By Ron Bartanen
Among the descriptive terms used in the New Testament with reference to that body of people that we generally refer to as the church, none is more descriptive of our close relationship to Christ than that of a bride. In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul, while admonishing wives to be submissive to their husbands, and husbands to love their wives, illustrates their relationship to one another as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church. The husband is to be “the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (v. 23), but this headship is to be exercised in the spirit of Christ, as he further writes, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it” (v. 25). He anticipates the time when, at the return of Christ, He presents His bride to Himself as “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (v. 26).
The beauty and glory of the wedding-attire of the bride of Christ is not of her own doing, but of her husband’s. He has so designed the church that in spite of the deficiencies of those composing the church, it will, in that day, be seen as “a glorious church.” We would do well to consider why and how this could be so.
First, the church owes its existence to Christ. The passage in Eph. 5 declares that Christ “gave himself for it” (v. 25b). He purchased the materials that compose the church (the redeemed) with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Had Christ not shed His blood at Calvary, the church would be non-existent. Under another figure, He is the church’s builder (Matt. 16:18; Heb. 8:2). The church’s glory is a reflection of the glory of its builder.
Second, the glory of the church is seen in its head, Jesus Christ. The Lord’s church has no mere human, or council of men, as its head. As Paul wrote in Col. 1:18: “He is the head of the body, the church…that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
Third, the glory of the church is evident in the church’s foundation. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). The institutions of men, including religious institutions that are founded upon principles that are based upon the wisdom of the world are doomed to ultimate failure. Jesus’ parable of the two houses, one built upon a rock, and the other upon sand illustrate the need for building our lives and hopes upon Christ and His word, affirming that that which is built upon Him will stand the storm of God’s judgment, while those that ignore this foundation and build upon others will fall, and He said great would be its fall (Matthew 7:24-27).
Fourth, the church is glorious because of its glorious purpose. Paul wrote of its purpose when he said, “Unto him (Christ) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (Eph. 3:21). Through Christ, the redeemed glorify God as the people reconciled to God “in one body by the cross” (Eph. 2:16). Returning to Eph. 5, Christ is both the “head of the church, and he is the Savior of the body” (v. 23). The purpose of the church is to exist in this world as that body of people called out of the world to show forth the good news of salvation in Christ.
While the church is commonly vilified in the world, its glory will one day be evident. Among the closing visions of John on the Isle of Patmos is that of “the bride, the Lamb’s (Christ’s) wife” (Rev. 21:9). She is portrayed as a city, “the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God…” (21:10b-11a). A city is identified most of all by its inhabitants. The mansions in which we shall dwell (John 14:1-4) will be glorious, but also what we suffer for Christ’s sake personally is “ not worthy to b e compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).Those who shall partake of this glory are identified as those who are first sanctified and cleansed of sin “with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26). Have you surrendered yourself to Christ, and been added by the Lord to His glorious church? (Read Acts 2:36-47)