Up to this point, we have looked at names that might be applied to the church as a whole as well as to individual members: “Christian/s,” “believer/s,” “saint/s,” and “child/ren or son/s of God.” The three remaining names we will note are used exclusively for the church as a whole. But this by no means indicates that they are less important, personal, or intimate. In fact, the term we examine today—bride of Christ—is one of the most intimate imaginable. As I write these words, I am preparing to go on a six-day trip and leave behind my bride of nearly thirty-nine years. It is at such times that the poignancy and tenderness of that term shine through. And it is surely the Lord’s intention that we understand this designation in that way.
A term designating purity. Ideally, a bride is a virgin and a model of virtue. Though such is sadly often far from the case in a natural marriage, the Lord does not want a similar failure in the spiritual lives of those He loves. Paul writes to the troubled church at Corinth: “I have espoused you to one husband [Jesus Christ], that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (II Cor. 11:2). The nuptials have yet to occur; and the consummation of the marriage, if you will, will take place when Christ returns in the clouds to catch away His Bride. Meanwhile, the Bride is to keep herself pure in every sense of that term. Paul tells the Corinthians that his particular fear is that any of the believers’ minds “should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Cor. 11:3). There is in this term then, a suggestion that believers, like a bride anxiously awaiting being united with her bridegroom, cling single-mindedly and single-heartedly to Christ and the truth of the gospel against any other suitors, or false teachers.
A term demanding exclusivity. “Forsaking all others, I take thee” is the true spirit, if not always the exact words, of the wedding vows a couple make to each other. So it is with Christ’s bride. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) is the vow of Christ’s Bride. There is “one Lord” (Eph. 4:5), she vows. One God, one Bridegroom, one Spouse, one Savior, one Lord. As Bride, the church declares that she owes neither love nor allegiance to any other. All she is and all she has belongs to Jesus Christ.
A term describing intimacy. What secrets an engaged couple begin to share. How vulnerable they make themselves. Weaknesses and faults that are carefully guarded from strangers and even the closest of friends are revealed to the beloved with the assurance that they will not be spurned or scorned, but that they will find understanding and help to overcome those failings. So the Bride confesses to Christ all her sins, sins that would make her blush or groan if told to anyone else (He already knows them anyway). And Christ cleanses her and assures her of His steadfast and infinite love. She goes to “the secret places of the stairs” (Song 2:14) and meets in intimate fellowship with her Lord. She pours out her heart to the Lord; and He pours out His love to her.
A term depicting fruitfulness. What promise there is for a wife-to-be. What hope for children and an expanding family. How many wait with almost unbridled enthusiasm to be mothers. And so it is for Christ’s Bride, the church. That Christ makes us His own is a promise of fruitfulness. There need never be sterility or stillbirths. But every child of God is promised a fruitful life if (to mix metaphors) he abides in the Vine. It is impossible for the Bride of Christ to remain fruitless if she cleaves to Him. “Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the [formerly] desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. Enlarge the tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left” (Isa. 54:1- 3a). Those words addressed to Israel well describe the abundant blessing promised the Bride of Christ—a life full of rich and blessed fruitfulness to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. To be a member of the Bride is to be promised a purposeful, productive life, that honors the Lord, edifies others, and blesses us as well as we walk faithfully in Him.
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