The theme of our value being found only in God has gripped my thoughts for the past two days. On Thursday I responded to a video encouraging all women to believe “I am awesome”, and yesterday I responded to the rebuttal, “Saying we are worthless devalues God, does it not?”
A topic came up briefly in my thought process in my initial response on which I would like to reflect more now. Christ died for His bride: the Church. Have you heard this statement before:
“If you were the only person on Earth, Jesus still would have died for only you.”
Steve Archer made this theological misconception popular in a song during the late 80’s. Unfortunately, the Bible does not make this statement, or anything remotely close to this statement. In Western society, we often forget that the rest of the world, and most communities throughout history have functioned as community-based societies, whereby decisions were made as a group and had wide-reaching effects. Here we focus on the self.
God loves His people. In the Old Testament, the Israelites, as a nation and as a whole, were the “apple of His eye” (Deut 32.10, Zec 2.8). He did, on occasion, call out specific people for specific tasks – but most of them functioned in their familial units, even when fulfilling their calling and that calling was always for the good of His chosen people, not for one individual. Noah took his wife, three children and their spouses on the ark. Abraham took his wife and his nephew Lot, and his accumulated children and servants everywhere he went.
In the New Testament and under the New Covenant, the people of God are no longer a specific ethnic race, but all who repent from their sins and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. And this Spiritual group is known as the Universal or Catholic Church. Catholic literally translates as universal, and is not used here to refer to the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope, but all Christians, from all generations, from all tribes, tongues and nations (Rev 7.9). We, who are washed in the blood of the lamb, collectively make up the bride of Christ.
On the local level we are known as a church (lower case “c”) as well, and in this community we function as the body of Christ.
“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body.
– 1 Cor 12.14-20
In order to be in God’s plan, we have to be functioning as part of the local body. We are each a member, and play a specific role in the body, and the need to body for encouragement, accountability and community in Christ.
We corporately, are the bride of Christ.
“Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.'”
– Rev 19.6-8
Jesus Himself is the bridegroom:
“And Jesus said to them, ‘While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.'”
– Mark 2.19
We have been betrothed or engaged to Him by accepting His grace to pay the penalty for our sins:
“For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you [the church at Corinth] to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.”
– 2 Cor 11.2
And the union will be complete at the end of the age, celebrated at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb:
“Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”
– Rev 19.9
What does all of this have to do with anything? It comes back to a foundational truth on which I wrote yesterday: God chose us, His bride, before the foundation of the world (Eph 2.1). He chose us, we did not choose him (John 15.16) and He has given life where there was no life, to whomever He chooses:
“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.”
– John 5.21
Jesus is not up in Heaven with God, chewing His fingernails, hoping someone will believe. He decisively works in the hearts of those whom the Father has given Him, as His bride, and of those He will not lose one:
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”
– John 6.37
In conclusion, I ask the question: Does Jesus love us individually? Yes. Would He come to die for only me or only you? No. He wrote the entire story of redemption before He ever started creation. His plan was to have a chosen people: Israel. And you, if you are in Christ, are part of the Spiritual Israel, the children of Abraham, the body and bride of Christ.
Yes, when you submit your life to God through Jesus, the Spirit comes and indwells you and makes you into a new creation (2 Cor 5.17). Yes, we have vital, daily, world-rocking personal relationships with God. Jesus modeled for us intimacy with the Father by regularly slipping away for prayer and intimate conversation with God one-on-one. But we have been created as a part of a unit, and to neglect that body is to neglect ourselves and our created purpose. And our relationship with God will struggle.
And yes. Jesus loves you. He wants you to repent. He did die for you. And for your mom. And for your friends. And for the people who live in Mali and Germany and South Africa. It’s not all about you. It’s about Jesus, redeeming His bride, for His glory and for our good. So let’s stop looking at ourselves, and let’s look at Jesus. Jesus died and rose again and paid the punishment of sin for all who would repent.
Wow. What a Savior. What a God!
“When Christ calls a man, He bids Him come and die.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
‘And [Jesus] was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me’.”
– Luke 9.23, Mark 8.34, Matt 16.24