Body-Building-Bride

Originally posted on Laura’s Writings. Updated 012306

ABSTRACT:
A THEOLOGY OF CHURCH IN PAUL’S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS
by
Laura K. Springer
Talbot School of Theology

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians provides what may be the New Testament’s clearest and deepest picture of the church. Written in a context of struggle with spiritual powers, this letter describes the church and her connection with Christ in order to equip the church to live for Christ in a culture much like our own. The church’s understanding of itself cannot come from mere human sources, because she is not a human institution. The church’s understanding of herself must come from the Word. The images of the body, the building, and the bride employed in this letter provide a foundational understanding the church needed to live in and respond to a cultural context permeated with concern for evil powers.

Understanding the identity of the church is a powerful tool for godly living in such a context. First, vertical connection with God and horizontal connection with fellow believers provides the power support needed for the struggle. Second, believers participate with Christ and fellow believers in the growth of the body and are not mere pawns in the struggle with spiritual powers. Third, understanding the church as being in process gives hope for the future and comfort in present setbacks. She has not yet arrived and she is safe.

Everything the church is flows from and toward her connection with Christ. As his body, the church is his presence in the world. As such, the church does the will of her head and draws upon his power as she works in the world for his sake. As his body, she is the one new humanity, created and growing into the image of Christ, demonstrating God’s wisdom to the powers (3:10).
As God’s building, the church is and is becoming the dwelling place of God. Christ himself is the origin of the building, the source of power for the process of building, and the goal toward which the building grows. The church finds her shape in Christ, the chief corner stone. She is founded upon the teaching of his apostles and prophets. She is supplied with gifts and trainers that make the building process possible.

As bride, the church submits to and is loved by her husband, the Christ. The church willingly submits to Christ by choosing to be and to do for his good. Christ loves the church by choosing to be and to do for her good.

It is imperative for theologians in every camp (fundamentalist, evangelical, reformed, emerging, and whatever else) to look deeply into the biblical understanding of church and to begin to separate the biblical from the merely traditional. There are valid ecclesiological questions on all sides and these questions must be considered. The state of our culture demands it. The state of our church demands it. The state of our theology demands it.

About Laura

My name is Laura and I am on a journey, pondering the implications of God's glorious design of humanity and integrating every aspects of this design into a description of whole life health.
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3 Responses to Body-Building-Bride

  1. Darren Crutchfield says:

    Good morning Laura, I’ve enjoyed cruising though your insight and comments on the Bride. It’s been in God’s timing for me to find this here. We ‘re going through Revelation 19 right now, and the importance / significance of the bride- groom parallel from Eph. We did a brief study of the history Jewish wedding traditions- parental matchmaking marital arrangement of kids not yet born, to the betrothment, to the feast, to the groom preparing a place for his bride at his fathers home, returning to retrieve his bride. Then tied it all back to Rev 19, amazingly beautiful deep foreshadows of Our Lord’s return for us His Bride!

    Keep it up, keep the faith and keep blooming where the Lord has planted you!
    God Bless- Darren

  2. Laura says:

    Darren,

    A former pastor (pre-TFB) once said that the amazing thing about metaphors is that the reality is always bigger than the picture. The fact that I can’t understand the depths of the bride metaphor after years of study tells me that the relationship between Christ and the Church is deeper than I can imagine. I don’t think we’ll get the whole thing when we are face to face either.

    God is too big to comprehend, but the attempt is too amazing to pass up.

    – Laura

  3. Pingback: When I say “church,” what do I intend? - Who in the World Are We?

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