Bible Study, Catholic, Catholicism, Christianity

Bible 1 Yr – Day 203 – The Bride of Christ

Still not convinced about the nature of the relationship of the Christ and his Church. St. Paul sets it out yet again. So far, the entire letter had had this theme running underneath the surface. In chapter 1, Paul wrote that the Church is Christ’s body, “the fullness of him who is all in all”. In Chapter 2, he said that we are being built into one holy temple. In Chapter 3, he said that the Church will teach the Angels.
In Chapter 4, he focused on the one faith of the Church. Today he says this:

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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.

Paul says that Christ loved the church and GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER.

This is a good place to make a side point – something that comes up repeatedly that we should address. Paul is saying that Christ died for the Church but we also know that Christ died for other things. He died for each and every one of us individually. He died for the forgiveness of our sins. He died to redeem all of humanity. He died for the elect. He died to redeem creation, to beget the new heavens and the new earth. Each of these things is true. One does not exclude the other. Trying to distill it down into one phrase can be helpful to understand one aspect of Christ’s work but it also comes with a corresponding danger, that you might them limit your understanding by rejecting a different articulation. When we glen truth from the Bible we can say that “Premise A is true”. That does not mean that “Premise B” is not true. Premise B may also be true. If Premise A and B appear to be inconsistent that we must work to reconcile them in a manner that does justice to them both.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming >>>>>

Notice, that Paul says that Jesus will, “present the church TO HIMSELF in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that SHE MIGHT BE HOLY and without blemish.” Here Paul is speaking about the end of the world, when Jesus comes again in glory and the Church is fully sanctified and glorified. From this we can see one of the four great marks of the Church, she is Holy. This makes sense, since at Pentecost Jesus breathed on the assembled Apostles and imbued the Church with the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that the Church is perfected now. Jesus himself said to the Apostles that the weeds would grow up with the wheat and the he would separate it when the time comes. However, it does mean that Church has a fundamental holiness. In essence, it is the ability to access the Holy Spirit when needed.

But what Paul writes next is the clearest articulation of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, BUT NOURISHES AND CHERISHES IT, just as Christ DOES THE CHURCH, 30 because we are members of his body.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.”

32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Notice what Paul does. He stops, he comes out of regular writing mode to specifically address a potential misunderstanding. This is NOT a metaphor. Paul says the profound mystery that the two shall become one flesh refers specifically to Christ and the Church.

This makes sense of and clarifies all of what Paul has written before. The Church is the Body of Christ, the FULLNESS of him in this world. As there is one Christ there is one Church. If you understand this, that the two become one flesh, you will understand why if ask a knowledgeable Catholic about the Church they will tell you the love the Church. I love the Catholic Church, not because of the buildings, or the incense, or the paintings or the organ music but because Christ and the Church are inseparable.

We must now reference the side point we made earlier. While it is true that Christ and Church are inseparable that does not mean that someone who is outside the bounds of the Catholic Church is doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus, is lost, is going to hell or anything like that. It just means that their relationship is incomplete; they lack the fullness of the potential relationship with Jesus. A crude analogy might be that they have a “long distance” relationship as opposed to living in the same home.

As Paul says this is a profound mystery. It is not easily understood or articulated or accepted. Paul has spent five chapters in this letter to the Ephesians getting at it from different ways and he still felt he had to step out of natural writing and declare that he was not making a metaphorical comparison. With things like this all we can do is pray that God opens are hearts and minds to the truth. All such prayers are always answered.

15 thoughts on “Bible 1 Yr – Day 203 – The Bride of Christ”

  1. I think what your saying about the church is correct I question is how do you define the church I see the church are those individual in the visble church who have put there trust in God it’s not that I disagree with you hear I disagree with your application of who the church is, you see the church as the catholic believer in the visible Catholic Church I see as those who have given there life to Christ the genuine believers, the building is irrelevant!

    1. The building is irrelevant. What is not is the hierarchical, authoritative, and Apostolic Church given to us by God. St. Paul did not describe the Church as being merely individuals who say they believe. You said it yourself when you say, “I see…” Your own personal interpretation was not taught by the Apostles because Christ did not pass down such teachings to them. The “Catholic believer” in the Church, aka the Body of Christ, is made up of more than just laity, but also members of Holy Orders, religious life aka nuns, and the communion of saints.

  2. When I was a camp counselor in the Boy Scouts the Priest used to come up to the camp on Sunday’s and say mass in the forest. I’m sure that when Justin was in a the Army he went to more than a few Masses in rooms where the walls were made of sandbags. The walls are not important.

    What is important is what St. Paul says. He says repeatedly in several of his letters to avoid false teachers (and false letters). He identifies those teachers as ones that “do not come from us” meaning the Apostles. He identifies repeatedly that the Church has a hierarchy. In Chapter 4 of Ephesians he said

    “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…”

    To “equip the saints” can be read both as to equip “all Christians” but can also be read as to equip “the Apostles”. Either way we can see that purpose is to obtain to “the unity of faith”. Again, that is a direct reference to the teaching that comes from the Apostles and their successors.

    And we know their were successors because Paul tells Timothy to select fit persons to succeed him.

    And we know their were rules b/c Paul makes rules for the speaking in tongues and says that those rules “are the same as commandments of the Lord”.

    And we know that you could be thrown out because Paul kicks the man who married his mother-in-law out of the Church.

    So we have a line of teaching, a hierarchy with successors and rules and punishment for not following the rules. That sounds a lot like an organization. And we know that in A.D. 107 St. Ignatius called the Church the Catholic Church in a letter he wrote while on his way to Rome to be martyred. And he used it in such a manner as to assume everyone knew what it meant. Like if I say I’m going to see the Yankees, you know I mean the NYC baseball team. I don’t have to say “I’m going to see the Major League Baseball team called the New York Yankees”. Everyone knows what I mean when I say I’m going to see “the Yankees” or “the Redskins”,etc. That’s the way Ignatius referred to the Catholic Church in A.D. 107, imply that it had been called Catholic for sometime before.

    Only the Catholic Church makes the historical claim to be the Church that St. Paul referred to as the bride of Christ. It’s time to stop pretending its not. Ultimately we will have to face the Lord with this question. There is a great song lyric I posted on FB the other day:

    Now I’ll be bold.
    As well as strong.
    And use my head alongside my heart.
    So take my flesh
    And fix my eyes
    A tethered mind free from the lies.

    I love this lyric b/c it takes a lot to be bold and strong. One must use your head and your heart. Once you see truth you fix your body, mind and focus on it.

    And what is truth? Truth is a “tethered mind free from the lies”. A tether holds you in place. That is the Catholic Church. It tethers us to truth. In a way it restricts you but it doesn’t restrict you from what is good, it restricts you from what is false. It’s like the rails of train track. Yet it prevents the train from going in every direction but it also allows the train to travel at a greater speed towards its intended destination. The tether of the Church – the rules – allow us to travel the more direct path to our intended destination – heaven.

  3. Luke 9:49-50King James Version (KJV)

    49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
    50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

    Sounds like not all of Jesus’s disciples followed the Apostles. And Jesus allowed it. Why do you think that is?

  4. There are several points to be made here.

    First, Jesus says this 2 or 3 times in the New Testament. You’ll notice that each time he says that it is OK for those who are NOT against US. In other words, there is a difference between being a follower of Jesus and being against the Church v. being a follower of Jesus and being accepting / respectful of the Church.

    Second, Jesus said this and it is therefore by definition before the Church was founded. The Catholic Church is founded on Pentecost, 50 days after the Resurrection. It is at that time the Church is filled with the Holy Spirit and becomes the extension of Jesus into the world. Thus, membership in the Church was not possible at the time Jesus said this.

    Third, God has allowed and will continue to allow false churches and false prophets in all ages of the Church. St. Paul himself refers to persons such as this. Priscilla and Aquila convert Apollos from an incomplete understanding of the Gospel and he becomes one of its greatest early preachers. Why does God allow these incomplete understandings? B/c the sword needs sharpening. I am better at explaining the faith today bc I have to explain it to you and Musso.

    Finally, a famous saying from St. Thomas Aquinas applies, “we are bound to the Sacraments, God is not”. God can and does meet people where they are. And I have said before (in this post even) that simply being outside the Church does not ipso facto condemn one to hell. Someone who is honestly mistaken about the truth and the Church is innocent of any wrongdoing, as the people Jesus refers to in the verse you cited. However, all people are obligated to continue to seek the truth throughout our lives with an open mind.

    If you are innocently mistaken about the nature of the Church and were “not against us” and openly sought the truth where would it lead?

  5. To be clear here, I was raised in the catholic church. Baptized, first confession, first communion, altar boy for as long as I could be, confirmed, the whole nine yards. I was there every Sunday (I’m sure I missed a few, but it was few and far between) for the most formative years in life. And it was only after I left the church and went out into the world for most of my 20’s, that I came to realization that something was missing. I found what was missing when I bought my first bible when I was 27. In it, I found the stories I remembered as a child, but I also found Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, things that I never heard of when I was a kid. The church never instructed me on reading the bible, it only instructed me to follow what I was being taught for that week.

    So, yes, I come from a place of distrust for the catholic church. I don’t feel like they did anything to explain to me the seriousness and reasons why we need a Savior. To me, it was just a bunch of stories that were nice, but had nothing to do with the issues of life. It wasn’t till I was exposed to the world and started reading the Word for myself, that I understood its significance.

    I’ve been seeking the Truth ever since.

    I know that Christ founded the church, and I see the need for a hierarchy of elders and such, but I don’t see the need for a pope. Christ is the head, with every other believer, including Peter, as parts of the body. When I read Acts 15, I see decisions being made by a group, not one man. I see the pope as the church installing a visible “king” the way the Jews did in 1Samuel8:7
    1 Samuel 8:7King James Version (KJV)

    7 And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

    We already have a Head, in Christ, but the catholic church wanted another one.
    And it wasn’t till 1869-70, that the catholic church decided that the pope was infallible. If church was established in its “fullness” when it was founded, why did this need to be added to it 1800 years later?

    Little things, like when you try to explain to me, that when Jesus said don’t call any man father. It’s a simple command, don’t address people with titles, like rabbi, teacher, etc. because in Christ eyes, we are all equal parts of the body. You try to justify it to me with lengthy explanations. If, as a church, you can’t follow the simplest commands of Christ, Then how am I to trust it for the bigger questions of the faith?

  6. There is a lot here. I will try to address it the best I can.

    You and I grew up in the Church around the same time. I had many of the same experiences. I didn’t learn a lot when I was young. I didn’t learn much until my 30’s when as lawyers we would sit around at lunch and debate politics and culture and being Catholic in name i was called upon to defend the teaching of the Church. The fact is during the time that we grew up the Church in the US was effected by society in the US. The Church put aside the thing that has worked well, like studying and memorizing the Baltimore catechism, for “hippy” stuff like gluing felt doves on banners. Many people of our generation are poorly catechized. Nothing in the Church guarantees it is going to do a good job all the time. This by the way was a largely American (and probably European) problem. While this was going on in America the Catholic Church Christianized S. America, Africa and the Far East. We are seeing the fruits of that work now.

    On the other hand if we look at the entire history of the Church its done a great job. It was the Catholic Church that Christianized the entire world. And this was at a time when most people didn’t read. Yet everyone knew the stories. Even you and I knew the basics even though we didn’t have the full context.

    Your references to the history of the Pope are a jumble of half truths. Just google “list of popes” and you’ll see that there are Popes going back all the way to St. Peter who is followed by Linus, Cletus and Clement. Do you mean to suggest that in the first generation after the Apostles that Christianity had already lost its moorings? That idea doesn’t make sense to me. The reason why Jesus gave the Church the Holy Spirit and joined himself so closely to it is so that the Church would not fail in the way the old testament priest failed. Their would not be these types of errors because the Holy Spirit leads the Chruch into truth.

    So we know their were Popes going back to immediately after Peter and we know that they had authority form history. Many quotes from the Church Fathers discuss the authority of the Bishop of Rome (which is the Pope’s specific job). My favorite is the Letter of Clement. There is a dispute in the east and they appeal to Clement for an answer. However this wad done around A.D. 90 – while the Apostle John was still alive. So even though there is a living Apostle the dispute is settled by Clement. That shows that the office is one of authority.

    As for the Church “deciding” papal infallibility in 1870 that is not an accurate description of what happened. The Pope has always been infallible. That comes from scripture where Jesus gives Peter the power to bind and loose. Jesus says that what Peter binds on earth has been bound in heaven. Peter cannot bind something wrong on earth b/c that would mean that something was wrong in heaven (which is not possible). I do not know the specific reason this came up in 1870 but I do know that the definition of infallibility severed more to limit the scope of infallibility than grant any new authority to the pope. Infallibility was defined as a “negative charism”. That means that when the Pope freely chooses teach to the Universal Chruch on Faith or Morals he is prevented by the HS from teaching error. NOTICE, that doesn’t mean that he will articulate this perfectly or even in a clear way, it just means he will not teach error. And its very limited. Its not in his private residence over dinner speculating w/ other bishops. its not on all things – like baseball or the weather – just faith and morals. There is a really really great book on this question called “Pope Fiction”. It goes through all the example usually raised about bad popes and shows how over 2,000 years this definition has never been violated. It’s really good b/c it treats each one as a separate chapter so you can skip around easily.

    We wont’ go over “call no man Father” again. Suffice it to say it also says “call no one teacher” but no one has problems with that and Paul calls himself father to his converts. In fact in today’s reading Paul says, “(ESV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise)” Eph 6:1-2

    Finally, and sorry this was long, note that Jesus selected Judas to be among the Apostles. What must Jesus followers have thought on at Saturday when Jesus was dead and buried. Would it have been right on that day to leave the Apostles because Judas had been among them? No, it would not have. You and I may not understand everything. We are not privy to all the details of God’s plan. I do not know why God allowed the Church in America to fall into 25 years or so of bad cathechesis. I can speculate that maybe it is because from hardship comes renewal that is why I know teach CCD so that a small group of kids will not enter their adulthood not understanding their faith. The bottom line is – you don’t leave Peter and the Apostles because Judas was among them.

  7. “The Pope has always been infallible.”
    “That means that when the Pope freely chooses teach to the Universal Chruch on Faith or Morals he is prevented by the HS from teaching error. NOTICE, that doesn’t mean that he will articulate this perfectly or even in a clear way, it just means he will not teach error.”

    At least 14 years after the church was founded,

    Galatians 2:1-2King James Version (KJV)
    Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
    2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

    Paul has to rebuke Peter,

    Galatians 2:11-13King James Version (KJV)
    11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
    12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
    13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

    This reads to me that well over a decade after the church has been founded, Peter’s actions are causing men being led astray and he has to be rebuked for it. That doesn’t seem like infallibility to me. I know you said “he won’t teach error”, and probably give me some excuse that Peter wasn’t teaching or anything like that, but people are following his examples. If that’s not teaching, I don’t know what is.

    “We wont’ go over “call no man Father” again. Suffice it to say it also says “call no one teacher” but no one has problems with that and Paul calls himself father to his converts. In fact in today’s reading Paul says, “(ESV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise)” Eph 6:1-2”

    But Paul doesn’t tell his converts to address him as “Father Paul”. He’s using the analogy of fathers and children. I know it’s a little thing, but it’s a command from Jesus is it not? You have no problem believing you are eating His real flesh and blood because He said “eat my Flesh and drink my Blood” Why not believe Him when he said “call no man father, for one is your Father, who is in heaven”

  8. Your exactly right about Peter he was not teaching error. Further, the was not teaching to the Universal church – i.e. to the entire Church. You are conflating infallibility with “impeccability”. Remember, the authority Jesus gives to Peter is to bind and loose. This is a declaratory authority. Peter has to say, “I bind this…”. Its a serious thing to say “I bind all the followers of Christ to believe X”. It is not a authority Peter or any Pope can use by accident.

    The command call no man Father is not a command from Jesus to stop using the word father. It is a command to give no man the adoration we give God the Father. Remember, this is a time when the Roman emperor declared himself to be god and expected worship. Jesus is drawing a line in the sand for sure. But its not a line about trivial things like using the word father, its a line that has to do with how we will view our Father in heaven. Many thousands of my Catholic brothers and sisters died defending this line. They died when they would not call the Roman emperor father, or Lord, or God. I to this day call no man Father – I will not let any man be a god to me. But Paul declared himself to be the spiritual father of his spiritual children. That is what God is doing. He is building gigantic Catholic family. Just like God shared his fatherhood with St. Paul so that he could be the spiritual father of many so does God continue to share his spiritual fatherhood with my Catholic Priest. I would not dishonor the memory of Roman martyrs or all the generations of priests who have passed the faith down to me through their spiritual children by retreating from calling my priest father for one instant.

    You obviously have trouble with this but think about it … If it was a proscription against using the term Father than (a) Paul would not have dared to call himself Father bc he was the premier evangelical apostle who was well aware that it would have created confusion and (b) because the people getting the letters would have freaked out and there might even be some early record of this being a controversy – which there is not . And there are plenty of controversies in the early church. Many protestants have this false idea that the Church was this all powerful overlord who had merely to articulate a whim and everyone followed along or went to hell. that’s not the case. For example, Arius taught that Jesus was not not God. And in the 600’s (i think – not 100% on the date could have been earlier) the Church met in council and discussed it and voted and agreed to put down the Arian heresy (this vote made famous by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci code). They declared Arius a heretic but he moved east and kept teaching and Arianism remained a active “denomination” for something like 200 years! If someone spotted “call no man father” and really thought it meant what you think it does there would have been a knock down drag out fight about it and it would be recorded in history. Its not.

    And (c) the word Father would have disappeared from all language – b/c the verse says “call no man father” – that would include your natural father. So that word would have fallen out of all usage and we would have invented some circumlocution – like “my mother’s husband” – to describe that person but that never happened.

  9. “Your exactly right about Peter he was not teaching error.”

    Are you saying Peter wasn’t teaching by his actions?

    I’ve been in construction most of my life and the way I learned to do most of it was watching what the lead guy did and following it. They “taught” me by their actions.

    1. I absolutely agree that teaching by example is some of the best most important teaching. We Catholics call this tradition. All I’m saying is that Infallibility only applies to formal teaching. When the pope specially articulates a teaching of the face usually in written form.

  10. Ex Cathedra

    Help support New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download or CD-ROM. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more — all for only $19.99…

    Literally “from the chair”, a theological term which signifies authoritative teaching and is more particularly applied to the definitions given by the Roman pontiff. Originally the name of the seat occupied by a professor or a bishop, cathedra was used later on to denote the magisterium, or teaching authority. The phrase ex cathedra occurs in the writings of the medieval theologians, and more frequently in the discussions which arose after the Reformation in regard to the papal prerogatives. But its present meaning was formally determined by the Vatican Council, Sess. IV, Const. de Ecclesiâ Christi, c. iv: “We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable.” (See INFALLIBILITY; POPE.)

    So, this is what you’re talking about. the pope is only infallible when speaking to whole congregation of the church

    1. seems really convenient. So when Peter was walking around in Antioch, acting in such a way that required Paul to rebuke him, Peter wasn’t acting in his “papal” office, he was just another elder, it’s only when Peter decides to address the entire church, does he automatically become incapable of error. That concept doesn’t make sense to me whatsoever,

  11. •”If anyone shall say that Blessed Peter the Apostle was not constituted by Christ our Lord as chief of all the Apostles and the visible head of the whole Church militant: or that he did not receive directly and immediately from the same Lord Jesus Christ a primacy of true and proper jurisdiction, but one of honour only: let him be anathema.”
    •”If any one shall say that it is not by the institution of Christ our Lord Himself or by divinely established right that Blessed Peter has perpetual successors in his primacy over the universal Church, or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of Blessed Peter in this same primacy. — let him be anathema” (Denzinger-Bannwart, “Enchiridion”, nn. 1823, 1825).

    Plus the catholic church has already passed judgment on me anyway. So, like you said, we’ll all to answer to God one day, so I’ll leave it In His capable hands.

  12. To be in infallible the Pope must be actively trying to invoke his infallibility. He has got to be seeking to teach infallibly. So the Pope, even coming to the window in the Vatican and giving his Sunday address is not invoking his infallibility. Its a rarely used power.

    The Church has not passed judgement on you. Anathema, in this context, just means “not in communion” with or “separate from”.

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