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The Church Is the Bride of Christ - What Does that Mean?

The Bride of Christ is a prominent symbol and metaphor used in Scripture to describe God’s relationship with his beloved bride, the church. Portrayed as the bridegroom in this relationship, God reveals Himself to be faithful, loving, and committed to a covenant union with his church, comprised of all who believe in Jesus Christ and have accepted His atoning grace and gift of salvation.
Joel Ryan
The Church Is the Bride of Christ - What Does that Mean?

God Is Faithful: His Covenant Relationship in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, God was the first to initiate relationship with His people, the children of Israel. A covenant was established with Abraham (Genesis 15, 17), confirmed through His son Isaac (Genesis 26:3), and reaffirmed through Isaac’s son Jacob (renamed Israel) and his descendants forever (Genesis 28:13).

As part of this contract, God agreed to be faithful and promised to set the nation of Israel apart as His holy people (Leviticus 20:26; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 26:18-19). In doing so, they were instructed to consecrate themselves to the Lord and serve Him alone (Exodus 20:2-6; Deuteronomy 6:13).

The people of Israel, however, frequently broke their vows and walked away from their contract with God to serve other gods and pursue their own interests. But in every betrayal, God remained faithful and never broke His promise to Israel.

  • Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
  • “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
  • “Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; you established the earth, and it stands” (Psalms 119:90).
  • “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Hosea and Gomer: A Picture of God’s Faithfulness

God even used the life and marriage of his prophet Hosea to deliver a powerful message to the people regarding their unfaithfulness. As Hosea’s wife Gomer was unfaithful to her husband, returning to a life of prostitution, so God felt betrayed by Israel’s infidelity (Hosea 1).

This, however, was not the end of the story or relationship. In this love story, God promised that if His people would return to Him, He would be faithful to always forgive them and welcome them back into His loving arms.

- Proverbs 86:5

- Joel 2:13

- Hosea 14:4

- Zechariah 1:3

- Jeremiah 24:7

- Nehemiah 1:9

- Ezekiel 16:8-14

So even though Jesus Christ, the Messiah, had not yet come to redeem the earth, God was already using the symbolism of a broken marriage and relationship to communicate with His people, who He loved.

Throughout the biblical narrative, God has pursued His people with a relentless passion and do whatever He had to do to win them back. Sin may have ruined any chance of intimacy with the Father, but God had a plan for redemption and a means to restore a broken relationship.

The Church Is the Bride of Christ

As it is written in John’s gospel, “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

With Christ’s life, death on the cross, and resurrection, Jesus became the living embodiment of the bridegroom and a faithful husband who was willing to give up His life for the one He loved.

As it is written in 2 Corinthians, “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).

Through Christ’s sacrifice, intimacy with the Father can be restored and sins forgiven. Through Christ’s atonement, we are presented to God with the purity of a virgin on her wedding day. 

While God’s covenant relationship with the Israelites remained, through His son, He formed a new covenant with all who believed in Jesus Christ and surrendered to His lordship. Those who believe are called the church.

And as Christ promised to be faithful to the church, He described His expectations for the church’s relationship as His bride.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul writes, “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:21-24).

This passage naturally applies to the relationship between a husband and wife but also extends to the relationship between the church (the bride) and Christ (the bridegroom). The church must submit to the authority of Jesus Christ and surrender to His lordship. 

Furthermore, husbands are called to love their 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” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

The Bride of Christ Awaits the Promised Reunion

Scripture also promises a final reunion between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. When Christ returns in the prophesied Second Coming, He will celebrate with His bride in a wedding ceremony where the two will be united forever.

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear” (Revelation 19:7-8).

Until then, members of the church are encouraged to be faithful and be ready, waiting with anticipation for the glorious day in which they will be united with Jesus Christ and live in harmony with Him as His beloved bride (Matthew 25:1-13; Revelation 21:1-2).

Joel Ryan is an LA-based children’s and young adult author who teaches writing and communications at Life Pacific University. As a former youth pastor, he has a heart for children and young adults and is passionate about engaging youth through writing and storytelling. His blog, Perspectives Off the Page, discusses the creative and spiritual life through story and art.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Gianni Scognamiglio


Originally published August 16, 2019.