Home group notes - By Revd Jo Levasier
Rev 21:1-5, Ephesians 5:25-33
The bride of Christ, pure and intimate: No. 8
What adjectives would you use to describe
a) the worldwide church?
b) our local church?
Today we are thinking about the church being the Bride of Christ and all that means for us as God’s people.
Focusing on Christ
Do the words we used to describe the church (local & worldwide) reflect what we know about the nature of God?
Spend some time both praising God for who he is and laying down any of the things we may associate with church that don’t properly reflect his character. You might like to listen to (or sing) a song that speaks of God’s awesome holiness and pray that our church reflects this.
Opening the Word
Read the first passage Revelation 21:1-5 (TNIV)
21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
In this passage the Holy City, the new Jerusalem transpires to be a metaphor for the eschatological (end times) people of God, the Lamb’s bride. (Why not check out Rev 19:6-9 & 2 Corinthians 11:2 to see this idea elsewhere in the New Testament). It appears that rather than the future all focusing on a fantastic new transformed place “heaven”, actually God’s eternal reign is about a transformed people.
“the primary result of God’s coming triumph over evil is a redeemed and transformed people who live forever with God and God’s Lamb.” Pg 245 New International Bible Commentary on Revelation by Robert W Wall.
Every bride spends a lot of time, money and effort on making sure she looks fantastic on her wedding day.
· What are the beautiful clothes of this bride? (check out Rev 19:6-9)
· Is this something we as a church spend a lot of time, money and effort on?
You might like to read Revelation 3:1-6 and reflect on Jesus’ words to the church in Sardis.
Do you feel he would say something similar or very different to us today.
A good marriage is an expression of deep intimacy.
· How can we start to experience intimacy with our bridegroom now?
· How comfortable do we feel with idea of marriage being used as an illustration of our ultimate relationship with Jesus
“For males, being the bride of Christ may seem strange, but neither males nor females should understand these ideas with sexual overtones. The oneness of the sexual union of a married couple merely illustrates the similar oneness of Christ and believers. Unfortunately, reading our own sexuality into our relation with Christ is a larger problem than most of us are willing to admit. Attraction or discomfort in relation to Christ and God are too easily enmeshed with an understanding of our own sexuality. “(The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians. By Klyne Snodgrass, 317-318. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1996.)
Read the second passage Ephesians 5:21-33 (TNIV)
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, people have never hated their own bodies, but they feed and care for them, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
This letter is clearly written to a church and is looking at how Christians should relate within the context of marriage. However as we read this passage it becomes instantly clear that the relationship between husband and wife mirrors that of Christ and his church. Consequently this passage not only teaches us about how to relate to our husbands / wives but also reveals great truths about how God perceives and relates to the church.
Can I encourage groups to stay with what the passage is teaching about the church rather than getting side tracked into discussion about Christian husband / wife roles & responsibilities (important though that discussion might be another time!)
Imagery from the Old Testament about the relation of God and Israel stands behind this use of the marriage analogy. Israel was viewed as God’s marriage partner (see especially. Isa. 54:5 – 7; 62:4 – 5; the book of Hosea). Ezekiel 16:1 – 14 may provide the background for Ephesians 5:26 – 27, for it describes God as caring for, washing, marrying, and adorning Israel with splendour. (The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians. By Klyne Snodgrass, 317-318. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1996.)
· How does this passage say that Christ does for the church? V25, v29
· What is his purpose and desire for the church? V26, 27
· What might this teach us about the true nature of the church and Jesus’ on-going involvement in it?
· How would we feel about the description of “holy and blameless” being applied to our church (us individually and corporately)?
· Remembering that Paul repeatedly called Christians to make true in their lives what Christ had already won for them, how might this challenge us today?
Optional Extra: a reflection on God’s incredible love
One time in my life when I felt deeply in love, the force of this passage struck me: No matter how much I might love, my love was only a shadow of Christ’s love for us. Perhaps any symbol communicates only imperfectly the depth of Jesus’ love for us, but our best approximations of unselfish love, such as a strong marriage, can provide us some beginning sense of it. The ultimate portrait of God’s love for us is Jesus’ dying for us on the cross while we were yet his enemies (Rom. 5:6 – 10). Paul tells us that the Spirit comes into our hearts, pointing to that cross, and declaring, “See, I love you! I love you! I love you!” (cf. Rom. 5:5).
“to the overworked leader who feels unappreciated, to the wounded wife abandoned by her husband, to the shy child teased by peers for her weight or his pimples, to any of us in our brokenness, the greatest comfort is God’s love. We can afford to be vulnerable with him concerning our pain, because we know he shares our pain with us. When the hardships seem too great to bear — as they must have seemed to many of the first Christians who heard Revelation read to them — we must remember that his love gives us a promise of fulfillment ahead. And if the hardships tempt us to doubt his present love and our future hope, we only need look back to the cross, where God in the flesh shared our pain with us and in our stead.“ (The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians. By Klyne Snodgrass, 317-318. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1996.)
Why not spend time in prayer
· praising Jesus for the extraordinary love that he displayed in giving himself us for us on the cross to make us holy
· marvelling at the love of God for us, more intimate than any earthly marriage
· crying out to the Lord to make us more the holy blameless bride we are intended to be