26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Jn. 6:26-27
In our culture, and I believe it is so in many other cultures as well, the bride cannot just be picked off the streets and straightaway handed over to the bridegroom. Once it has been established that she is the groom’s wife-to-be, great and meticulous care will be taken to prepare this young woman for her husband on the wedding day.
I have never heard of a bridegroom personally adorning or preparing his own bride. On the contrary, he engages the services of others, who mostly do it freely out of the love they have for him. The purpose is to present the bride to the bridegroom perfect and properly adorned. That is the joy of a wedding.
It would be a strange scenario indeed to find the bridegroom, all alone with his wife-to-be, cooped up in a room somewhere while he busily tries to scrub his bride for their upcoming wedding. It is not his job to make her ready for the wedding day. But there are friends of the bridegroom, people who are intent on bringing joy to the bridegroom. These are they who take it upon themselves to make sure the bride is well-prepared for the groom. And they don’t just pour buckets of water on her and put her out to dry in the sun. No, these people are professionals in the art of bride preparation. They will work on the bride until she is spotless and without wrinkle, perfect as perfect can be. Only then will she be ready to be presented to the groom on the wedding day.
Jesus engaged the services of His friends, the men who carry the five-fold ministry, to prepare His bride for Him (Ephesians chapters 3 & 4). Christ’s bride is the church.
There is no other gospel that can perfect the church except the apostolic gospel, the gospel of the revelation of the cross of Christ. When I say the apostolic gospel I don’t mean, of course, that every person who calls themselves an apostle carries this gospel. A true apostle is someone who brings to light the gospel of a crucified life.
The gospel of the cross is the gospel that comes to deal the death blow to the flesh, that rot that is our carnal nature, so that we might be perfected in the spirit, and become men and women who comprise the church, Christ’s bride in the Spirit. Sin dwells in the flesh.
Jesus is neither going to marry a child bride, nor an imperfect bride. Every born-again believer will have to submit themselves to the exacting work of the cross in their lives in order to become a part of this Body.
The gospel of the cross was the singular gospel that the Apostle Paul preached, because it had been revealed to him that this was the only gospel that was guaranteed to bring the resultant perfecting of the saints.
The gospel of the cross is invested in the five-fold ministry. This is the ministry which Christ commissioned to reveal the crucified Christ in men’s hearts.
It is very interesting to note how many born-again believers today have embraced the charismatic gospel, which in reality is a spiritually hollow gospel based solely on miracles, healings and prosperity. Not that these things are bad in themselves, but when they come without a revelation of the cross, then they have no life in them. On the contrary, they feed the flesh. This is exactly what we see the charismatic gospel doing today. It has become a doctrine in itself, but this is not the doctrine of Chist.
Jesus did many miracles, but one day He turned on the very same crowds that were following Him. He realized exactly what they were doing. They were following Him for the loaves of bread. He had fed them the bread out of compassion, but they were now building a doctrine out of that.
And He turned on them and told them they would now have to “eat His flesh and drink His blood”. Upon hearing this, they scattered like flies.
Why should we think that the people filling up today’s mega-churches are after Jesus’ flesh and blood; in other words, that they are there specifically because they want to identify their lives with Christ in His sufferings and death? Why not, rather, should we not accept the obvious truth that many of these people are in church because they are seeking after the things of the flesh?
And it is equally true that many of these churches offer gospels that cater fully to the flesh. It is no secret that many of these churches’ leaders are after money themselves. I hear that there are pastors who are listed in Forbes magazine!
I can assure you that when the true gospel of the cross of Christ is preached, very few people will remain in the pews – or in the ministry. Many will not be able to bear it.
When the gospel comes and tells you to forgive and the revelation of the cross is not in your heart, it is like switching off the sun at midday. You cannot find your bearings. That was exactly what happened to the Jews. Everything that Jesus said after that they found hard to swallow.
“Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (Jn. 6:60)
If the Jews said that, I can assure you that not many among the rest of us will be willing to hear it. The gospel of the cross – our identification with Christ in His sufferings and death – is a hard saying indeed. Not many people can hear it. If at Gethsemane Peter fled and left Jesus alone, I can assure you that once the true gospel has been preached not many of us will be left around.
Someone once asked Jesus whether those who would be saved would be few. Jesus did not tell him whether they would be few or many. Instead, Jesus told him to strive to enter in at the strait gate.
Let us end this post by looking at this passage of scripture.
“23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.” Lk. 13:23-30
“The strait gate”. This scripture is talking about the work of the cross in our lives. We can clearly see what will happen to those who will sidestep that work. They will be unable to cast off sin in their lives, and Jesus will disown them. They could not possibly become a part of His bride. The bride of Christ will comprise believers who have been worked on – worked on by the purifying work of the cross.
[Below: The bride, ready and prepared awaits, and is finally presented to the bridegroom]