Why do we struggle so much with heralding the gospel in Jerusalem? Why are we comfortable with hopping on a plane and sharing the good news to a people we’ve never met yet uncomfortable with sharing the good news to our neighbors and co-workers, those we know and see every day? I think we need to understand this question to be faithful ministers of the gospel.
We’re all here because men took seriously the commands of God to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. For many generations, the Holy Spirit has transformed hearts through the heralding of the good news of Christ. These heralds experienced grace in such a way that it motivated them to preach on, speak on and share the grace, mercy and forgiveness of Christ.
We can look back to Genesis 12 and hear God tell Abram, “I’m going to save from every tribe, tongue and nation on earth. I’m reconciling all things to myself.” We can look at the prophet Isaiah say, “The nations will gather and be glad.”
We can see the coming of Jesus. We can hear him say, “There are sheep that are not of this flock who are going to be a part of my family, of my flock. They’ll hear my voice. They’ll come.” We can watch and see the gospel roll out, through the book of Acts to the known world.
This is what God has accomplished, and it’s our turn to play in the great drama and in the great unfolding of God’s redemptive plan.
The refrain from Acts 1 has echoed from the beginning of creation in God’s redeeming work in Jesus Christ, and it was heralded to us – by parents, friends, co-workers, or even by people we didn’t even know. Now the message has been entrusted to us, and the command hasn’t changed: “To Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth…”
In Acts, everybody heralded and talked about Jesus at home, in Jerusalem, but they didn’t want to get out of there. They didn’t want to leave. They were comfortable at home. Not until Saul began to ravage the Church did they go to Judea and Samaria.
We find in Genesis 2:22, “Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” From this verse, we realize, at least in part, God’s plan for male/female relationships, namely that God designed man and woman to come together, both physically and spiritually as one unit. Throughout Scripture, we find God’s unfolding and perfect design for how this comes about. Perhaps no better place to look in Scripture for grasping matters of attraction, purity, and the process of moving towards that place of covenant marriage is the Song of Solomon. Pastor and author Matt Chandler in his book The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex & Redemption provides a solid foundation for understanding God’s desires in these areas as opposed to the go your own way approach found in society.
As one who is currently in the middle of an in-depth study on the Song of Solomon, I must admit I was excited to find someone tackling this often neglected book of Scripture. Now it must be stated the underlying purpose of Chandler’s book is not to provide the reader with a verse by verse commentary on the Song of Solomon. If you are looking for that type of book, this most definitely is not it. If you are looking for a commentary on the Song of Solomon, there are many quality options available. Chandler’s book is focused on helping the reader understand how God desires male/female relationships to operate all the way from that time why a person of the opposite sex “catches your eye”, through that time of getting to know one another, to that point when you realize God has brought you together for something of a more permanent nature, finally reaching that point of covenant marriage.
There was much of this book I thoroughly enjoyed and admittedly a few recurring elements that I had a hard time finding agreement with. Let me start with the overwhelming positives first, specifically the urgency by which Chandler stresses the need for purity throughout the relationship process. If there is one theme that weaves its way throughout the Song of Solomon, it is a yearning to be in the arms of your beloved with the accompanying understanding not to awaken love, in this case the physical pleasures of covenant marriage, before its proper time. That particular phrase is repeated throughout the Song of Solomon and Chandler drives that important point home in his chapters on attraction, dating, and courtship.
An important aspect of maintaining that level of purity is the need for accountability. I appreciated that Chandler noted the necessity of treating members of the opposite sex as brothers and sisters in Christ. His personal example of watching out for his own sister when boys came calling her for a date was poignant and reminded me of my own approach with my sister. His comments on the foolishness of “movie night” and the idea that two people who are attracted to one another and full of that churning within themselves can sit on a couch together alone in a house and keep their hands off one another is of course the height of absurdity. Chandler advises the reader that while the desire for physical intimacy is God given, what is also ordained by God is the need for those desires “to be held in check until marriage.” Thus, when getting together with that one you are madly in love with, do so with the approach of accountability and ensuring the situation does not have room for undue temptations.
I also fully appreciated Chandler’s discussion of how marriage is a covenant and not a contract. He aptly notes “In a covenant, we don’t barter around services. We’re not trying to get under a tax shelter. We’re entering into a relationship in such a way that we give ourselves to one another. Vows aren’t contractual. They’re covenantal.” This is a very important point for those thinking about entering marriage and for that matter even those who have been married for a long period of time to constantly remember. Marriage and relationships are serious business.
The one aspect of this book that I found difficult was Chandler’s interaction in points with the Song of Solomon. At times, his analysis and application were a bit off. An example of this is his comments on Song of Solomon 3:1-4. Chandler suggests the Shulammite woman literally wandered the streets looking for her beloved and kept searching until she physically located him. When she found him, she brought him home to see momma. The point of interacting with this passage was intended to drive home the importance of parental involvement in the dating/courtship process and to that end, I wholeheartedly agree with the need for parents to play a tremendous part. However, the idea that the Shulammite woman was speaking of actually wandering the streets in the middle of the night in search of her man is truly something foreign to the context of the passage and according to a majority of scholars, would simply have not happened in that culture. The good news is such a slight foible does not damage the underlying message he is getting across but it must be pointed out as part of an honest review.
With that said, this is still a book I do highly recommend for both singles and married couples. In a day and age where godly relationships are shunned in favor of sexual promiscuity, Chandler provides a biblically based approach to how God desires male/female interaction to take place. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.
This book is available for purchase from David C. Cook Publishing by clicking here.
One area of cultural concern I’ve been anxious about gospel-driven sanctification taking root is the teen abstinence movement. One year I attended the local crisis pregnancy center’s annual fundraising banquet and listened to a speaker decry teen pregnancy and the abortions the pregnancies often lead to, and while of course I shared the concern — I wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t—I was chagrined to hear only the minor notes of the gospel, and even those were covered by the din of fearmongering, enemy-identifying, and law-building. Must we teach our teens to be responsible, to cherish their purity, and to save the gift of sexual intimacy for marriage? Yes, without question. But so many of our efforts amount to condemning present affections without that expulsive power of a new one. We give them the “no” to sex with a “yes” to virginity or freedom from disease and pregnancy, but no “yes” is as propulsive for saying “no” to sin as the “yes” that is in Jesus.
In 2010, Christianity Today ran an opinion column in which different spokespersons gave their perspectives on the solution to the teen pregnancy and abortion crisis. I was very happy to see the truth of gospel-driven sanctification promoted by Richard Ross, cofounder of the popular True Love Waits organization. In his piece, Ross writes about gospel wakefulness as a spur to successful premarital purity:
“The promise is kept most tenaciously by teenagers who have moved beyond moralistic therapeutic deism and who adore the King of Kings with awe and intimacy. They know their Lord and Savior said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Their walk in purity is a way to express deep love for him and to respond to his supremacy.
For teenagers who know Christ, that is a far stronger motivator than a desire to avoid disease and pregnancy. Risk avoidance is a weak motivator during adolescence, since the development of the brain’s prefrontal cortex (which governs self-control) lags well behind the development of the amygdala (which drives emotions and impulses). Teenagers need to know about the risks of promiscuity, as well as about the benefits that total life purity brings. But the most powerful way to impact prom-night decisions is for parents, leaders, and peers to more fully awaken teenagers to God’s Son.”
Ross is using the wakefulness language in a way not often thought about: as the way to strengthen the sexual purity of the unmarried. “Risk avoidance is a weak motivator,” he says. He reminds us that awe of Christ is “far stronger.”
– from Gospel Wakefulness (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2011), 137-138.
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)
Far too often, believers center their study of Scripture solely on the New Testament, viewing the Old Testament as something of a by-gone era. This approach is unfortunate as all of Scripture is inspired by God and perhaps more importantly, a full understanding of Jesus and the scarlet thread of redemption that runs throughout Scripture can only be truly obtained by reading the front of the book. The gospel message is one established before the foundation of the world thus a proper study of salvation contained in the gospel message has to begin where the story of God’s interaction with humanity begins, namely in the Old Testament corpus.
Dr. D. A. Carson has edited a book containing the transcript of eight addresses from the plenary session of the 2011 The Gospel Coalition Conference. In these addresses, a number of theological leaders address the importance of understanding Jesus from the pages of the Old Testament in order to more fully grasp the events and message contained in the New Testament. Men such as Dr. Albert Mohler, Dr. Tim Keller, Dr. Alistair Begg, Dr. James McDonald, Conrad Mbewe, Matt Chandler, Mike Bullmore, and Dr. D. A. Carson, engage this topic with great elucidation and theological insight helping the reader more fully understand the Messianic patterns and statements found throughout the Old Testament. While every chapter in this book is excellent and well worth reading, I will focus on the addresses of Dr. Mohler, Dr. Keller, and Dr. Carson for purposes of this review.
In his address, Dr. Mohler aptly sums up a reason why many young people are leaving the church noting “The absence of biblical, gospel preaching explains how we have created in our churches a generation of moralizing, therapeutic, practical deists.” The rejection of the meta-narrative of Scripture by the liberal establishment should cause concern. Far too often, the Old Testament is referred to as the Hebrew Bible or Hebrew Scriptures as if its content was only intended for the Jews. Furthermore, some have taken the opposite extreme claiming the Old Testament can be read without any need to engage the New Testament. Additionally, the dispensationalist approach to Scripture often wrongly bifurcate Scripture seemingly denying the flow of the biblical message. But wait, there’s more!