By Bruce James
Jesus referred to Himself as the Bridegroom when the disciples of John the baptizer came to Him with a problem. It was their practice to fast and they wanted to know why Jesus and His disciples did not do so. Jesus’ answer was that the wedding guests could not fast so long . as the bridegroom was with them. But the days would come when the bridegroom would be taken away, and then they would fast (Matt. 9:14,15; Mk. 2:18-20; Lk. 5:33-35). This relationship of Jesus to His disciples is presented throughout the New Testament. Paul speaks of his aim for the church at Corinth; “I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband” (2 Cor. 11:2). In Eph. 5:22,23, Paul compared the marriage relationship to the relationship which must exist between Christ and the church.
This idea of the bride and the bridegroom is not foreign to the Old Testament. In fact, the idea of Jesus as the bridegroom and the church as the bride is typified in God’s relationship to physical Israel. Jeremiah, hearing the words of God to His people, wrote; “Return, O faithless children, for I am your master (husband)” (Jer. 3:14). Isaiah said, “Your Maker is your husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name” (Isa. 54:5). This is why the nation of Israel may be said to go a-whoring after strange gods (Ex. 34:15) Deut. 31:16; Judges 2:17; 8:27,33). When Israel was disobedient and unfaithful, when she flirted with the worship of other gods, and when she gave her love and loyalty to the false gods, she was guilty of infidelity to the marriage bond which existed between her and Jehovah and which never ought to be broken. It was an act of adultery!
Closely associated to this relationship of God to Israel as a husband to a wife is the idea of the many times God refers- to Himself as “a jealous God” (Ex. 20:5; 34:14; Deut. 4:25; 5:9; 6:15). This may be offensive to many people today, but it is in reality a lovely expression. The picture is that of God as the passionate lover of the souls of men. This kind of love between husband and wife is always exclusive. You cannot be in love with two people at the same time; no lover can bear to share his loved one with someone else. God must have the complete devotion of the hearts of the men He loves so much.
When we thinly of Jesus as the bridegroom and of God as the lover of the souls of men, it helps us to understand tlp whole relationship between God and man. In this relationship between husband and wife there are certain essential elements that are necessary:
1. There can be no such relationship without fidelity. God and Jesus will always be faithful to us, and we must always make this our endeavor. The one who commits spiritual adultery not only breaks God’s law but also breaks God’s heart.
2. There can be no such relationship without intimacy. There should be a oneness between us and Jesus such as exists between husband and wife in a perfect marriage.
3. There can be no such relationship without perfect trust. We must trust the love of Jesus as we trust the love of our nearest and dearest. We must be as sure of Jesus as we are sure of those whose loyalty we would never doubt.
Jesus became the bridegroom of His church as the gift of the Father and as a voluntary act and choice. He loved the church so much he gave Himself up for it that He might redeem it and purchase it by the shedding of His blood. In order for Jesus to become the bridegroom of the church it was necessary for Him to become like the bride in nature. Therefore, He took the form of humanity. But even more important, Jesus had to remove all difficulties to the union. These difficulties are summed up in one word: sin! This is what prevented Jesus from becoming the bridegroom. This is the reason Jesus died on the cross. Think about how great the cost of the union to Jesus! “And thus it was written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer . . . .”
Dear reader, Jesus is the kind of bridegroom the church would want to have for its own. He is the Son of the Most High God, of matchless beauty-the rose of Sharon, of boundless riches-“The Father loveth the son, and hath given all things into his hands” of perfect goodness, and of incomparable faithfulness. This is the character of Christ as the bridegroom of his church. Let us consider this relationship we have to Jesus and walk worthily before Him. Let those who are not members of the church, the bride of Christ, accept the invitation of our Lord in obedience to the gospel. Let those who have committed spiritual adultery, those who have erred from the faith, return to their “first husband.” Remember, that while here on earth it is for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse!
Truth Magazine XXII: 27, p. 438
July 13, 1978