The Bride of Christ
The following excerpts are taken from a communication submitted to the Editor asking help relative to a subject quite controversial among some believers.
“…I have never heard a systematic study showing that the Church is the Bride of Christ; it is rather considered to be a fact.”
“…In Scripture the Bride is not mentioned from John 3:29 to Revelation 21:2 and 9, and in this latter verse, it is the Bride of the Lamb that is mentioned. The term Bride of Christ never appears in Scripture.”
“…According to Jeremiah 31:32, Israel as a nation became the wife of the Lord when she entered into relationship at Sinai.”
“…Paul speaks as a friend of the Bridegroom (John 3:29; note in contrast 1 Cor. 6:15-16). Paul speaks in the painful anxiety of a mother, the loving care of a father, and as the friend of the Bridegroom.”
“…Scripture always uses the figure of a man to describe the present Body - Church.”
“…Bride and Bridegroom, while in a sense are one, they are distinct. It is clear that we are members of Christ’s Body and therefore part of the Bridegroom (Husband) himself.”
“…The title virgin may be used for either sex, and indicates chastity and purity.” —R. S.
R. S. and all other believers must realize that to engage in proper and well-organized research, it is necessary that all important terms be defined, especially those terms under dispute.
Obviously, in the excerpts submitted by R.S. there are three terms which we must understand clearly: “wife,” “bride,” and “body.”
For the first two the Oxford Dictionary gives these definitions: A wife is a married woman especially in relation to her husband, and in this relationship she stands in contrast to a mistress or a concubine. A bride is a woman on her wedding day, and for some weeks or days before and after.
The word wife occurs frequently in both the Old and New Testaments, and in several different contexts. The word bride is rarely used in either Testament (9 times in the Old and 5 times in the New), and generally in a restricted sense.
Nowhere in the Old Testament, in which we have the origin, development, ascendancy, and decline of Israel, is that nation called the bride of the Lord. In contrast, she is repeatedly viewed as a wife, and even as a mother (Isa. 50:1).
This pictorial language is used mostly by the Major Prophets and occasionally by the Minor Prophets. Jeremiah actually ‘pictures Jehovah’s marriage to Israel and their wedding trip together: “Thus saith the Lord: I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown” (Jer. 2:2). Of a later stage in Israel’s history Isaiah has this to say, “Thy maker is thine husband; the Lord of Hosts is His name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 54:5). There can be little misunderstanding here; there was mutual love and esteem between Jehovah and Israel in those early times of their relationship. Would to God that such had continued!
The Lord through Jeremiah describes the sin and departure of the nation, and does so in the terms of marital relationship. “Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel” (Jer. 3:20).
Hosea was instructed to do, as a sign to Israel, that which would be repulsive to any man of character, to marry an impure woman, an harlot. All this was done to show in figure the unfaithfulness of the nation. “Go take thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms. for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord” (Hos. 1:2).
Ezekiel further describes Israel’s departure from the Lord. The whole of his sixteenth chapter should be read in this connection: “The word of the Lord came unto me saying, Son of Man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations… As a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband… Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted Me in all these things; behold, therefore I also will recompense thy way upon thine head” (Ezek. 16:1, 31-32, 43).
Through Jeremiah the Lord clearly states that the sin of His ancient people was that of spiritual adultery, idolatry. “And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks” (Jer. 3:9).
So grievous was this sin of departure from Jehovah, this sin of idolatry, that we read, “I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery, I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce” (Jer. 3:8). We are informed that the technical fulness of these words suggests that they were actually the customary formula with which every writing of divorcement began.
In this the Lord distinguished between Israel, the northern Kingdom, and Judah. Although Judah witnessed the severity of God’s judgment upon her sister Israel, she continued in her sin until the Lord charges her with divorcing herself from Him and selling herself into slavery (Isa. 50:1).
In spite of all this, the day will come when Israel as a nation will be recovered and grace will triumph through righteousness. The Lord predicts, “I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness” (the place of their wedding trip — Jer. 2:2). “And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call Me Ishi (my husband), and shall call Me no more Baali (my Lord). For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name” (Hos. 2:16-17).
Israel’s relationship to the Lord is clearly that of a wife to her husband, a relationship entered into by the Lord out of love. Shortly after her bridal days, Israel fell into spiritual adultery (Jer. 2:2-3). For this sin the northern kingdom, Israel, was divorced (Jer. 3:8). The kingdom of Judah failed to learn by this lesson, and is charged with divorcing herself by her conduct (Jer. 3:10 and Isa. 50:1). Israel’s present relationship to the Lord is that of a divorcee, separated from Him but still using His name.