Summary: Some folks treat the Bride of Christ like she were the whore of Babylon. That's not really a good idea. Find out why in this sermon.
OPEN: At the 1st church I served, there was a man named Frank who was … difficult. He was a hardworking man with a wife and 4 kids, but he could be a hard man to get to know. His wife and kids came to church… but he didn’t. I’d go over to his house to visit once in a while trying to talk to him about Jesus and church, but it was never a comfortable situation because, as I sat at their dining room table with he and his wife, he’d constantly berate his wife – right in front of her. He’d tell me his wife was ugly, she was a poor housekeeper, she was stupid and he said she lied all the time.
(PAUSE) Now… is that any way a husband to treat his wife? Of course not… but that’s what HE did!
Now, by contrast Ephesians 5:25-30 teaches: “Husbands, love your wives, as CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, JUST AS CHRIST DOES THE CHURCH, because we are members of his body.”
Ephesians is telling us that a bride should be treated gently. She should be loved and nourished and cherished.
Now what’s intriguing about this passage in Ephesians is that it also tells us that the CHURCH is the BRIDE OF CHRIST. We’re told that a husband ought to treat his wife the same way Christ treats HIS bride. And just in case you missed his point, Paul spells it out for us – “This mystery is profound, but I am saying it refers to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:32
Christ is the husband… the church is His bride. So when Jesus looks at a church He sees something that He loves; something He cherishes; something He wants to nourish and have grow; something… He thinks is pretty.
Now, the problem is, the church isn’t always that pretty. Sometimes churches can be downright UGLY; sometimes churches can be mean-spirited and harsh and self-centered; sometimes churches can be … well… embarrassing.
In I and II Corinthians we read about a church in a city called Corinth. And as we read those letters, we read about a really ugly church. The folks in that congregation were quarrelsome, and self-centered, and just plain mean to each other. I once said that, if I’d lived in Corinth, I’d have taken my family to any church but that one. They were on the road to hell… and someone greased the chute.
Now in I Corinthians 12 we are told about all the GIFTS God gave that church. As I’m reading this part of I Corinthians, I’m thinking - those folks didn’t deserve those gifts!!!! If I’d been God, I wouldn’t have given them ANY of those gifts. If I’d been God, I’d have backed my car up to the door, loaded up those gifts into the trunk… and I’d have driven away. And I’d have never looked back. They did NOT deserve those gifts!!!
QUESTION: Did God do that? Did God take those gifts away from them? No – He didn’t take them away did He? In fact, God gave NOT ONLY gave them all those gifts, but He gave them TWO letters in the Bible (I & II Corinthians). In those two letters, God had Paul write more stuff in those 2 letters to that church than to any other church in all of Scripture.
NOW, why would God waste His time on these folks??? Why give these quarrelsome and self-centered people all those gifts and letters? Can you guess why? (Pause) He gave them those gifts and letters because He loved that church. He had died for that church. He had given himself up for that church.
You see, for God, those gifts and letters were not a waste - they were an investment.
But now - does God EVER give up on a church? Well, yeah. On Revelation chapters 2 and 3 we read about seven churches in Asia. A couple of those churches got a pat on the back and an attaboy (Smyrna/Philadelphia), but the other 5 didn’t fare so well.
Pergamum and Thyatira were condemned for tolerating immorality and heresy and Jesus said He’d come and punish them for that.
Jesus told Sardis “If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will COME AGAINST you. Revelation 3:3