Relationships – Jesus and His Church

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

  • 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
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. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “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. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

  • Ephesians 5:21-33

Link’s to the Song of Songs Bible Study

Rather than link to the eight chapters of Song of Songs, I am linking to the Bible Study lessons that I posted in November through early December of 2022.  The Scripture is provided there along with Scholarly quotes and my thoughts on each section.

Song of Songs 1:1-3:5
Song of Songs 3:6-5:1
Song of Songs 5:2-7:8
Song of Songs 7:9-8:14

My Theory

Some might consider this the ultimate lesson of this study, but since I was transitioning from Old Testament relationships to New Testament relationships, I sandwiched this lesson in the “middle” to tie Song of Songs with the duties of each spouse in Ephesians 5 and the thought that when Jesus returns, He is coming back for a wedding, the wedding of Christ with His Church.

I am still claiming it my theory although the quote below from Rev. MacArthur roughly says the same thing.

If we look at the orders made by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians regarding marriage, we are truly seeing Christ’s marriage to His Church.  In saying “His Church” that means the body of believers.  Many theologians and pastors state that Solomon’s Song of Songs is the love story God has with His people on earth.  There are some poetic statements made in Song of Songs that intimate sexual overtones.  This makes the analogy that this is Christ’s love for His Church, these sexual overtone interpretations, a little icky.

But let’s take the sexual aspect of marriage off the table.  We see in Song of Songs an intense love by the lover and the bride.  In Ephesians, we see a marriage that works perfectly if we eliminate the sin nature.  That sin nature is gone when Jesus returns and there is a new heaven and a new earth.

A Quote

[Ephesians 5:21-33]: Christ’s Design for the Home. Having established the foundational principle of submission (5:21), Paul applied it first to the wife. The command is unqualified and applicable to every Christian wife, no matter what her abilities, education, knowledge of Scripture, spiritual maturity, or any other qualities might be in relation to those of her husband. The submission is not the husband’s to command but for the wife to willingly and lovingly offer. The phrase ‘your own husband’ limits the wife’s submission to the one man whom God has placed over her.
“The Spirit-filled wife recognizes that her husband’s role in giving leadership is not only God-ordained but also a reflection of Christ’s own loving, authoritative headship of the church. As the Lord delivered His church from the dangers of sin, death, and hell, so the husband provides for, protects, preserves, and loves his wife, leading her to blessing as she submits (Titus 1:4; 2:13; 3:6).
“Paul has much more to say to the man who has been placed in the role of authority within marriage. That authority comes with supreme responsibilities for husbands in regard to their wives. Husbands are to love their wives with the same sacrificial love that Christ has for His church. Christ gave everything He had, including His own life, for the sake of His church, and that is the standard of sacrifice for a husband’s love of his wife.
“The clarity of God’s guidelines makes it certain that problems in marriage must always be traced in both directions so that each partner clearly understands his or her roles and responsibilities. Failure to love is just as often the source of marital trouble as failure to submit.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

The responsibilities of both parties in the marriage are to submit to each other.  Christ has already died on the cross for our sins, a perfect submission on our behalf.  As it took me over a year of saying the Salvation Prayer, I learned that Jesus does not want empty words, He wants an unconditional surrender to God’s Will.  How better to express that as us submitting ourselves to His leadership in our lives?

Then, for the bride (the Church), we are again told to submit to our husband (Jesus Christ).  We are to submit in everything.

But for Christ, as Rev. MacArthur states, there are more “instructions.”  He is to love us, as He already does.  This love is expressed by a total surrender of its own, giving life itself for the love of the spouse.  This does not mean to take one’s life, but to spend one’s life in loving and caring for the spouse.

But is that not what Jesus, in quoting the Old Testament law states that we are to love others as we love ourselves.  The Apostle Paul just used more words.

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

This entire lesson is an inference that the perfect marriage of Christ with His Bride, His Church, is described in the duties of Ephesians 5.

The application of these same duties in an earthly marriage infers that our goal should be set to this level.  Why accept anything short of perfection in the goal, but knowing that with the sin nature, it will be a bumpy ride.

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

No gaps need to be filled in the marriage between Jesus and His Church.  We cannot imagine what the new earth will be like, but it will be wonderful beyond our imagination, indescribable in words, if we could only get a glimpse.

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

The trend of brides refusing to say “obey” is so prevalent that most online suggestions of wedding vows do not even have the word.

Jesus was asked a trick question about divorce to see if they could trick Jesus into saying something against the Law of Moses, but Jesus, as usual, turned it on his questioners.  He basically said that God had no intention of allowing divorce, but He allowed a concession due to His Chosen People being stiff necked.  If you search the Scriptures as a whole, there are a few acceptable reasons divorce would be allowed.  We cannot get beyond the sin nature of mankind, until God throws sin, along with death, into the Lake of Fire.

But as for the vows, if you refuse, before you ever get started to even try God’s design for marriage, how successful do you expect to become?  Sure, some couples are too stubborn to call it quits even though the flame of their love died out years ago, but I am talking about those couples who love each other as intensely now as they did fifty years ago.  The physical aspects may be totally gone, but they understand the mystery that the Apostle Paul calls profound.  The two become one flesh.  Often these lifelong love affairs have both spouses dying within hours, days, or months of each other.  But for the long-living widow or widower, there is a piece of them that is missing.

What Have We Learned thus far?

We have learned to:

  • Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
  • Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
  • Go to God in prayer, especially before any major decisions.
  • Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
  • Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
  • Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
  • A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
  • Be humble and listen to wise advice, and even wait when necessary.
  • At times, we must be bold and trust God, and we must obey.
  • And to love, love, and love.
  • Be trustworthy.  Trust is required.
  • And don’t worry.  God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
  • And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.
  • And never go against what God instructs us to do.
  • And truly believe that God can show you mercy and accept the mercy offered.  Yet remember that it is indeed mercy.
  • Not blindly trust our buddies from our youth as advisors and there may be emotional ties that make their advice sound better than it is.
  • Understand that good cannot compromise with evil.

A Closing Prayer

We look to You for guidance.  We can wait to see how the mechanics of the marriage between Jesus and His Church works out, but in trying those lofty goals of unconditional submission on one side and unconditional love on the other, we fall short.  Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus so that we can love our spouse closer to that perfect love that You have for us.
In Thy Name we pray,

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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