The Bridegroom & Bride

relationshipA few years ago a Russian newspaper reported a light-hearted poll of 100 Soviet households. In 90 of the homes, the wife described herself as the head of the family–and the husband agreed. In nine families the husband said he was head of the household, but the wife disagreed. The only husband whose wife named him as head of the family was told by the newspaper that he had won an award. When asked to select his prize, he turned to his wife and asked: “What shall I choose, Maria?”

If Christ is the groom, then who is his bride? The synoptic Gospels don’t really answer that question, but the rest of the New Testament does. And the answer probably doesn’t offer much help to people hoping Jesus’ marital status could shift the debates over women in ministry or the definition of marriage in a contemporary society where political correctness is accepted and God’s commands are debated. In Ephesians 5 (one of the more controversial passages of the Bible), the apostle Paul tells his readers, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” Christ’s wife, at least according to Paul, is the church; all believers—not an individual human woman.

That the church is Jesus’ bride gets confirmed in Revelation, the final book of the Bible, which serves as a prophecy for the end of the world. In this apocalyptic vision, Jerusalem, a proxy for God’s people as a whole, is described as “a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Later the narrator says, “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.'” Here, the wife is again Jerusalem, and the Lamb is Jesus.

The image of Christ as groom and the church as bride infuses Christian theology and writing. Pastor and best-selling author Timothy Keller preaches frequently on the topic, including a sermon called “The True Bridegroom,” where he compares God to a husband whose wife (the church) is constantly challenging on him. A classic hymn includes these lines in its opening verse:

The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord / She is his new creation by water and the word. / From heaven He came and sought her to be his holy bride.” Countless books have been written meditating on what the Bible means when it calls Christ a groom and the church his bride.

The answer is in a simple Ephesians 5 text but our culture does not want to accept it. So does that make God wrong and political-culture persuasiveness correct?

Political correctness and political party jockeying for votes want all differences between men and women eliminated. Stay at home dad and working mom is more readily accepted then the centuries old norm of mom at home and dad works to pay the bills and maintain the family standard of living.

Why does the Word of God even mention Ephesians 5:21- e.o.c. if it is so hotly debated in so many cultures; the exception being Islam? Why is not that previous of verses 15 – 21 included in this discussion? Are they distinctly different context than 21 forward? A different chapter but mismarked in our translations? Topics too confusing? Instructions that no longer apply?

I am going to make this somewhat simple for all of us and let your own knowledge and understanding take on it be the dominant factor: it is significant that the Bible never says, “Husbands, get your wives to submit to you.” That is not your responsibility, men! It never commands the husband to be the head of his household. Rather, it states it as a fact in the course of discussing the wife’s role. What God’s Word says to the wife is her responsibility.

In other words, it is not God’s responsibility to get individual humans to submit to Jesus as head of the body (church) or the church to submit itself to Jesus as the head of the church. It is up to us as individuals and the church as a God-centered part of the body of Christ to do as it commands. If it was God’s job to force submission, then Israel never would have gone astray. If it was up to Jesus to force submission of his church, then there never would have been the 7 churches discussed in Revelation 1, 2, 3.

“Submission” in English is only a shadow of the Greek and Aramaic definition. One of its synonym’s is “to be open minded.” I close with Isaiah 55:8…The LORD says: “My thoughts and my ways are not like yours…”

Dr. JStarkcropped-minijim1

 

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