Have you considered the role that baptism plays in the union of Christ and His bride, the church?

This is pretty cool; check it out!

Welcome to part 18 of my biblical baptism series. The posts build on each other, so check out the previous posts below:

  1. Introduction
  2. Is Scripture Descriptive or Prescriptive?
  3. Defining 'baptism'
  4. The Baptism of John
  5. Why Was Jesus Baptized?
  6. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
  7. The Baptism that Jesus Commanded
  8. The Biblical Purpose of Water Baptism
  9. Is Baptism a Public Demonstration?
  10. Harmonizing Grace, Faith and Works
  11. Is Baptism Required?
  12. Is Sprinkling the Same as Baptism?
  13. Does it Matter Why You Are Baptized?
  14. Should I be Re-baptized?
  15. Should Baptisms be Scheduled?
  16. What if Baptism isn't Necessary? What if it is?
  17. What if the Believer Dies on the Way to be Baptized?

...

One aspect of baptism that I don't recall ever hearing anyone else speak on is found in the imagery of Jesus' relationship to His bride, the church.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus described the kingdom of heaven like a wedding feast.

The wedding feast and the kingdom of heaven

 

Matthew records one occasion, during the final week before Jesus' crucifixion, when the conflict with the Jewish religious leaders is peaking.

Matthew writes:

23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
(Matt. 21:23 NIV) 

Jesus, in turn, asks them whether John's baptism was from heaven or men, a question they refuse to answer.

Jesus then speaks several parables to the assembled crowd, including the following:

2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
(Matt 22:2-14 NIV) 

In this parable:

  • The king is GOD (the Father).
  • The son and groom is Jesus.
  • The servants initially invited would be the Jews (as a nation, and the religious leaders who rejected Jesus, specifically), who had already been in a covenant relationship with GOD because of Abraham.
  • The wedding attendees would be those who accepted the invitation to come to GOD—a crowd including both Jews and Gentiles.

Yet one of the guests who showed up was not dressed properly.

The King sees this as unacceptable and promptly throws the would-be participant into the darkness, which refers to hell.

But who was this one improperly clothed person, and what do the wedding clothes represent?

This is a most curious question that we will seek to answer.

Getting your wedding garment

In the Ephesian letter, Paul expounded upon the marriage analogy of Jesus and the church:

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
(Eph. 5:21-33 NIV) 

Paul said that Jesus cleansed His bride, the church, by washing her with water through the word.

This cleansing process was executed one soul at a time as that person came to Him in faith, obeying His word by being baptized, at which point Jesus added the person to the church (see Acts 2:41, 47).

In the book of Revelation, the apostle John sees the vision of the promised wedding ceremony which Jesus foretold between Himself and the church.

In Rev 19:1, John hears a great roar of the multitude in heaven.

Beginning in verse 6, we read: 

6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
(Rev. 19:6-9 NIV) 

After some further events in the vision, John writes: 

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” ... 9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
(Rev. 21:1-4, 9-11 NIV) 

Truly this wedding feast between Jesus and the church is a most glorious scene—certainly a beautiful sight to behold!

While this imagery held a special meaning to those awaiting the consummation of this marriage in the first century, a general application still may be made today.

The invitation to be a part of the Lamb's bride remains open to all.

The gift is free.

The reward is beyond imagination.

But, returning to Jesus' parable from Matt. 22, we must also be willing to put on the attire required by these wedding attendees.

We need our garments washed just the same as they did.

GOD has chosen baptism as the means of washing ourselves and our garments—a spiritual cleansing by access to Jesus' blood.

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
(Rev. 7:13-14 NIV)

Rev. 19:8 tells us that the church's wedding garment was fine linen which represents the righteous acts of GOD's children.

Thus, one improperly dressed would be one who had shown up to the wedding, but whose sins were unforgiven.

Jesus used this same terminology earlier in Revelation when He wrote to the church at Laodicea. 

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
(Rev. 3:14-18 NIV) 

One of the very first "righteous acts" of a saint—in fact, an act of one seeking to become a saint—is to be baptized in order to have their sins forgiven.

A sinner who stands before GOD in judgment without having washed their garments through baptism will be like the one Jesus prophesied about in Matt. 22:11-13.

Similarly, one who has been baptized and yet afterward "walks according to the flesh" (Rom. 8:1) without repenting will be like this improperly dressed person, having once again soiled their garments.

By GOD's grace, decide not to be that person.

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
(Matt. 22:14 NIV)

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Read Part 19 here:

Continue to the final message in this series, part 19, "Addressing Jeremy Myers' Views on Baptism."

Tim Harris
Author: Tim Harris

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