The Glory of Christ and His Church—The Bride of Christ
The last few months, I’ve been examining the book of Ephesians. It could be argued that the book of Ephesians is a “high water mark” in understanding the glory, majesty, and authority of both Christ and His Church.
I’ll finish chapter five today, looking at the mystery of Christ and His Church relative to the metaphor of a husband and wife. I’ll finish with some thoughts on love and marriage.
Paul unveils the “mystery” of the Church as no other letter does. God’s “secret” intention is revealed in Ephesians. Consider:
Through Christ, God has revealed the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9-10), to gather all things together in Christ—in Heaven and on Earth.
Through the death and resurrection of Christ, God’s enemies have been defeated:
“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.” (Eph. 1:19-21 NLT)
This revelation—first, that Christ’s authority is now supreme in the universe over all powers, and secondly, that this same power that raised Christ to this position of authority now works also “in us who believe”—is so important for believers.
This understanding does not come through human reasoning, but through what the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures reveal to us. He reveals what is not known or seen (1 Cor. 2:9-10).
God’s intent to form the spiritual body of Christ (i.e., the Church) is to express the fullness of Christ on Earth; “…His body, the Church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way” (Eph. 1:22-23 CEB).
Further, in Christ, God has created one New Humanity by uniting one people—both Jew and Gentile—as one (Eph. 2:11-15).
The mystery of Christ is two-fold. First, that the Gentiles (or non-Jewish people) would be partakers of God’s promises to His covenant people. Secondly, that the Bride of Christ would reign presently and in eternity with Christ. The Church, the Bride of Christ, reveals to defeated powers the glory, majesty, and authority of Jesus Christ:
“God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 3:10 NLT)
Every person we lead to Christ, every person we pray for who is healed or delivered… it’s a declaration by God to evil powers of His wisdom and glory!
The Bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-33)
Paul describes the union of a husband and wife and how they have become one flesh:
“For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Eph. 5:31 NKJV)
Paul follows in verse 32 by stating, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
The metaphor of a husband and wife is limited; no earthly marriage is perfect. I’ll share more on marriage in a moment, but let me unpack what Paul is discussing.
The union of Christ and His Church is a mystery because…
…only by the Spirit can we understand the fullness of our new nature achieved in Christ and God’s eternal purposes in His Church. Consider how we died with Christ, rose with Christ, and then ascended with Christ in His glory and authority.
“If we were united together in a death like his, we will also be united together in a resurrection like his.” (Rom. 6:5 CEB)
“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:6 NLT)
Through our faith in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are united together with Christ—in His victory and His authority.
Death reigns over unbelievers. In Christ, we have been delivered from death, and now reign in life by Christ. Through our union in Christ, we have been raised up to share the throne with Him, and we reign there with Him now! He has given us His authority!
If our position in Christ on His throne seems vague or unreal, the reason is simple: we have not embraced the revelation the Holy Spirit through God’s Word that is made available to us. Without this revelation, we cannot understand or enjoy the benefits of our Heavenly citizenship.
Instead of reigning with Christ as kings, we still toil as slaves! It affects every area of our lives—including marriage, family, church, and even society. Society won’t receive the full benefit of an empowered Church in our time!
The bride of Christ is the fullness of Christ. She is beautiful and radiates His Glory and Presence.
While neither we nor the Church are perfect, Christ in our midst is. His desire is that we allow the Holy Spirit and His Word to transform us to become more and more like Him (Rom. 8:29).
The effort to make her glorious is upon Christ, but we yield and thus participate:
“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.” (Eph. 5:25-27 NLT)
What is Jesus after in His Church? A Church filled with His glory! A Church without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish. A Church empowered by Him, with His love and compassion to reach the last, the least, and the lost. God intends to fill His Church with His glory, to walk in His victory, and then return and present it to Himself.
When Jesus was talking with His disciples on the road to Emmaus, He said to them, “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” His resurrection and enthronement are described as entering His glory.
Is it possible that the Lord intends us to also enter His glory at His right hand and manifest that glorious authority in the Earth to bring in the final harvest? Yes! Through our spiritual authority in intercession and demonstration of God’s power, we manifest His glory in the Earth.
To have healthy marriages, relationships, and churches, we must live from God’s grace, live pure lives, rely on God’s power, and most importantly live from God’s love.
GRACE. “Jesus gave himself for her,” for His bride (Eph. 5:25).
Our self-effort doesn’t save us. Rather, we receive by faith God’s grace through Jesus, and then we cooperate with the Holy Spirit. It’s God’s effort and His initiative. We receive His gift, and we yield to His Spirit and His Word to be changed.
Grace is more than forgiveness. Grace is empowerment by the Spirit to live a pure and holy life, to live a life empowered by the Spirit.
PURITY. We are set apart by the “washing of water by the word…” (Eph. 5:26).
We are spotless and pure in God’s eyes because of the gift of grace given to us by Jesus. We are set apart (sanctified) by God’s power presently; yet, we are also maturing and being conformed to the image of Christ by the power of the Spirit and the power of His Word and truth washing over us.
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom. 8:29 NKJV)
POWER. All authority has been given to Christ, and He has delegated His authority to us.
Jesus is the Head of the Church. We live and move and have our being in Christ. Submission to Christ is the first step to walking in His authority and power.
God’s grace gives us power to overcome our flesh (by yielding to the Spirit), to resist temptation and the schemes of the enemy, to preach the gospel, and to heal and deliver the oppressed. As we learn to live in the Spirit, the carnal desires fade.
Remember, the enemy will not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ! The survival of the Church is assured in Christ; we are kept by His power!
“…I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matt. 16:8b NLT)
LOVE. “Christ loved the church… gave himself for her” (Eph. 5:25).
God’s deepest desire is to draw each of us near so that we would be secure in His love. He is the Father many of us never had. His love is self-giving, unconditional, and pure. Certainly, this holds true in a marriage, but this applies to all of our relationships.
In his letter, Paul prayed:
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17-19 NKJV)
We are to receive God’s love, walk in His love, and give that love away to others.
“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt. 22:37-39 NLT)
The great commandment must precede the great commission.
It is your ability to receive God’s love that is the key to loving others! Learn to rest in God’s love and His acceptance of you. Begin to love yourself fully, as God loves you, free from the pain of the past. From this place, remain in God’s love and presence and then give that away to others—love is a necessity in life and your greatest joy!
What is genuine love?
In the Greek, there are eight words for love. I just want to mention four: ‘agape’, ‘philia’, ‘storge’, and ‘eros’. ‘Eros’ is romantic love, ‘storge’ is unconditional, familial love, ‘philia’ is brotherly love, and ‘agape’ is God’s love. Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians with God’s ‘agape’ love in mind:
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8 NLT)
Let’s examine these verses closer to understand how we should love others with God’s love. By the way, the only way you can love others this way is to receive God’s love completely and allow His love to flow through you to others. Your human capacity to love others will fail eventually!
Love has patience with imperfect people and is kind toward them. To love others in this way does not depend on how they treat us. Be careful not to judge others—we all are growing in grace and love, and we are all at various levels of maturity.
You are not responsible for someone else’s attitude and actions. However, you are responsible for your attitude and actions!
Love is not jealous. Love is non-possessive and non-competitive, it wants others to succeed in life. True spiritual maturity and parenting wants to see others grow and succeed. Learn to be an encourager; applaud others and their success!
Love is not boastful or proud, but rather it walks in humility to others. Pride is deceptive, and it blinds us to the treasure that is in others. Humility helps us see others as God sees them.
Love does not demand its own way. Love doesn’t seek its own rights, but it is unselfish, willing to yield to others. Don’t demand your way; consider others first!
Love is not irritable. Love isn’t touchy, but it’s graceful under pressure. Often, we become irritable with others because we are expecting perfection. Sometimes, we have a “false” expectation toward people. When others don’t meet our expectation, we often become irritated with them. That’s conditional love; that is not unconditional love as God gives.
Keep in mind that unspoken expectations “eat away” at relationships; they are devoid of God’s unconditional love for others.
Love keeps no record of being wronged. Love releases the offender and operates in grace, not the justice level of the law. If we want justice, we are not walking in love and grace. The woman caught in adultery in John 8 is an example of this type of love. The Lord was giving the Pharisees an opportunity to join the woman in humble repentance. Live in grace and drop the rocks!
In marriage, or in any close relationship, we must keep short accounts—be quick to forgive, forget, repent, and love again.
“In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.” (1 Pet. 3:7 NLT)
We are to mutually love, honor, and respect each other in marriage or any relationship. However, in marriage, Peter writes that if we treat each other wrongly, it can hinder our prayers. I find it interesting that Peter charges the men in particular to treat their wives well.
Keep in mind that no marriage is perfect because none of us are perfect. Again, however, the more we are transformed into the image of Christ, the more we can walk in God’s love and grace toward each other.
Larry Christenson, pastor and author, writes in his book The Christian Family,
“Successful marriage is not a business of perfect people living perfectly by perfect principles. Rather, marriage is a state in which very imperfect people often hurt and humiliate one another yet find the grace to extend forgiveness to one another and allow the redemptive power of God (His Grace) to transform their marriage.”
Successful marriage requires each spouse to walk in love, grace, and forgiveness. Without this simple ongoing reality, marriage will be difficult, or worse, end in divorce.
Love doesn’t rejoice about injustice. It doesn’t find satisfaction when others fail or fall short and spread an evil report. Rather, love rejoices in truth and advertises the good about others. When you hear of someone’s struggle, it’s an opportunity to pray, not an opportunity to gossip about them!
Love never gives up on others. It believes the best about others; it endures through difficult times with others, and love affirms their future. The Kingdom culture that God is building is based upon love and honor. We are to love and honor God and each other. We are to honor all people. How? By looking for the good in them, looking for the treasure within them, and seeing the best in others and their future!
Sometimes, we are unable to love in this way because our hearts are not healed. Wounds in our lives can distort the love that others are trying to give us.
Remember, we are individually members of His body, the Bride of Christ. We must value and love each other in community (Eph. 5:28-32).
“No one hates his own flesh (or body).” (Eph. 5:29)
We want to take care of ourselves—nourish and value ourselves—just as the Lord does for His Church (His body).
“We are members (plural) of His body.” (Eph. 5:30)
Jesus values each member of His body—He provides nourishment; we are to do the same for each other.
We value the foot as much as the hand, and all members of the body are needed. Therefore, in the body of Christ, all members are valuable and needed (1 Cor. 12:12-14).
Husbands and wives, love, honor, and value each other!
Members of the Church, love, honor, and value each other!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “The Bride of Christ”: