The Bride of Christ
Our correspondent makes a statement which must be investigated before we proceed any further in our research; it reads, “Paul speaks as a friend of the Bridegroom. See John 3:29, and note contrast 1 Corinthians 6:15-16. Paul speaks as: painfully anxious mother, loving father, friend of the Bridegroom.”
In regard to this statement we concur that Paul expressed his anxiety for the Thessalonians, for their spiritual development and care, as a mother might, he says, “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children” (“As a nurse would cherish her own children” J.N.D. 1 Thess. 1:7). He also manifests a mother’s concern for the saints at Galatia; he wrote to them saying, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). Scripture certainly supports the idea that Paul used, as he described himself, the simile of a mother in her concern for her children.
Furthermore, he also likens his relationship, his counsel, and his attitude toward God’s people to those of a father. To the Thessalonians he wrote, “Ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged everyone of you, as a father doth his children” (1 Thess. 2:11). To the Corinthians he wrote, “Though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). Paul, undoubtedly, was the spiritual father of the church at Corinth.
The first two parts of our correspondent’s assertion are as we have seen, well supported by Scripture, but what about the third? It reads, “Paul speaks as a friend of the Bridegroom.” We have searched in vain throughout the Pauline letters for any statement or allusion to support this contention. John the Baptist claimed to be a friend of the Bridegroom; he said, “The friend of the bridegroom which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled” (John 3:29). Nowhere in all Paul’s writings does he make any similar claim.
Since we know from history, and from his own statement, that Paul was the spiritual father of the Corinthian church, we should expect that as a father he would act toward her, write to her, and write about her; and this he does. It is not as a friend of the Bridegroom that he writes in 2 Corinthians 11:1-3, but as a spiritual father. The connotation of the entire passage presents Paul espousing the church at Corinth as a virgin daughter to Christ the one Husband. The picture is a beautiful one; let us not marr it by a human misconception.
Our correspondent writes, “2 Corinthians 11:2 does not declare church is bride, but rather is figure of speech (See 1 Corinthians 4:15. Galatians 4:19).” Yes, it is a figure of speech. There are many figures of speech in the Word of God used by the Holy Spirit to bring divine concepts within human comprehension. The church at Corinth was a building, a husbandry (1 Cor. 3:9), a sanctuary (1 Cor. 3:16), a letter (2 Cor. 3:2), a virgin (2 Cor. 11:2), and etc. All these are figures of speech and must therefore be understood within their own context, and not confused. Much difficulty arises from the mixing of the similes and metaphors used by the Divine Spirit.
To say, as does our correspondent, that “Scripture always uses figure of man to describe present Church body,” is to ignore other figures used by the Holy Spirit; as for example, the figure flock. The Lord Jesus said, as we have already noticed as we looked earlier into the many figures used to describe the Church: “I have other sheep which are not of this fold (Judaism): those also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one flock (the Church), one Shepherd” (John 10:16. J.N.D.).
The statement by our correspondent, “Scripture always uses figure of man to describe present Church Body,” is called in question by our consideration of 2 Corinthians 11:1-3. Here we have a feminine figure of at least part of the Church Body, if our correspondent means by his designation the Universal Church.
If it be argued that the local aspect of the church is altogether different from the Universal, we would be forced to reply, in accord with New Testament teaching, not in nature or in character. In her operation and testimony she may differ but not in essence. The local church is a facsimile of the Universal; she is a miniature of the mighty whole, which in essence is virgin, chaste and pure. “Holy and without blame before Him (in His presence) in love” (Eph. 1:4). “For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). “For both He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11).
Eve stood in the purity of innocence as she came from her Creator, but she was, nevertheless, deceived (2 Cor. 11:3). The Church’s state in Christ does not immunize her from the craftiness of Satan. Paul feared that the church of God at Corinth might be deluded as Eve. The comparison between Eve and the local church made in this passage substantiates the idea of the feminine picture of the Church.
The fact, to which our correspondent calls attention, that “the title ‘virgin’ may be used of either sex and indicates chastity and purity,” must not be used to divert from its contextual meaning. In Revelation 14:4, it is used in the masculine sense; but in 2 Corinthians 11:1-3, where the reference is to the church, it is used in the feminine sense.
It is worthy of note here that the spurious church, the satanic counterfeit, Christendom, is likened to an impure woman, not a virgin but a whore (Rev. 17:1; 19:2). The true Church is a virgin; the false church, a whore; the figure in both cases is feminine.