The Bride of Christ
Our examination in our last number of 2 Corinthians 11:1-3, certainly indicated that the Church, in spite of the assertion to the contrary by our correspondent, is pictured throughout the New Testament in the feminine, and that both by comparison and contrast she is virgin in her purity before God. We must now investigate the possible meaning and application of Ephesians 5:24-33.
Obviously, the Apostle is dealing with sundry exhortations and these direct his thoughts into the matter of domestic relations. As an illustration of the love of a husband to his wife, he uses the picture of Christ’s love for the Church, and as an illustration of the wife’s submission to her husband, he uses the submission of the Church to Christ. He draws a perfect parallelism between a husband and his wife and Christ and His Church. The connotation of the entire passage gives another picture of the Church in the feminine.
Part of the statement of Chrysostom might well be quoted: “Do you wish your wife to obey you, as the Church obeys Christ? … even if you suffer all for her, you have not yet done anything that Christ did: for you do this being already joined in marriage to her, but He suffered for a Bride who rejected and hated Him … He brought to His feet her who rejected Him and despised Him, with wonderful care and affection.”
The language of this Ephesian passage makes an allusion to the building of Eve and her presentation to Adam, and the affectionate welcome he extended to her. Eve was brought to Adam in the purity of innocence; the Church will be presented to Christ in the purity of positional sanctification. God, the Creator, brought Eve to Adam; Christ the Sanctifier will present the Church to Himself.
It might be proper to digress and notice carefully the words, “That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word.” Generally, this statement is interpreted to mean that this is a process being now experienced by the Church. It has been stated that here we have the answer to the prayer of the Lord in the Upper Room: “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). It is commonly taught that the sanctifying results from the Church having been already cleansed.
This interpretation is seen to be faulty when it is noticed that both verbs, to sanctify and to cleanse, are in the same tense. Dr. Moule comments, “The Church was decisively “sanctified,” separated from the claim and dominion of sin unto God, when she was decisively “cleansed,” accepted as guiltless.” This was accomplished by the washing (lit. laver) of the Word at conversion. See Titus 3:5. The logic of all this is seen as we return again to the interesting parallelism. Eve was brought to Adam pure and innocent; the Church will be presented to Christ by Himself, for He is the only cleansing agent, pure and sanctified.
When Eve was brought to Adam, he said, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). The Holy Spirit applies this statement to the Church, but with a delicate and significant adaptation: “We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.” More literally this would read, “We are limbs of His body, out of His flesh and out of His bones.” Our divine life is derived from Christ, the Last Adam. As Eve was built from a rib taken from Adam during a deep sleep she was a partaker of his very nature; even so, out of the death of Christ the Church has been built; she is a partaker of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).
That the presentation of the Church as a Bride to her heavenly Bridegroom in future seems clear from similar passages in the New Testament: “Knowing that He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you” (2 Cor. 4:14). “That I may present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight” (Col. 1:22). “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). Surely, the thought here is the presentation to her Bridegroom of a pure Bride at the time of their marriage, an event yet future.
These studies were commenced with an open mind, a readiness to accept an alternative, but the more the study is pursued, the more it is evident that the Spirit of God does imply that the Church is the Bride of Christ. Notwithstanding, we shall continue our studies next month.