The Church is a Bride
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband." (Ephesians 5:22-33)
Paul here is teaching about husbands and wives, or is he? I think he's teaching many things here. He's teaching how husbands and wives should treat each other, but he's also speaking about a whole lot more. It is a lesson about a Christian's relationship to Christ. Let us learn about being a part of the church - the bride of Christ.
1. Christ gave his life for the church. I think often we don't realize the whole picture. We don't think about the specialness of the ekklesia - the church. Those that chose to obey were called out from the world to be his special people. We are the members of his body that he died to save! He loves us and wants a perfect 'wife' (church).
2. Brides must be faithful, or they will be 'put away'. Once I was fortunate to hear a preacher speak about Jewish traditions. He had grown up a Jew and became a Christian at some point in his life. From what I can remember, this is what he said about engagement and marriage in the Jewish culture: Each family had a special cup for 'covenants' with their neighbors. When a man wanted to marry a woman, he presented the cup with wine in it to the father of his chosen bride. If the father was willing, he passed the cup to his daughter. The next step required action from the bride. If she was willing, she would drink from the cup, signifying her willingness to be his bride. Then the groom, would return to his father's house to prepare a place for her. When his father thought that things were ready, the groom would return for his bride. While the groom was away, the bride had a responsibility to be ready for her groom to return. She must keep herself pure from being with other men. She must dress herself properly and be ready at any time for his return.
One example of this practice in the scriptures is in the case of Joseph and Mary. While they were engaged, it became known to Joseph that Mary was pregnant. He had no idea at the time that she hadn't been with a man, so he was planning to break the engagement (he could have been planning to have her executed) because of what he thought was infidelity (Matthew 1:19). Under the Law of Moses a woman could be killed for being pregnant and unmarried or simply not a virgin (Deuteronomy 22:13-27). Thankfully it was not infidelity on Mary's part and God told Joseph that she had not been unfaithful to him, saving her from being punished.
When Jesus left this earth, he placed on us some responsibilities. If we do not meet those responsibilities, we will be put away.
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21-23)
Which one of these two groups will you be? Will you do the will of your father and get to go with our groom or will you be put away?
Join us next week for a look at the bride's responsibilities.