Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
After writing down the notes for Three Sixes, I realized that I didn’t do a very good job of resolving an apparent conflict of Scripture in relation to our position in Christ. In order to keep me from burdening you with many pages of tangential writing and to save me from having to write everything in one shot, the Holy Spirit waited until the next day to give me the Scriptural answers needed. The problem is this: the Bible suggests that believers are the “bride” of Christ; such as how Paul seems unable to separate human marriage from our marriage with Jesus in Ephesians 5:28-33,
In the 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 his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, 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. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Now, this is all well and good, comforting, and uplifting. However, Scripture also heavily implies that we are servants (as in slaves) of Christ. Usually, modern translations try to gloss over this with the word “servant,” but Romans 6:22 comes right out with “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Free, slave, bride, and servant- what’s going on? What is it, slavery or marriage? The first thing you must understand is that we come from slavery. Paul writes to us,
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey- whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness (Romans 6:16).
Before coming to Jesus, you are a slave to your own desires. This manifests itself in the sins we commit. James 1:15 reminds us, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” And unfortunately, due to Adam and Eve’s original sin, we’re genetically programmed to follow our desires all the way to sin-town, even from a young age. It’s amazing, kids don’t need to be taught to covet and steal; they seem to somehow figure that one out on their own. And so, from birth you are in bondage to your desires and the sins that spring up from them. But that’s where Jesus comes in. Paul writes to believers, “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Corinthians 7:23). Through his death, Christ has paid for anyone who comes to him for the forgiveness of their sin debt; for it is written, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Through sin, we earn death, but Jesus died so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. He has paid the price for our lives, death for death. And therefore Paul writes,
This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high, He led captives in his train And gave gifts to men” (Ephesians 4:8).
So, through the glory of Christ, we have been purchased from our slavery to sin and the devil and are now…in Jesus’ slave train. Hooray? Alright, so if we’re captives or slaves of Jesus, then how can we be called the bride of Christ? Here comes the Law to the rescue! (Heh, never thought I’d get to write that.) The Law contains a regulation concerning how slaves are to be handled. It is an unpopular law, presumably because it can be twisted around in awful ways. It reads as follows:
When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her (Deuteronomy 21:10-14).
I hope you read all that, because I’m going to reference for the rest of the article. Anyway, if a captor falls in love with one of his slaves, he is allowed to marry her. This becomes important, because the whole reason why Jesus purchased you from the devil was because he loved you. For it is written, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Therefore we see that Jesus’ death to free you was an act of his love for you. The Song of Songs is the love letter between Christ and the Church (at least in one interpretation of it). And what does Christ say to his newly acquired bride in it? “Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens” (Song of Songs 2:2). When the Holy Spirit convicted you and brought to Jesus for salvation (or is bringing you right now if you’re reading this article and aren’t saved yet), it was an act of true love from Jesus; seeing you as the perfect, beautiful person you’re capable of being once all the filth of the world’s sins and lies gets washed off you (that’d be the changing of the hair, nails, and clothes from the Law passage). It is your choice, though. You are the one who chooses to be freed from sin through Jesus’ death on a cross and brought into this situation. You choose to leave behind your slavery to the world’s ways and into the slavery-then-bride-hood of life with Jesus. But remember, after becoming the bride of her captor, the woman gains the full rights of a wife (and therefore a free person) and cannot be sold by her husband. So although you came in as a slave, when you accept Jesus, you become a free person. As a free person you’re allowed to do what you want. For example, you can just as readily go back into sin- after all the Law states the wife may be allowed to leave. This is what Israel chose to do. God records how they responded to their marriage with him:
But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and you became his. You took some of your garments to make gaudy high places, where you carried on your prostitution. Such things should not happen, nor should they ever occur. You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them. And you took your embroidered clothes to put on them, and you offered my oil and incense before them (Ezekiel 16:15-18).
Once you’re freed by Jesus Christ, nobody will stop you from going back into a life of sin. However, it is not advisable because “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). And yet, even as believers we find that our desires still strive to control our lives and lead us back into sin. The Lord notes,
You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband! Every prostitute receives a fee, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from everywhere for your illicit favors. So in your prostitution you are the opposite of others; no one runs after you for your favors. You are the very opposite, for you give payment and none is given to you (Ezekiel 16:32-34).
I think this is a perfect model of sin. We let our desires run us into things that we want to do, but really don’t help us. Through our sins and bad habits we put ourselves into situations that are more trouble than they are worth. Unfortunately, when we choose to sin against our celestial spouse, we incur the consequences thereof. The Lord writes,
She has not acknowledged that I was the one Who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, Who lavished on her the silver and gold- Which they used for Baal. Therefore I will take away my grain when it ripens, And my new wine when it is ready. I will take back my wool and my linen, Intended to cover her nakedness (Hosea 2:8-9).
Oh no! God has every right to desert us when we backslide away from him (after all, the Law says the husband can send his wife away). But, thankfully, the Lord also noted,
“I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith (Malachi 2:16).
The Lord takes marriage pretty darn seriously. In fact, according to Jesus, the concept of divorce doesn’t even factor into the Lord’s plan; he only allows it because we’re incapable of taking marriage as seriously as God does. History records,
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Matthew 19:7-8).
Jesus then went on to explain that adultery is grounds for divorce, but the implication is not that divorcing due to adultery is ok because it is right, but because we can’t handle living with someone who’s betrayed us in such a way. Don’t believe me? Check out how God deals with spiritual adultery (that is, when believers sell themselves back into sin):
Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert And speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, And will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, As in the day she came up out of Egypt” (Hosea 2:14-15).
Note that when Israel left Egypt, they were being freed from slavery by the Lord. Anyway, a few verses later he notes,
I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, In love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, And you will acknowledge the Lord (Hosea 2:19-20).
Even when we’ve sinned against our spiritual spouse, the Lord will forgive us and renew his vows to us. Sure, we might have to suffer through some of the consequences of our sin or the discipline of our Lord, but he’ll not only take us back without question, but he’ll also rebuild our lives in him and continue to provide his sustenance. And so we read,
“In that day,” declares the Lord, “You will call me ‘my husband’; You will no longer call me ‘my master’”(Hosea 2:16).
What an amazing God we have, who rescues us from our slavery to sin, pays the price to give us eternal life, and rather than treat us as servants he calls us his beloved.
The spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life (Revelation 22:17).
Come, Lord Jesus! And rock on God!