Part 1: The Church In An Unfamiliar World by Rev David Devine
Part 2: God’s Flock by Rev Mark Wilkinson
Part 3: The Temple of God by Rev Marc Chan
Part 4: Family of God by Rev Meewon Yang
Part 5: God’s Field by Christine Wanstall
Part 6: Golden Lampstand by Peter Botross
BUV Devotion Part 7
Remember Who You Are: Bride of Christ
by Vicky Dyer
I remember about 10 minutes before my own wedding ceremony was to commence I was suddenly terrified. I grabbed my father’s hand, partly to receive comfort and encouragement, and partly so I couldn’t run away! I was about to publicly declare some life-long promises and was afraid of falling short of those high standards. I was nervous because I know that I as the bride, as well as the bridegroom, are human and therefore imperfect; we would each make mistakes and need to ask for forgiveness. However, I was not overcome by fear because I know that God is perfect. Because of God’s promises throughout the Bible, His character, and Jesus’ sacrificial death, I know that despite my imperfections I (as an individual), and all of us (as a group of believers) can be reconciled to God and to one another.
In the New Testament the Bride of Christ is a prominent symbol, and has been used as a metaphor for God’s people; with Christ referred to as the Bridegroom (Mark 2:19; Luke 5:34, Matthew 25:1-13). Through this image, Jesus is revealed to be faithful, loving, and committed to a covenant union with his church. However, the covenant relationship is not one way or passive. Paul explains to the church at Corinth that he is actively and deliberately preparing them to be joined to one husband, Christ, so that he might ‘present [them] as a pure virgin to Him’ (2 Cor 11:2-3). This choice of words illustrates his desire for a holy lifestyle among believers, most importantly, for the Corinthians to remain faithful to Christ and His gospel (1 Cor 15:1-4).
Nearly 2000 years later the Church, as a community of believers, remains betrothed (or engaged) to Christ. This means that while we can know Jesus personally now, we are kept physically separated from Jesus; and we should be actively preparing for being reunited in a heavenly wedding (1 Peter 1:13-16; Rev 19:7-9).
In one well known passage (Ephesians 5:22-33), Paul compares the union of husband and wife to that of Christ and the church. Paul noted that husbands should love and nurture their wives as their own bodies (v28), as an analogy for Christ’s care of the church (including both spiritual and physical needs).
Paul’s emphasis throughout Ephesians, is of reconciliation to God, of unity within the church and ultimately about love (Eph 2:11-2; 4:2-6)! All believers (including husbands and wives) are called to imitate Christ, who gave himself up for them out of love (Eph 5:1-2). Paul’s concern is not simply to dictate household roles and interactions, but to demonstrate to the churches how they should live while waiting for Christ’s return – that their daily lives might demonstrate God’s sacrificial, overwhelming, life-changing love (5:3-5, 22-33; 6:1-8).
Throughout past seven week series, we have reflected upon different images used in the Bible to describe what the church is called to be. The Biblical authors use many analogies not to cause confusion, but to illustrate this covenant relationship in a variety ways which their audiences could readily understand, regardless of their background. It is no more essential for me to be a bride, than it is for me to be a golden lampstand (Rev 1:12), in order to understand the richness this image can bring for us.
This image evokes for me a sense of joy, because while I know my local church, and all of Christendom, will fall short in our attempts to follow’s Paul’s exhortation to live a holy life, I have absolute confidence that the church will be loved, forgiven, cherished and provided for unconditionally. Sadly, many people have experienced the significant pain of marriage and other relationship breakdown. Humanity longs for the intimacy described between the church (bride) and Jesus (bridegroom) (John 3:29) but may not have experienced it or understand how it is possible to attain. God’s plan is for all believers to understand who they are and where they fit in His plan. For this reason it is essential that the church realise its value is in relation to Christ; that as His bride we are forever joined to Him and can have confidence that we will be presented ‘holy and blameless’ to God, through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (Eph 5:25-27). Then, the church can be confident to call out “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).
Some questions for personal and/or group reflection
1. Spend a few minutes quietly reflecting on the image of the Church as the Bride of Christ.
2. The Church today is made of diverse individuals, and currently we are not able to freely meet together. How can we reflect our identity as the Bride of Christ, especially during this period of disruption?
3. Are there any ways which you sense God could use you (as an individual), or your church/missional community, to promote and cultivate reconciliation to God and unity between believers?
I hope you find this devotion and the reflection questions useful. This is the conclusion of the devotion series.
BUV Church Health Consultant