January 26, 2015
Often, when people are pressing a particular opinion or personal belief, they tend to spend their energy on simply making statements. In doing this, they fail to ask enough questions of the text. I have just finished reading a number of theological articles that make their argument by limiting their conclusions to texts that support their presuppositions. Some of these subjects are intertwined, so we will enter this discussion by asking, “What think ye of the Bride of Christ?”
Believe it or not, there are those who maintain that there is no such thing. The Old Testament writers recorded that they saw Israel as the wife of God. Hosea is a good illustration of this. Paul clearly identifies the Body of Christ as the Bride of Christ. These two identifications are eternal. One has to wonder why the clear, plain statements of scripture are not sufficient. The answer, of course, is that if you have two different interpretations, you can be sure that one - or both - is not using the same system of interpretation. The one biblical hermeneutic is mathematical in that when it is used faithfully, you will always end up with the same answer. I have also noticed that variant conclusions nearly always flow from similar historical theological systems. This can be accurately illustrated by the way people deal with the issue of the Bride of Christ.
TO THE BRIDE ALONE
God gave us the earthly illustration of marriage, the bride, and the bridegroom so we can understand this heavenly truth. It is like the discussion in Hebrews 9 where the earthly tabernacle is a picture of the heavenly one. It is why God shared His name “Father” with men on earth so we can be a picture of the Heavenly Father and communicate the depth of meaning involved.
Every bride has things ascribed to her that no one else can claim. Failure to recognize this is tragic, and we are not to violate the sanctity of the bride. There is a theological theory called “Replacement,” which simply says that Israel is replaced by the church. It is interesting to note that those who hold this philosophical idea are all tainted by the same hermeneutical aberration. The plain, consistent statements of scripture make it clear that God’s plan for Israel is definitely different from His plan for the church. While they hold some things in common, it is still a fact that similarities are not equals.
The real threat is not in the theological movements that feel the need to invent such error, but rather comes from those who are “on the fence” on these issues. Instead of a total rejection of the distinction between Israel and the church, these folks pick at the distinctions of the church one by one. While there are transition periods, the major turning point is Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, so He did not come in presence at Pentecost; He came in special ministry - or special presence, if you prefer.
There were things that happened at Pentecost that had never taken place before that time, and they are distinctive to the Bride. On this day, the first believer was baptized into the body of Christ; the first believer became continually indwelt by the Holy Spirit; the first believer was sealed by the Spirit and was perhaps the first believer ever born of the Spirit. To assign any of these distinctive things to anyone other than the church is to chip away at the whole and ultimately move toward total “Replacement.” The special ministry of the Holy Spirit to the bride does nothing to harm God’s plan for Old Testament saints, and it assures a special place for the Bride of Christ. Let me note that all these little threats also depend upon a hermeneutical system that has been invented by major theological movements.
There is only one biblical hermeneutic, and that hermeneutic produces a theology that is biblical. There is no such thing as a “dispensational hermeneutic.” No one has a right to invent his own hermeneutic and then use it to invent variations in his own belief system.
WITHOUT SPOT OR BLEMISH
The Bride is not a puzzle; it is a unit. Everyone related to the Bridegroom is saved the same way. While our fellowship on earth with Christ may vary because of what we choose, the Bride is one. At the catching away of the church, the Bride is complete. At the judgment seat of Christ, different rewards are awarded to different believers. There are no “penalties” handed out, no second-class believers, nor flaws in the Bride. If there is any negative at all, it might be that some may not receive a reward. Once the BEMA is past, there are no purgatories or blemished believers; the Bride of Christ is whole and pure. This is the work of God and not of man. Christ loves the Bride through all of it, and the actions of life are left behind at the judgment. Christ presents to Himself “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
The plain, clear, consistent statements of the text leave us with no doubt; the Bride is whole. It is pure, down to the last believer, because this is about God, not man. Christ does not cast away His wife or any member. He does not divorce some believers. If He did, it would be His failure…and that is impossible. So, how do people ascribe impurity to the Bride of Christ? First, they are obligated to do this because they have adopted a flawed theological hermeneutic from a flawed theological construct and flawed theological movement. Secondly, they have failed to obey a hermeneutical maxim; and so they go to texts that have nothing to do with the church and in doing so, they borrow someone else’s grief.
I do not condemn these failed theologians, but the truth is that to abuse the Bride of Christ is no light matter.
Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min
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