The writers of the New Testament, inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, used more than 50 metaphors to describe what it is like to be a Christian and to be the corporate capital “C” Church. As a reminder, the Church is the collection of all the people who ever trusted Jesus Christ for forgiveness, extending from the resurrection to the return of Christ.
One of the most famous and important metaphors given to describe the Church is that of “The Bride of Christ”. The implications and applications of this metaphor are towering.
God designed the Groom and Bride relationship to be the most special of all human relationships. Marriage demonstrates to the world the beauty of Jesus Christ’s relationship with His Bride, the Church.
Because of this, one of the many towering tragedies of divorce is that the picture of God’s unconditional commitment to His Bride is smudged.
Here are a few of the most important elements of the metaphor of the corporate Church as The Bride of Christ.
The Church as the Bride in Ephesians 5:22-33:
The Church is called the Bride of Christ and Christ is declared the Head of the Church, His Bride.
As individual believers and as the Church we have an intimate relationship with Christ. This is a relationship that is closer than an earthly husband and wife relationship. Jesus is the Leader and Director and Guide for us, the Bride of Christ. Jesus is the perfect Husband and as such He nurtures, protects, and provides for us. He has a vision to see us perfected, having no spot or blemish or wrinkle or any such thing. He is the Husband who habitually and unswervingly acts for our wellbeing.
The corporate Church, as the Bride of Christ, must be subject to Him.
“To be subject” means to voluntarily give the right to direct us and influence us. We can rebelliously refuse to be directed and influenced by Jesus. That is both sinful and foolish. It is clearly in our best interests to give to Him full direction of our lives and give Him full influence over our lives. To submit to Him does not diminish us, it increases us. To submit to Him does not rob us, it enriches us.
Jesus is the Savior of the Bride.
Obviously, we were all lost. Why else would we need a Savior? We were sinful, separated from the holy God of the universe, helpless to fix our state, and hopeless in every regard. We weren’t as bad as we could be, we can always be worse. But we were as bad off as we could be. Our condition could not have been worse. Nothing could have made our state more dire, depressing, and hopeless. However, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us—the just for the unjust! And because of that sacrificial death He can now offer to us salvation through simple faith in Him.
Jesus loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.
He gave His own life for the Church. He sacrificed willingly and greatly. He loved us unconditionally, voluntarily, and despite our utter lack of merit and total spiritual bankruptcy.
Jesus’ goal for us, His Bride, is our sanctification.
Jesus wants us to be holy as He is holy. He wants us to be mature as He is mature. He wants us to be perfect as He is perfect. He has a lofty vision for us and our perfecting. He is skillful, powerful, and tireless in His pursuit of this vision. We are not yet the people that God envisioned when He rescued us but He is not giving up. In fact, the time will come when we will be exactly like Jesus because we will see Him just as He is. We will be, because of His sanctifying work, holy and blameless and perfect and without blemish! We are, individually and corporately, on a collision course with Christlikeness! Hallelujah! What sane person wouldn’t sign up for that?
Jesus Christ cherishes the Church.
This is mindboggling but true! Too often we view God as a cosmic killjoy Who is itching for us to fail or sin so He can come down on us! We view Him as being against us. We view our relationship with Him as one of performance that leads to Him dribbling out a little grace on us. And this model of relationship with God could not be more inaccurate.
God is not against us; He is immeasurably for us.
God is not itching for us to fail; He is aching for us to succeed and enabling us to succeed.
God is not dribbling out grace; He is drowning us in grace. God is not dribbling out grace for our performance, rather we are making it our ambition to please Him because He has deluged us with grace.
Here is the great mystery: Jesus and His Bride have a relationship of immeasurable intimacy.
This is His doing and we are incapable of undoing it! It is a mystery but a joyous one!
The Church as the Bride in 2 Corinthians 11:1-4:
We are married to one Husband, and that is to Christ.
For us, as individual believers and as the corporate Bride of Christ, to seek life or love or meaning outside of Christ is idolatry. Yes, it is foolish and fruitless and harmful. But foundationally it is idolatry. It is a bitter betrayal of our Groom and it is a bitter forfeiture of our joy. He is the one Source of life and joy.
The Church as the Bride in Revelation 21:9-11:
Here the Church is called “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
As the corporate Church we are the Bride of Jesus, Who is the Groom. But we are here called the Bride of Jesus, who is the Lamb. Jesus in not only the Groom but He is also the Lamb Who gave His life for our salvation. He was arrested, beaten, tried, and crucified. During this whole time, He refused to call 12 legions of angels from His Father’s presence to rescue Him. He went silently as a powerless lamb to the slaughter. He was not powerless but He went to death that way in order to rescue His Bride.
Once the Lamb sacrificed for His Bride and rescued her, she became a thing of glory and beauty and brilliance—like a very costly gemstone.
Jesus was very clear about who His Bride could become if He was willing to be the sacrificial Lamb for her. He looked past the cross by faith to see Her perfected and glorious. It was all His doing and all at His expense. To make a massive understatement, we, His Bride, get great benefit!
The Church is the Bride of Christ. This is a metaphor with so much meaning and profound depth that we could not mine the depth!
The truth is that all human brides and grooms deteriorate as they age. That is not to say that their value is in any way demised or that they should in any way be less loved. Truthfully, they should be more loved. It is only to say that our physical bodies do not have the youth, beauty, and vibrancy that they once had.