In recent weeks we’ve been thinking about God the Holy Spirit and about Church, that great group of people past, present and future, all over the world and in heaven who trust and follow Jesus Christ. One Jesus and one Church indwelt by one Holy Spirit! The Bible gives us a number of pictures of what Christ’s Church is and should be.
We’ve considered the Church as the ‘Body of Christ’, many different members with various functions, gifts and ability but united with one life-giving Spirit and one ‘Head’ directing operations – that’s Jesus Himself.
Last week we thought about the Church as the living ‘house’ or ‘temple’ of God, all Christians being the ‘living stones’ built together on the teaching of the prophets and apostles with Jesus being the chief ‘Cornerstone’. The Spirit dwells among God’s worshipping people when we base everything we do on Jesus’ teaching and example in the Bible.
Today we have another picture suggested by scripture and it is that the Church is the ‘Bride’ of Christ. Old Testament prophets spoke of God being like a husband to the nation of Israel. The New Testament builds on this idea of God’s people being betrothed or married to our Lord. Jesus is described as a ‘Bridegroom’ therefore His Church is His ‘beloved’, the Bride in whom He delights.
Jewish weddings in NT times were different from how we do things nowadays. Here, the groom and his family and guests arrive first and wait and the last to arrive is the bride. In 1st century Palestine it was the other way around. The bride prepared herself and waited at home until the Bridegroom came to bring her to his parents’ house to begin the ceremony and celebrations.
This makes sense of Jesus’ parable of the bridesmaids who are waiting for the arrival of the Groom so that things can get underway. Jesus is teaching His Church to live in readiness for His coming in glory to judge the living and the dead, bring a final end to all evil and gather His precious people to His Father’s heavenly home. This will be the climax of the ages, the end of human history as we’ve known it. People need to get ready, we need to be prepared.
Those who are living a sinful life, disobedient to God’s holy Law can expect to be judged and condemned! At a fundamental level Jesus’ parable is an evangelistic alarm bell of warning – get ready, the day is coming, if you haven’t made peace with God already, do it now, while you still have the chance!
That being said, our scripture readings today give Christians a very beautiful picture of encouragement and assurance. Let me ask you, do you think you’re worth much? Do you feel precious? Are you priceless? Are you worthy of sacrifice? Do you know anyone who’d be willing to die for you? Wait! Someone already has!
In Ephesians 5 v 25 the Apostle Paul writes, ‘Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy …’. On the cross of Calvary Jesus as good as said, ‘I don’t want eternity without my beloved. I lay down my life that she might be saved and purified and made fit for my Father’s house forever!’
Are we Christians, members of Christ’s Church? Then understand we are beloved, treasured by our Saviour!
There is healing in this. We may have been undervalued even abused by others. Our own sin and failure may plague our conscience and tempt us toward self-doubt and loathing, but the Son of God calls us His beloved and suffered that we might be forgiven and welcomed in God’s family.
Such generous love is rejuvenating, intoxicating. It makes us want to sing! It makes us want to live! The Christian religion has always had this element of rejoicing and thanksgiving as we bask each day in the redeeming love of Jesus.
This makes us live our lives with a sense of anticipation. There will be trouble and heartache in the short-term, Jesus told us to expect that, but we are people who are looking forward eagerly to a wedding! Ours!
The bride is waiting, longing for the time when her husband will come for her and the two will become one. Love will be shared, consummated, celebrated and enjoyed as long as they both shall live. Christians are looking forward eagerly to welcoming our returning Lord, to meeting our Saviour face to face, and resting in the shelter of His love forever with no spoiling barrier of sin.
And there’s the thing, the Bride has eyes only for her Husband. She has no interest in others. For Him she will keep herself pure. She will want to make herself as attractive as possible, pleasing for Him.
The Church, as we await our Lord the heavenly Bridegroom must seek to be beautiful in His eyes with words, actions and attitudes that conform to all that He loves and reveals in His Word.
The Church is the ‘Bride’ of the Lord Jesus. We are His beloved, those for whom He laid down His life.
We are living in anticipation of His coming to bring us home, to being with Him forever.
And so for Him, we keep ourselves pure and unspoilt,
giving Him the praise and the glory.