February 1, 2011

The Church ~ A Bride, A Building, A Body

SBC Life Focus on Doctrine

It is common to describe relationships, such as that between two lovers, through similes and metaphors. For instance, one may say to a beloved, "I miss you like the flower misses the rain." Or, "Our love is forever in bloom." In referring to a flower, the speaker does not literally mean the two lovers have petals, anthers, and stamens. The point in the first statement, a simile, is that the lover longs for the beloved; the point in the second, a metaphor, is that their love is constantly experiencing new life. Such images are not intended for scientific detail. Rather, they evoke profound truths individual words are unable to convey on their own.

Biblical metaphors allow us to understand more clearly the mysteries of God. For example, when Paul spoke of the relationship between a husband and wife, his purpose was to reveal a deeper "mystery" (see the Ephesians discussion below). The relationship a husband has with his wife is supposed to model a spiritual truth concerning Christ and His church.

This is only one of the metaphors Scripture uses to describe the church. There are nearly one hundred such images in the New Testament, images that reveal the church for what it is theologically. Three of the more significant metaphors reveal that the church's relationship with God is one of utmost proximity. In the metaphors of the church as a bride, a building, and a body, we learn that our life as a community of disciples proceeds from within the life of the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three metaphors unfold the mystery of Christ's intimate relationship with His beloved church.

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