20 Thoughts on Intimacy with God
… considering what it means to have a relationship with God, from Scripture, and as Protestantism and the Puritans have humbly understood it…
WORLD’s editor-in-chief, Marvin Olasky — who wrote in print columns in the magazine, in regards to One Thousand Gifts, “… lilting prose… biblical thanksgiving…. it’s a pleasure to turn to a remarkably gifted writer who poetically describes God’s grace in big things and small. Amen” —
here offers the following thoughts:
‘It is good to have a high view of Scripture and want to protect it against those who would diminish God’s Word. Some writers do misuse and abuse Scripture.
Voskamp’s use of imagery [in the last chapter of One Thousand Gifts] to show the intimacy of our relationship to God, has raised the question, “If we, as Christians, were supposed to think about our relationship with God in sexual terms, wouldn’t God have made that clear in His word?”
Well, He did describe the relationship in those terms, repeatedly and explicitly in the Song of Solomon and in the prophets, both positively and negatively; see, for example, Ezekiel 16.
I once taught a course on Puritan writing, and I recall that they used imagery in the same way Voskamp does, without people doubting their orthodoxy.
Puritan Francis Rous in 1661 preached on “Mystical Marriage” and described “a chamber within us, and a bed of love in that chamber, wherein Christ meets and rests with the soul.”
John Cotton of First Church in Boston, describing how we should long for Christ, wrote, “It will inflame our hearts to kisse him again.”
Isaac Watts wrote that pastors would frequently “express the fervor of devout love to our Savior, in the style of the Song of Solomon.”
More recently, Charles Spurgeon and A.W. Tozer have also used the same imagery in describing God’s closeness to and care for us.
Since it’s beyond us to know the depths of God’s love but not beyond us to grasp marital love, God describes the former by the latter.
Good writers convey the unknown by showing us what we know — and using that to explain what we don’t know.“
The Language and Analogy of Scripture & Historical Protestant Christianity:
“Hosea 2:14-23 is one of the tenderest and most beautiful love songs in the Bible…
In the context of a broken marriage being renewed with the fresh vows of betrothal must not the words, “and you shall know the Lord,” (v. 20) mean, you shall enjoy an intimacy like that of sexual intercourse.
~ John Piper The entire sermon is available here.
“Sex is for fully committed relationships because it is to be a foretaste of the joy that comes from being in complete union with God. The most rapturous love between a man and woman is only a hint of God’s love for us (Rom. 7:1–6; Eph. 5:21–33). …
Positively, we are called to experience the spousal love of Jesus.”
J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Radio:
“When a man and a woman give themselves to each other in an act of marital love, they can know the love of Christ as no one else can know it.”
Jonathan Edwards in the Excellency of Christ:
“So again, we being united to a divine person, as his members –
can have a more intimate union and intercourse with God the Father.”
~ John Calvin:
“The strong affection which a husband ought to cherish towards his wife is exemplified by Christ, and an instance of that unity which belongs to marriage is declared to exist between himself and the Church. This is a remarkable passage on the mysterious intercourse which we have with Christ.”
“…a loving soul wants fresh food every day from the table of Christ.
And you who have once had the kisses of His mouth, though you remember the past kisses with delight, yet want daily fresh tokens of His love.”
–Charles Spurgeon’s sermon on “The Church’s Love To Her Loving Lord
“And his goal in creating human beings with personhood and passion was to make sure that there would be sexual language and sexual images that would point to the promises and the pleasures of God’s relationship to his people and our relationship to him.
In other words, the ultimate reason (not the only one) why we are sexual is to make God more deeply knowable.”
Thomas Shepard, whose writings profoundly mentored and shaped Jonathan Edwards and who was quoted by Jonathan Edwards more often than anyone else, preached,
“Consider he makes love to thee. Not one soul that hears me this day but the Lord Jesus is a suitor unto, that now ye would be espoused to him; “He came unto his own, and they received him not.” Whatever the secret purpose of Christ is, I regard not.
In this evangelical dispensation of grace, he makes love to all.…
‘Tis fervent, vehement, earnest love… The Lord longs for this… pleads for this,… mourns when he has not this… Take thy soul to the Bride-chamber, there to be with him forever and ever….” ~ Read the rest of the sermon at Puritan and Reformed Sermons
Peter Leithart, Reformed Pastor: “Sex is allegory… and as allegory it is …theology. For Christians, sexual difference and union is a type of Christ and the church… Only as allegory can the Song play its central role in healing our sexual imaginations.”
A.W. Tozer: The Pursuit of God … to read the entire compelling excerpt, click here …
“We have almost forgotten that God is a Person…
The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.
This intercourse between God and the soul is known to us in conscious personal awareness.
It is personal: that is, it does not come through the body of believers, as such, but is known to the individual…
And to the body through the individuals which compose it. And it is conscious: that is, it does not stay below the threshold of consciousness and work there unknown to the soul (as, for instance, infant baptism is thought by some to do), but comes within the field of awareness where the man can ‘know’ it as he knows any other fact of experience.
“I think Peter Kreeft is on the right track in his analysis:
For we are designed for something beyond morality, something in which morality will be transformed. Mystical union with God. Sex is a sign and appetizer of that.”
From the hymn: The Church is One Foundation
The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died….
’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.
Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
With all her sons and daughters
Who, by the Master’s hand
Led through the deathly waters,
Repose in Eden land.
C.H. Spurgeon: Morning and Evening
Song of Solomon 1:2
Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth.
For several days we have been dwelling upon the Saviour’s passion, and for some little time to come we shall linger there…. let us seek the same desires after our Lord as those which glowed in the heart of the elect spouse.
How bold is her love! …
Esther trembled in the presence of Ahasuerus, but the spouse in joyful liberty of perfect love knows no fear. If we have received the same free spirit, we also may ask the like.
By kisses we suppose to be intended those varied manifestations of affection by which the believer is made to enjoy the love of Jesus.
The kiss of reconciliation we enjoyed at our conversion, and it was sweet as honey dropping from the comb.
The kiss of acceptance is still warm on our brow, as we know that He hath accepted our persons and our works through rich grace.
The kiss of daily, present communion, is that which we pant after to be repeated day after day, till it is changed into the kiss of reception, which removes the soul from earth, and the kiss of consummation which fills it with the joy of heaven.
Faith is our walk, but fellowship sensibly felt is our rest.
Faith is the road, but communion with Jesus is the well from which the pilgrim drinks.
O lover of our souls, be not strange to us; let the lips of Thy blessing meet the lips of our asking; let the lips of Thy fulness touch the lips of our need, and straightway the kiss will be effected.
This Evening’s Meditation
C. H. Spurgeon
Art thou, beloved one, with Christ Jesus? Does a vital union knit thee to Him?
… Come, my soul, if thou art indeed His own beloved, thou canst not be far from Him.
If His friends and His neighbours are called together to see His glory, what thinkest thou if thou art married to Him? Shalt thou be distant?
Though it be a day of judgment, yet thou canst not be far from that heart which, having admitted angels into intimacy, has admitted thee into union.
Has He not said to thee, O my soul, “I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness”?
Have not His own lips said it, “I am married unto thee, and My delight is in thee”? If the angels, who are but friends and neighbours, shall be with Him, it is abundantly certain that His own beloved Hephzibah, in whom is all His delight, shall be near to Him, and sit at His right hand.
Here is a morning star of hope for thee, of such exceeding brilliance, that it may well light up the darkest and most desolate experience.
~ Thomas Watson, Puritan (1620-1686):
There is a closer union in this holy marriage than there can be in any other.
In other marriages, two make one flesh, but Christ and the believer make one spirit: “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (I Cor. 6:17).
Now as the soul is more excellent than the body, and admits of far greater joy, so this spiritual union brings in more astonishing delights and ravishments than any other marriage relationship is capable of.
The joy that flows from the mystic union is unspeakable and full of glory (I Peter 1:8).
To read his entire sermon: Mystic Union of Christ and the Saints
“Yet you were naked and bare.
Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love;
so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,”
declares the Lord GOD.
Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil…
32″You adulteress wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband!“
“God very commonly takes on the character of a husband to us. Indeed, the union by which he binds us to himself when he receives us into the bosom of the church is like sacred wedlock…
“Therefore that joining together of head and members, that indwelling of Christ in our hearts—in short that mystical union—are accorded by us the highest degree of importance.”
John Calvin ~ Institutes of Christian Religion
14″Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her…
16″And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’…
19And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.
20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.
Edward Fisher in his 1650 book The Marrow of Modern Divinity (Christian Focus, 2009):
I tell you from Christ,
and under the hand of the Spirit,
that your person is accepted,
your sins are done away,
and you shall be saved;
and if an angel from heaven should tell you otherwise,
let him be accursed.
Therefore, you may (without doubt) conclude
that you are a happy man;
for by means of this your matching with Christ,
you are become one with him,
and one in him,
you ‘dwell in him, and he in you’ (1 John 4:13).
He is ‘your well beloved, and you are his’ (S. of S. 2:16).
So that the marriage union betwixt Christ and you
is more than a bare notion or apprehension of your mind;
for it is a
it is an union betwixt the nature of Christ,
God and man,
it is a knitting and closing,
not only of your apprehension with a Saviour,
but also of your soul with a Saviour.
Whence it must needs follow that you cannot be condemned,
except Christ be condemned with you;
neither can Christ be saved,
except you be saved with him.
And as by means of corporeal marriage all things become common betwixt man and wife;
even so, by means of this spiritual marriage,
all things become common betwixt Christ and you;
for when Christ hath married his spouse unto himself,
he passeth over all his estate unto her;
so that whatsoever Christ is or hath,
you may boldly challenge as your own.
‘He is made unto you, of God,
and redemption’ (1 Cor. 1:30).
by virtue of this near union it is,
that as Christ is called ‘the Lord our righteousness’ (Jer. 23:6),
even so is the church called, ‘the Lord our righteousness’ (33:16).
The Apostle Paul - 2 Corinthians 11:2 (ESV)
I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
In what sense are believers in Christ, or united to him?
“Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus.”
These words doubtless point out a peculiar relation between Christ and believers; a relation which is often mentioned in the New Testament.
John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing, If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered.”
John 17:21, “That they all may be one, as thou Father are in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us.”
Eph. 1:6, “He hath made us accepted in the beloved;” and
Eph. 5:30, “For we are members of His body, of his flesh and of his bones.”
1 Cor. 12:27, “Now we are the body of Christ, and members in particular”…
The same relation is illustrated by that which subsists between the husband and wife; and the whole body of believers is called “the bride, the lamb’s wife.”
But what is this union between Christ and believers? In what respect are they one? By a… union of affection is meant, that cordial and mutual love or affection which subsists between Christ and all true believers.
This love is implied in the true and saving faith of the gospel.
Every real Christian being the subject of his faith, is therein united in heart and affection to Christ.
The first act of this faith is the uniting act; and in its exercise the believer cordially receives Christ; is sincerely pleased with him, love those things which Christ loves; desires and seeks those objects which he seeks, and in affection becomes one with Him. …
He leans on Christ his beloved and lives by communications of grace from him.
“His life is hid with Christ in God;” and “the life which he now lives in the flesh, he lives by faith on the Son of God.”
This is the vital or real union; the union of affection between Christ and believers. Faith has be some been called the hand or instrument by which believers lay hold on and receive Christ.
But with more propriety may it be called the act of unition itself, or the uniting act, by which Christ and the believer
~ Jonathan Edwards: The Works of Jonathan Edwards
And would you have him nearer to you than to be in the same nature, united to you by a spiritual union, so close as to be fitly represented by the union of the wife to the husband, of the branch to the vine, of the member to the head; yea, so as to be one spirit?
For so he will be united to you, if you accept of him.
~ Jonathan Edwards: the Excellency of Christ
There he is, for “he feeds among the lilies.” The spouse sees him of whom she speaks; he may be a mere myth to others but he is a substantial, lovable, lovely, and actually beloved person to her.
He stands before her, and she perceives his character so clearly that she has a comparison ready for him, and likens him to a gazelle feeding on the tender grass among the lilies. This is a very delightful state of heart. Some of us know what it is to enjoy it from year to year.
Christ is ours, and we know it. Jesus is present, and by faith we see him.
Our marriage union with husband or wife cannot be more clear, more sure, more matter of fact, than our oneness with Christ and our enjoyment of that oneness.
Joy! joy! joy! He whom we love is ours!
~ Charles Spurgeon: Loved and Loving