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.In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. - Ephesians 5: 25-30 (ESV)
I have referred before in my writing to the heretical bridal paradigm preached by Mike Bickle and the International House of Prayer. This is a theology that over sexualizes Jesus to a sickening point. It feeds our basest flesh instincts and not our Spirit. It is a dangerous teaching that misleads thousands upon thousands of younger Christians. Before I had not gone into detail about it but I discovered today that Bickle has now placed an affirmation of this heresy on the IHOP website, probably in response to the outpouring of correct criticisms he has received. However, this affirmation only further reveals the debauched mindset of Bickle, IHOP and the bridal paradigm. Let us review it piece by piece with the Bible as our guide.
We affirm that the Bridegroom message is about Jesus' emotions for us, His beauty, His commitments to us (to share His heart, home, throne, secrets, and beauty), and our response of wholehearted love and obedience to Him. This message starts with experiencing Jesus' heart, emotions, and affections for us, and understanding that He delights in us, enjoys us, values our work, and calls us to partner with Him in ministry.
It starts out with some clever mixing of truth and deception. Most insidious theologies do. The devil did not outright lie to Eve in the garden. He mixed enough truth to get her to think and consider. We most certainly are to respond to God in wholehearted love and obedience. The problem we start to see already is this mixing of human emotion with God. This mixing of the way our flesh thinks with spiritual matters. God's emotions are always rooted in His holiness. He cannot change who He is. When you use words like "His beauty and commitments" what is the over-arching message? What is that terminology most likely to spark in a fleshly human? Relationships, specifically human relationships. It is the beginning of trying to transform Jesus into our mate. As for His beauty:
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. - Isaiah 53: 1-3 (ESV)
We see here from Isaiah describing the yet to come Jesus, that He was despised and rejected. He had no beauty that we would desire Him. God does not want superficiality. He does not think as we do with our flesh. There is no "bridegroom message" about His beauty unless you are speaking spiritually. To those who are saved the cross is beautiful because of the sacrifice made upon it, not something physical to desire. Back to the opening statement, we see a continued usage of carnal terms to describe Jesus. He just wants to share His heart with us! Oh and His secrets! Jesus has secrets He wants to share with you! His home too - He wants us to move in with Him! The worldly language continues. He wants us to experience His emotions and affections for us. He delights in us and enjoys us and seeks to partner with us"in ministry of course. The ground work however has been laid.
We affirm that the bridal paradigm refers to having a bridal perspective of the kingdom. As Christians, we see the kingdom through the eyes of a bride, with wholehearted, loyal love for God. There are many paradigms of the kingdom of God in Scripture, including agricultural, military, and economic paradigms. The Spirit uses the bridal paradigm of the kingdom to transform our hearts, so that the first and great commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Mt. 22:37--38) might take first place in our lives.
Here we start to see the deception full board. There is no bridal paradigm. Mike Bickle made it up. Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to have a "bridal perspective" of the kingdom of God. One of the main problems with this perspective is the allegory becomes personalized. Instead of the church as a whole being the bride, we become it personally. That is simply unsupported in Scripture. Our key verses today spell out where a great deal of this heresy originates from. In these verses Jesus is making a comparison. The Him the church is His bride. It is a picture for us that we can understand. Jesus presents the church unto Himself after He has sanctified her through His Word. So to create a paradigm that turns what is holy into what is carnal, is not sanctifying the church. It is sullying her. The entire paradigm doesn't work anyway because Christ is the head and we are part of His body. So the entire amorous connotations fall flat in light of Scripture. The word cherish means to treat as dear. We the church are precious to Christ. So precious that He died on a cross for our sins. That is the paradigm we need to be focusing on. Then Bickle doubles down and claims that the Spirit uses this heresy to transform our hearts so that the great commandment can take first place in our lives? Seriously? So anyone who doesn't buy into this nonsense does not have their heart transformed? They don't have the great commandment as being first in their lives? There is also nothing remotely romantic about the Scripture he references:
And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. - Matthew 22: 37-38 (ESV)
There is no understanding the affections of Christ in this. At best the bridal paradigm seeks to exploit loving God with all our heart but it does so by throwing our mind under the bus. Even then it is a poor understanding of our wickedly deceptive heart. It is that wickedness that this teaching plays to. The "affirmation" continues:
We deny, we refuse, all sensual overtones in proclaiming Jesus as the Bridegroom. Jesus is not our lover or boyfriend. We do not go on "dates" with Jesus. Receiving the "kiss of God's Word" (Song 1:2) has nothing to do with physically kissing God. Neither the spiritual interpretation of the Song of Solomon nor references to "the romance of the gospel" have anything to do with sensuality, but with the adventuresome love that is filled with a spirit of abandonment that sacrificially loves and obeys Jesus. An example of this is seen when Paul and Silas sang songs of love to Jesus after being beaten and thrown into prison (Acts 16:22--26).
So now Mike Bickle gets to the criticisms he has received for this drivel and he is trying to pretend that everyone else is wrong. Everyone else must be misunderstanding his paradigm. Jesus is not our lover or boyfriend? Really? Perhaps he did not get this memo to his lead worship singer, Misty Edwards. Here are some of her greatest lyrical hits:
I am lovesick, for my Beloved
My Beloved and my Friend
Only YOU can satisfy
Try as I may to chase another Lover
I find there is, there is no other
For only YOU can satisfy