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The Church as the Bride of Christ

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The Church of God is the family of God—made up of Christians who are the children of God the Father and “brothers” of Jesus Christ (1 John 3:1-2 1 John 3:1-2 1 Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
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; Hebrews 2:11-12 Hebrews 2:11-12 11 For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 Saying, I will declare your name to my brothers, in the middle of the church will I sing praise to you.
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, NIV). The Father desires that all people ultimately become His children, and parent-child and sibling relationships on the human level were intended to portray this greater spiritual reality.

But there is another family relationship that also pictures a greater spiritual reality—that of marriage. Human marriage between a husband and wife was intended to portray the marriage of Jesus Christ to the Church. Individually, Christians are Christ’s brethren. But collectively they constitute His Bride, now betrothed or engaged to Him and later to join Him in a divine marriage relationship for all eternity.

Human marriage was instituted with the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, then He opened the flesh in the man’s side and took from him a rib, from which He made Eve to be a wife—a partner suitable for and complementing the man. When God presented her to him, Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23 Genesis 2:23And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
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). In essence, Eve was part of Adam—of his very body.

God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 Genesis 2:24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall join to his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
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). In one sense this refers to an actual physical joining in sexual union. It is immediately noted that they were both naked without shame (Genesis 2:25 Genesis 2:25And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
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). But it also figuratively refers to a joining of lives in profound oneness. Jesus said, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh” (Matthew 19:6 Matthew 19:6Why they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
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).

Numerous verses refer to the Church of God as the Body of Christ, the individuals making it up being likened to the various parts of a body (Romans 12:4-5 Romans 12:4-5 4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
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; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 12 For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now has God set the members every one of them in the body, as it has pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 No, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God has tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked. 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
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; Ephesians 1:22-23 Ephesians 1:22-23 22 And has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all.
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; Ephesians 4:12 Ephesians 4:12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
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; Colossians 1:24 Colossians 1:24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:
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). And Jesus is the “head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18 Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
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). This is why the husband is the head of the wife in earthly marriage.

The apostle Paul explains this physical relationship and divine spiritual relationship in Ephesians 5:22-33 Ephesians 5:22-33 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
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: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.

“For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Clearly, human marriage is intended to represent the ultimate marriage relationship. The joining as one flesh on the physical level has a spiritual parallel in the special and intimate relationship Christ shares with His people. As Paul further explained, “He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17 1 Corinthians 6:17But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.
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).

Yet, as mentioned, those in the Church have not yet entered into the fullness of the marriage relationship with Christ. They are currently betrothed to Him, with the responsibility of remaining spiritually pure. Paul told some of those he had helped to convert, “For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2 2 Corinthians 11:2For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
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).

And when Jesus Christ at last returns, it will be declared: “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” (Revelation 19:7 Revelation 19:7Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready.
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).

The New Covenant, the covenant to which followers of Jesus Christ pledge themselves, is in fact a marriage covenant. This New Covenant had been promised to ancient Israel long before Christ came in the flesh (Jeremiah 31). It was necessitated by the fact that the nation had violated the terms of the Old Covenant, which God had entered into with Israel at Mount Sinai—”My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:32 Jeremiah 31:32Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was an husband to them, said the LORD:
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). So the Old Covenant was likewise a marriage covenant.

Israel was thus God’s Bride, and it is important to understand that the One the Israelites knew as God in the Old Testament period was the One who was later born as Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 10:4 1 Corinthians 10:4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
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and our free booklets Who Is God? and Jesus Christ: The Real Story ). The Bride of Christ was therefore Israel, but the nation broke her marriage vows—even worshipping other gods, which God looked on as spiritual adultery and harlotry (Leviticus 17:7 Leviticus 17:7And they shall no more offer their sacrifices to devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever to them throughout their generations.
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; Jeremiah 3:1-6 Jeremiah 3:1-6 1 They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return to her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, said the LORD. 2 Lift up your eyes to the high places, and see where you have not been lien with. In the ways have you sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and you have polluted the land with your prostitutions and with your wickedness. 3 Therefore the showers have been withheld, and there has been no latter rain; and you had a whore’s forehead, you refused to be ashamed. 4 Will you not from this time cry to me, My father, you are the guide of my youth? 5 Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, you have spoken and done evil things as you could. 6 The LORD said also to me in the days of Josiah the king, Have you seen that which backsliding Israel has done? she is gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there has played the harlot.
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).

The Old Covenant terminated with Jesus Christ’s death. Resurrected, though, Christ still intends to marry Israel but under a New Covenant—a new marriage agreement. This covenant is for all people, but all must become Israelites spiritually through Christ. The Church is spiritual Israel—the forerunner in the New Covenant relationship. (For more on this, see our free book The New Covenant: Does It Abolish God’s Law?  )

God also spoke in the Old Testament of being married to the city of Jerusalem, which was representative of all Israel (Ezekiel 16). Likewise, the future New Jerusalem is referred to as “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Revelation 21:9-10 Revelation 21:9-10 9 And there came to me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come here, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife. 10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
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). This is because it will be made up of all who are faithful to God—being the eternal dwelling of God and His people. Consider that the Church itself is called “a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22 Ephesians 2:22In whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
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)—as the Father and Christ live within its members through the Holy Spirit.

May we all remain faithful today, looking forward with anticipation to a joyful eternity of perfect union with Jesus Christ in the family of God!

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