Betrothed yet unfaithful
The word betroth is not used in our culture. It was part of a Jewish marriage. We are inclined to think that we don't need to know anything about betrothal since "it doesn't happen in America." However, we'll see that the Christian should know about being betrothed!
The most familiar case of being betrothed in the Bible is probably Jesus' mother Mary.
As you can see, the King James Version uses the word espoused. From some sources I referenced we see that betrothal was somewhat like an engagement in America. It literally means "by one's truth". It was the point where one promised to be another's mate for life.
Espousal is said to be a ceremony of betrothal. So apparently after someone pledged to be faithful to another there was a celebration of some type.
I was under the misconception that most marriages were arranged by parents. It turns out this was really only true of royalty. Most people actually picked their own mate. For instance, you can read about Samson picking his mate in Judges chapter 14.
We need to emphasize that betrothal was similar to an engagement in our culture, but not exactly the same thing. Usually people were betrothed at least 10 months before their actual marriage. Sometimes they were betrothed for years. From betrothal on the people were regarded as husband and wife. This explains why even when Joseph and Mary were only espoused, she is still referred to as his wife.
To be unfaithful during the betrothal period was considered adultery and was punishable by death. We can even read this in the scriptures.
Deu 22:24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.
Deu 22:25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:
Deu 22:26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:
Deu 22:27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
Before we continue on to the real interesting part of this article, I want to point out some false doctrine. The question has been raised that if you "know" someone, are you married to them? In other words, if you give in to lust before you actually are married does the very act of being intimate with someone "marry you"?
I think it was plain from our example above that it was not the physical relationship of Mary and Joseph that married them. They were betrothed and had not known each other. Yet they were regarded as husband and wife. Even when they were officially married and he took her for his wife to cohabit, he still did not know her until after Jesus was born.
So it's obvious that it is the vow we take before God and the law that marries us, not any physical act. If you give in to lust before you are married, then you are fornicating. You will know when you are married. You will take a vow, you will obey the laws of your land, and so forth.
Also, it is worthy to note that Joseph didn't know Mary until after Jesus was born, but he did know her! Some religions teach the doctrine of "perpetual virginity". This is entirely contrary to what the Bible teaches. Joseph knew her and she bore other children.
Mat 13:56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?
As you can see Jesus had siblings. Some refuse to accept this and say they were cousins.
Now to apply what we have learned! We have seen the Jewish marriage consisted of a bethrothal, espousal, marriage, marriage feast and then a cohabiting. The relationship of the church to Christ is patterned exactly like this.
Christ died and was resurrected to purchase the church. On the day of Pentecost people began pledging their faithfulness to Christ. This in a sense is a betrothal. They have agreed to be His bride, the church. They are not physically with Him. But if they remain faithful they will get to be with their bridegroom some day. They will live with Jesus in the rapture of heaven.
Prophesy in the Old Testament shows that the church would be betrothed to Christ.
Hosea 2:19 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.
Hosea 2:20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.
Hosea 2:21 And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth;
Hosea 2:22 And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel.
Hosea 2:23 And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.
Note that this would happen when those who weren't His people would be His people. We know exactly who that is talking about. That is talking about the Gentiles. They were not God's people but under the New Law they would be His people. This happened when the church was established! This prophesy is talking about the church! This is why betrothal is a topic we should be familiar with.
Guess what? The betrothal of the church is even mentioned in the New Testament!
2 Cor 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
2 Cor 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
2 Cor 11:4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
We see that God is like a jealous husband. We are betrothed to Him and He wants us to be faithful.
The church's relationship to Christ being compared to a marriage is very common in the scriptures and well known. However most students don't realize the aspect betrothal plays in this marital analogy. Even before the church was established Jesus alluded to the fact that he was the bridegroom.
Even parables show that the church, or kingdom, was to be like a marital relationship.
Mat 22:2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,
Mat 22:3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
Mat 22:4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
Mat 22:5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
Mat 22:6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
Mat 22:7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
Mat 22:8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
Mat 22:9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
Mat 22:10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
Mat 22:11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
Mat 22:12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
Mat 22:13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mat 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
After the church was established we continue to read about the Lord and His bride.
Eph 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Eph 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Eph 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
Eph 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Eph 5:24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
Eph 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
Eph 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Eph 5:28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
Eph 5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
Eph 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
Eph 5:31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
Eph 5:32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Eph 5:33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
The only thing left to explore is our own betrothal. Like those on Pentecost, there is a point in time when we pledge our faithfulness to Christ. It is clear how those on Pentecost pledged it. It came to the point that they asked what they needed to do. This was the answer they received.
They were told to repent and be baptized. This was their betrothal to Christ. This is where they pledged allegiance to Him. It is the exact same for us. Let's look at Galatians 3:26-29 very carefully.
Some read this passage and stop here. They say that faith is enough. Is this correct? We better read on to hear the whole story.
Notice the word FOR. This means it is tied back to the faith. We "put on Christ" when we are baptized. In other words we put Him on like a garment. But there is a ton more information in the next few passages.
Notice that much like a marriage we become one with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are part of THE body just like a husband and wife become one flesh. But we did not only become ONE with our brothers and sisters.
I think this verse makes it clear that we are also Christ's. We are also ONE with Christ. This is the point where we pledge our faithfulness or betroth ourself to Christ. The rest of the verse also makes it clear. Notice that it says that when we have faith and put on Christ in baptism, then we become one with him and THEN we are Abraham's seed! It's common knowledge of the prohesy that Abraham's seed would be blessed. Here the scriptures plainly show that we become Abraham's seed, part of the church, when we are baptized and put on Christ.
There is so much more that could be said, but we'll make only one more point. The church is still waiting to be with its betrothed bridgegroom. John said
We see that here is the actual marriage. The bride finally gets to be with her husband!
We need to realize that our main goal as a Christian has not yet been met. We are not yet physically with our Lord. If we are unfaithful, Jesus has the right to put us away for spiritual adultery. However He is faithful, true and forgiving. He is always willing to forgive us and take us back. Let us be faithfully betrothed to Christ so that some day we can be with Him in heaven.