Throughout much of church history there has been great confusion, and even tragic error, regarding the interpretation and use of the Song of Solomon. While some Jewish leaders have been on record discouraging it from being read by any man under the age of 30, Christian leaders have been almost as obvious in their discomfort with the book. One Christian forefather Origen even suggested that it should not be read by anyone who has not first completely crucified all his carnal, fleshly desires.
Why should I be concerned with doctrinal nuances? Isn’t that stuff just for preachers? This is a common question, or at least a common attitude, with which I have come into contact as a pastor. The richly diverse and meticulous language of Scripture, and a careful theology of Scripture, is often seen more as professional jargon for clerics than every day food for the souls of every day people. But nothing could be further from the truth.
I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required (Philemon 8). Corrie Ten Boom, the famous Dutch Christian who helped to hide Jews in her home during the Holocaust, tells of how difficult it was for her to forgive the man who betrayed her family to the Nazis. His lies and betrayal resulted in the death of her father and her sister, and subjected her and her brother to terrible suffering in the concentration camps. At the time, she swore she would never forgive him.
We sometimes make the mistake of thinking we must choose between knowledge and passion; but in fact the two feed each other, especially in relation to Jesus (2 Peter 3:11-18). The more we learn about Jesus, the more we will love and trust him; on the other hand, it is impossible to genuinely love or truly trust someone you don’t even know (Matthew 11:28-29; Romans 10:14). This is why knowledge is so important. And this is why every Christian should be a dedicated, life-time learner. A heart cannot be renewed by knowledge that the head never took in.
Christians have for centuries maintained that the doctrine of the Trinity is crucial to the faith. Yet many Christians seem at a loss to understand or explain the Trinity. Why then is the truth surrounding the Trinity so important? Whether Christians are willing to verbalize the question or not, it is a query lurking in the back of many minds. And so it is good to consider the answer. The importance of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity ultimately arises out of the urgency of affirming unequivocally, and yet harmonizing, such Bible passages as these:
From the outset of any discussion about God, his being, and his attributes, there must be the open admission that we cannot possibly fully comprehend an infinite God with our simple and finite minds. Yet, because God has revealed certain things about himself in his Word, the Bible, we must strive to describe God so as to communicate and understand who this God is and how he reveals himself to us. While we cannot fully define God, our best description is nonetheless necessary.
Not long ago I lead a study on the doctrine of “Glorification” in a systematic theology series for the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at the University of Cincinnati. I was greatly blessed in considering the eventual, promised perfection of the people of God. Yet I was also impressed all over again with the fact that every aspect of our salvation — including even our glorification — is not ultimately about us, but about God.
How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel (Psalm 78:40-41). This passage has been misunderstood by some to support the idea that men and women have an autonomy which God cannot violate and that we, therefore, have the ability to “limit” (as per the KJV) God’s interactions with his creation. It is thought that we have a “sacred free will” which God can not, or will not, violate.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13). The whole phrase “act like men” comes from one Greek word, basically taking the noun for “men” and turning it into a verb, i.e. “Be men,” or “Man up!” It is a peppy, catchy phrase, but what does it mean? What is Paul specifically wanting us to do, as a result of this command? What does it mean in biblical terms, to “man up”?
If you are a believer, then you are “sanctified”, you are a saint (same root word). The word sanctification means “to set apart for a particular purpose.” There is no ceremonial act—not even baptism or the Lord’s Supper—which is needed in order to be saved, or sanctified. This may be confusing, however, because the Bible often talks about, even exhorts us to, sanctification as a goal. This is because there is more than one aspect to God’s setting us apart; he sets apart in different ways and for different purposes.
David Brainerd observed, “The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best.” The answer to the question “Does prayer make a difference?” is definitely, “Yes!”. But let’s consider how and why the Bible teaches us that prayer matters so much.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3). Easter is now passed, but thank God the implications of Christ’s resurrection continue perpetually.
Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, interpretation is part of almost every human’s daily life. Communication would not be possible without a common understanding and means of interpreting. However, even with years of practice, we can all misjudge or misinterpret someone else’s—even our own spouse’s—words, actions, or facial expressions. This danger of misinterpretation is even greater when we come to the Bible.
Many people misunderstand the truth of God’s omnipotence — the fact that he has all power. So one might sincerely wonder why the cross of Jesus Christ was necessary. Why didn’t God just waive his omnipotent “wand” and make everything okay without his Son having to die? The key is to remember that, while God has the power to do anything he wishes, what God wants to do is always in accord with the rest of his attributes and character.
Greet one another with a holy kiss (1 Corinthians 16:20). Before we titter nervously like preteen school boys at Paul’s exhortation to kiss, consider this: a kiss in New Testament times was used as a warm greeting between those of the same sex. Many countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East still kiss on the cheek or on the forehead as a part of greeting one another affectionately. How is this exhortation still relevant to us today, in America?