It will be in that day,” says Yahweh, “that you will call me ‘my husband,’ and no longer call me ‘my master.’ Hosea 2:16

The book of Hosea begins with this command from God:

Hos 1:[2] When Yahweh spoke at first by Hosea, Yahweh said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of prostitution and children of unfaithfulness; for the land commits great adultery, forsaking Yahweh.” [3] So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; and she conceived, and bore him a son.

Some people must have snickered behind Hosea’s back, while others were shocked and appalled, that a virtuous man, and self-proclaimed ‘prophet of God’, would shack up with a common whore. It was obscene. And it’s not like Gomer left off her old trade when she married Hosea, either; she could still be seen around town, selling her body to any man who had enough coins. She must have offered some half-baked excuses to Hosea for her absences, but he knew what she was really up to. Everyone knew.

Eventually, children were born to the couple, but they probably weren’t even Hosea’s. Everyone knew that, too. He probably warned, threatened, and even begged her to stop, and perhaps she even made promises to stop; but the money was easy, and it was a bit of fun, too.

That is, it was fun right up to the day when her latest lover had a nasty surprise for her: instead of payment for her ‘services’, she was taken by force, and sold to the slave traders. With no husband to protect her, she was stripped naked, used roughly, and whipped mercilessly. With chains on her hands and feet, and a collar on her neck, she was traded from master to master.

Tradition has it that she was sent to the slave market, and put on an auction block. Slaves on the auction block were typically made to dance, and display themselves to onlookers. Perhaps it was there that Gomer recognized Hosea in the crowd, there to see her face the just consequences of her unfaithfulness and wickedness. Perhaps she heard the slavers haggling over her price; perhaps not. She had to know that she would never see her home, children, or husband again. And she had no-one to blame but herself. Then, as the goods were exchanged for her, Gomer finally looked up to see the face of her new master …


Hos 3:[2] So I bought her for myself for fifteen pieces of silver and a homer and a half of barley.

As the chains and the collar were removed from her, perhaps Hosea removed his own outer garment, and laid it on Gomer’s shoulders to cover her nakedness from prying eyes. As he led her back home, their children must have run out to meet her. And it was there that Hosea finally spoke to her:

Hos 3:[3] I said to her, “You shall stay with me many days. You shall not play the prostitute, and you shall not be with any other man. I will also be so toward you.”

The relationship between God and his people is often compared to that of the relationship between husband and wife (Isa 62:3-5, Jer 3:14, Joh 3:29, Rom 7:4, 2Co 11:2, Eph 5:23-27, Rev 19:7-9). But God’s people had become unfaithful, like a wife that turns to other lovers (Isa 1:21, Isa 50:1, Jer 3:1-9, Eze 16:15+32).

God explains his command to Hosea in this way:

Hos 3:[1] Yahweh said to me, “Go again, love a woman loved by another, and an adulteress, even as Yahweh loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods, and love cakes of raisins.”

No matter how unfaithful his people had been, God could never be unfaithful to his people (2Ti 2:13). So in his goodness, mercy, and grace, God himself paid the ransom price for the souls of his people, through the great redeeming work of Jesus Christ:

2Co 5:[21] For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

In this way, Hosea’s redemption of his wife foreshadowed Jesus’ redemption of his wife:

The Church is an entity created by God by the power of the gospel with Jesus Christ as her Head and Husband, to the praise of the glory of His grace. Wherever the true Church is found, the true gospel is always found. [Psa 2:6; Psa 46:4-5; Psa 48:1-2,11-13; Psa 50:2; Psa 99:2; Psa 102:13-21; Psa 111:1; Psa 118:22; Isa 2:3; Isa 28:16; Isa 33:5-6; Isa 35:8-10; Isa 52:7; Isa 62:12; Mat 16:18; Act 20:28; Rom 12:4-5; 1Co 12:24,27; Eph 1:6,13; Eph 2:20-22; Eph 5:23-32; Col 1:18; 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:1; 1Ti 3:15; Tit 1:9; 2:15; Jam 1:21; Rev 21:12]

Christian Confession of Faith, VI.A

Here, the Confession partly refers to the following verses:

Psa 46:[4] There is a river, the streams of which make the city of God glad, the holy place of the tents of the Most High. [5] God is in her midst. She shall not be moved. God will help her at dawn.

Isa 62:[12] They shall call them The holy people, The redeemed of Yahweh: and you shall be called Sought out, A city not forsaken.

Act 20:[28] Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood.

Rom 12:[4] For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members don’t have the same function, [5] so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

1Ti 3:[15] but if I wait long, that you may know how men ought to behave themselves in God’s house, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

The Confession then goes on to describe some of the commands of God to his Church, including the command to assemble regularly for worship:

It is the duty of believers to assemble for worship and fellowship. [Mat 18:20; Act 2:42; Heb 10:24-25]

Christian Confession of Faith, VI.B

The worship in the assembly must be conducted decently and in order, in spirit and truth, according to the commands of Scripture. [2Ch 29:30; Psa 22:22; Psa 35:18; Psa 89:7; Psa 107:31-32; Psa 149:1; Joh 4:23-24; 1Co 11:1-12:31; 14:33-40; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; 1Ti 2:1-2,8-12]

Christian Confession of Faith, VI.C

Also of critical importance is God’s commands to purge out those who believe a false Gospel, and those who are immoral:

It is the duty of the assembly to excommunicate anyone in the assembly who confesses belief in a false gospel or who confesses that at least some who believe in a false gospel are regenerate (including anyone who considers at least some universal atonement advocates to be regenerate), as such persons are clearly unbelievers. [Deu 13:1-5; Psa 26:4-5; Psa 101:4,7; Mat 7:15-20; Mar 16:16; Joh 6:43-45; Joh 7:24; Rom 10:3; 16:17; 1Co 10:21; 1Co 16:22; 2Co 6:14-15; Gal 6:14-16; Eph 5:6-12; 1Ti 6:3-5; 2Ti 3:5; 1Jo 2:22-23; 1Jo 4:2-3; 2Jo 1:9-11]

Christian Confession of Faith, VI.D

It is the duty of the assembly to rebuke and call to repentance anyone in the assembly who is openly disobedient to God’s law, including anyone who has sinned against another in the assembly. If the person persists in this sin without repentance, it is the duty of the assembly to excommunicate this person, as no such person will inherit the kingdom of heaven. [Psa 101:7-8; Mat 18:15-18; 1Co 5:7,11-13; 1Co 6:9-10; 2Co 13:1; 2Th 3:11-12; 1Ti 5:20; 2Ti 3:2-7; 1Jo 2:15-16; Rev 21:8]

Christian Confession of Faith, VI.E

But if anyone repents after being rebuked for sin, then the Church is called to forgive, and receive that one back:

If anyone in the assembly who has been rebuked (but not excommunicated) repents of sinning against a brother or of any other open disobedience to God’s law, the assembly is to forgive him and restore him to fellowship. [Mat 18:20-21; 2Co 2:5-8; Gal 6:1]

Christian Confession of Faith, VI.F

However, none of these things — the assembly, worship, or church discipline — are distinguishing marks of the true Church. The only distinguishing mark of the true Church is the presence of the true Gospel:

Isa 54:[5] For your Maker is your husband; Yahweh of Armies is his name: and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the God of the whole earth shall he be called.

Hos 2:[19] I will betroth you to me forever. Yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness, in justice, in loving kindness, and in compassion. [20] I will even betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know Yahweh.

Joh 3:[29] He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. This, my joy, therefore is made full.

1Co 11:[2] For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy. For I married you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ.

Eph 5:[23] For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the assembly, being himself the savior of the body. [24] But as the assembly is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their own husbands in everything. [25] Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; [26] that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, [27] that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without defect.

Rev 17:[7] Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad, and let us give the glory to him. For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready.”

11 Thy beauty to the King
shall then delightful be:
And do thou humbly worship him,
because thy Lord is he.
(Psalm 45, Second Version, The Psalms of David in Metre)

See Also:

What Did the Work of Christ Accomplish?

VI. Ecclesiology — The Doctrine of the Church

Appendix B: Church & State