Recently, I have written about the church as a spiritual building made up of living stones and as a body made up of individual part belonging to the whole, and today I would like to consider a third figure which teaches us important truths about the nature and ministry of the church. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul describes the church at Corinth as a bride who has been betrothed to her husband, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he presents himself as a father who has found a suitable husband for his daughter. Simon Kistemaker offers this perspective:
In the oriental culture of that day, an engagement was equivalent to marriage without consummation. The betrothal period lasted for one year, during which bride and bridegroom prepared for the wedding ceremony. From the day of her betrothal, the woman legally was the wife of her future husband but she remained a virgin until the wedding day. In addition, the engagement might not be broken. If this happened, it was considered a divorce. Only death might end an engagement. Unfaithfulness of either party was regarded as adultery and had to be disciplined accordingly. The bride had to remain a virgin to be presented to her husband. So Paul exerts himself to keep the church pure from doctrine contrary to the gospel as he strives to present her to Christ.
The figure of marriage teaches us that the church is called to be faithful to her bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Love for our Lord is completely incompatible with love for this present, evil world, and James 4:4 compares the love of the world with spiritual unfaithfulness, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” Clearly, Paul’s jealousy for the purity of the Corinthian church was well-founded, and we would do well to share in that same divine jealousy for the truth of the gospel and the purity of the church, beginning with our own personal commitment to holiness.
But, like every bride, we are to prepare for the coming wedding celebration, which is described for us in Revelation 19:6-9:
And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”
Someday the betrothal period will end, and all heaven will rejoice upon the final defeat of all the enemies of God. In that day the church, which prepared herself through obedient discipleship, will experience fully the glory and joy of salvation with her beloved spouse, Jesus Christ.