Recently, I wrote articles about being servants and being sons. The vastness of our relationship with God is beyond human ability to describe. Thus we grasp at metaphors and analogies, attempting to see with clarity that which is greater than the human mind can fathom. However, these relational depictions are radically helpful in getting a sense of who we are in relation to God. Think of these as each adding a dimension to our understanding. Seeing our relationship as servants, sons and the Bride give us a 3D perspective. Do you understand that we are the Bride?
The Bride Becomes One with Christ
The two shall become one (Genesis 2:24). God creates the first human relationship as a marriage. The marital union was designed by God to be a fruitful intimacy. That is, through their closeness, they become one (this is worthy of its own post). In marriage, we are caught up into the life of one another. My decisions affect my wife and vice versa. We are no longer independent, rather interdependent. Ephesians 5:22-33 gives some wonderful teaching on marriage, but then Paul tells us that marriage is an illustration of the deeper more profound reality of our corporate union with Christ. We have entered into a covenant with Him, and He has joined Himself to us. Thus what God has joined, let no man separate (Matthew 19:9). In fact, marriage entails a combining of assets and liabilities. Consider a man having great assets and the woman he marries having great debt. What happens when they tie the knot? All her debt and liabilities become his and all his wealth and assets become hers. As the Bride of Christ, we are so one with Him that He takes on all our debt of sin, death and hell and gives us His riches of grace, life and salvation! He brings nothing but assets to the marriage, and we bring nothing but liabilities. But since His assets always exceed our liabilities, we are wonderfully benefited. Martin Luther says it well, “For his righteousness rises above the sins of all men; his life is more powerful than all death; his salvation is more unconquerable than all hell.”
The Bride Is Already and Not Yet
We are already the Bride, but we have not yet entered into the fullness of what that means. Paul says that we have been betrothed to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2-3). Betrothal was an ancient marital practice. Remember, Joseph was betrothed to Mary (Matthew 1:18). Betrothal is more than engagement. It was regarded as marriage. To break off a betrothal would require a divorce. The full joys of their commitment still awaited consummation, when the bride would move in with the bridegroom on the wedding day. But until the day when the virgin bride and groom come together, their marriage (betrothal) experience is partial. As Christians, we are betrothed/married to Christ, but the wedding has yet to commence. The marriage supper of the Lamb is yet future (Revelation 19:9). It is at that point that we will know even as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12). Until that time, although we have all of Christ now, our experience of Him while living in a fallen world is limited. The best is yet to come!
The Bride Is a Corporate Not a Private Identity
In the Old Testament, God referred to Himself as Israel's Husband. The New Testament describes us as the Bride. The inference is that the Bride is not simply you or me, rather it is we. When we think in terms of being the Bride, this is a challenge to our individualistic culture. Jesus prayed for us in John 17:11, “That they may be one, even as we are one.” That means that my future is your future. My hope is your hope. Our holiness cannot increase if we ignore one another’s need for holiness. Ultimately, your growth and godliness is connected to mine, for we are being prepared as a Bride without spot or blemish.
How Should We Respond?
1. Live today in light of our lives being joined with Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:14-17 tells us that we are one with Christ, and that uniting ourselves with sin is, in essence, bringing Christ into our spiritual adultery. Our oneness with Christ should cause us to live lives that reflect this great union, remembering that through Christ, we have all the assets we need to overcome sin and temptation.
2. Look ahead to the future. We go through seasons in this fallen world in these broken bodies where we do not always sense the Lord's nearness. At times we suffer from a lack of right desire. Look ahead toward the future. There will come a day when the betrothal will transform into the full privileges of marriage. What lies ahead for us is exceedingly greater than what we can now fathom or experience.
3. Love the Bride. Sometimes we can become so skilled at criticizing the Bride of Christ, rather than seeking to beautify her. Rather than criticizing the spots and wrinkles in the wedding garment, endeavor to be instruments of the Bride's beautification. Lovingly encourage and exhort one another as that Great Day approaches. Jesus loves His Bride, and we should love her too.