Where do “Christians” get their name? “Why, Jesus, of course!” they will tell you. Many professing Christians focus on Jesus almost exclusively—His name, His birth, His death, certain events in His life as a man. They worship images of Him; they avidly preach from the four Gospels. During Christmas they sing songs about Jesus and celebrate Him as a helpless baby. The rest of the year they fixate on a beaten martyr, also helpless, hanging on a cross.
But what is most remarkable about these “Christians” is their ignorance about the true, living Jesus Christ!
These Christians may find plenty to agree with in Romans 5:6-9: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. … God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Jesus died to save sinners, they recite. And most Christians believe Christ’s sacrifice completed the plan of salvation!
But then, how can they satisfactorily explain the next verse? “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved [future tense] by his life” (verse 10). Saved by Christ’s life? What does that mean?
Even harder to explain, then, is 1 Corinthians 15:12-17, which ends, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” In other words, if Christ had been simply crucified and buried, remaining in the ground to this day, then Christians would yet bear the guilt of all their sins! Therefore salvation couldn’t have been completed at the cross, as many believe.
Christ is very alive and active today! Of this fact true Christians can be exceedingly thankful, because, as Paul indicated, if He were not, we would have no basis for faith in Him—and no hope for the future! We would be “of all men most miserable” (verse19). The living Christ is our greatest hope!
But how, exactly, will we be saved by His life?
What is Christ doing, day to day? What are His responsibilities? What is His relationship to the Church today?
Surely this is an important subject for Christians to study. After all, Christ wasn’t only the propitiation for our sins. He is the example we should be emulating (1 Peter 2:21)— and, furthermore, He is our affianced Husband! (Revelation 19:7). Right now we are preparing to be His helpmeet. Any bride-to-be ought to desire earnestly to know her future husband deeply.
The God-Christ Relationship
Before we can really understand Christ’s relationship with us in the Church today, we must first understand His relationship to His Father.
Before Christ came to Earth, the world did not know God the Father. During His ministry, Christ revealed to His disciples deep insight about the God Family. He declared the Father. By doing so, He also revealed the inner workings of His relationship with the Father—a relationship that stretched back eternally.
Of all the disciples, John best understood this relationship. He recorded several comments Christ made about His Father: “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28; see also John 5:19); “the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29); “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38; see also John 4:34). These statements show Christ’s tremendous respect for His Father. His short life on Earth proved these statements true: Christ lived in total submission and obedience to God the Father until He drew His last breath.
What father wouldn’t be deeply moved to have such a highly accomplished son so intent on pleasing him, constantly giving credit back to him? No wonder God called Him “my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5).
Because of Christ’s perfect submission, the Father has absolute trust in Him. These two are so unified, they are one (John 10:30). This is hard to understand on a human level, but if the Father wills something, Jesus does it—and vice versa. There is no difference whatsoever between what the Father wills and what Christ does. Thus, in perfect trust, God has delivered all things into Christ’s hands (Matthew 11:27).
Christ is the channel through whom God the Father works. God the Father is the Creator of all, yet He “created all things by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16); God spoke and did works through Jesus (John 14:10; Acts 2:22); God gives the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26), but Jesus sends it (John 15:26; 16:7); God gives us victory, but “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57); God will raise the dead (1 Corinthians 6:14), but He will do it “by Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:14); God judges “every man’s work” (1 Peter 1:17), yet He’s committed “all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22).
You can imagine the growing, mutual, reciprocal love between a Son whose greatest desire is to please His Father and a Father, in turn, so pleased that He wants to give His Son everything.
God Commits His Children to Christ
Thinking on this relationship, consider Old Testament times. Christ was the God of the Old Testament. He was the one who dealt with the people—the link between man and God. He spoke on behalf of the God Family. The one who became the Father surely played an intensive role, but it was indirect.
Perhaps we don’t consider this enough. It was the one who later became Jesus Christ who covenanted with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was He who safely led the Israelites out of Egypt amid the plagues—who guided them through the Red Sea and then drowned Pharaoh’s armies behind them. It was He who led them in a cloud and by a pillar of fire, who fed and watered them in the wilderness. It was He who wrote the Ten Commandments with His finger upon two tablets of stone, who entered a marriage covenant with them. It was He who ordained Israel’s kings and commissioned its prophets, He who dwelt within the holy of holies in the tabernacle and the temple.
The point is, the Most High God committed the care of His chosen nation, Israel, to Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). This is a beautiful truth. It reveals much about both Christ and the Father.
In the New Testament, God followed this pattern, with an even clearer delineation of responsibilities. God the Father alone chooses who enters His family (John 6:44). He determines whose eyes He will open and who will remain blinded (Matthew 11:25-26). In other words, as Head of the God Family, God the Father begets His children.
Then, once He has done so, the Father commits the care of His children into Christ’s hands.
Of His disciples, Christ said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. … [O]f all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:37-39). The Father has given His Son a grave responsibility: Christ is to do all He can—taking into account, of course, the free moral agency of the individual—to ensure that all those the Father sends Him are resurrected spirit beings in God’s eternal Family!
Christ was fiercely protective of His disciples. To one group of contentious Jews He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one” (John 10:27-30). The disciples were the Father’s children, and Christ obediently fulfilled His Father’s will, with His help, in looking after them. He cared for His disciples earnestly, knowing that He was responsible before the Father for how He treated them!
The weight of responsibility on Christ’s shoulders can be appreciated when we examine His prayer the night before His crucifixion. “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine,” Christ told the Father (John 17:9).
“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” (verses 11-12). You can sense the sincere emotion in Christ’s prayer: I’ve done exactly what you expected of me, Father. These are your children, and I took care of them just as you asked. These disciples were foremost on Christ’s mind—even as He was about to endure His terrible suffering.
The word keep or kept refers to guarding or watching over, carefully observing or preserving, protecting from violence. It is the same word as in Matthew 19:17 (“keep the commandments”) and 1 Timothy 5:22 (“keep thyself pure”). It is also the same Greek word used in Revelation 3:3 (“hold fast, and repent”) and twice in Revelation 3:10 (“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation”). Christ kept His disciples with the same meticulous, watchful care that we are to keep God’s commandments and to hold fast to His truth; He guarded them mightily just as God will protect His very elect from the Tribulation.
As was revealed in that final prayer, Christ succeeded in caring for the disciples during His earthly ministry. The Father was intensely pleased. Thus, 50 days after He was resurrected, when the New Testament Church began, the Father gave Him an even greater responsibility: Christ became the Head of the Church.
With this background we can more deeply understand our relationship with Christ today.
Christ and the Church
Many scriptures speak of the close relationship between Christ and the Church.
As with the disciples, God the Father begets the members of the Church, setting us into the body (1 Corinthians 12:18). He made Christ the Head of the Church, expecting Him to guide and direct it, to develop it, help it grow, to keep it fit and well.
The Father “gave him [Christ] to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23; see also 1 Corinthians 12:27; Colossians 1:18). The Church, with all its many members in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, is Christ’s body. We are the fullness of Christ—in the words of one commentary, the same way a ship is filled or manned with sailors, rowers and soldiers. Christ completes His Work on Earth with His Holy Spirit working in the members of His “one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).
Ephesians 5 reveals intense love in this Christ-Church relationship. It is typified by marriage between husband and wife—the closest human relationship possible. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).
Verse 23 shows that Christ is not only the Head of the Church, He is also “the saviour of the body.” We certainly recognize Christ’s work as our savior when He was crucified to pay the penalty for our sins. But remember, Romans 5:10 says that we will be saved by His life. There is a future salvation Christ is preparing for now—in His ongoing, close relationship with the members of the Church. You can be sure that He is watching over us with the same care that He had for His disciples.
We must look more deeply at this present relationship between Christ and the Church.
Opening the Way to the Father
Think for a moment how Christ’s responsibilities changed when He came to Earth.
Again, in Old Testament times, He was the only known member of the God Family. Descending to Earth, divesting Himself of His spirit nature, He became equal with man (Philippians 2:7-8). He was still the link between man and God, but for the first time Christ revealed to His disciples God the Father. And, even more, He encouraged them to have a personal relationship with the Father!
In Old Testament times, even thinking of God as the Father of a family was somewhat unusual. In no Old Testament passage does anyone refer to God as a father in prayer—men routinely prayed to “God” or the “Lord.”
But when the disciples asked Christ one day, “Lord, teach us to pray,” Christ began His instruction, “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven …” (Luke 11:1-2). A radical change! The Son wanted the disciples to develop a daily, personal, intimate, family relationship with the Most High God.
This Father-son relationship between God and converted Christians was officially opened up at Christ’s death. As Jesus cried out for the last time and breathed His last breath, the veil of the temple miraculously tore in two, from top to bottom, exposing the holy of holies—a symbol of where God dwelled (Matthew 27:50-51; Exodus 26:31, 33). The blood of Christ’s sacrifice paid the penalty for the sins of mankind. From that point, all who repented and called upon that sacrifice could be reconciled to God the Father (Ephesians 2:18).
Christ gave mankind access to the highest authority in the universe! How? The answer reveals much about our present relationship with Christ. It also shows how Christ is preparing for His marriage to the Church.
Our High Priest
Christ taught us to pray to the Father. The time we spend in prayer each day, we direct to God the Father—albeit “in Christ’s name.” Are we giving our future Husband the attention He deserves?
Though Christ directed our prayers to the Father, He also revealed that He would serve an intermediary role in those prayers. Just before He died, He gave His disciples this instruction: “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” (John 16:23).
The reason for this is that we are sinful human beings, and the Father will not abide sin. Thus, He placed Jesus Christ in the sacred role of High Priest for us (Hebrews 5:5). Jesus Christ must come into the Father’s presence on our behalf. 1 John 2:1 calls Him our Advocate.
The fact that Christ lived as a man makes Him much more effective as our High Priest. “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour [help, aid] them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18). Christ knows how hard it can be for us—He experienced our very temptations. He can express those thoughts to the Father.
With Christ thus interceding for us, the Father accepts our sincere offerings in the name of His holy Son. The Father accepts us by His merits.
Christ lives to fulfill this intercessory role for us! (Hebrews 7:25). This is His purpose right now. This priestly job is a major, daily responsibility.
Before we leave this point, realize that Christ’s labors are not complete once He intercedes. No—He then must answer those prayers!
Yes, Christ did say that the Father answers our prayers, as we saw in John 16:23. But another time He said that He Himself answers them: “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14).
There is no contradiction between these verses when we remember that Christ is the channel through whom the Father works. Christ performs the will of the Father in answering our prayers. God answers them through Christ.
Thus, our loving Husband is involved with every petition we make to our Father—both in conveying the request and in fulfilling it. This is daily intimacy we have with Christ our Husband! This is an important way that He is becoming intimately involved with His future wife.
How active and hard-working Jesus Christ is today! We can begin to see—as we saw with the Father, with Israel, and with His 12 disciples—how Christ loves us and wants the best for us.
In fact, some of His greatest work today is in preparing for our future together.
Preparing for Marriage
Christ told His disciples, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).
These statements sound like a man preparing to be married—readying a home for his future wife!
What place is Christ preparing?
Scripture shows that His saints will be ruling on Earth. Christ will rule from the Earth, and we will be by His side, assisting Him—that where Christ is, there we may be also.
Mansions refers to the offices within God’s house or temple. Today the Church is considered God’s house (1 Timothy 3:15), made up of members filling various roles, offices and ranks. As Herbert W. Armstrong often said, the Kingdom of God is the ruling Family of God, consisting of many members.
In Matthew 25:34, Christ said the Kingdom of God has been “prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” If the Kingdom of God is the Family of God, that means God’s Family is being prepared.
In other words, the place Christ is preparing consists of the individual offices that His Bride will fill! When it says His Kingdom will have been prepared, it means each place or position will be immediately filled by someone perfectly fitted to that office. Thus, as it says in Isaiah 66, God’s Kingdom will be born in one day! All the preparation will have been done. People will wonder, where did all these God beings come from all of a sudden?
Christ is, right now at this moment, preparing these offices. How? By preparing us!
We experience this process every day. As Mr. Flurry wrote in the January-February 2002 Royal Vision, Christ is coming in the flesh! Christ’s Holy Spirit dwells within us, guiding our actions and building His character in us. We, like Paul, learn to live by Christ’s faith, which He gives us (Philippians 3:9). His Spirit empowers us, making possible “all things” (Philippians 4:13). By that Spirit we bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Christ directs our thoughts and we take on more and more of His mind as we yield to Him (Philippians 2:5). Thus, He helps us to overcome and to obey God’s laws. “Christ set the example of obeying the Father. If He is coming in our flesh, He does the same in us” (ibid). Other scriptures talk about us receiving Christ’s joy (John 15:11) and Christ’s peace (John 14:27; 1 Corinthians 1:3; Philippians 4:7).
Christ dedicates tremendous effort to get to know His Bride and to help us in every way! He knows our strengths that He wants to develop and use in His Kingdom. He also is well aware of our weaknesses that He must work with and help us to eliminate.
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13). This remarkable passage is talking about the Word of God—that is, the Bible. Consider this fact that Mr. Armstrong emphasized so many times: Christ is the living Word of God. The Bible is the Word of God in print. So this passage is indirectly referring to the ongoing work of the Word. “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession” (verse 14).
This is all part of Christ’s intensive work preparing a place for us. He is, through much love, care and labor, very active in our daily lives, preparing us for great future responsibilities!
How We Should Respond
We have looked at several of Christ’s major responsibilities today. Our Husband is clearly exerting tremendous effort on our behalf, earnestly preparing for our future together.
How should we respond? How can we be sure that we are holding up our end—responding to His efforts, and just as earnestly preparing for our role in that future marriage?
Because He is the Head of the Church, we can certainly trust and obey the ministry He has placed in the Church as they follow that Head. We can have confidence and faith in the direction of the Church, and the decisions that are made. And we should strive to do all we can to fulfill our role within the body.
Because He is our High Priest and Mediator before God the Father, we can be confident and bold in our prayer life, ensuring that we give it the priority and importance in our lives that Christ does in His.
And because He is preparing us to fill offices in His Kingdom, we should respond to the direction of His Spirit and submit to His lead in our daily lives. We should eagerly take on His faith and His righteousness. And we should embrace new responsibilities as He offers them, never shying away from opportunities for growth.
As Christ is coming to know us so well, how else can we better know Him? On top of those ways already discussed, consider again the fact that the Bible is the Word of God—the living Christ—in print. Therefore, Bible study is a significant part of our coming to know our Husband. “Do you search the Scriptures daily ‘with all readiness of mind,’ eager to see what the Bible says, so you can follow Christ more perfectly?” Gerald Flurry asks in Malachi’s Message.
Knowing Our Husband
Considering all Christ is presently doing, we know better what Paul meant: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life”! Death cannot impart life. Only life can impart life. And only the living Christ—the resurrected, glorified Son of God made High Priest of God’s people and Head of the Church—will save us!
In thinking on Christ, the world focuses on a brief human life that ended in a grisly death. But Christ has exerted an eternity of hard work! And His crucifixion—which God’s people solemnly memorialize each Passover—is just the first step in God’s master plan. God’s true holy days make us very aware of Christ’s ongoing Work—and the vital Work He is preparing to assume—and the Work He is preparing us to assume in the future.
Let’s thoroughly appreciate the wonderful relationship we have with Christ. It is deeper than we realize. In our daily Christian walk, we are readying ourselves for our marriage to Him in ways that we may not have even been aware of! As a true Christian, when you think on Christ, think on—and deepen your relationship with—your High Priest and future Husband: the compassionate, active, powerful, dynamic, hard-working, loving, living Christ!