John's Crazy Joy: More on Bridegrooms and Purification

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By John Piper About Marriage
Part of the series The Gospel of John

This is mainly for husbands. I’ve seen a few more things since last Sunday’s message on John the Baptist and his crazy happiness. For example, I read this:

It is possible (but not right) for baptized believers to act in their lives as though the gospel were not true. How many conservative husbands are outraged if some liberal preacher says that Jesus did not rise from the dead, when their daily treatment of their wives makes the same statement? At least the liberal only states his heresy occasionally. (Douglas Wilson, Reformed Is Not Enough, p. 168)

Believing the gospel leads us to treat our wives differently than if we didn’t believe the gospel.

Now back to John the Baptist.

Remember, someone brought up a “purification” issue with John’s disciples in John 3:25. “A discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification.” Then the issue seemed to be dropped immediately.

But I suggested that John’s reference to Jesus as the bridegroom was connected to purification because in his mind, Jesus’ role as “the bridegroom” was connected to his role as the Lamb of God who dies to purify us from our sins. The connection is seen in Revelation 21:9: “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

So when John says, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom” (John 3:29), he is saying something about purification. Christ dies as the Lamb of God, and as the Husband of the Church, in order to purify his bride.

Ardel Caneday showed me something I totally missed in my sermon preparation last week. Back in John 2 at the wedding of Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine, he used “six stone water jars [which were] for the Jewish rites of purification” (John 2:6).

So Jesus was foreshadowing the wine of his blood as the means of purification. And he was doing it at a wedding where the master of the feast said to the bridegroom, “You have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10). So Jesus (and John the Gospel writer) had already linked “bridegroom” with the blood of the Lamb and the “purification” of sins.

Then Paul makes the connection to us husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25–27)

We are not our wives’ savior; Christ is. We are not her sanctifier; Christ is. We are fellow heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7), depending on the same sovereign life-giver.

But Paul says to husbands: Watch how Christ loves his bride. Look at the cost. And look at the goal. The cost is his life. And the goal is her splendor—the splendor of holiness.

If you aim at her splendor from the top down—say, from Mount Sinai—you will harden her. If you aim at her splendor from the bottom up—from Golgotha—you will open her to sweet tastes of sovereign glory.

The key? The Lamb of God and the Holy Spirit. Know yourself broken and bought by the blood of the Lamb. Know yourself filled with the Holy Spirit.

The angel said to John the Baptist’s father, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). That is why John saw Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), and as the bridegroom (John 3:29), and rejoiced greatly when his own following left him and went to Jesus.

John’s crazy joy in the loss of all his followers was rooted in the supreme preciousness of Jesus. When we husbands know Jesus so well, and love him so deeply, that we can “greatly rejoice” that we decrease so that he increases, we will love our wives well. And we will not contradict the gospel by the way we treat them.

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