This section includes the “Conclusion.”
COMMON OBJECTIONS ANSWERED
1—In all the epistles, there is never one mention of the “Bride of Christ”
Think of Ephesians 5, where Paul is drawing a connection between husbands and wives and Christ and the church (Bride and Bridegroom). Paul says, “Husbands” (plural) “love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it” (v.25). Question: how many husbands and wives are there? One? Or does the type of union (man and woman) stand to represent the literal marriage union between Christ and various local churches? Here, the synecdoche works well.
Is not the book The Revelation of Jesus Christ (the Book of Revelation) an epistle? If so, then there are more references to the Bride in that epistle than in any other epistle in the New Testament.
Moreover, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:2 that he espoused those members unto Christ as chaste virgins. A bride—a pure bride, one without spot or wrinkle (defilement)—is a virgin. The Lord wants a pure, virgin bride; he cannot and will not accept any other!
I would include the Gospel Accounts here as evidence, but there may be some sticklers who would cry fowl. Why? Because it dents their Protestant doctrine. So, we move forward.
2—There is not one church “without spot, or wrinkle” (there’s no perfect church)
This common objection is made based on the wrong understanding that “Baptist Briders” think they have perfect churches or that “only perfect churches” will be acceptable as the Bride. That is false. What many people need to understand is that we Briders believe what the Bible teaches: “That he might present it to himself…” That statement is future. Therefore, no person who is a doctrinal Brider believes presently they are “perfect” or “without spot.” But, and that is a BIG “But,” we need to temper that understanding with the fact that all throughout Scripture we are commanded to be holy, without spot, without wrinkle, and even the Lord commanded, “Be ye perfect”! So, how do we harmonize this? A friend of mine wrote a wonderful article titled The Faithful Bride of Christ exploring some, not all, of the conditions placed upon believers and churches with the view to Brideship. Again, understand that New Testament passages concerning the believer’s reward have conditions (“IF…”) attached to them, and it is our understanding that the ultimate reward is nothing more or less than Jesus Christ himself as our position as the Bride. Lastly, understand that no person is part of the bride by virtue of salvation or membership in one of the Lord’s TRUE churches. No, faithfulness to the Lord and obeying his commands is the test. Here is the article. Please note that while I have made edits, every attempt has been made to preserve the author’s original intent:
The Faithful Bride of Christ
A Brief Study
There are many scriptural studies proving what the church is and is not. I would recommend “The Mystical Invisible Universal Church Examined in Scripture” by Les Potter, printed by Calvary Publishing, Lansing, Michigan. Copies may be requested from Local Church Bible Publishers or by calling 517-882-2112.
In this brief study I will attempt to handle a topic slightly meatier than the milk of the local versus universal (catholic) church doctrine. This goes beyond the doctrine of church perpetuity (one church planting another in a lineage extending back to Jesus). Once you have these doctrines straight, the doctrine of the Bride of Christ will begin to make sense.
This study will explore the Bride of Christ on a personal level. Where do you fit into her? Will she consist of all those who enjoy membership in a scriptural church? Will every saved individual become part of the bride of Christ at some point in the future? These are the questions we will explore. If you read the Bible, allowing it to say what it says while not adding to it or taking away from it, you will see the truth.
As we will see, a close walk with Christ in one of his churches will produce the obedience which will determine your eternal relationship with him….bride-ship.
CONDITIONS AND THE SMALL WORD “IF”
“It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: If we deny him, he also will deny us:” (2 Tim. 2:11-12). Notice the word in verse 12 “reign.” In a kingdom, who reigns together? A King and a Queen do! Also notice the small word “If.” This small word will be a reoccurring theme in this study. “If” places a condition on a matter. While this may seem elementary, I have watched men with Doctorates like a train behind their name fight the meaning of this “small” word as it appears in scripture.
Let’s say that one day I said to my son, “Son, I will give you a candy bar if you give the dog a bath.” It would be exactly as if I had said, “Son, if you don’t give the dog a bath, I won’t give you a candy bar.” My son may decide to think that I will give him the candy bar just because I love him. He may decide to think I will give it to him because he was nice to the dog. In spite of what he decides to think, I will not give it to him unless he does exactly what I told him to do.
I will take for granted that all who will read this understands the basic doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Understanding this will tell us that reigning with Christ in 2 Timothy 2:13 is above and beyond salvation.
We just read that there is a condition placed on us when it comes to reigning with Christ. If we fail to meet this condition, we will fail to obtain the prize. It does not matter if we choose to believe something different.
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:16-17).
Let’s slow down and read this again. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are [present tense] the children of God [saved]: and if children [saved], then heirs; heirs of God [saved], and joint-heirs with Christ, if [we are about to see a condition] so be that we suffer with him, [this is above and beyond being saved] that we may be also glorified together.” One does NOT have to suffer with Christ to be saved. However, to be glorified together with Jesus as a joint heir with him, we must meet the condition placed on us.
This would be a good time to read 2 Timothy 3:12, which reads, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Living as we should will produce suffering. The word “suffer” means to endure, be affected by, or to sustain loss.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and [conditional] I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1)
Clearly the reverse is true; if you do these things He won’t receive you as sons and daughters. Pay attention to verse 18. When two marry, the father of the groom becomes the father of the bride. A clear understanding of salvation is needed to interpret this passage. Gods receiving of you at salvation is eternal and not based on works of any kind. This passage is therefore speaking of something far different than salvation. Gods receiving of you in this manner has conditions attached to it. I will contend that this is a bride-ship passage. No Bible doctrine stands alone. We could take any passage or verse and twist it to pervert a doctrine. All religion whose head is man is guilty of this. If a doctrine is Biblical, the Bible itself will prove it.
“Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment;…” (Rev. 3:4-5)
Verse 1 of Revelation 3 clearly states this is a message to a specific church. Verse 4 is the account of the Lord Jesus telling this church that only a few of her members have remained worthy to walk with him in Heaven. Does one have to remain pure or overcome to be saved? No! These were saved people and in a true church but not all worthy to walk with Jesus. This was not because they lost their salvation for we know once a person is saved he is eternally secure. This is talking of a bride and groom walking together in white. We should also note from this passage that membership in one of the Lord’s churches does not imply bride-ship. There were many “members” but of them very few were worthy.
“Behold, I come quickly: hold fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (Rev 3:11-13).
“I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev 3:18-21)
This was written to saved people in scriptural churches about saved people. Chapter 2 and chapter 3 of Revelation contain messages to seven different churches. Jesus spoke directly to each of them. He told them of their strengths and weaknesses. In certain areas, repentance was demanded or the power of the Holy Spirit would be removed from them and they would cease to be espoused to him. They would remain saved individuals but their authority to exist as one of HIS CHURCHES would be removed. Nothing in chapter 2 or 3 pertains to, nor is intended in any way for, the lost. Again we see a condition placed on those who are saved and in a true church. The condition which needs to be met in order to sit with Jesus in his throne is to overcome.
Here we find a beautiful picture illustrating bride-ship:
“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he [Jesus] entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: And Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Lk. 10:38-42)
Martha was working. She was doing good things but Jesus told her that she missed the mark. He told her she had forgotten the “needful” thing. Mary had it right. She “sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.” This depicts an intimacy with her Lord. Martha had placed works in place of relationship rather than alongside it. Jesus tells her that this will lead to a “part” being “taken” away from her. The “One thing” in verse 42 is a close faithful walk with Jesus! The Part that can be “taken away” is not salvation. This is an accounting of bride-ship on a personal level. A parallel passage of this story referring to a church body can be found in Revelation. The following passage was written to the church of Ephesus:
“I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Rev. 2:2-5)
Their works were good but like Martha they had forgotten the needful thing; they left their first love. They were in danger of their “part” being taken away.
Another condition of bride ship is to remember the needful thing: love for Jesus and his doctrines!
Read Luke 14:26-35. In this passage Jesus teaches a principle on bride-ship to the multitudes. Notice verse 33. He does not say “he cannot be saved.” This passage is not about salvation. There is something to be won above and beyond salvation. We read yet another condition: forsake all.
“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” John 6:66
Here we see the difference between being a child of God and therefore in the family of God (completely without works) and being an ACTIVE disciple and therefore part of the espoused bride of Christ which is based on a “walk” with Jesus.
At the end of Paul’s life in the flesh he stated: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8
We do not have to “fight”, “finish” or “keep” anything to gain eternal life.
More conditions: fight a good fight, finish the course, & keep the faith.
If you understand one can not lose salvation, an improper understanding of who the bride is will create a fog in your mind concerning a ton of scripture. This is another one of those: “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off” (Rom. 11:21-22). What you will be “cut off” from in verse 22 is the bride. Saved? Yes! But not in the bride! The condition placed on us here is that we continue in his goodness.
Read all of 1 Corinthians chapter 3. I will pull out a portion here:
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Cor. 3:11-15)
Who is being spoken to here? Saved people in a scriptural church. Their reward is an eternal closeness with Christ…bride-ship! Verse 15 tells us that not walking with and in loving obedience to Jesus will not result in loss of salvation. It will result in loss of eternal closeness to him (Rev. 22:14-15). Another condition of bride-ship is to build your life on the foundation of Jesus.
In this next passage, as well as all the ones in this article, let me stress the importance for you to read the whole chapter. Read Philippians 3. As you read this chapter some things may stick out to you. Read it with what you have already learned about the faithful bride of Christ in mind and see if it makes more sense. I will pull out a few things here. Notice the term in verse 8 “win Christ.” Paul was already saved. He was after a prize….bride-ship! Verse 10 “That I may know Him” [bride-ship]. Verse 12 “but I follow after…..” Verse 14: “I press toward the mark [bride-ship] of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul is living his life in such a way as to win the hand of his Savior in marriage!
Conditions: view everything as “dung” except for the knowledge of Christ, follow, press toward the mark, forget the things behind, reach for the things before.
Bride-ship is NOT a given simply by joining oneself to one of His churches. Is it accurate to state that the church is the bride (present tense)? I believe it is more accurate to see scriptural Baptist churches as his espoused bride (2 Corinthians 11:2).
What we see throughout the New Testament is that this position is conditional both corporately as churches and as individuals in these churches. Paul himself was following after this honor while not boasting of having obtained it (Philippians 3:12).
To be chosen by Christ as his bride is based on a life lived according to His Word (Acts 20:32).
Each scriptural church is a body of members from which the bride will be chosen.
Brethren, it is imperative that you not boast of yourself as being chosen to be in the bride of Christ based on the fact that you belong to one of his churches or simply because you have been saved.
“And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled [Salvation] In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;” (Col. 1:21-23)
This needs little explanation. Notice the word “IF” in verse 23, along with “the faith”. “The faith” is the system of doctrines once delivered to the saints. Condition: continue in the faith
Hebrews 3. After reading this entire passage, examine a couple verses word for word more carefully. Remember; let the Bible say what it says. Verse 6 “But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” Verse 14 “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;”
“And they that are [present tense] Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24). To be “Christ’s” you must first crucify the flesh. Again in comparison with Ephesians 2:8-9, this is not speaking of salvation. It is speaking of being Christ’s bride. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9 that he is after a prize (verse 24). This prize is a crown (verse 25). In verse 27 he states, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
As I begin to wrap this portion of the article up, allow me to again state that this is for those who no longer believe in a universal church. If anyone reading this believes that perhaps they can meet these conditions outside of a church Jesus built, let me quote 2 Timothy 2:5 “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”
THE FINAL POSITION
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Rev. 19:7-9)
Read John 14:2-3. This is a powerful passage! Notice the tense: “In my Father’s house are [present tense] many mansions…” They are there now! “I go [future tense] to prepare a place for you [speaking to his faithful church]. And if I go and prepare a place for you, [again separate from the existing dwellings “in my father’s house ARE”] I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there ye may be also.” The universal church definition clashes not only with the tenses but also regarding the singular “A PLACE” versus the plural “MANY.” Not only were these dwellings already present when Christ was speaking, there were “many” of them. Jesus said to his espoused bride that he was going to prepare a special place for her. This passage is laid out in more detail in the last few chapters of Revelation and revealed as being the “great city, the Holy Jerusalem,” Rev 21:10.
Verses 2&3 of John 14 picture a man and wife in betrothal state. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for his bride. At the last trump, Jesus will come and gather all saved people. At the judgment seat He will separate unto himself his bride. Those given this honor will be His disciples who have faithfully conducted themselves. These individuals will be given crowns!
Revelation 21&22- Here we will examine the future and final position of the espoused bride. It would be beneficial for you to read both chapters before continuing with the last part of this study.
You probably noticed in chapter 21 several individual parts introduced which help in the understanding of chapter 22. Let’s take a closer look at them. In 21:9 we see “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” We know who these are. The bride is made up of the saints who have overcome and are crowned to reign with Jesus on his throne. The Lamb we know is Jesus. In 21:10-23 we have a “city”. Finally in 21:24 we see a group called “the nations of them which are saved” and another, “the kings of the earth”. Let’s examine the “nations of them which are saved”. What do we see about them in 19:24? One thing we see is that it is a great number of people; “nations”. This vast number of folks had received from God the gifts of repentance and faith. They had put their trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross and are eternally secure. We see they are “saved” people. We also see that they are not in the “city” but “walk in the light of it:” The identity of the “kings of the earth” is another study but we will look at them briefly now. Notice that they come into the city bringing with them their glory and honor (verse 24) as well as the glory and honor of the nations (verse 26)
Revelation 22. Notice what is reintroduced to us from the first chapter of Genesis:…” the tree of life” (verse 2). Where is the tree of life? It’s inside the city! We read here that it has “fruit” and “leaves”. The leaves are for the “healing of the nations” outside the city. What about the fruit? Who will enjoy the “right” to this? Verse 14 tells us: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”
Those who have entered into the city enjoy the fruit. It is those who have lived according to “the faith” and have remembered the “needful thing”. These are they who will live in the place which Jesus went to prepare- The Faithful Bride of Jesus Christ! Leaves speak of life (John 5:24) but Jesus is looking for fruit. Leaves represent life but no fruit. In other words to gain fruit in eternity one must produce fruit NOW! We know what the fruit of the Spirit is. This is what will bring us to an intimate “knowing” of Christ.
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7).
After salvation one should learn basic Bible doctrines such as baptism, the church, and the bride. After joining yourself to one of his true churches you will learn these basics among others. This is where the milk of the Word ends. The meat of the Word is where we learn to walk intimately with our Lord. This love will produce the desire to “follow”, “press toward the mark”, “fight”, “overcome”, “make not provision for the flesh”, “hold fast”, “suffer with him”, “walk in the light”, “love one another”, “earnestly contend for the faith”, “finish”…and so on.
Do not walk away from this believing that attempting to meet the above “conditions”, by your own tenacity, will do anything for you.
You can only fulfill his requirements one way: “Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40.
May it be our desire to join Paul in saying at the end of our life in the flesh; “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8
We see very clearly from this article that Brideship is not based on salvation, nor is it based on virtue of church membership, but by meeting certain New Testament conditions given to us by Jesus, which are expanded upon by Paul in his epistles. It is reasonable to conclude therefore that while there is no one perfect church or Christian, we are commanded, and can be, faithful to the Lord and his doctrine, but this condition is met only in the context of a TRUE Baptistic church.
3—There must be a wedding before there’s a bride
Note, that all throughout the New Testament we have hints that touch on the matter. For example, the Bible says this of Joseph and Mary: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived of her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matt 1:18-20). There is a remarkable lesson here. BEFORE they came together (consummated), Mary was espoused (obviously), but the Bible calls Joseph her husband and Mary his wife. Remember, BEFORE they were together. Legally, an espoused virgin is the wife of the man; legally, a man is the husband of an espoused virgin. Therefore, to claim that the Bride does not exist now but that the Bride is “only future” is errant. To make claim that, “Well, that was only true for Joseph and Mary” insults God. There is nothing impossible for God, and he illustrates truth for us by using human examples.
John the Baptist said, “He that hath [present tense] the Bride is the bridegroom.” Well, Jesus had 12 disciples with him, the first Anabaptist church. Who would dare contend that the Bride was not present tense at that time? Maybe Jack Hyles, who said in a sermon he preached on the Bride, (I paraphrase), “You cannot get any doctrine from Joh 3:29.” But whom should we listen to? a sycophant and a cult leader or the Word of God? Admittedly, there is controversy over whether or not John was excluding himself from the Bride by calling himself “the friend of the bridegroom.” In his great humility, John was simply stating the fact that the Bride was with Christ on earth; and he left his bride, the local, visible, New Testament churches with her great commission, and he is coming again to claim her, the espoused bride, as his wife. How simple, how wonderful, how amazing! But, how mocked and ridiculed and misunderstood, especially by “Baptists.” How blasphemous for “Baptists” to disregard this wonderful, wonderful truth. Oh, how ashamed they will be at his coming, when they are thrust out and found not to be partakers as his bride. And for what? Their pride and harlotry.
Lastly, I want to again repeat how there are two understandings concerning “the guests” and “the friend” of the Bride in relation to the Bride. Some briders claim that “the guests,” “the friend,” and “the Bride” are synonymous depending on the context, and therefore there are two “classes”: the Bride (the guests, the friend, the kings of the earth) and the unfaithful saved (nations of the saved). Then there are those who claim there are “the guests” and the “friends” who are the same (kings of the earth), the nations of the saved (unfaithful saved), and the Bride. Both groups, however, both agree that the Bride is a Baptistic one, is a faithful one, and is not all the redeemed. Therefore, the “contention” is minimal.
Despite the attempt to clarify and defend the Baptist Bride doctrine, there are still corners of Scripture not yet searched that undoubtedly shed light on this blessed doctrine. The knee-jerk reaction is to “throw the baby out with he bathwater” and keep to that which is comfortable.
This doctrine is nothing to hate or fear. This doctrine is the truth of what Baptists have died to defend. Let us not forget our heritage. Instead, let us be found faithful.