Jesus, the Bridegroom

by Doy Moyer

God created Adam and Eve to be husband and wife, cleaving to each other in faithfulness (Genesis 2:24). Here is the beginning of marriage, but marriage was not meant to be an end in itself. Marriage is intended to point to something even greater: God and His people in a covenant relationship that extends into eternity.

God’s covenant with Israel was likened to a husband and wife. The prophets, especially, spoke of God as the husband and Israel as the bride. For example, Isaiah addressed the future Babylonian captives, likening the Lord to a husband and the people to a wife (Isaiah 54:5-6). Jeremiah referred to the people as a wife who had left her husband (Jeremiah 3:20; 31:32; cf. Ezekiel 16:32). Hosea’s message was built on the idea of God being a husband whose wife had been unfaithful. Yet God would continue to take her back.

Jesus is also like a husband, a bridegroom, in a covenant relationship with His people, the bride. For example, Jesus used the figure to show why His disciples weren’t fasting (Matthew 9:14-17). The parable of the bridegroom and the virgins gives insight into His kingdom and judgment (Matthew 25:1-12). In the language of victory, John says, “the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:6-8). The new Jerusalem is said to be coming out of heaven “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). The bride is called “the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:9), and the bride participates in the offer to drink of the water of life (Revelation 22:17).

Paul used marriage to argue that God’s people had “died to the law” so that they may belong to Christ (Romans 7:1-6). In speaking about the husband and wife relationship, Paul urges wives to respect their husbands and for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. Then Paul says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:22-33).

These and other passages demonstrate that marriage, as given by God, was intended in some ways to mirror God’s relationship with His people. A marriage is a covenant that requires trustworthiness, love, and allegiance. When two marry, they take a covenant vow to be loyal and seek what is best for one another. It is a fitting figure for the Lord and His people.

Think a little more about Christ and what He has done as the Bridegroom, according to Ephesians 5. The way that a husband treats his wife is to emulate what Jesus did for the church. While there are some ways in which a husband cannot do what Jesus did (e.g., only Jesus is the Savior, and He is the one who sanctifies), he is told, “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Here is a pattern of love for the husband to follow, and it speaks volumes.
Christ loved the church not just by saying it but in the actions He took. He “gave Himself up for her.” In a broad sense, all disciples need to strive for this standard. Recall what Jesus said to His disciples: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:12-14). Christians ought to love others, as did Jesus. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (I John 3:16). The example Jesus set forth shows that love includes a willingness to give up oneself for another. Husbands, especially, should be willing to do this for their wives.

This is a sharp contrast with what we often see in modern culture. Selfishness takes its toll on marriages. Husbands are not to be tyrannical bosses who selfishly demand their wives to serve their every whim. The text nowhere says that husbands are to make their wives submit. The husband needs to focus on what he is told to do, and that is to love as Christ did and give himself up for his bride. Imagine if all husbands did this.

Jesus never made demands that He was unwilling to do Himself. His is the greatest example of self-denial, self-emptying, and sacrificial love, and the husband will seek to follow this. Earlier in the chapter, we read this: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). Imitating the Lord, walking in love, and giving up self results in a sacrifice to God as a fragrant offering. The husband must learn to do this in his home.

Jesus is the Bridegroom of His bride, the church. He gave Himself up for her, and greater love cannot be known.

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