Identity is a huge issue, so much so that, when Satan tempted Jesus he went straight to the heart of the matter: “If you are the Son of God……”
Scripture makes it clear that Jesus faced temptation in every way that we experience. (Heb 4:15).
Satan will tempt us to think of ourselves as less than we are as Christians. It is a critical, devilish strategy aimed to disempower and disarm the followers of Jesus. If we follow his thinking we become weak, afraid and unfit for purpose, unable to take the kingdom of God into the world around us.
There has been much both written and spoken about in recent years about who we are in Christ, a message which has helped to counter Satan’s attack on the identity of a follower of Jesus. However, little has been written about the people of God as the bride of Christ or about the role of the bride in this world.
Paul refers to the profound mystery of Christ and his church in Ephesians 5 and, in so doing, goes back to the first union between a man and a woman recorded in Genesis 2. The Scripture is clear that a man will leave his father and mother and become one with his wife, a concept with which we are familiar within the context of Christian marriage services. However, the union celebrated today, one affected by the fall of man, is different in nature from the original intention.
If one looks at the text in Genesis, the woman is referred to as a suitable helper for the man. One of the Hebrew words from which this translation comes is also used twenty other times in the Old Testament to refer to God’s own effort to rescue and sustain his people, and can be translated as rescue, strength or power. An example would be Psalm 121:2 My help comes from the Lord, the One who made heaven and earth. The other word indicates intimacy: the man and woman were face to face and were perfectly suited to each other.
Thus woman is brought to man by God as a strength for him, a rescuer to assist and complete him, one who fits together with him in intimacy and love. Domination of man over woman came only after the Fall. Here we see God’s original intention. The union between a man and a woman is a shadow or type of the ultimate marriage between Christ and his church, as Paul points out in Ephesians.
Paul refers to the immense love of Christ for his bride and his willingness to sacrifice for her, to make her into the cleansed, radiant and blemish less individual he calls her to be.
Several years ago, God gave me a vision of a beautiful woman dressed in a long white gown, with a crown on her head. Her skin was perfect, without spot, blemish or wrinkle. As I watched, I merged into this person. At that point, a sceptre was held out, and, as I touched it, I was instantly drawn towards the brown eyes of Jesus. The sceptre is a reminder of the story of Esther, who risked her life to go to the king to intercede for her people, who were going to be annihilated. It is a biblical theme that, although God is sovereign, he chooses at times to co-labour with his people. Hence the Great Commission.
Peter refers to followers of Jesus as a royal priesthood, a people set apart by and for God, who offer their lives as a sacrifice to Him. The Old Testament priests offered sacrifices to God on a daily basis. In the New Testament we are urged to give our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1)
Being a priest today involves not offering daily sacrifices but being sacrifices, This translates into action: we are to do what is holy and pleasing to God.
Jesus’ action, as the Great High Priest was to offer his body as a sacrifice for sin thereby bringing atonement between a holy God and an unholy people. We are not called to that, nor can we be because only Jesus lived the perfect life required for the sacrifice. We need to look to the motivation behind Jesus’ action to tease out the priestly bride’s role.
If the bride is at one with her bridegroom, she will have the same heart as He, a heart which longs to search out the lost, the alienated, the afflicted, the marginalised, ones the world considers to be useless, worthless and of absolutely no account. She will possess a heart attitude completely the opposite to that of the world, where each individual is a treasure, a precious jewel. This is symbolised in the Old Testament priesthood by the High Priest wearing a breastplate sewn into which were twelve stones, each representing one of the tribes of Israel. The breastplate was worn over the heart.
An attitude where every individual is of worth compels action to reach out in love, as Jesus did. If the bride is looking into her bridegroom’ eyes, she will see His pain for those who remain alienated from Him. His love for them becomes her love and she is energised into reaching out to them.
Because she is at one with the Bridegroom, she will reach out with the authority and the power which He provides, through the Holy Spirit living in her. Her actions will not be works of the flesh. She will not be satisfied with evangelistic programmes or models designed by man. She will be placing her hand in her bridegroom’s hand and reaching out with Him to bring life. She will do the works that Jesus did and even greater things than these, simply because He prophesied that this would be the case.
She will also be interceding for the lost. In the book of Revelation, the prayers of the saints are referred to as golden bowls full of incense held before the throne of God. As the bride reaches upwards through prayer and horizontally to her fellow human beings, the cross of Christ is displayed.
For such a time as this:
At this time, Jesus is calling His bride to rise up, to take the authority that He gives her and to be the rescuer, the power and the strength that He has called her to be. He has chosen to limit himself to work primarily through His bride to bring redemption to the world.
There have been and still are times of revival when God works through His bride in amazing power and the effect is to turn the hearts of individuals, cities and nations to God.
As the world shakes with political, economic and religious tensions, many individuals are looking for a way out. If the bride does not rise up at this time and point the way to Jesus, the vacuum will be filled with promising alternatives which ultimately turn to dust.
Esther’s response, when her people were in danger of annihilation was to agree to go, in the knowledge that she could perish. Through her action, history was changed. Alison Ross.