Richard Maxwell - The Bridegroom/Bride Model - Saginaw, Oregon - 2002

I would like to try and tell you what I've been thinking about the relationship between the bride and the bridegroom. That means between us and Christ, between the church and Christ. This relationship that is between the bridegroom and the bride is the largest thing there is, and it is the best thing that exists. To understand something so large, it helps to look at something small. When I was small, I used to build model airplanes, plastic airplanes, and I loved model airplanes; but more to the point, I loved airplanes. A model is real, it's a real model of the real thing, and I loved models, but what I really loved was the real thing. So to understand the real thing, isn't it a help to look at a model, and if I can understand the model, I will understand, maybe, the real thing. The more I worked with my model airplanes, the more I understood the real thing, and most of all, the more I wanted to fly. 
           
So there's the Old Testament and the New Testament. Two parts, so surely it's this way: that the Old Testament is really just a shelf of models. It really happened. The stories really happened, and they are real - they are real models of the real thing, and the real thing is in the New Testament. So we have both: we have real models and the real thing. 
         
When Jesus spoke in the New Testament, sometimes He spoke in simple, clear spiritual language, just giving simple, spiritual truths; the real thing. To understand something so large, it helps to understand something smaller. There's lots of different models lined up on the shelf. One very small one I would like to try and show you - it's really only a model about convention. It's very small and won't take long to tell you.


Genesis 15, Abraham lived in his tent and he knew God had told him that within his tent God would bless him. He was getting just a little bit worried. And so God came and began to speak to him, and He led him outside - it says - forth without. I think that means outside. He took him outside the tent, and He said, "Now you look at the stars and try and count them, and as many as you can see, I will bless you." Then Abraham went back inside his tent a changed man. So that's a model. Now the real thing is this: don't we live in our little tent, our little situation, four walls, a roof, limitations, our own situation. All year long we've lived in our situation and God has spoken to us in our situation. It's not that He's not been close. He has spoken to us in our situation but it seems that for a particular purpose, God will take us out of our situation for a time, 4 days, and help us to leave the situation, whatever it might be, and look at eternity. The message of eternity was this: firstly, all is well - If the tent shakes, stars do not. Our situation sometimes is anything but stable, but the message of eternity is that God has set up an order and it will be, and all is well. What He put there is still there and all is well. Although Abraham was worried in his tent, God took him outside his situation and showed him that all is well. There may be alarm on earth, there might be unsettledness on earth, but in heaven, there is no alarm. All is well. The second message he saw when he looked at the stars was this, simply God saying, "I will bless you. I mean well, and nothing will stop Me blessing you." Abraham could have stopped it, but so long as Abraham was willing, God will bless him. So Abraham looked at the stars and he saw this lovely message: all of time stood still outside his situation and the message was, "All is well and I will bless you." There is no doubt. Then Abraham went back inside his tent. On Sunday night or Monday morning, we will go back inside our tent. When Abraham looked at those old, tattered, canvas walls and closed his eyes, what did he see? Stars. Isn't it the thing that God would like to do at convention - to give us vision so that when we are in our situation, we can keep encouraged? Isn't that what Jane ( Buell ) was surely telling us? The message that she had - the vision changes how you feel about the situation, and if there's one thing that I have been so thankful for at convention:  it's that God is able to take me outside and show me eternity. His plan will work, there's no alarm, all is well, and He is determined, and is yet determined, to bless us all. So when I go back inside my tent and sit and think, "I can close my eyes and see stars." So that's one little model that is a real model, it really happened - it's a real model of the real thing and the real thing is here - convention.

The reason I thought of that model is that surely when I look at the plan of eternity, the plan is simply this: that the bride will be united with the bridegroom. We were hearing about simplicity. This is the gospel in four works: Two shall be one. Two lives - bridegroom, bride, and the plan of the gospel and everything that is associated with it are so that two would be one. This is a very large thing, and I can hardly understand this matter of the bridegroom and the bride being one. Paul wrote that it's a mystery. And this mystery of two being one is quite a thing. To understand the real thing I need a model - something small that is a real model of the real thing. If I can understand the real model, then maybe I will both understand the real thing and want it badly enough.  I will tell you about the model I found. I must admit it's not in the Old Testament. It's on the shelf but not from the Old Testament and I found this in a valley in Armenia. It is a model that helps me understand the plan of God that two become one.

This is the model: In Armenia, people of course get married, they have a wedding ceremony just like we do in our countries and the ceremony goes like this. Before the ceremony, two people meet and they make a simple decision, very simple. The choice is that two will be one. Right? Man, wife. One. They meet, then they have a ceremony, a certain order they go through because two are to be one. This is the model - two people meet, decide to spend their lives as one. They have their wedding ceremony and they exchange vows. That means they say something. They profess - they make a profession. They say something with words just like they do in our country: I will be true to death and so on. The future wife, the bride says, "I will not live the life I could have lived. I will not live the life I have lived, so that I can give myself to my bridegroom. I'll put an end to my single life so that I can give myself to my bridegroom so that two can be one." That's what she says, that's her vow that she said. Then the bridegroom does exactly the same. He says, "I will not live the life I could have lived. I will not live any longer the life I have lived, so that I can give myself to my bride, so two can be one." So they say something before witnesses, to each other, and that's what we call professing. They say it only because it's in their heart. Then they have their little feast and eat a lot, then they go home.

The custom in Armenia isn't really to go on a honeymoon. It's a very poor country and they can't afford to live, let alone go for a holiday. The other custom is that the newly-wed couple usually live with the bridegroom's family. So they come to their home ( this is just the model ), they come to the doorstep, right to the very crosspiece of the door, and just before they enter into the home where two will be one, they perform a ceremony. It's all done without words. They've used words. They've professed. They said something. It's not that there aren't words. But now there is a symbol, a ceremony of symbols. They had something in their hear, therefore they spoke. "I love, therefore I speak." Then they observe symbols. These are the symbols: The bride takes a bowl from her house, from her previous life and she puts it down on the ground, upside-down. The bridegroom takes a bowl from his house, his past, and he puts it down on the ground. Then he steps on his bowl and shatters it. And he does it more than once so that it is an irrevocable act. Irreversible, One way. It can never be put back together, forever. Forever. Then the bride comes and steps on her bowl and shatters it, and it is broken forever. It is an irreversible step. One way. Then by doing that, each is saying, "I will not live the life I could have lived. I will not live the life I have lived, so that two can be one." This is the simple message of the gospel. Everything is done so that two can be one. Once both bowls are broken, and only once they are broken, they, with their feet, mix the pieces and now it's not possible to see whose bowl is whose. Any past is really gone and the future is one: one future, one life. Of course it's not possible to mix a broken bowl with one that isn't. They both must be broken and then they mix them. The nicest part of all, the absolute nicest part of this model is this: In front of the bride ( his bride is standing and he is standing, and as she stands, all of this is without words, an unspoken message of what they have said, which is what is in their heart, all this without words), the bridegroom bends down in front of his bride, the leader of the pair serving. The perfect head serving his bride. He bends down and he gathers the pieces, all of the pieces. And, it's important that they all be gathered. He gathers them all together. He lifts them and stands again. Then he walks straight into the house, and immediately behind is the bride. He goes first, then she. This symbol without words says, "I care for you at any cost. I will bear all responsibility for the welfare of your soul at any cost. If it should come, for some reason, that one of us needs to die, I will be the one. I care for you at any cost." All of this is done without words. So then they enter the house, the marriage is consummated, and two become one.

That's the model. It's a real model. Marriage is real. It's a real model of the real thing. I think if there is one model that God keeps his hand on, it must not be tampered with, it is the model of marriage because it is the model of the real thing. It is the absolute center of His plan, that two be one. The union of Christ and the church is not a model of natural marriage. Natural marriage is imperfect. My mother and father have a lovely marriage, but it's still imperfect. Natural marriage is a real, imperfect model of the perfect, real thing, and as such, it must not be tampered with. So that's the model.

In its simplicity, this is what it is: something was spoken because of what was in the heart, then symbols were observed, then the two were united. They were already united in their mind, already united in their emotions, already united in their purpose, and finally united in their flesh and two are one. That's the model.

So now the real thing. Christ surely must be the bridegroom and His church, we, surely must be the bride. Now the purpose of the gospel is that two become one. It is that the bridegroom be united with the bride. That's what it's all about. When Abraham got out of his tent, got out of his situation, left it all behind and looked at eternity, maybe, I think he was a spiritual enough man to realize that there is an eternal plan that two become one. That is the vision that helped him when he sat in his situation again, to remember the purpose of it all, the greater reason somebody said, the real reason for all of this, is that Christ would be united with His bride, and that's all.

First of all, Jesus had the feeling that He was attracted to the perfect bride. Now the bride is not perfect yet, but it will be, and He was completely won to His perfect bride. So He made a profession, said words, and it could be if I'm not going just too out of my depth, that in John 17 when He said, "I sanctify Myself that they be sanctified. I set Myself apart for the purpose of two being one." That's sanctification surely. Separated, not from everything, but unto something. The reason for separation is not to be separated from something, but to be separated to. Like my mother when she married my father; she made the vow, I will be completely separate in these dealings with any other man so that I can be united with my husband that two can be one. But she didn't spend her life thinking, "Here I am being separated." No, she spent her life thinking, "Here I am joined." And this is the crux of the matter. It is possible to spend years with the focus that I am separating myself from the world and not being separated unto the bridegroom. Have you ever thought of this? Of the hundreds of thousands that left Egypt, only two entered Canaan, ( if I'm right on that). It is one thing to be separated from Egypt. It's an entirely different matter to enter Canaan, and the reason for separation from something, is to be separated unto the other. Just to be separated from Egypt is not the victory. It is not salvation.

We heard about this thing of the wall, and the plant. I'm almost frightened to even touch those thoughts because they are already absolutely clear, but maybe there is a third possibility. Have you ever thought of this, that it's possible to in some way, not by the help of the Holy Spirit, but just in some way build a wall and have no plant inside? Just the wall is not fruit. It is what is necessary because there is a plant. Separation in itself is what we do because we're being separated unto a better thing. There is no righteousness in being simply separated. It is what we do because we have something better. That's why. And it is not victory in itself just to live separate from the world.

What was it Jane was saying, that spies came back and said, "Let us go up and possess this?" So many people were saying, "Let us leave Egypt." First of all, two men came back saying, "Let us possess this thing," and because many, it seems to me, of them didn't really possess, eventually the strangest thing happened: the thought amongst them was, "Let us go back to Egypt." Can it be? I suppose it's this way: if we build separation without the purpose for which we are separated, eventually the point of being separated is lost. It falls down. You could say that the failure, the defeat is that the wall fell down. But no, the real defeat was that I didn't have the new life for which the wall stands to protect. Victory, surely is having this precious, precious thing ( new life) at all cost, such that I will protect it, so I build a wall. Both are necessary but in that order.

Jesus separated Himself from any other life He could have lived so that He could give Himself unspotted, perfect to His bride. This is the reason for self-denial. We deny ourselves any other life so that we can give ourselves. Jesus has made His profession. I don't say this in any light way, but He professed. He made His profession, "I sanctify myself, I break my bowl, I do not live the life I could have lived to give Myself to My bride so that they may be sanctified." Now Jesus did it first. He first stopped any other life that He could have lived. So now I also make the same profession. When I profess I say with words, "I will not live the life I could have lived, so that I can give myself to my bridegroom." That happened at the marriage ceremony. Then they go forward and now they're at the door. Some time has passed, not very long - it's not months - minutes, hours. So not very long after the profession was made with the mouth, then there's symbols that need to be observed. Now the profession was made because of what was in the heart. And the symbol was made because of what was professed because of what was in the heart. Right? So symbols have meaning only because of what's in the heart. That's all. The symbol is a symbol of a spiritual truth.

So now about these symbols. The thought struck me the other day, that there are lots of spiritual truths. I don't know how many, 30, 40, hundreds, but there are only three (symbols), 3 truths. Of all these other truths, God chose to give symbols to just three. The only three symbols we have in the New Testament are these ( physical, natural, human symbols): baptism, bread, and wine. Three. Some people could call it two, emblems and baptism, but three, three things. That's the model we've looked at. They had three symbols: two bowls and a scooping up of the pieces.

So now the real thing. What are the symbols in the real thing? Just as the bride broke the bowl to say, "I will not live the life I could have lived so that I can give my new life to my bridegroom so that two can be one," when I see baptism, it says to me, "I will not live the life that I have been living. It will stop. The past will stop and any possible future will not be. I will not live the life I could have lived, the course that Richard would have taken he will not take. I die. I am buried in the water and I rise again with a new life." For what purpose? To give it to my bridegroom. So baptism, when I look at the symbol, it reminds me of the bowl that the bride broke, saying, "I will not live the life I could have lived. I die, and I rise again and the life I now live, I live for Christ that two be one." I know that baptism can be talked about in lots of ways. Somebody said somewhere not too long ago that it will take a lifetime to understand baptism, and perhaps it's true of the emblems. But as much as I understand, I like that picture. That's the bride's part.

The bridegroom, what about his bowl? That's the symbol in the model, so what's the symbol in the real thing? When I look at the bread on Sunday morning, without words, no words, the bread says to me, the silent message speaks to me: "The life I could have lived, I didn't live so that I can give it to you." When Christ set up this symbol on the last evening, He said, "This is My body broken for you. Any other purpose for which it could have been used, it's not going to be used, it wasn't used ever. It was given to you." In one place it says, "This is My body broken," and in another place it says, "This is My body given." So when I see the bread, this is what it says to me: "This is My body, My life, My human life, broken and given," just like the bridegroom made an irrevocable step. He broke it. He did not live the life he could have lived so that he could give it to his bride. Broken and given for you so that two can be one. It's the only way it could work. When Satan came to tempt Jesus, it was to tempt Him to live a different life than what was necessary. There's all the different temptations, and it wasn't the only time He was tempted, but it was the temptation to live the life He could have lived. He could see it right there, the life He could have lived and He said, "No." And the answer was "No" forever. He broke the bowl, not just then, but it was broken so that every cry of the flesh, every feeling, the life that would have led Him to live the life He could have lived, He said, "No. This is My body broken, so that it can be given to the bride so that two can be one." There's no other way. Just as there was no other way for Jesus, there is, of course for us, no other way. The bowl must break.

So now, why is it that those who are baptized observe the emblems? Just as one broken bowl cannot be mixed with one that isn't yet broken, just as one symbol with an incomplete second symbol doesn't work; if the bridegroom breaks his bowl and the bride does not break her bowl when she could break her bowl, it just says to the bridegroom that something is wrong. Somewhere, even  though there might be a profession, something is not right. But when the bride stands on her bowl and shatters it, the bridegroom looks at it and says, "All is well. She's doing what I did."

Paul wrote that when you look at the bread you should discern the body of Christ. That means know what it means. Discern it. Understand. The bread says to me, "I will not live the life I could have lived so that I can give myself to my bride." And then let every man examine himself, and the question is, "Is my bowl broken? Is that the truth for which I was baptized? That I will not live the life for which I could have lived, so that I can give myself to my bridegroom." If that is true, then it is appropriate ( to partake of the bread), but that is something we examine in ourselves. Discern, and then examine. And then mix the symbols. In a Sunday morning meeting, when I look at the bread, I think of baptism. Is the truth for which I was baptized still true? And therefore the bread has its meaning. So once the symbols are mixed, once the bowls were mixed, the bridegroom gathered up the pieced, thereby saying, "I care for you at any cost." Once I discern the bread, examine myself and the two symbols that stand for the truths that must be in me, then I can look at the wine, and the message of the wine with no words is, "I care for you at any cost. If it should come to one of us dying, I will die." And He did. When He hung on the cross and He said, "I thirst," the message was surely, "I care for you at any cost." When the veil was split in two, which means so much, the message was, "I care for you at any cost." When God made the earth dark for three hours, the message was, "I care for you at any cost. The welfare of your soul as the bridegroom of My bride, I take on Myself."

So it's not right to say we don't have responsibility for our actions, but it's right to say that having broken the bowl, having set this truth as being true in my life: that I will not live the life I could have lived, from that point on I am released of all responsibility for the welfare of my soul. I don't want to twist that thought. It's a dangerous thought because you can become irresponsible. The fact remains that if I have given myself as the bride to the bridegroom, the bridegroom will care for his bride at any cost. It's equally true that if I have not done that, if I don't have that truth in my life ( that I've broken the bowl, that I will not live the life I could have lived ), it is equally true that I have no right, no right to the care of the bridegroom. It's true that Jesus died for me so that two would be one, but if I will not be two as one, it doesn't work. The lovely side is, cast all your cares upon Him for He careth for thee. But the verse just before it: Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. There is an absolutely unbreakable relationship between submission and the right to the care of the bridegroom for my soul. His care is there in it's potential form. Jesus died for all men in the hopes that they would be the bride. But, the fact remains, that there are many who will not become one and therefore do not have the covering of His sacrifice.

Those are the three symbols: baptism, bread, and wine. And they are the symbols that represent the truths that must be. I must understand them and keep them. These truths must be so that two can be one. All of the gospel hangs on this one principle: two shall be one. Everything we could talk about in a gospel meeting, anything, all of what's written in the Bible, it is all to this end that the bridegroom would be united with his bride that two be one. And although I have a personal choice in the matter, whether I am part of the bride, it doesn't change the fact that there will be a bride and she will be absolutely spotless and perfect. And we'll stand before the God of Heaven unblemished in love. And two shall be one.  Once they went into the house, the symbols were observed for a certain time. Why on earth do we observe these three symbols? The day will come when following the bridegroom who has bowed in such a deep way, and stood up again, following him into the house across the threshold into an eternal dwelling with the one that I love, with whom I don't need to be separated, forever:  the symbols are left behind. But the truths stand forever, that two are one. This is the plan of the gospel.

Hymn # 195. I only like this hymn because it has such a lovely thought in it, "I am resting. Lord, we rest in peace abiding under Thy wings. All is well. I can go back into my tent, having seen this vision of what it really is all about and I can rest back in my situation that hasn't changed. It won't change maybe, but I have a vision that helps me in my situation and I can sing, 'Lord we rest in peace abiding.'" But there is another thing which stirs me no end and that is: "Lord, a weary world is dying far from Thy wings, take them helpless, sinful, dying, under Thy wings." There are many, many people who are prisoners in their situations without a vision, and it is so partly because maybe no one has come to help them. So this is a hymn that makes me feel both thankful and urgent.