The Bible makes frequent references to marriage being a picture of the church’s relationship to Christ – consider two of the most obvious examples below:
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. (Ephesians 5:25-32 NIV emphasis added)
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. (2 Corinthians 11:2 NIV)
So, while Scripture does not categorically state the church IS the bride of Christ is it true to say marriage is the closest we get this side of eternity to a glimpse of this relationship. For this reason, whenever we come across attributes of a godly husband or wife, we believe there is something to learn about Christ and the church.
This takes us naturally to Proverbs 31 which contains a list of attributes of a ‘noble’ wife – a passage we would argue also functions to represents desireable Christian characteristics – this is for three main reasons:
- From a human perspective, it would be impossible to display all the attributes listed in this passage.
- There is an absence of anything emotional and sensual – apart from one reference to beauty, it is a picture of discipline, prudence, and care.
- Much of the imagery that is used ties in with symbolism that is used in other parts of Scripture – there is a common thread.
Therefore, it is a worthwhile exercise to go through this chapter and measure this up to the condition of the church – an exercise which reveals a number of sobering truths.
One of the most important of these is an urgent call to readiness. The noble wife of Proverbs 31 stayed alert at night and would not let her lamp go out – there are multiple indications in Scripture that when Christ returns, parts of the church will not be ready and as a result, will miss out on the marriage supper – a truly shocking prospect.
Furthermore, this should equip us to deal with an immediate future that is likely to be very uncomfortable for the true church – as we face increasing marginalization in the west, can we ‘laugh at the days to come’ as the noble wife does? This is a powerful antidote to the understandable tendency for fear and despair among elements of Christendom.
This section of Scripture should be taken a mandate to alertness and watchfulness – the night is drawing in which means Christ’s return cannot be far away. Are you yearning for the groom or yawning?
Danny recently preaching a sermon on this passage at St Andrew’s Baptist Church – feel free to listen below:
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105 NIV)