be a "bride". (Lest some protest, "But you're a member of the Church, so you will be a bride", the Church as a whole is the Bride of Christ, not each and every individual member -- that would make Him a polygamist.) So while I can delight in all the great stuff I've described, there is an aspect that only brides can finally get -- the experiential aspect. Isn't that a little odd?


Samantha said...

I'm confused.

Stan said...

Which part? (You're not alone.)

Samantha said...

This part: "So while I can delight in all the great stuff I've described, there is an aspect that only brides can finally get--the experiential aspect. Isn't that a little odd?"


Stan said...

Women ... wives in particular ... have the advantage of saying, "I know what being a bride is like, so I can relate to 'the Bride of Christ' concept quite well." I, on the other hand, cannot be a bride and so there is a disconnect someplace along the road, leaving me with the theory but not a full connection with the idea.

Samantha said...

Let's did I feel as a bride..hmm...

I felt: loved, cared for, protected, assured,...beautiful.

Do you think you might have felt "loved, cared for, protected, assured, beautiful" by the work of Jesus Christ? If so, maybe you have experienced the same feelings I have as a bride?

Stan said...

Well, I've never felt beautiful, but as for the rest ... thanks, that really does help.