Ask Steve: Marital Relations in Song of Solomon

March 6, 2014 6:53 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I am currently reading through Song of Solomon. Can you briefly tell me what exactly does the book teach about the marital relationship between a man and a woman? 

Answer: The book of Song of Solomon is, like the book of Proverbs, wisdom literature in that it gives wisdom regarding the matter of sexual purity and the marital relationship between a man and a woman. It is not made up of imperatives and exhortations like Proverbs. Rather, it is a constant dialogue between a bride and a groom who pour out their affections for one another. The progression of the dialogue between the man and the woman show the wise ways in which a bride and groom are to relate to one another before and during marriage. Purity is the issue here. The Song of Solomon is a celebration between a bride and a groom who faithfully abide by the wisdom found in Scripture. This relationship, and subsequent marriage, is beautiful because it is filled with wisdom, purity, love, sacrifice, joy, and satisfaction. The Song teaches multiple things about the marital relationship between a man and a woman.

The first theme that the book teaches is the importance of sexual purity before marriage. In other words, there must not be fornicating or even lust before the man and the woman are married. These principles are rooted in God’s Law, in which fornication is a sin that violates sexual purity (Deuteronomy 22:13-30, 1 Corinthians 6:9) and lust is adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:27). Therefore, a blessed union between a man and a woman must be anchored in faithfulness to God’s Law. That is why the Shulammite bride explicitly expresses her commitment to a chaste life before and during marriage. In verses such as 2:7 and 3:5, the bride invites accountability to the daughters of Jerusalem, exhorting them never to incite her passions for sex before marriage.

Another prominent theme that the book teaches is purity in the marriage bed. This theme is rooted in the 7th commandment that forbids adultery (Exodus 20:14). Solomon even speaks about the important of keeping sex within the marriage covenant when he instructs men to drink “water from your own cistern…” (Proverbs 5:15). This theme of a bride and groom’s exclusivity to each other is demonstrated in passages such as 2:16, which states, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” This idea is also repeated in 6:3 and 7:10, which clearly shows the important principle, and God’s Law, of purity of heart, which must be honored during the courtship process and during the marriage.

The Song of Solomon is a romantic piece of literature that gives an inspiring account of purity before and during marriage. Sexual sins have always been prevalent throughout history, and even so today, which is why such wisdom literature particularly devoted to purity and the dangers of sexual sin is needed to shed light on the importance of the meaning of marriage, which ultimately points to the future wedding of Christ and His pure bride, the church (Rev 19:9). 

 

Recommended Resource: What the Bible Says about Love, Marriage & Sex by David Jeremiah

Ask Steve: Faith and Repentance

March 4, 2014 4:25 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, can you explain to me what conversion is? In particular what is the relationship between faith and repentance? Are both necessary for salvation? Can a person have faith without repentance? I ask this because I once attended a church that was “non-Lordship” and they said that preaching repentance was adding works to the gospel. 

Answer: It is important to have a biblical understanding of conversion, since one’s salvation is at stake in this issue. One cannot afford to be wrong when it comes to salvation. And this issue of faith, repentance, and Lordship salvation is definitely an important issue to know.

As every Christian knows, conversion happens when one comes to saving faith in Christ. But the question is: What is saving faith? This is a topic that is hotly debated by Lordship Salvation adherents and Free Grace adherents. If we take into consideration what the Bible says about the nature of saving faith (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19; 26:20; John 3:16; Eph 2:8-9), we come to realize that the terms repentance and faith are mentioned as being necessary attitudes for salvation. A faith that is not repentant is no faith at all, as it is categorized as mere intellectual knowledge and/or emotional assent to the facts of the gospel, but not a volitional commitment to it, which involves turning away from sin in order to trust in Christ as Lord and Savior. This is the essence of saving faith.

Contrary to what skeptics say, repentance is not a works added to faith. It is actually an attitude of the heart as much as faith is. Both involve the intellectual, emotional, and volitional assent of the sinner. Both are also sovereignly granted by God to the sinner as part of the divine calling and regeneration process. This principle is illuminated in verses such as Acts 11:18, which states that “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” In describing the relationship between faith and repentance, Wayne Grudem states that the two are “simply two different sides of the same coin…” in which “the person who genuinely turns to Christ for salvation must at the same time release the sin to which he or she has been clinging and turn away form that sin in order to turn to Christ. Thus, neither repentance nor faith comes first; they come together.” Repentance and faith essentially work hand in hand to bring a sinner to God so that he may be justified, sanctified, and ultimately glorified.

If repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin, then they cannot be separated and be viewed as mutually exclusive. As I have previously stated, a faith without repentance is an incomplete faith. It is a water-downed version of the saving message. It is no faith at all. Since faith involves a wholehearted commitment to Christ, repentance must logically be the step that leads a sinner there, since one cannot be committed to Christ unless he has first turned away from his sin, his idols, his self-righteousness, and his unbelief. The sinner must not only be convicted of the errors of his former life, but must also drop these errors and come to God with empty hands, abandoning what he is trusting in for his justification before he can accept the gift of God’s mercy and imputed righteousness which comes by wholehearted commitment to Christ. The many passages that mention repentance as part of salvation include Acts 2:38, 3:19, Luke 3:8-14, and Matthew 3:8. It is inescapable.

This is not to say that a Christian is expected to be sinless in order to maintain their salvation. Once a sinner is justified by a repentant heart that leads him to true faith, he is irreversibly justified. No where does Scripture teach that anyone can reach moral perfection in this life, for this would contradict what the Bible says concerning the sinful nature of humanity, even for those who have been regenerated. Soundly saved Christians will constantly stumble into sin because of their fallen nature (1 John 1:8, 10). Christian living is not about perfection, but direction, which the Holy Spirit graciously provides to the Christian during the sanctification process. If repentance were truly measured, quantitatively, by the amount of good deeds a sinner is able to do or the amount of sins he is able to stay away from, then such externalism can truly be deemed a works-righteousness system. However, repentance is more about the attitude of the heart, one that is humbly submitted to Christ, who alone saves the sinner and grants him grace whenever he stumbles into sin. This shows that dependence on the Person of Christ is what saves, and not the quantity of one’s good deeds.

There are three elements involved in successfully applying faith in one’s life: 1). The intellectual element (positive recognition of the truth), 2). The emotional element (a deep conviction of the truth), 3). The volitional element (a willful surrender of the life to the truth and applying it to one’s life). This model shows that biblically defined faith is not just intellectual acknowledge and conviction, but a purposed commitment to God and His promises. This truth is best illustrated in James 2:19, which states, “You believe that God is one…the demons also believe, and shudder.” The author James comments that demons, like professing believers, know the facts about God. They have an orthodox doctrine (intellectual element) and tremble at its implications (emotional element), yet such knowledge is no proof of saving faith because demons are entirely hostile to God, His word, and His agenda. Their volitional will is set entirely against the facts presented in God’s truth, which demonstrates that knowledge without commitment is futile for salvation.

In contrast to the biblical model of salvation is the easy-believism and cheap grace that is proposed by some Free Grace theologians. The Christians in this camp believe that sinners can intellectually believe or “accept Jesus Christ” as Lord and Savior, but not necessary have to follow Him. In other words, Free Grace adherents believe that sinners are not required to submit to Jesus’ Lordship, because it that was the case, then this scenario would corrupt the gospel message. In the world of the Free Grace theology, there can be such thing as the carnal Christian, and possibly even a complete backslider such as an atheist who still ends up being saved from eternal hell because he professed Jesus at one point in his life.

Since non-Lordship teachers say that a person is not required to submit to the authority of Christ upon conversion, they imply that a sanctification process does not necessarily need to follow in a Christian’s life. This hypothetically means that a believer can be saved but not ever have to go through the divine process of sanctification throughout his life. He can even live like a pagan if things turned out so. Therefore, repentance is not necessary, either before or after the “salvation” of the sinner.

In regards to the non-Lordship teachers, I must be dutiful to say that what they teach does not save at all. It is an incomplete version of the gospel that, at best, teaches that emotional assent to the gospel is enough to produce saving faith. Therefore, the object of saving faith becomes not the living Person of Christ, but the facts of the gospel itself. A faith without repentance is mere intellectual assent to the gospel but no wholehearted commitment to it, which runs contrary to how many people in the Bible were depicted as being saved. At worse, this type of belief produces antinomian believers who have no real love for Christ, who, in reality, are false converts as depicted in the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13.

This is why it is important to take heed to the command to receive Jesus as both Lord and Savior. You cannot choose one over the other. It comes in a total package. To receive this gift, one needs to repent in order to trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Otherwise, there is no saving faith, and surely no sanctification, which always follows the salvation.

 

Recommended Resource: The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur

Jesse Lee Peterson Radio Show Appearance

March 2, 2014 3:15 am

On February 24, I appeared on the Jesse Lee Peterson Radio Show. To hear the broadcast in its full, watch the YouTube video:

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