The Bride Of Christ
The examination of the figures of speech used in the New Testament to describe the Church forms an interesting part of our investigation into who or what the Bride of Christ is.
Our correspondent states in his communication, and we quote his exact words, inserting only the articles for clarity, “Scripture always uses the figure of (a) man to describe (the) present Body, (the) Church. Ephesians 1:22 to 2:22: Goal is to make one new man. This would be a contradiction, to say this man was the wife of Ephesians 5.”
Let us first search the Scriptures to see whether or not they use other figures than that of a man.
The Church is a flock (John 10:16; 21:15-25. Acts 20:28. 1 Peter 5:2). Believers of this era could not be confined within the walls of Judaism; they must be led out of such a restricted area. The Lord Jesus said, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd.” The words in the last clause should be rendered, “One flock, and one Shepherd.” Dr. Alford’s comment reads, “The one flock is remarkable — not one fold, as characteristically, but erroneously rendered by A.V. — not one fold, but one flock: no one exclusive enclosure of an outward Church, but one flock, all knowing the one Shepherd (Heb. 13: 20. 1 Pet. 2:25).
The Church is a temple (Eph. 2:21. 1 Cor. 3:16. 2 Cor. 6:16): In the marginal reading of the R.V. for temple we read, “Into a holy sanctuary.” God is enshrined there.
The Church is a priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5-9) and Christ is the Great High Priest (Heb. 2:17; 3:1; 8:1; 10:21).
The Church is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17. Gal. 5:15) and Christ is the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45).
The Church is a household (Eph. 2:19. 1 Pet. 4:17) and God is the Father over that house. There is a similar figure in Hebrews 3:6 where Christ is seen to be over His own house.
The Church is a Body and Christ is the Head (Eph. 1:22). This metaphor suggests not only that each member is vitally united to the Head, but that they are controlled by the Head.
The Church is a building (Eph. 2:20. 1 Pet. 2:4-5) and Christ is the Foundation and Chief Corner Stone; all His children are living stones built into the spiritual structure.
Let us now examine the figure of the new man mentioned in our correspondence. It appears only in this sense in Ephesians 2:15. In this passage, the words, “For to make in Himself,” literally mean, “in order to create in Him.” Here we are confronted by a new creation. This figure is used in 2 Corinthians 5:17 of the individual believer; here it is used of the entire community of the saints of this era. Christ is not only the Head of the material creation but Creator as well. We read, “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). In this material creation God created a man; that man fell and became so sinful that God repented that He had made him. The animosity and hatred between Jew and Gentile was only a proof that man was really fallen. In the new, the spiritual creation God removes the bitterness and enmity and creates a new man, one in which there is no antagonism but only peace.
The general subject of this passage is reconciliation. God reconciles Jew and Gentile racially, and then spiritually He reconciles both unto Himself. The new man is the figure of speech the Lord uses to picture for us oneness in the Body of Christ.
The general subject of his passage in Ephesians is reconciliation; God reconciles Jews and Gentiles in Christ, and also reconciles both to God. We have, therefore, both racial and spiritual reconciliation.
To press any metaphor beyond the meaning supplied by the context can only lead to an erroneous conclusion. The same logic as employed by our correspondent also makes other metaphors appear similarly incongruous. For example, could the flock of Christ, referred to throughout the New Testament, be the new man of Ephesians two? Or could the temple be the household, or the priesthood the Body?
The failure to interpret figurative language by its context has led to the erroneous Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. The words of Christ, “He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me” (John 6:27), must be understood in their immediate context. Consequently, we must call in question the statement that God always uses the figure of a man to describe the Body of Christ; obviously, this is not the case.
Let us close this part of our investigation with the warning given by Dr. Angus in his volume, The Bible Rand Book:
“In order to determine the sense of the figurative language of Scripture, the rule of attention to the context…must be carefuly observed. That a given expression is figurative is sometimes stated or implied, the meaning being then appended. But sometimes it is necessary to look to the general argument or allusions of the passage…
“It is needful, in these and many other instances to pay regard to the purpose and context of the passage. This needs much discrimination, and there is no more fertile source of error than that which arises from misapplied symbols.”
— J. G.