Friday, February 05, 2010

The love of Christ to his church (with the help of Richard Sibbes)

Paul prayed for the local church in Ephesian church that they would "know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge" (Eph 3:19).

My default is to think of that individually. As Ron Frost says: "the great tensions of life need to be framed not as issues of old versus new—of absolutes versus relativism—but as a competition between a relational view of life and a devotion to individualism."

 In Ephesians we know that Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant sacrifice (5:2) and that "Christ loved the church..." (5:25).

Richard Sibbes makes this connection in his fabulously named sermon series "Bowels Opened: a discovery of the neere and deere love, union and communion betwixt Christ and the church; and consequently betwixt Him and every beleeving-soul, delivered in divers sermons on the fourth, fifth, and sixth chapters of the Canticles"

He notes in passing that "the knowledge of the love of Christ to his church is above all knowledge" Eph 3:19. Where do I best see and know the love of Christ? Of course: in his love for the church!

I see Christ and I see the church he fills with his Spirit and clothes in his righteousness - and in that glimpse of his bride we catch the reflection of the immense love of Christ. Nothing else can move the heart like this sight of the gospel, no love is like his love for the church, and no lover like the one who gave himself for her.

Sibbes was known as “the sweet dropper” because he had such a sweet way of presenting the confidence, richness, depth and encouragement of the gospel. Read some more of "Bowels Opened" here:

"Other books of Solomon lie more obvious and open to common understanding; but, as none entered into the holy of holies but the high priest, Lev. xvi. 2, seq., and Heb. ix.8, so none can eneter into the mystery of this Song of songs, but such as have more near communion with Christ. Songs, and specially marriage songs, serve to express men's own joys, and others' praises. So this book contrains the mutual joys and mutual praises betwixt Christ and his church.
And as Christ and his church are the greatest persons that partake of human nature, so whatsoever is excellent in the whole world is borrowed to set out the excellencies of these two great lovers. It is called 'Solomon's Song,' who, next unto Christ, was the greatest son of wisdom that ever the church bred, whose understanding, as it was 'large as the sand of the sea,' 1 Kings iv. 29, so his affections, especially that of love, were as large, as we may see by his many wives, and by the delight he sought to take in whatsoever nature could afford. Which affections of love, in him misplaced, had been his undoing, but that he was one beloved of God, who by his Spirit raised his soul to lovely objects of a higher nature. Here in this argument there is no danger for the deepest wit, or the largest affection, yea, of a Solomon to overreach. For the knowledge of the love of Christ to his church is above all knowledge, Eph. iii. 19. The angels themselves may admire it, though they cannot comprehend it. It may well, therefore, be called the 'Song of Solomon;' the most excellent song of a man of the highest conceit and deepest apprehension, and of the highest matters, the intercourse betwixt Christ, the highest Lord of lords, and his best beloved contracted spouse.
There are divers things in this song that a corrupt heart, unto which all things are defiled, may take offence; but 'to the pure all things are pure,' Titus i.15.
More samples at from Vol 2 of Sibbes Complete Works.

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