Monday, July 27, 2015

Christ's Love for the Church

In Song of Solomon, God describes romantic or marital love, and this is symbolic of romantic love between a husband and wife, or between a man and woman engaged to be married.

I do not say I understand everything about the Song of Solomon. But one thing is obvious: this book paints a picture of strong love between and man and a woman, the kind of love that should lead to marriage and should continue in a happy marriage. Consider some of the passages in this book: "A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, that lies all night between my breasts. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blooms in the vineyards of En Gedi" (Song of Solomon 1:13-14).

"Behold, you are fair, my love! Behold, you are fair! You have dove’s eyes" (Song of Solomon 1:15). "Behold, you are handsome, my beloved! Yes, pleasant! Also our bed is green" (Song of Solomon 1:16).

"Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Sustain me with cakes of raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am lovesick. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the does of the field, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases" (Song of Solomon 2:3-7).

"My beloved spoke, and said to me: 'Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away! O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely' " (Song of Solomon 2:10-14).

"You are all fair, my love, and there is no spot in you. Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon. Look from the top of Amana, from the top of Senir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards. You have ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; You have ravished my heart with one look of your eyes, with one link of your necklace. How fair is your love, my sister, my spouse! How much better than wine is your love, and the scent of your perfumes than all spices! Your lips, O my spouse, drip as the honeycomb; Honey and milk are under your tongue; and the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed" (Song of Solomon 4:7-12).

"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised" (Song of Solomon 8:6-7).

Since Christ is to marry the Church, this represents the love that should exist now and will exist for eternity between Christ and the Church.

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own 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 the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Ephesians 5:22-33).

"For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2).

"Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7).

As human reproduction pictures God's reproduction of Himself in mankind, and as a mother's and father's love for their children pictures the Father's love for us, His children, so the marital love that exists between a man and woman, deeply in love with each other in marriage, pictures the joyous love that will exist for eternity between Christ and the Church in the Kingdom of God.

God created romantic love. Why would He make something so beautiful and joyous as the love between a husband and wife if it were only temporary and had no equivalent love and joy for eternity? Rather, the right kind of joyful love that exists between a husband and wife in a happy marriage in this life is only a picture and small foretaste of the joyful love that will exist in the Kingdom of God for eternity.

This should be an encouragement for those in the Church of God who are not married and perhaps have never had a happy marriage. Anyone who makes it into the Kingdom of God will experience joy and love to a greater degree than anyone has experienced in this physical life, and will experience it not just for 40 or 50 years, but forever.

No one who makes it into God's kingdom will miss out on the joys of marital love, but rather will experience that love on a greater and more intense and perfect scale than anyone has experienced in this temporary physical life. The joy of closeness, the bond of emotion, will exist between us and Christ forever.

This also shows the love that Christ has, right now, for the Church.

"Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you" (Revelation 3:9).

If you read the Song of Solomon, you will notice that the man and woman in love with each other praise each other and value every part of their spouse's bodies: neck, eyes, hair, even teeth. Likewise Christ values and loves (and you can say is "in love with") every part of His body, the Church, every member individually.

Friday, July 17, 2015

God's Love for Us

God is a God of justice. He lives a way of life, and that way of life is described and defined by His spiritual law. That spiritual law describes God's nature, for God lives His way of life according to His eternal nature. That nature, that way of life, that spiritual law, can be summed up with the one word, "love".

"He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:8). "And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16).

God not only lives according to His spiritual law, but He also teaches us to live by that same law of love. God is reproducing Himself in mankind, and we must practice the same way of life He lives so we can be His children.

"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:44-45).

It is by our living the way of life that God lives, the way of love, that God is able to reproduce His righteous character in us. God's part is to teach us His righteous way of life and to give us His Holy Spirit, and our part is to believe what God teaches us, to agree with His law of love, and to strive with all our might to obey it.

God is a God of justice. He does not command us to live a different way of life than He lives. He practices what He preaches. Jesus Christ has lived a perfect example for us to follow. "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (John 13:15). "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:21).

"A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40).

In showing us His perfect example for us to follow, Christ also showed us the Father, for Christ is a perfect reflection of God the Father and the Father's character. "Jesus said to him, 'Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, "Show us the Father"? ' " (John 14:9).

How great is God's love for us?

Consider how God commands us to love Him: " 'And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment" (Mark 12:30).

Now, if God practices what He preaches, and if God teaches us the way of life He Himself lives, then if God tells us to love Him with all our being, does it not follow that God's love for us must also be great?

Would God tell us to love Him with a greater love than He loves us?

"We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

God's love is reciprocal. He commands us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength because His love for us is also great. When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we are only returning to Him the love with which He loves us. God is fair, and He practices what He preaches. He would not command us to love Him if He did not love us as a way of life. In commanding us to love Him, He is only teaching us to practice the same way of life He Himself lives.

And if God so loves each one of us, we ought to love each other.