THE ROMANCE BETWEEN JESUS AND HIS CHURCH

THE ROMANCE BETWEEN JESUS AND HIS CHURCH

While He resided on earth, Jesus, despite some unjustified speculations to the contrary, remained celibate. That refusal to marry has been a cause of consternation to some, who see in that a lack of fulfillment an incompleteness in Jesus.

While indeed rendering Him incomplete, Jesus’ celibacy also rendered Him faithful, for Jesus was betrothed to His Church.

A statement had been made earlier that referenced the closing passage of Hebrews 11: “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” This statement implied that it must be equally true that “neither they nor us, without Jesus, should be made perfect.”

In quoting Adam in Genesis 2:24, Paul explained to us in Ephesians 5:31 and 32 a mystery of enormous significance, that Adam’s declaration in Genesis 2:23 and 24 applied not only to mankind, but to Jesus as well:

“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.”

Given this statement of Paul’s in the light of Jesus’ celibacy during His time on earth, a second and greatly significant restatement of that ending passage of Hebrews 11 could be made: “. . . even Jesus, God having provided some better thing for us, without us should not be made perfect.”

Scripture actually gives us a sound reason to perceive that the union between Jesus and His Church will be a romantic one. The Song of Solomon is rather explicit in that regard, verses 12 through 17 of Chapter 1 being representative:

“While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof. A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night between my breasts. My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi. Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes. Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant; also our bed is green. The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.”

Perhaps the most appropriate commentary to the Song of Solomon is the one given in the Schofield Bible in its prelude to Song:

Nowhere in Scripture does the unspiritual mind tread upon ground so mysterious and incomprehensible as in this book, whereas saintly men and women throughout the ages have found it a source of pure and exquisite delight. That the love of the divine Bridegroom, symbolized here by Solomon’s love for the Shulamite maiden, should follow the analogy of the marriage relationship seems evil only to minds that are so ascetic that marital desire itself appears to them to be unholy.

The book is the expression of pure marital love as ordained by God in creation, and the vindication of that love as against both asceticism and lust – the two profanations of the holiness of marriage. Its interpretation is threefold: . . .(3) as an allegory of Christ’s love for His heavenly bride, the Church. . .”

Jesus himself hints at His future joy with the Church as His Bride in the wedding at Cana, John 2:1-11:

“And the third day there was a marriage in Cana, of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they lacked wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have not wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw some out now, and bear it unto the governor of the feast. And they bore it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not from where it was (but the servants who drew the water knew) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine and, when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana, of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.”

A careful reading in retrospect of Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah in Genesis 24, the Song of Solomon, Isaiah 54, and Jesus’ first miracle in John 2 of changing water to wine at the wedding in Cana, plainly indicated beforehand the mystery that Paul revealed in Ephesians 5.

The roles of Ruth and Rebekah in prefiguring the Church, as well as the identification made by Isaiah and Paul of the Church as the Bride of Christ, make it obvious that the Church is, at least functionally, a female. But then why would Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35 call it a shame for women to speak in Church, and in 1Timothy 2:12 not permit a woman to teach? Moreover Peter, a male, appears to be a representative type of the Church. It is plain in Acts, as developed earlier, that Peter’s full humanity with all its imperfections openly displayed, followed by his exploits following the movement of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, not only performed but set the example of the work of the Church. Yet further, Peter gave the very first sermon of the new Church and brought the first non-apostle members into the fold. These acts identify him as a strong representative of the Church as well.

Which is to be, then? Is the Church female or male? Or neither or both? From a logical standpoint, it is both male and female, its function being female, but its composition, comprised of mankind with its dominant male gender, being male. Two key passages, Matthew 22:30 and Galatians 3:28, shed additional light on the gender issue:

“For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels of God in heaven.”

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The most direct answer according to these passages would seem to be that since the Church resides first in the spiritual realm and that we, in the spiritual realm, will be neither male nor female, the Church itself will be neither male nor female. However, that logic overlooks an important point: the two passages cited above apply to us as individuals. The Church, on the other hand, is a composite of many individuals. While we, as spiritual individuals, won’t marry and we won’t possess gender, our composite self, the Church, will indeed have a female gender and will be the Wife of Christ.

With that background in mind, it is perfectly reasonable to perceive Peter, an individual male, in representing composite mankind, also legitimately representing the Church, a composite female. And, by the way, the limitations that Paul placed on the activities of women in the Church reinforce the femininity of the Church rather than diminishing this attribute, when one considers that the feminine role is a responsive one. The restrictions that Paul noted do indeed limit women’s roles in Church to those that are responsive, maintaining the example of femininity to the Church as a whole.

Another way of looking at our roles in the spiritual realm is as components, ungendered in essence just as component parts of our material bodies such as eyes, legs and fingers are ungendered. It is only in the composite of all of our parts that we are gendered. Paul hinted at that in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31:

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Greeks, whether we be bond or free; an d have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.

“If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it, therefore, not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it, therefore, not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members, every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body. But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need; but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.

“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers,; after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts; and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.”

The answer is obvious: in the heavenly realm, it is the Church, the entire body rather than its component people, who is gendered. Her functional gender is feminine. Her spiritual body belongs to Christ in a possessive sense, just as Paul declared in Ephesians 5:28:

“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.”

It is quite clear from Ephesians 5 in its entirety that the relationship between Christ and the Church is romantic and fully gendered.

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