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"The Church: The Bride of Christ" (posted April 1, 2005)
Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing....
Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies.... No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.
- Ephesians 5:23-29
The Church of the living God is the bride of Christ, which He loved with an infinite love and purchased for Himself by His own precious blood, which He gave to redeem her from sin and destruction. This is what he did for her in the past, that He might have her forever with Himself as the object of His deep affections and to share all His glory and dominion in the coming day.
In the present, His unfailing love is ever caring for her, nourishing and cherishing her, sanctifying and cleansing her with the washing of water by the Word---the application of the cleansing power of the Word of God by the Spirit, that she might be morally fitted for this intimate place of association with Him.
Purity and submission
As Christians we are engaged to Jesus Christ and are to be faithful and true to Him, keeping ourselves as a chaste virgin for Him (2 Corinthians 11:2), unspotted from the world that crucified Him. This is a responsibility which flows from this most intimate relationship with Christ.
Furthermore, our text in Ephesians 5 reminds us that this blessed relationship carries with it the thoughts of headship and subjection. This subjection to Christ is another most important responsibility. It means that we are to obey His word down here and not do our own will or follow our own wishes. We are not to do as we think expedient or best, with regard to ourselves personally or to the Church collectively, but are to search the Scriptures for the mind of Christ and to act upon them in subjection to Him as our head.
Hence it follows that the Church is never to teach or set up rules or doctrines. Her place is to be subject to all the rules, principles, teachings, and doctrines which Christ has set forth in His Word. The Lord teaches and preaches by the gifts He has given to the Church (Ephesians 4:7-12).
So it was in the beginning of the Church's history, and so it would be now if all would be subject to Christ as head and really know Him as their Bridegroom. The reason, then, for all the divisions and confusion among God's people today is that the Church has not been and is not completely subject to Christ. Man's will has been at work, hence the ruin about us.
But though the Church has collectively failed in subjection, it still becomes each individual believer to be in subjection to Christ's will and Word. In the Lord's messages to the seven churches of Asia, which speak prophetically of the Church's history and departure from His Word, the closing word to each one is: "He (the individual) that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).
The bride's hope and destiny
Having considered the place of affection, intimacy, association, and responsibility which the true Church of born-again believers has as His bride, we may now dwell a little on her hope and destiny. From the very nature of the relationship of bride and bridegroom, it should be readily seen that the Church's culmination of desire is her marriage union with Christ and being forever with Himself at His side. This is intimated in Ephesians 5, where it is said that Christ will present the Church to Himself, a glorious church without spot or wrinkle (verse 27).
The Church is heavenly in origin---born from above and united to Christ, her head, in glory. She should be heavenly in character down here, for her life is hidden with Christ (Colossians 3:3). The Church's mission is certainly to represent and manifest Christ in this world and to proclaim the gospel to the lost, but the hope of improving and converting the whole world to Christ is never given to her in Scripture. On the contrary, His Word definitely shows that "evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse" (2 Timothy 3:13).
Let us now turn to a few Scriptures in the book of Revelation. The judgments of God will be poured out on apostate Christendom and this wicked world, as prophesied in chapters six to nineteen. Then, in the nineteenth chapter, we hear of the marriage of the Lamb: "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7).
At last this glorious event of the marriage of Christ and His blood-bought Church can take place. Then He comes to earth with His bride, in judgment upon the living nations, and reigns with her over the whole earth (19:11-20:6).
Revelation 21:1-8 describes the eternal scene after the 1000 years of the kingdom reign of Christ are expired. Then there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Here we read, "I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (verses 1-2).
This is the eternal destiny of the Church, Christ's bride. May it enrapture our hearts more and lead us out in increasingly devoted affection for our precious Bridegroom, who has secured all this blessedness for us by laying down His life for us on Calvary.
Raymond K. Campbell