What allegories are presented regarding believers in the New Testament? (Part One of Two)
This is the question I have tried to answer for myself and which I now present to you. What metaphors or allegories are in the New Testament regarding us as believers?
Believers as a Family
In the NT there is certainly the theme of believers being a family. At very least it is the way we are to view each other. Jesus says those who keep God’s word are my mother, father, brother, sister. And there is Christ’s assurance that those who forsake family for the Gospel will receive new family in this life and in the future eternal life as well.
New Testament Allegories about Believers
After acknowledging the family, I found considering this question two primary, clear, thematic allegories.
1. That of the believers being a Bride
Jesus hints at a concept of “one flesh” regarding his bride.
2. That of believers being one Body
This is the desire Christ had for his believers.
I think it is worthy of noting that there was no third allegory placed clearly and thematically in the NT regarding believers. There is no evidence of allegories about the body regarding roles based on sex or personal freedoms or ethnic standings. Therefore while considering these two allegories I will limit my observation to what is said within these texts. It is acknowledged there are passages from which some Bible students have suggested other allegories, but those allegories are not explicit in the text. We will address those passages in the next study. This consideration will examine the allegories laid out clearly with multiple references and consider the images they present.
The Bride (see footnote 1)
In parable Jesus speaks of himself as a Bridegroom: “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” John says: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full.” John’s disciples had come to him saying the man you baptized is now baptizing and all are going to him. (John 3:28-29) John answers that Jesus alone is the bridegroom, and those “going to him” are his “bride”. What is Jesus’ relationship to his bride and hers to him? What is her “status” or “state” in his eyes?
Jesus prayed, “I have manifested thy name to those whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word.” Jesus uses language here reminiscent of Adam’s words to God, “the woman thou gavest me.” Unlike his predecessor, Jesus kept God’s word. And he testifies of his bride thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word. She has been sanctified in Christ, and like Abraham had righteousness imputed to him because of his faith, so she has been presented to God as having kept his word. And so it is written, “Christ loved the church and gave his life for it… Then he could present it to himself as a glorious church, without any kind of stain or wrinkle--holy and without faults.” (John 17 and Ephesians 5) Unlike Adam, Jesus refused to join his bride in sin. Instead, he turned to God and prayed on her behalf. The result of his obedience and his prayer has been her complete redemption.
Now the second Adam and his bride will “eat of the tree of life and live forever.” (Revelation 22) Christ considers us “his bride” and we consider him our bridegroom as we wait for the wedding feast. Paul was deeply amazed at the marvel of this understanding. “This is a great mystery, I'm talking about Christ's relationship to the church.” (Galatians 5) We note with Paul that the love Christ has for his bride is an ideal template for human married love.
The Wedding Feast
Revelation 21: And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men.”
One day Christ will come and the voice will call out that the bridegroom is near.
I imagine those that have been males in the ecclesia will not say to their bridegroom in that day, “I am so glad you’re back, I stood in for you the best I could.” No, they will be trembling, breathless, weak in the knees like a young girl. They will be giddy and blushing like a young bride, they will be awe struck at the sight of their husband. Their hearts will be racing. In that day all as one being will realize the only allegory ever lived out in the ecclesia was that of being a young woman! Yes, a young bride, reflecting the glory of her Lord and being granted a place along side her husband. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure--for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. The bride of Christ spends her time “in waiting” creating a fine linen wedding gown. This cloth, bright and pure, is woven from “the righteous deeds of the saints”.
Revelation 22: The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let him who hears say, “Come.” Let us who hear the call say Come. Let us invite all those men and women who seek Christ and need his Kingdom to see this living allegory in the ecclesia: that of a bride aglow with anticipation of her wedding day, righteous, accepted, loved, and overjoyed.
It is noteworthy that nothing in this allegory speaks to any sense of impurity or shame. What is said is that she has “kept God’s word,” she is clothed with a wedding gown representing her righteous deeds. She is a completely acceptable bride waiting for her bridegroom. She is waiting for the wedding feast. In this allegory there is no suggestion that a part of the bride is allegorically covered. She appears a bride in her glory.
Christ’s Relationship with his Bride
Jesus speaks of himself as the bridegroom and his believers as his bride. It seems appropriate to consider what (if anything) Jesus had to say about the relationship between a husband and wife. As he choose this metaphor, his thinking on that relationship may offer an insight into what type of relationship Jesus has with his bride.
Jesus quotes from Genesis: “Have you not read? He that made them from the beginning made them male and female and said, For this reason a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two become one flesh.” And then he draws this lesson: “They are no longer two but one flesh.” The teachers of the day taught that the order of creation of the man and woman, her “coming out of man”, said all kinds of things about the DIFFERENCE between the two sexes.
But whether you are man or woman listen again to what the Lord said: “Have you not read? He that made them from the beginning made them male and female and said, For this reason (by virtue of the way he made them) a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two become one flesh.” In direct contradiction of all popular religious thought Jesus states this simple truth: The two become one flesh – the exact same flesh. First note it takes two for this joining, a mutual effort. Second, they are considered by God the same: ONE FLESH. Any teaching that promotes that men and women are different in their basic human natures, sinful inclinations, quality of spirit, or in reflection of the image and glory of God contradicts God their creator and Jesus himself (see footnote 2).
And the Lord says, “What therefore God has joined together let not man put asunder.” God went to great pains to note that his male and female creation bore the exact same flesh. Now, in that allegory or image of one human body, where is the instruction to view some portions of the body as different in their “nature” than another? But man has gone to great pains to interpret the same events to teach they are completely different in their nature and status between each other and different in their “reflection” of God.
Which of these teachings is condoned by Christ?
“What therefore God has joined together let not man put asunder.” Consider the meanings of these two words, “joined” and “asunder,” in the Greek. To put asunder here is the Greek word choreo, meaning “a space.” It comes from the Greek word chora, meaning “an empty space, an expanse.” The root word you might be more familiar with: chasma, in English chasm - “an impassable interval or gulf.”
The Greek word for joined is suzeugnumi (Strong’s #4801) and means “to conjoin, fasten together in a yoke, to yoke together.” So it means plainly yoked or bound together. But we might ask, in what way? Could Jesus be directing us to a deeper understanding of the meaning of joined? If so, it shines a light on God’s original intent. This word join suggests that the true joining was that of the minds: “joint thinkers,” if you will. Because two cannot physically become one (even after repeated attempts), the joining is understood to speak of some other level. These two minds were designed to contemplate together and consider the world before them. What Jesus may be saying is: You are putting “an impassable gulf” between men and women. Divorcing your wives is just an observable symptom of the deeper and even more destructive separation. What God has “joined” (suzeugnumi) together, you should not be tearing apart. The two minds God intended to be working together do not function as he intended when one is separated from the other or when one is diminished or silenced.
Genesis 2 indicates that the
man “needed a helper fit for him.” But not one of the animals was such a
helper. Why? Because animals cannot achieve any type of oneness with man.
Animals do not discuss, debate, investigate jointly,
discover together – all the things which human couples were intended to
do from the beginning. So God made a woman for the man, so that together they
could have dominion over the earth and its beasts. A second lesson from this
may well be considered. God does not say anywhere in Genesis that the female
is subordinate to the man. Any such opinion relies on an interpretation.
Genesis does state specifically and several times that male and female
are to exercise dominion over everything
else! Clearly, subordinate animals were not fit as the male’s companion. God
then created a partner companion, not a subordinate companion. The animals were
subordinate to mankind; this is stated. Animals in all their
characteristics were thus unsuitable as a companion. A suitable companion
required a non-subordinate creature, one with whom “oneness” could be achieved:
It would seem therefore that the original concept in creation as interpreted by Jesus is two becoming one flesh. There are two basic lessons to be drawn from this, and I think they are important to remember because they are carried forward in Jesus’ Gospel message.
The two shall become one. This is an action taken by both partners. It is a
mutual decision and effort to become one. Christ’s bride is not under
compulsion to marry, it is a freewill choice. It is not one entity absorbing
another. The two work to achieve a oneness of mind.
2. “One flesh” is such a basic concept that I think its implication has been lost. But as Jesus points out, “one flesh” means inseparable, requiring a sword to be cut asunder. “One flesh” has the exact same purpose and function and nature. One portion cannot be separated from the other and one portion can not be dominated by the other. One portion does not represent one thing and another something else, it is a body undivided.
This is Jesus’ understanding of Genesis, a belief that God intended the two people to strive for a unity so complete that it’s described as “one flesh”. I believe it’s safe to say that if this is what Jesus understood his Father wanted for men and women in marriage, then it’s exactly the type of marriage relationship he would form with his bride. It should be no surprise that NT allegories fit this template. I suggest any “allegory” or verse interpreted to violate oneness, or having that oneness being “subdivided”, should be considered suspect.
Jesus prayed to God for us in this manner: “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17) Both males and females are Christ’s bride, a bride he cares for as his own flesh. Christ is one with his Bride. But he prayed for us that we should “be one even as we (Christ and God) are one.” It becomes incumbent upon us then to strive for that oneness as well while we wait for the Bridegroom, humbly admitting that it is Christ’s will that we would become “one flesh” among ourselves, operating allegorically as a single entity, that of a bride.
The next section of this study looks at the second allegory in the NT: that of the believers being A Body.
1. Throughout the Old Testament you see references to Israel being God‘s bride. In Ezekiel 16 a beautiful allegory is laid out for God choosing his bride. When Israel was idolatrous she was an “unfaithful wife”. Almost everywhere in the OT the image of a bride and bridegroom is a lovely and joyful one. The absence of the voice of the bride and bridegroom is used to describe the absolute worst of national conditions. The use of the OT metaphor of the bride and bridegroom is worthy of a study of its own (and time would fail me to tell of Song of Solomon). But I will concentrate my comments on the Believers in Christ and what “allegories” we see regarding them in the NT.
2. Males and females are quite different in many ways. The physical is obvious. In their emotional inclination, in disposition, in point of view, and in the way they process events they are often different, too. These differences are to be celebrated; identifying those differences as weaknesses is short sighted. And it is outside of God’s desire and direction to make those he pronounced as “one flesh” to be different in relationship to their God or in His eyes, as He has clearly stated how He sees them.