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Lesson Nine - The Bride

"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" Ephesians 5:25-27 (see also Hosea 2:19-20).

Many types and shadows are used to picture the Church - a temple, a body, a flock, a garden, a family, a city - but none is so intimate nor so close to the heart of God as the picture of the Church as a Bride. Paul in fact says that natural marriage is simply a shadow of the real "profound mystery" - the relationship between Christ and His Church.

"'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the church" Ephesians 5:31-32.

In this study, we will examine the Church as the Bride of Christ by looking at three women in the Old and New Testaments who reveal the nature and heart of the Bride that God is seeking.

Rebecca

Read Genesis 24:1-61. The account of the servant's journey to Haran and his meeting Rebecca at the well is a beautiful story of God's sovereign guidance. The qualities that the servant looked for in this bride for Isaac reveal the qualities that the Holy Spirit is also searching for in His Church - a Bride that is:

Of the same bloodline - verses 3-4

God has purchased us for Himself by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:8). We too are now of the same blood as Christ (John 6:53-56; 1 Corinthians 10:16,25; Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 12:24).

Willing to forsake all - verses 5,8,58

Rebecca's greatest challenge was to leave her family and the life she had known and follow the servant back to Canaan. As the Church, it is also our heart desire to follow Christ which marks us out as His Bride (see Luke 14:26).

Early at the spring - verse 15

Rebecca came early to the spring in order to draw water. The Bible also likens the Holy Spirit to a spring of living water (Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13; John 4:14; 7:38). It is as we spend time in the presence of God, thirsting after His righteousness (Matthew 5:6), that God draws out from us the heart of the Bride.

Beautiful - verse 16

Beauty is not just a matter of outward appearance, but an inward condition (1 Peter 3:3-4). Beauty attracts. What is it that attracts Christ to us? A holiness on the inside that shines out in our outward lives (Psalm 51:6; 50:2; 2 Corinthians 7:1).

A virgin - verse 16

The Holy Spirit is likewise searching for spiritual purity in His Church (2 Corinthians 11:2-3; Matthew 5:8). Like Israel, the Church has often been guilty of spiritual adultery (Ezekiel 16:11-17), which is a love affair with this world (James 4:4). God is calling us to separate ourselves in betrothal and fidelity to Him (2 Corinthians 6:14-17; Psalm 45:8,10-11,13-15).17; Psalm 45:8,10-11,13-15).

Ready to serve - verses 14,18-20

The task that Rebecca volunteered to do - to water the camels - was a major effort. In this willingness to serve, the servant perceived her inner beauty (Philippians 2:5-7; Colossians 3:23-24; 1 Peter 2:16).

Rebecca, as a type of the Church, further proved herself willing to receive the gifts given by the servant (verse 22-26,53) and to endure the rigour of the trip back to Canaan without complaint (verse 61).

Esther

"Before a girl's turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics" Esther 2:12.

Whereas Rebecca reveals the qualities that God is looking for in the Bride, Esther shows the preparations required.

Myrrh

"You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain...with myrrh and aloes and all the finest spices" Song of Songs 4:12,14.

Myrrh was one of the gifts given to the child Jesus by the magi (Matthew 2:11). It was an aromatic ointment that represented two things:

As His Bride, we join with Christ in the sacrifice of our lives (Ephesians 5:1-2; Romans 12:1), having buried the old life that was detestable to God (Ephesians 5:3-8; Colossians 2:11-12).

Perfumes

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing" 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 (see also Songs 1:3).

Perfumes are not used to cover up body odour (Ecclesiastes 10:1), but are used on a clean body to tintillate the sense of smell. The verse above tells us that it is the knowledge of God that is like a fragrance. Sacrificial generosity is another fragrance that God delights in (Philippians 4:18; John 11:2-3).

Cosmetics

"You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad" Psalm 45:7-8.

This is a prophecy referring to Christ Himself (Hebrews 1:9). Joy, together with all the other fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), are like cosmetics. Cosmetics are not supposed to cover up ugliness, but to enhance the beauty that is already there!

The "before" and the "after" of this spiritual treatment can be seen in two diametrically opposite descriptions of the Church:

Note that it is the "washing of the water by the word" which purifies the Bride. Revelation 3:18-19 is one example of "word washing" at work.

Mary

Throughout the Gospels, two women stand out in their love for the Lord and fearless dedication to His purposes: Mary of Magdela and Mary of Bethany. There is reason to believe that these two Marys are in fact one and the same person.

Read Luke 7:36-50. Many believe this "sinful woman" to be Mary Magdalene (see Luke 8:2). She was a prostitute who came to anoint Jesus. This was an act of repentance and Jesus took it as such (verses 47-50). As we trace the story of the two Marys down through the Gospels, we begin to see the heart behind the action.

In Matthew 26:6-13/John 12:1-8, Mary anoints Jesus a second time. The first time she had apparently tried to anoint His head, yet had ended up weeping at and anointing His feet. The second time around, she fulfilled her desire to anoint His head as well, this time not as an act of repentance, but as an act of love and prophetic insight.

Whenever we see Mary, she is at the feet of Jesus: Repenting at His feet (Luke 7:36-50); adoring at His feet (John 12:1-8); listening at His feet (Luke 10:39-42); weeping at His feet (John 11:32-33); and worshipping at His feet (John 20:14-17; Matt.28:8-9). This is the heart of the Bride revealed. Like Ruth, we lie at the feet of our betrothed and say:

"...Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer" Ruth 3:9 (read also verses 1-8).

The Bride Prepared

"'Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.' (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saint.)" Revelation 19:7-8 (read also 21:9-11; 22:17).

Who is the Bride? It is the whole Church, but represented in its greatest depth by those believers who show forth the heart of the Bride.

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Copyright © 1995 Paul, Bunty and David Collins. All rights reserved. This study may be freely used and reproduced, wholly or in part, by the Christian Church for the non-profit purposes of study and training only, provided copyright and contact information is included.

Unless otherwise stated, all scriptures quoted in these studies are from the New International Version of the Bible, © New York International Bible Society, used by permission. Other versions referred to are: KJV (King James Version), NKJB (New King James Bible), TLB (The Living Bible), Amp (The Amplified Bible) and The Message. All versions used by permission.

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