The Gladness of the Heart of Christ

*One common biblical picture to help us appreciate God’s relationship to His people is that of a husband to his wife.

In the Old Testament, Isaiah in particular is filled with this imagery.

For example, in Isaiah 54:5, this is given to God’s people as a reason for confidence even in the middle of difficulties. “Thy Maker is Thy husband; the Lord of hosts is His name.” Because they are married to God, they can be sure, He will not forget them.

In the New Testament, this picture is used to describe Christ’s relationship to the church.

We see this in Ephesians 5 where Paul compares the wife’s relationship to her husband with the church’s relationship to Christ, and the husband’s relationship with his wife, to Christ’s relationship with the church. Paul in fact goes so far as to quote Genesis 2:23, where God says that a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and apply it specifically to the church. “This mystery is profound” he says, “and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

When we share the gospel with others, we are calling on them to give themselves up to Jesus, in a sense to enter into this marriage relationship with Jesus. Paul describes his evangelistic ministry this way in 2 Corinthians 11:2. “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.”

This is a relationship that brings believers great glory and honor. What is perhaps even more surprising is that the Scripture says that the church is the glory of Christ. (2 Cor. 8:23) It is, John Owen writes, the gladness of the heart of Christ, the joy of his soul, to take poor sinners into this relationship with himself. He planned this intimate union before the foundation of the world, he was willing to make great sacrifices to make it possible, he labored and was distressed until it was accomplish, he gave himself in love for the church, and he still tenderly cares for and nourishes her, the way a man cares for his own body.

Christ’s marriage to the church means that He gives Himself to her and the church gives herself to him. Owen explains, “Christ makes himself over to the soul, to be his, as to all the love, care, and tenderness of a husband; and the soul gives up itself wholly unto the Lord Christ, to be his, as to all loving, tender obedience.”

Oh, think about what this means for us!

“Christ gives himself to the soul, with all his excellencies, righteousness, preciousness, grace, and eminencies to be its Savior, head, and husband, forever to dwell with it in this holy relation. He looks upon the souls of his saints, likes them well, counts them fair and beautiful, because he hath made them so.”

What a privilege to be a Christian, to experience this kind of relationship with Christ, and what a clear picture as well of our responsibility.

To be a Christian, is to commit oneself happily and wholly to this unique kind of relationship with Jesus Christ, to as John Owen puts it, freely and willingly “consent to receive, embrace, and submit unto the Lord Jesus, as our husband, Lord and Savior – to abide with him, subject our souls to him, and to be ruled by him forever.”

(Meditating along with John Owen in his book, Communion with God)

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