Christ and the Church as the Bride for His Pleasure
Edward Robinson, Exmouth
There is a tendency on the part of some to regard church doctrine as academic in character and therefore of little practical bearing. This is not the case, as Paul clearly shows, "that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth", 1 Tim. 3. 15. The scope of such a verse, of course, is not confined to occasions when the church is convened, but regards the Christian as moving generally in such a sphere. There can be no doubt that the subject of Christ and the church occupies a large and important part in the writings of the apostle Paul, and is central to his teaching. The truth of the body here on earth as one with its Head in heaven came to him as a revelation through the voice of Christ in glory, "Why persecutes thou me?". It coloured the whole of his subsequent ministry: referring to the relationship between husband and wife, Eph. 5. 22-23, he uses this to illustrate that between Christ and the Church.
The church, as such, does not teach or preach, but in it are men gifted from the ascended Christ who serve in these ways. Rather it is now and will be eternally the great vessel of praise under the hand of Christ: "Unto him (God) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus through out all ages, world without end, Amen", Eph. 3. 21.
But additionally it is according to the purpose of God that it should be the bride of Christ for His own pleasure. Whilst the Church is not the subject of prophecy, nor mentioned in the Old Testament, there are typical allusions which afford much insight into this latter aspect. For example, the bride for Isaac, Rebekah, shows the divine care in the selection and forming of one suited in every way for the heavenly Bridegroom. Genesis 24 is full of great detail, suggesting the operations of the Holy Spirit (in figure, Abraham's servant) and His service at the present time in view of our presentation to Christ, a service of which we may often be unaware. The servant brings forth jewels and precious things for the adornment of the bride. Again, it is said of Jacob that he served seven years to win his bride, Rachel, and they seemed to him but as single days for the love he bore to her.
In regard to Esther we are told that in preparation for presentation to the king, (in contrast to the other women) "she required nothing but what Hegai the king's chamberlain . . , appointed", Esther 2. 15. So with the bride of Christ, the world's adornment, whether social, educational or political, can add nothing to that which is inwrought by the Spirit of God. Again, we find Abigail, married to Nabal, a churlish man; after his death, she became the wife of David, 1 Sam. 25. So is described the exercise of Romans 7 that "ye should be married to another", vv. 2, 3. The features of the first order of man (or of the law) are to have no place in our union with the true David.
But probably the most significant and instructive view of this union of Christ and the Church is afforded and foreshadowed very early in history, Gen. 2. 18, 21-24. Incidentally, Adam is the only type of Christ formally stated to be "the figure of him that was to come", Rom. 5. 14. That this section does have reference to this union (and is not just spiritual imagination) is fully authenticated by Paul, Eph. 5. 29-32. He there uses the same language as Genesis, "of his flesh, and of his bones", "I speak concerning Christ and the church". God had previously said, "it is not good that man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him", (his counter part). She is the love-gift of the Father to His beloved Son, entirely suited to Him. The deep sleep of Adam suggests the death of Christ,' in which the Church has its origin. The hymn writer expresses it thus:—
Out of Thy death has sprung A wondrous living throng ;
All. all to Thee belong, And in Thee live.
Bone of His bone (a structural idea) gives us to know that we are of His own order of Manhood, as the New Testament says, "For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one", Heb. 2. 11. Flesh of His flesh conveys the idea of beauty. She is to bring to His heart pleasure and satisfaction through an endless day. Such is the purpose of God, and our hearts may well be engaged in this waiting time to afford to Him something of the joy that was set before Him as going into death on our behalf.