Embracing Corporate Metaphors

Who is He to us? Who are we to Him? What is He to us? What are we to Him? We need revelation. He reveals mysteries in metaphors to make these realities known.

These metaphors are like riddles. When we meditate upon them they open our heart and we begin to comprehend what cannot be communicated in any other way.

They are like “dark sayings” through which God shines light into our darkness.

With him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of the LORD. (Numbers 12:8a)

The ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Septuagint, translates the phrase “dark sayings” with “ainigma.” That is the word from which we get “enigma.” It is also used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12a)

To enlighten us our Creator offers relational and non-personal metaphors through which we might know Him and comprehend ourselves. Some are relevant to the corporate identity of the church. Others help define the individual’s relationship to God.

We are called to have our minds renewed and see ourselves in terms of who we are in relationship to the Triune God. This is a challenging discipleship-task. It entails a restorative emotional adjustment. This transformation contributes to the development of spiritually healthy souls.

Agreeing with the nature of the metaphor helps the process along. If someone applies a corporate metaphor individualistically some of the intended power of the revelation is diminished. God’s viewpoint is misunderstood. The work of the Spirit on the soul is hindered.

For example, let’s examine the bridal metaphor.

Who is She?

Paul referred to the community of believers as both wife and betrothed. John had a trance in which the corporate Bride was revealed.[1] It may come as a surprise that there is no instance in the Bible wherein any individual is encouraged to think of themselves as loved in this way. This group of metaphors (betrothed, bride, wife) is exclusively revealed as relevant to the corporate community. It is uniquely applied to the commonwealth of Israel comprised of the godly remnant of Jews and redeemed Gentiles who attached themselves to the Jewish Messiah and the Israel of God.

I cannot recall hearing a worship song that significantly stresses the truth of this corporate identity metaphor to the Church. I have heard a lot of “me”, “I” and “mine”, but very little “us”, “we”, and “ours.”

Is there something in us that might need to be adjusted so we may enjoy the full power of this metaphor? Perhaps. Our civilization is known to be highly individualistic. I believe that out of existential spiritual anxieties the church has stressed individual “salvation” in a way that has distorted the Scriptures. Finding aspects of our identity to be primarily relevant as we are participants in God’s community is good for the soul. It provokes appreciative love for brethren and enhances the individual’s humility.

Does the individual experience this type of affection, devotion and commitment?

Yes, but primarily as part of the corporate Beloved.


David Harwood, 2015 





[1] Ephesians 5:25-32; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:9; 21:2