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Loving Jesus' Beloved

By Michael Roop

This blog is part four in a four-part series on the local church. Read parts one through three here.

So far, we have seen Paul use the metaphors of body and building to describe the nature of the “ekklesia,” the church Jesus is building on the foundation of Peter’s confession in Matthew 16. The third and final metaphor speaks to the intimate love Jesus has for His church, which Paul describes as Jesus’ bride.

In Ephesians 5, in the midst of instructing husbands how to love their wives, he cites the famous wedding passage from Genesis 2: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Paul then makes a startling statement about this verse: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

The oneness found in marriage between a man and a woman is a living, breathing picture of the oneness the church has with Jesus Christ. The intimacy, trust, affection, vulnerability, and tender care of a faithful husband is ours to know in its perfect form from Jesus. This explains Paul’s admonition to husbands, that they love their wives toward the goal of presenting her sanctified, holy, blameless. This is Jesus’ goal for His church, and the reason He made so great a sacrifice for her.

This marriage metaphor originates in John 14. During His last conversation with His disciples before going to the cross, Jesus tells His disciples, “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” This language clearly plays on the engagement and marriage process of the day, promising a return to receive His bride and consummate the marriage toward an eternity of dwelling with Him.

The implications for involvement in the local church are clear: we cannot say we love Jesus and disdain His bride! If anyone came to me telling me how much our friendship means to them, but then turned around and badmouthed my wife, two things would be apparent. First, that person has not met my wife! And second, we no longer have a working friendship. You cannot ignore or disdain my wife and have a good relationship with me. Nor can we willfully operate apart from the local church and claim to love Jesus.

This isn’t to say that the church is objectively beautiful, or that it lacks character flaws. Far from it! Jesus didn’t die for the church because she was beautiful, He died to make her beautiful, primarily as an object of His love. This means we will never find commitment to our local challenging. It simply means we must agree with Christ, through the Holy Spirit, that she remains worthy of our love because we love Jesus.

In the end, we’re told the return of Jesus will be celebrated by a wedding feast (Revelation 19). The bride of Jesus will indeed be presented sanctified, holy, blameless - clothed in white robes that are the righteous deeds of the saints. As we wait for that day, we must continue in our love for Jesus’ bride, choosing to see her as Jesus does, and loving her for His sake.

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