Sermon Date: Sep. 26, 2010
Sermon Title: The Bride of Christ
Sermon Text: Rev. 19:7-9; 1 John 3:2-3
Small Group Text: 2 Cor. 11:2-4
WE (THE CHURCH) ARE ENGAGED TO BE MARRIED In the New Testament, the bride imagery is used to indicate the great love God has for his church. The bride belongs to Christ, who is the Bridegroom (John 3:29). To understand what it means when the Bible portrays the church as the bride of Christ, we have to backup into the historical context within which this metaphor was written. In the ancient Jewish culture, it was customary for the father of the groom to negotiate a price for the bride – on the assumption that her marriage could be a substantial loss to her family. Once an agreement had been made, the prospective couple would share sips of wine from the same cup symbolically ratifying the covenant of marriage and indicating that 1) the groom would forever provide for the bride and even be willing to give his life for her if necessary, and 2) that the bride would forever live for her husband and always be faithful to him. From that moment on, the couple was engaged or “betrothed” and the bride was referred to as one who had been “bought with a price.” With this historical context in mind, the significance of the “last supper” in Luke 22:19-20 becomes more clear. Following the prescribed sequence of the Passover dinner, Jesus took the bread and giving thanks, said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” He then took a cup of wine, drank from it and passed it to the disciples saying “This cup is the new covenant (promise) in my blood, which is poured out for you.” No doubt, his disciples recognized the imagery as Jesus compared himself to the bridegroom making a covenant with his bride and indicating that he was willing to pay a costly price for his bride – even to the point of laying his life down for her. As the disciples drank from the same cup, each was symbolically sealing the betrothal/engagement acknowledging that he would live for Christ and signaling his undying commitment to the relationship. All the implications of this symbolic covenant may not have been clear in that moment, but over time the disciples of Christ began to understand the depth of Christ’s love and commitment to his bride, the church. His death on the cross became the price-paid for the bride. Jesus proved faithful to the marriage covenant as he sacrificially poured his life out for his bride – purchasing her with his own life’s blood – so that in Paul’s address to the church, Paul could write: You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Cor. 6:19-20
Now let’s return to the historical context of an ancient Jewish betrothal. In Jesus’ day, once the engagement had been formally confirmed, the groom would return to his father’s residence and begin to build new rooms onto his fathers house to accommodate his new bride. And evidently, it was the father’s prerogative to declare when the new rooms were ready for occupancy. Which sheds light on Jesus’ words to his disciples in response to their question of his return: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Matthew 24:36 In anticipation of his wedding day, the son would oversee the building process until his father would declare that the building was complete, then the groom could finally marry his bride and bring her to their new home. And here again we see the beautiful symbolism of Christ’s words reflecting the reality of the church as the bride of Christ. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:2-3 Similarly, Christ as the bridegroom is preparing a place for us—his bride. And he’s assured us that he will return at the time of the wedding to take us to his Father’s house to be with him forever. But here’s a practical question for the bride: What does the bride do in the interim? Once again we can learn from the Jewish custom of Jesus’ day. While the groom was off preparing a place for his bride, she was not sitting idly. In fact, her time and attention were focused on making herself ready for his return. That she would remain pure – faithful and true to her beloved – wasn’t even a question. Her days were spent preparing to be the kind of wife who would complement her husband’s vocation. She learned how to live in ways that would bring honor and praise to his public reputation. From the significant women in her life, she learned how to be a good wife and mother – doing everything she could to present herself as a beautiful and prepared bride when, at last, the bridegroom would come for her. When’s the wedding? Following this metaphor, the church is wedded to (eternally united with) the Bridegroom at the “second coming” when Christ returns for his bride. Read Revelation 19:6-9; 21:1-2. Here, the Apostle John is writing prophetically about the end of this age. Rejoicing reverberates throughout the world in response to the announcement that the groom is coming to claim the bride – and the bride has made herself ready (Matt. 25:1-13). A wedding is imminent. Once again, the historical context of the ancient Jewish wedding lends insight. The wedding of the bride and groom would typically be followed by the “wedding supper” – a feast of celebration lasting several-days (John 14:1-3). Revelation 19:9 looks forward to the “the wedding supper” coinciding with the second coming of Christ.
RECOGNIZE THERE ARE COMPETING SUITORS Typically, at a Jewish wedding, two people were assigned as “friends of the bridegroom” (John 3:29). Their responsibilities were many; but not the least of which was to ensure the moral purity of the bride. This was probably Paul’s heart toward the churches he founded. As a friend of Jesus, he longed for the moral and spiritual purity of the church until Christ’s return.
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.  But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Cor. 11:2-3 During the “church age” – the time intervening between Christ’s first and second coming – the church is to think of herself as a virgin bride waiting for her heavenly bridegroom. But while the church awaits Christ’s return, there will always be competing “lovers” who would distract the bride and attempt to draw her love and affection away from Christ. Who are they? In the common vernacular, Paul was concerned that church members were on the verge of being seduced by other love interests. Whether counterfeit doctrines of a false gospel or a preoccupation with materialism or pleasure or even one’s work and family, Paul knew there are myriad things that potentially wedge themselves between the believer and Jesus Christ. STAY FAITHFUL TO YOUR BELOVED How do I stay “engaged” during my engagement? Read again, Revelation 19:8 The fine linen with which Christ’s bride will be adorned are the “righteous acts of the saints.” These “acts” do not earn the church her “bride” status; rather, these acts refer to her preparation for marriage in anticipation of the wedding. The implications for the church are obvious. We, the church – and every individual believer – are to live in full awareness of Christ’s return. The overarching purpose of our lives should be to prepare – through “righteous acts” – to present ourselves as the best bride we can be on the day Jesus returns to take us to His fathers house. And as the bride of Christ, it is our responsibility to live in such a way that when people observe our lives, they know that we belong to Him. They know that our life commitment is to our bridegroom. We are to live our lives preparing ourselves for living forever in eternity with Him.