Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Lamb’s Wife, Part 2 by Andy Young

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on November 21, 2015

andy-profile-1Originally published November 21, 2014

In part one of this series, we examined the notion of the “church” being the “bride of Christ” and how this is a false doctrine.  We examined from scripture that the “Lamb” does indeed have a “wife”, but the “wife” is actually the New Jerusalem come down from heaven, according to Revelation 21.  We also compared two parables which portrayed elements of a traditional Jewish wedding.  These parables reveal that the assembly, which is made up of converted Jews as well as Gentiles from every nation, is not the “bride”, but they are the “guests” at the wedding.

This would seem pretty straightforward.  Despite the fact that a simple search of scripture reveals that the expression “bride of Christ” is nowhere to be found, this doctrine continues to breathe life.  Contributing to this is the existence of several New Testament passages that seem to refer to the “church” in “spousal” terms.

I’ll tackle the easy one first. But this one also requires the most exegesis and so it will require the most space in this article.  It is probably also the most familiar and widely used to support the “bride of Christ” doctrine.

Ephesians 5:22-33

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 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. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

Now, the first thing I want us to do is for us to read this passage with the correct terms.  So, read through that passage again, and in each place where you see the word “church”, replace it with “assembly”.  Believe me, this will have a tremendous impact on the way you understand this passage.  “Church” connotes building, place, institution.  “Assembly” connotes “body”, for that is the meaning of the word.  It is a “called out” body of individuals.  It is also a secular, political term.  A political body of individuals called together to accomplish a specific task.  Moreover, this assembly is the “Body of Christ”, and that is especially significant in this passage.

Paul reinforces this idea at the end of verse 23 when he says “and he is the saviour of the body.”  This is not a stand-alone statement.  And it is not a reference to your physical body or mine.  It is a parenthetical clause that further establishes the main clause just prior to it.  Notice the colon that appears at the end of the previous clause.

“Christ is the head of the [assembly, ‘called-out ones’]:”

 The very next clause modifies this statement.

 “- and he is the saviour of the body”

This is the actual Greek word for “body”, σωμα (“soma”).  The structure of the end of this verse is interesting.  The word “and” is the Greek word και (“kai”), and it is used as a joining word, just like a conjunction creates a list or connects words or clauses or ideas.  It is also used to show equivalence or parallel thought.  This kind of writing style is common in Hebrew writing, especially in poetry, this parallelism.  And you can see Paul’s Hebraic style of writing in the parallelism in this verse. Paul is stating that Christ is the head of the assembly, and furthermore, not only is He the head, He is the Savior of the whole body of the assembly.  In this one verse, Paul has established that the assembly is the body and Christ is the head.  Paul is not establishing a husband/wife relationship, he is establishing a head/body relationship.  Keep this relationship in your mind because I’ll say more on this in a bit.

Now, when someone wants to make the case that the “church” is the “bride of Christ”, they usually go right to verse 24 and pull this one particular phrase out of context:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church,…” 

Their reasoning goes something like this:

“Husband” is to “wife” as “Christ” is to “church”

Therefore:

Christ = husband

church = wife

Therefore:

The church is the bride (wife) of Christ.

And while that may seem to be a reasonable logical conclusion, it fails because it is beginning with the wrong premise which results from failing to understand the context of the entire passage.  Paul is instructing men on how to love their wives, but he is not using a metaphor of a husband/wife relationship.  He is using the metaphor of a head/body relationship.  The reasoning of the metaphor is better understood like this:

Husbands are to love their wives

– How do they do that?

Well, no man hates his own body.

Man loves himself (i.e. his body).

Therefore, love your wife in the same way you love your own body.

This is the context of the entire passage.  Period.  Nothing more.  It’s that simple.  Now Paul goes on to elaborate on that point by giving examples of how one loves their own body.  He says that man shows that he loves his body because he feeds it and nourishes it and cherishes it.  Thus, men thus show love to their wives by treating them just as they would their own body, by feeding, nourishing, and cherishing.  Obviously he means from an emotional standpoint.

To further emphasize his point about loving one’s own body, Paul draws a comparison to Christ and the assembly.  Christ is the head, and the assembly is the body.  Just as a man loves his own body, Christ also loves His own body, which is the assembly.  Christ also shows his love towards His body/assembly by feeding, nourishing, and cherishing it.  And Paul is also quick to point out that Christ gave himself for His body/assembly.  More than that, He also sanctified and cleansed it.  How?  With the washing of water by the word.  These are the very same words that Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:17, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth!” once again showing that the believer is sanctified by the law.

This whole portion of the passage regarding Christ and the assembly is actually a parenthetical thought apart from the main thought.  The main thought of the passage, as already pointed out, is about how men are to love their wives.  But Paul digresses into this parenthetical aside as an illustration- man loves his own physical body; Christ also loves His body, the assembly of believers.  It appears that Paul even recognizes that he has digressed from his main point.  At the end of verse 32 there is one particular clause that sticks out,

“but I speak concerning Christ and the assembly,”

and in the very next verse we read,

“Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so [thus, in this manner] love his wife even as himself;”

Here in verse 33 Paul brings his readers back to his main point by offering a final summarizing statement: love your wife as you love your own body.  To take this passage and make it a treatise on how the assembly is the “bride of Christ” is reading more into the illustration (eisegesis) than Paul intended.

There are a few other passages in the New Testament that need to be dealt with where the writer seems to be addressing the assembly in “spousal” terms, such as Romans 7:4 and 2 Corinthians 11:2, but for the sake of time, I will deal with those in part 3.

Andy

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