Many believers have likely heard the term “bride of Christ’. However, grasping what that phrase means and how it relates to the corporate Body of believers to include what is required of individual believers who make up the corporate Body. So with all that said, what is this being the bride of Christ really all about and why in the world does it matter to my everyday life as a Christian and how I relate to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and fellow believers? In order to understand what it means to be the bride of Christ, it is first helpful to see how Scripture describes the bride to first understand the characteristics that Scripture attributes to the bride. In this post, we will focus on the necessity for the bride to be holy and how that plays out again within the construct of the bride individual and the bride corporate.
Scripture declares the need for the bride to be holy. Ephesians 5:25-27 states “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Let’s focus on the characteristic of what it means to be without stain or wrinkle, often translated as without spot or blemish. Despite what some may think, being holy or without stain or wrinkle, spot or blemish is not speaking of perfection in this life. In reality, what the Apostle Paul is referring to, being the learned Hebrew scholar that he was is the Hebrew word tamiym. This is a word used over 90 times in the Old Testament and means complete, whole, entire, sound, or mature. In Genesis 6:9 states “This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” Now this does not mean Noah was perfect and without sin. The Hebrew word translated perfect is tamiym. In Genesis 17:1, God told Abraham “walk before Me and be blameless.” Once again, the word translated as blameless is tamiym. Even a cursory review of the life of Abraham will reveal he was not perfect. What God desired was maturity, a desire to become closer to Him. This is the essence of what it means to be tamiym. Through the process of sanctification and the power of the Holy Spirit, believers can become tamiym, without spot or blemish.
How does one become tamiym? Good works, hard work, luck of the draw, clean living? Let’s return to Ephesians 5:25-27. Paul speaks of Christ giving Himself up for His bride doing what exactly? Christ is making her holy (again a clear reference to tamiym) by “the washing with water through the word.” I Corinthians 6:11 states “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Ps. 19:7 states “The law of the Lord is perfect (tamiym), refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” It should be rather clear the Word of the Lord is tamiym, it washes us and thus there is something important about the word and the concept of tamiym in relation to what it means to be holy as the bride of Christ.
It is readily apparent God wants a bride that is tamiym, mature, without spot or wrinkle. How does one work towards becoming tamiym?
When Psalm 19:7 speaks of “converting the soul”, many have attributed that as the act of salvation. In reality, what this passage is speaking of is the impact that washing oneself in the water of the Word, which has been demonstrated to be tamiym (perfect), will have in the life of the believer. It will literally “convert” or change the soul, more appropriately translated as nephesh, the entirety of what constitutes an individual namely their mind, will, and emotions from being simple (Hebrew word pĕthiy – naïve, simple, foolish) to being tamiym. James 1:2 speaks of this process by stating “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” The bride of Christ is called to be mature and complete. Part of how that is accomplished is by spending time in the Word of God, the source of wisdom.
Let us heed the words of Hebrews 6:1-3: “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.” Notice once again the call for maturity. It is through the Word of God that spiritual maturity can be found, the place where the bride of Christ can daily wash herself in the sanctifying and cleansing power of God’s word in order to convert our nephesh from being naïve to being wise in things of the Lord. This is a requirement and characteristic of the bride of Christ, that of seeking God’s paniyem (His face) by devouring the Word of God. Do we desire to be so close to God through the reading and study of His word that his taniym law is so written on our hearts that the glory of God shines through us in every word and deed we do to the extent we are truly a light on a lampstand or a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden? After all that is a characteristic of what it means to be the bride of Christ, a longing for a Word from our bridegroom!
This of course begs the question as to how maturity can be accomplished, specifically maturing in the things of God and His Word. Can that be accomplished solely through personal Bible study outside the fellowship of a local body of believers under the leadership of a godly pastor committed to teaching the things of God? If that were the case, one has to immediately answer why the early church did not approach Bible study in that way. We find in Acts 2:42 that the early believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Was that devotion merely a personal time of Bible study or was it accomplished in a larger group of fellow believers? It is clearly the latter.
Part of becoming tamiym is the essential element of coming together as the corporate bride to devote ourselves to being instructed in the life giving bread found in God’s Word. We have already noted that the Word of God is a vital aspect of the believer moving from a place of simplicity to that needed place of maturity. Throughout this series on the Church, we have discussed the increasingly popular lone-ranger approach to Church. Such a concept is completely foreign to the teaching of the entirety of Scripture. As the bride, we are called to koinonia (fellowship) whereby we can pray for one another, meet one another’s needs, and feast on the bread of God’s Word all for the explicit purpose of spurring one another towards love and good deeds in order to share the powerful message of the gospel to a lost and hurting world. We come together as individuals to make up the corporate bride, each presenting the gifts God has granted us with the goal of glorifying Him. Such an approach truly demonstrates a people who understand what it means to be the beloved Bride of Christ for glorifying Him is what loving God and loving others is all about according to Scripture.
Those who reject coming together as the corporate bride, reject the need for spiritual growth as an individual that feeds into the larger community of believers nor do they have a desire to build up the bride or to spur fellow believers towards love and good deeds. They also ignore the reality that coming together in koinonia is an act of courage as it crucifies self for the needs of fellow believers. They reject the reality that church history demonstrates the vital need for believers to be the bride of Christ in a corporate sense. Their selfish approach to community rejects the necessity to help others within the body, whether in the local setting of believers or those across the globe.
Those who truly understand that Scripture commands us to gather as well as the command to be tamiym and holy will grasp the beauty of what it means to be the Bride of Christ.
Is it too hard to ask of ourselves to gather together as His bride knowing that in doing so we show our love for the One who did so much for us? We really have a clear choice here. We either obey God or we disobey. As the bride, obedience leads to maturity while disobedience keeps us in that place of immaturity, self-centered and prideful. Loving Christ and others is best accomplished within the confines of a local community of believers, the Bride of Christ.
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