Part 1: Introduction | Part 2: Pictures | Part 3: More Pictures
A metaphor of union with Christ that we saw briefly in the previous post is one we should develop further here.
We are, Paul says, a building, specifically a temple, a building where God lives (Ep 2.20-22). In its simplest sense this means that because we live in God’s house, we’re members of his family, his “household” (Ep 2.19); we belong, we have access to the house. We’re keyholders. That’s a mark of great privilege.
But this isn’t just an ordinary house; it’s God’s house, a temple, a place of worship. It’s a place that should inspire us to worship God, and a place where we should serve as agents to inspire others to worship God. We’re “a priesthood” that should “show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1P 2.9). Here, too, is a picture that urges us to be about our responsibilities, not just to enjoy our privileges.
And this is a temple like no other.
We are “living stones” (1P 2.5), making up a building that “grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ep 2.21). This is not a cold, dank, dusty place whose glory days are long past—a tomb, in effect. This is a vital, vibrant, active temple, where God currently resides and where the business of worship is at its highest point in history—and will continue to increase forever, every day a new record, an unprecedented, joyous celebration.
I can’t even imagine.
What a picture.
And if this is the metaphor, what must be the reality?
There’s one more picture to consider, probably the one most widely known, because it’s in the passage most frequently preached.
At pretty much every wedding you’ve ever attended, the officiant at some point has referred to Ephesians 5.25-33. He has probably commented that the union of husband and wife illustrates the church’s union with Christ.
My colleague Dr. Gary Reimers has convinced me that the passage is not that simple. He notes that husbands are told “to love their wives as their own bodies” (Ep 5.28), which is “even as Christ also loved the church” (Ep 5.25). And as we’ve seen earlier in this series, the church that Christ loves is indeed his body. So this is perhaps more a further discussion of Paul’s key theme in this epistle—the church as the body of Christ—than the introduction of a new metaphor per se.
But that said, the Scripture does use nuptial language of the relationship between God and his people. Paul says that he wants to present the Corinthian church “as a pure virgin to Christ” (2Co 11.2), and the New Jerusalem is described as “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Re 21.2, 9). Now, the New Jerusalem is not the church, in my opinion, but I suspect that it represents all the people of God, which includes the church (yep, there’s my dispensationalist premillennialism rearing its head again), so I think it’s legitimate to consider the metaphor here.
Marriage is the most intimate of earthly relationships. A married couple is a team, a partnership, and a permanent one at that, at least for earthly life. The couple works together, cares for each other, supports each other, loves each other, “till death us do part.”
Like all of these pictures, it’s deficient, because no earthly relationship captures the eternal relationship between Christ and his church. But for the time it lasts, it has the potential to illustrate the key features of that relationship: its commitment, its love, its fierce endurance through all sorts of attacks from the enemy, its sense of stability, hope, and trust.
In union with Christ, we have all this, and more.
Photo by Wylly Suhendra on Unsplash
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