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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Biblical Images of the Church

Today we are going to talk about Biblical symbols that ‘are often used to convey the revelation of the kingdom [of God] and similarly the inner nature of the church.’

These “different images taken either from tending sheep or cultivating the land, from building or even from family life and betrothals, the images are prepared in the books of the Prophets.”

The first image of the church is a sheepfold by which we only enter into through Christ Jesus.
John 10:1-10 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. …. "When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice… "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. "All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.9 "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.

This image was prefigured in the Old Testament
Isaiah 40:10-11 Behold, the Lord God will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him, And His recompense before Him. 11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
Ezekiel 34:11-12 For thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. "As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.

So Jesus – who is God incarnate - fulfills these prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel and he even lays down his life for the church.
John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

The church is also compared to a field

1Corinthians 3:9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field…

This field is filled with imagery. Jesus compares it to a vineyard.
Matthew 21:33 "Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey…
Now to paraphrase – they don’t give the owner any of its fruit and ultimately beat and kill anyone who tries to collect the produce – even the owners son. What will be done with these murderers?
Jesus continues…Matthew 21:41-43 They said to Him, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons." Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures, 'The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone; This came about from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes '? "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.
So right here – Jesus links the vineyard image to the kingdom of God image, yet there is further background.
This image of the vineyard is right from Isaiah 5, where the kingdom is Isarel.

Isaiah 5:1 Let me sing now for my well-beloved A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill…
The problem is here is that nothing grows in the vineyard so the Lord lets it get trampled by wild animals.
Isaiah 5:7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel. So Israel will get trampled not by wild animals but by the gentiles.
Here though is the next link and Jesus puts them all together – the vineyard, the kingdom, and Israel are all the same thing and they find their fulfillment in the New Testament Church as Jesus said Matthew 21:43 "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.
The church is the New Israel.

The church is also compared to a building.
1 Timothy 3:15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.
Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
1 Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Finally the church is compared to a spouse of Jesus.
The best place for this is that infamous chapter from St. Paul – Ephesians 5. Yet listen.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 31-32 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
Revelation 19:7 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 21:9 And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."

All of these images point us to differing aspects of the Catholic Church prefigured in the OT and fulfilled by Jesus.

I found this BIble tidbit in a Vatican 2 document called Lumen Gentium paragraph 6. Who knew church documents would be filled with Bible tidbits?

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