Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
– Ephesians 3:3-14
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
– Romans 6:3-11
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. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
– Colossians 3:1-4
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
– Galatians 2:20
God chose to make known how great…are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
– Colossians 1:27
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
– 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death…we are fellow heirs with Christ.
– Romans 8:1-2, 16-17
“Union with Christ is…the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation… It is not simply a phase of the application of redemption; it underlies every aspect of redemption.”
– John Murray, Redemption—Accomplished and Applied
“[Union with Christ] is the cause of all other graces that we are made partakers of; they are all communicated unto us by virtue of our union with Christ. Hence is our adoption, our justification, our sanctification, our fruitfulness, our perseverance, our resurrection, our glory.”
– John Owen
“Every aspect of God’s relationship to believers is in some way connected to our relationship with Christ. From God’s counsels in eternity past before the world was created, to our fellowship with God in heaven in eternity future, and including every aspect of our relationship with God in this life—all has occurred in union with Christ.”
– Wayne Grudem
“Union with Christ, rather than justification or election or eschatology, or indeed any of the other great apostolic themes, is the real clue to an understanding of Paul’s thought and experience.”
– James S. Stewart, A Man in Christ
“I confess that we are deprived of justification until Christ is made ours. 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, so that Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has been endowed… We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that His righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into His body—in short because he deigns to make us one with Him.”
– John Calvin, Institutes (3:11:10)
“[Union with Christ] is at once the center and circumference of authentic human existence.”
– Lewis Smedes, Union with Christ
“Once you have your eyes opened to this concept of union with Christ, you will find it almost everywhere in the New Testament.”
– Anthony Hoekema, Saved by Grace
“It is one of the most glorious aspects of the Christian truth, one of the most profound, one of the most stimulating, one of the most comforting—indeed I rather like to use the word exhilarating. There is nothing, perhaps, in the whole range and realm of doctrine which, if properly grasped and understood, gives greater assurance, greater comfort, and greater hope than this doctrine of our union with Christ…If you have got hold of this idea you will have discovered the most glorious truth you will ever know in your life.”
– Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, The New Man
“If you want an introduction to the doctrine of union with Christ, John Murray’s chapter in Redemption—Accomplished and Applied is helpful, as is Anthony Hoekema’s chapter in Saved by Grace. Below are a few notes on the latter:
The New Testament uses two interchangeable expressions to describe union with Christ:
- We are in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; John 15:4, 5, 7; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 12:2; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 1:4, 2:10; Phil. 3:9; 1 Thess. 4:16; 1 John 4:13).
- Christ is in us (Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Eph. 3:17).
Hoekema says that we should see union with Christ “extending all the way from eternity to eternity.” He outlines his material in this way:
- The roots of union with Christ are in divine election (Eph. 1:3-4).
- The basis of union with Christ is the redemptive work of Christ.
- The actual union with Christ is established with God’s people in time.
Under the third point, he shows eight ways that salvation, from beginning to end, is in Christ:
- We are initially united with Christ in regeneration (Eph. 2:4-5, 10)
- We appropriate and continue to live out of this union through faith (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:16-17).
- We are justified in union with Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:8-9).
- We are sanctified through union with Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; John 15:4-5; Eph. 4:16; 2 Cor. 5:17).
- We persevere in the life of faith in union with Christ (John 10:27-28; Rom. 8:38-39).
- We are even said to die in Christ (Rom. 14:8; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 14:13).
- We shall be raised with Christ (Col. 3:1; 1 Cor. 15:22).
- We shall be eternally glorified with Christ (Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).
And here’s a helpful quote from Sinclair Ferguson (in Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification [IVP, 1989], 58), explaining in a nutshell why union with Christ is the foundation for sanctification:
“If we are united to Christ, then we are united to him at all points of his activity on our behalf.”
- in his death (we were baptized into his death),
- in his resurrection (we are resurrected with Christ),
- in his ascension (we have been raised with him),
- in his heavenly session (we sit with him in heavenly places, so that our life is hidden with Christ in God), and we will share
- in his promised return (when Christ, who is our life, appears, we also will appear with him in glory) (Rom. 6:14; Col. 2:11-12; 3:1-3).
This, then, is the foundation of sanctification in Reformed theology.
It is rooted, not in humanity and their achievement of holiness or sanctification, but in what God has done in Christ, and for us in union with him. Rather than view Christians first and foremost in the microcosmic context of their own progress, the Reformed doctrine first of all sets them in the macrocosm of God’s activity in redemptive history. It is seeing oneself in this context that enables the individual Christian to grow in true holiness.”
– Justin Taylor, Union With Christ: A Crash Course
“The Father is the source of our union; the Son is the object of our union; and the Spirit is the bond of our union.”
– Seng-Kong Tan, Calvin’s Doctrine of Our Union with Christ
“I recently listened to Richard Gaffin’s lecture “Union with Christ in the New Testament,” recorded in 2006. And these are my notes.
We see a comprehensive sweep of our union with Christ from eternity to eternity:
• Eternal origin: Predestinated in Christ (Eph 1:4)
• Eternal end: Glorified in Christ (Rom 8:17, 1 Cor 15:22)
Gaffin then makes three categorical distinctions of this union:
• Predestinarian or decreetal union with Christ (Eph 1:4).
• Redemptive-historical union with Christ (Rom 6:1–14). The union that is involved as we are seen as one with Christ when he actually accomplished our salvation. We are crucified, buried, raised up with Christ.
• Applicatory (or existential) union with Christ. Paul percieved himself as one chosen in Christ from eternity (1) and as one who was contemplated in Christ during his death/resurrection (2). But Paul also knew that he was at one time NOT united to Christ, but was rather a child of wrath (Rom 16:7). So what effects the transition from wrath to grace? That point came when Paul was united to Christ by faith.
These are not three distinct unions but three facets to the single union.
Under “applicatory union” Gaffin makes these further points:
• Mystical union. It is mystical union because it involves a great mystery, a mystery that has its closest analogy in the relationship between a husband and a wife (Eph 5). Marital union and intimacy does not blur the distinctions between the husband and wife. So our union with Christ does not blur the clear personal distinction between Christ and the Christian. Christ remains our representative. This point protects us from mysticism.
• Spiritual union. It is spiritual because of the activity and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This union is not ontological (like the Trinity), not hypostatic (like the two natures of Christ), not psychosomatic (body-soul relationship), not one flesh (like marriage), nor is it merely intellectual and moral (as if Christ and the believe now merely share a common purpose). Spiritual union is rooted in the relationship between Christ and the Holy Spirit.
• Reciprocal union. Believers are in Christ and Christ is also in them. The hope of the church is that Christ “is in you” (Col 1:27).
• Vital union. Christ’s indwelling is the very life of the believer (Gal 2:20, Col 3:4).
• Permanent union. Rooted in election, our union will reach its final consummation in glorification. At the end of Romans 8 Paul says that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of Christ. Why? Because not even death can separate us from Christ. Westminster Confession: “The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.”
• Corporate union. Union is obviously very personal. But it’s also corporate (1 Cor 1:9, 12:13). The call that comes to each believer is also a call into fellowship with His Body. There is no union that is not also fellowship with other believers. Never polarize the personal and corporate concerns.
• Union and justification. We do not have our justification apart from, or prior to, our being united to Christ. Justification is a manifestation of our union with Christ.
John Calvin, Institutes, 3.11.10: “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, so that Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has been endowed. We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body—in short, because he deigns to make us one with him.”
Conclusion. A focus on our union with Christ will keep our focus on Christ himself, on his person, rather than being preoccupied merely by the benefits we receive from Him. It keeps Christ central. It will not allow him to fade into the background as a mere facilitator of these benefits.
The beauty in stressing union with Christ is that you are much less likely to pit various elements of the person and work of Christ against one another. So when I think of my wife I do not ask what I like more, her cooking or her intellect. She is my wife and all her strengths and beauty are mine becuse we are united.”
– Tony Reinke, Union With Christ
“Dr. Ferguson began talking about the structure—or grammar—of the gospel. Natively, the gospel is a foreign language to us and we need to learn that the grammar of the gospel is shaped by the gospel itself. He noted how hard it is for us as Americans to learn Latin. The verbs go at the end end. We are a doing community and it’s hard for us to put the “doing” at the end. But the gospel teaches us to put our doing word at the end and Jesus’ doing word at the beginning—but our native tendency is to drag back the doing word and put it at the beginning, and then top that up with Jesus’ doing, just to make life a little better.
There’s a very clear grammar, he said, in the gospel…
The Mood of the Gospel
We need to learn that the grammar of the gospel has its appropriate mood.
In our languages today we speak in the indicative mood and the imperative mood. The indicative mood is saying these are the things that are true. The imperative mood is saying these are things you need to do. And in the gospel, the structure of the grammar is always indicative gives rise to imperative…
The Tense of the Gospel
There’s also a tense of the gospel: the present is to be rooted in the past. You need to go backward to what Christ has done in order to go forward in what you are to do. There is an emphasis of the already and the mopping-up operation of the not-yet.
The Prepositions of the Gospel
Do you remember how Paul uses prepositions in Galatians 2:20-21, where in a few words he summarizes the work of Christ:
The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me;
and therefore I am crucified with Christ;
nevertheless, I live, but not I; Christ lives in me.
In these three prepositions the apostle Paul has, in a sense, summarized the basic structure of our union with Christ.
Since we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, he came as our substitute and representative—there is this sense in which we now know through faith that we were crucified with Christ. And the past that dominated us has been nailed to the cross; the dominion of sin that reigned over us has been broken—so that he has died for us and we have been crucified with him, and wonder of wonders there is this third dimension of our union with Christ: a mutual union, in which not only are we are said to be in Christ, but Christ the Lord of glory, in all the fullness of his role as our benefactor comes to dwell in the heart of the merest believer.”
– Justin Taylor, Do You Know the Grammar of the Gospel?
– Michael Reeves, Q&A + Scripture Teaching (or mp3)
– Sinclair Ferguson, Paul on Union with Christ (or mp3 or PDF)
– Sinclair Ferguson, Union with Christ in Christian Living (or mp3)
– Sinclair Ferguson, Paul on Union with Christ (or mp3 or PDF)
– Sinclair Ferguson, Union with Christ in Christian Living (or mp3)
– Richard Gaffin, Union With Christ in the New Testament
– Richard Gaffin, The Mystery of Union with Christ—Part 1
– Richard Gaffin, The Mystery of Union with Christ—Part 2
– Richard Gaffin, The Mystery of Union with Christ—Part 3
– Richard Gaffin, The Mystery of Union with Christ—Part 4
– Richard Gaffin, The Mystery of Union with Christ—Part 5
– Richard Gaffin, The Mystery of Union with Christ—Q & A, Part 1
– Richard Gaffin, The Mystery of Union with Christ—Q & A, Part 2
– Phil Gons, Union With Christ
– R. David Rightmire, Union with Christ
– Theopedia, Union with Christ
– Wikipedia, Union with Christ
– J.V. Fesko, Union with Christ in Paul’s Epistles
– J. Todd Billings, Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church
“All truth is God’s truth.”
– Unknown [possibly Augustine or Aquinas]
To allegorize is to give hidden meaning that transcends the literal sense of a text (Merriam-Webster). An allegory is a figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another (Dictionary.com), and it can be a song, poem, play, picture, etc, in which the apparent meaning of the characters and events may be used to symbolize a deeper moral or spiritual meaning (The Free Dictionary).
That said, allegory is a literary device used by an author to convey something, often moral or spiritual, to the world. C.S. Lewis is a noted author of allegorical works (The Chronicles of Narnia, The Space Trilogy), and some would also include J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) though Tolkien himself despised allegory and wholeheartedly denied use of it. But the emphasis is on the author’s use of allegory—the reader cannot ‘allegorize’ an author’s work. That is to say, you and I cannot give a deeper meaning that was unintended by the author to a text. To post-modern relativistic reader-response ears, this may kill many potential experiences for the reader in enjoying a film, book, or song. But I am not saying that we cannot find applications or parallels within a work.
Tolkien writes in the foreword to the second edition of the LOTR series, “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history—true or feigned—with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”
This insight is a subtle but important one. By finding applications throughout a work, we are able to preserve respect for the author and the intent of his own work while at the same time exercising freedom in discovering parallels to our own experience or thought within the work. And there is a beauty in that. “The genius of applicability is in its ability to show us a facet of Truth through the lens of our current state in life. Truth never changes. We constantly change. We, the readers, are constantly discovering new facets of that grand Truth we can never fully grasp. The Truth at the heart of myth, at the heart of human existence, is so vast that it can never be fully perceived. We are allowed catch glimpses, and new vistas as we progress through life. Though we may see many of those facets in life we never see the whole diamond of Truth,” T. Widman (Allegory, No! Applicability, Yes!).
That said, I enjoy finding applications within works produced from the mere minds of men (most typically ‘secular’/non-Christian authors), not work brought forth by the Spirit of God. In other words, I do believe that the Scriptures mean what they mean in the literal sense, and I use the word literal to mean what the author intended, which could be narrative language in Genesis or figurative speech in the wisdom literature or hyperbole in the gospels or whatever—each work must be read and interpreted within its own context. This means that I do not think it does justice to the biblical authors and their writings to speculate and symbolize what they had meant, ignoring basic hermeneutical principles and the perspicuity of Scripture.
Yet, I fully believe that there is beauty in finding applicability, as stated above. Though I’m not sure that they had application in mind (as it appears that they often attributed allegory to the authors of the biblical text), the early church fathers are often notoriously known for allegorizing works within Scripture; these church fathers include Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Ambrose, and Augustine. This is important to note that finding application within texts, biblical texts no less, is far from a new practice. And regardless of their potential misinterpretations, I do believe that there is a healthy way to find application within a biblical text; see this post by Billy Kangas.
As for me, I find joy in finding biblical applications embedded within pop culture, whether popular movies or TV shows or radio songs—whatever comes my way. For example, I could talk to you all freaking day about the biblical themes that pervade Sons of Anarchy. I mean, the title for one (“sons of disobedience,” Ephesians 2, hello?), the love for the club that parallels the deep covenantal love for the church we should share, the way justice is always dealt for every sin committed, etc. The same goes for Breaking Bad (justice), Mad Men (power corrupts, humanity is depraved), etc.
The following compilation of lyrics is devoted predominantly to my love for the music of Aubrey Graham, otherwise known as Drake. His lyricism is so raw and real, and I absolutely love creating biblical applications out of his quite obviously wicked lyrics. This passion arose out of the Lord breaking the MP3 port in my car and forcing me to listen to the radio since I couldn’t play my own music. Despite my hipster-borne hatred for the radio, it began to grow on me as I twisted the stupid lyrics of these popular radio songs into worshipful lyrics full of Christ-exalting joy. Drake, Beyoncé, Lil Wayne… all some of the 21st century’s greatest Christian worship artists. It just required a complete warping of their lyrics into Christocentric meanings. And here I am, systematizing my worship of the Lord through Drizzy Drake. Enjoy.
“They are superstitious who dare not borrow anything from profane writers. For since all truth is from God, if anything has been aptly or truly said by those who have not piety, it ought not to be repudiated.”
– John Calvin, Commentary on Titus
“Test everything; hold fast what is good.”
– Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:21
“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.”
– John, John 16:13
– T. Widman, Allegory, No! Applicability, Yes!
– T. Widman, The Triumph of Applicability
– TV Tropes, Applicability
– Michael Jahosky, Tolkien: Allegory or Application?
– Christo Brittain, Allegory vs. Applicability in The Dark Knight
– D.S. Pearson, Hollywood Hermeneutics
– Anton Karl Kozlovic, Postmodernism, Christianity and the Hollywood Hermeneutic
– Billy Kangas, Scripture Remixed: The Theology of Allegorizing
“Mind in one place, heart in another.”
– Aubrey Graham, It’s Good (ft. Lil Wayne and Jadakiss)
Drake highlights the dichotomy people commonly experience between the mind and the heart, commonly captured in the idiom “the distance between the head and the heart.” Often times our thoughts and affections are not in sync, as we cognitively know what is true or right but we experientially feel otherwise. This notion closely aligns with the Christian, often torn between the desires of a still fleshly heart and a mind being renewed daily unto transformation.
“And good ain’t good enough, and your hood ain’t hood enough
Spent my whole life putting on, you spend your whole life putting up
Ain’t no telling when I go, so there ain’t shit that I’mma wait for
I’m the type to say a prayer, then go get what I just prayed for.”
– Aubrey Graham, Amen (ft. Meek Mill and Jeremih)
The first line in this verse is reminiscent of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 2: “Your salvation is not your own doing! It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Your good ain’t good enough, nigga. Likewise, your hood ain’t hood enough! It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what your background is, Christ is far bigger than that.
Then Drake appears to pen an allusion to Colossians 3, “…you have put off the old self and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” He’s spent his whole Christian life putting on the new self and putting sin to death, and these unbelievers have spent their whole lives just putting up with the daily miseries and tragedies of life, with no purpose or King to follow.
Finally, he demonstrates a holy zeal to achieve the goals he’s made before the Lord. D.L. Moody once said, “If you pray for bread and bring no basket to carry it, you prove the doubting spirit.” Drake has his basket ready and he’s not just gonna ask the Lord for what he wants and sit there. Our heart should be trusting that the Lord will be faithful to answer the prayers of the redeemed, so we should seek hard after the things we pray for.
“Rich enough that I don’t have to tell ’em that I’m rich;
Self explanatory, you just here to spread the story, wassup.
On a mission tryna shift the culture.
– Aubrey Graham, Tuscan Leather
This falls in line with the notion that our daily lives should demonstrate the heavenly riches we hold without us even needing to tell people about them, often summed up in the quote often misattributed to Francis of Assissi, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words.” In better words, preach the gospel by your deeds (James 2-esque). To the Christian, this concept is self-explanatory, and Drake acknowledges that we are mere characters in God’s grand plan here to spread the story, the good news, the truth of God’s redemptive plan in history. Drake appeals to the man of God combatting worldliness with a battle cry and call to mission, we’re here to shift the culture. Only when the ethics of the kingdom are implemented in this world will heaven truly meet earth.
“Somewhere between psychotic and iconic
Somewhere between I want it and I got it
Somewhere between I’m sober and I’m lifted
Somewhere between a mistress and commitment.”
– Aubrey Graham, Furthest Thing
“Started from the bottom, now we’re here
Started from the bottom, now my whole team fucking here.
No new niggas, nigga, we don’t feel that
Fuck a fake friend, where your real friends at?”
– Aubrey Graham, Started From the Bottom
This is a modern day rendition of Amazing Grace in no unclear terms. Drake and the elect were once lost, blind, wretches but have now been ushered into amazing grace. The upward metaphor, that is, the movement from the bottom to “here” (assumably a higher location), reminds us of the Lord ushering us up into the heavens, and now our whole team is here, the whole of the elect. Drake hits the nail on the head when he denies feeling any “new niggas,” in the spirit of Christ preaching the sermon on the Mount, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” In essence, the “fake friend” will be denied, for only the “real friend,” the one who does the Father’s will, will see the kingdom.
“Nigga never loved us
Do it look like we stressin’?
Look at you, look at you and look at you
Aww, I’m glad that they chose us
Cause man it’s a mission, tryna fight to the finish
Just to see if I’m finished
On my worst behavior, no? They used to never want to hear us
Remember? Mothafucka never loved us
Remember? Mothafucka never loved us
I’m on my worst behavior! Don’t you ever get it fucked up!
Mothafuckas never loved us! Man, mothafuckas never loved us
Worst behavior! Mothafuckas never loved us
Fucka never loved us! Worst behavior
You know me? You know me?
I’m liable to do anything
When it comes to that you owe me
You owe me, you owe me
Bitch you better have my money
When I come for that shit like O.D.B.”
– Aubrey Graham, Worst Behavior
Drake weaves together several themes in this song, first decrying the praise of man by asking “Do it look like we stressin’?” in light of never being loved by everyone. He then looks to the people of God and emits a quick praise for the Lord’s election, “I’m glad that they chose us!” (the ‘they’ language is likely drawn from Genesis 1 and elsewhere, e.g. v.26 “Let us make man in our image,” in which a plurality of the Lord is implied from a Trinitarian framework). Drake recognizes that life is a mission that we’re trying to fight to the finish, similar to Peter’s exhortation to Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith.”
The chorus of the song, which supplies the title, is a clear connection with the anti-imperial zeal that the apostles demonstrate as they’re constantly in and out of prison for their faith. They’re on their worst behavior, and they won’t abide by the rules of their culture, just as Drake calls us to be on our worst behavior to a culture that tells us that Jesus isn’t Lord, Christianity is incoherent, and that we must relegate our faith to Sunday mornings. This culture “never loved us,” so we’re on our worst behavior for the name of the Lord.
In the final verse, Drake includes a rendition of Christ’s apocryphal words to the ransomed, to the ones who owe him. “You know me? I’m liable to do anything when it comes to that you owe me.” Christ will do anything, so far as to sacrifice himself for God’s people, and they’d better “have his money” when he comes for it, the money being an obvious metaphor for a lifetime of devotion to the Lord. He’s coming for us on Judgment Day, and we must not be found workers of lawlessness whom the Lord never knew (Mt. 7:21-23).
“…I know exactly who you could be.
Just hold on, we’re going home.
Just hold on, we’re going home.
It’s hard to do these things alone.
Just hold on we’re going home.
You’re the girl, you’re the one
Gave you everything I loved
I think there’s something, baby.”
– Aubrey Graham, Hold On, We’re Going Home (ft. Majid Jordan)
Drake’s commentary on 2 Timothy is wonderful. I love his rendition of the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to the saints, awaiting our final resting place, that we merely need to hold on, to endure, because we’re going home unto the Lord. “If we endure, we will also reign with Christ,” (2Tim 2:12). Take heart, for the Lord knows “exactly who you could be.” Because “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are” (Heb 4:15), we hold on tightly to the Lord. We’re going home.
“We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him,” (2Cor 5:8-9). The final words are from Christ himself to his Bride, “You’re the girl, you’re the one; gave you everything I loved; I think they’re something.” Thanks Drizzy. For your exegetical insight, for your sick beats, and for your love for God’s elect in Christ. Amen.
“Don’t think about it too much, too much, too much, too much.”
– Aubrey Graham, Too Much (ft. Sampha)
This is Drake’s coping mechanism when combatting the sin of anxiety, when we fail to trust the Lord. Jesus preaches against worrying in Matthew 7, and the writer of Proverbs calls us to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding. In a similar vein of fighting that which we worry about, Drake exhorts us, “Don’t think about it too much.” Don’t worry, trust the Lord.
“Nothing was the same.” [Nothing Was The Same album]
– Aubrey Graham, Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music 2 (ft. Jay Z)
The incarnation. When Jesus Christ entered humanity and identified with us, taking on the sins of the world and redeeming mankind, nothing was the same. Nothing.
“All my young boys ‘round me saying, “Get money and fuck these hoes,”
Where we learn these values? I do not know what to tell you.
I’m just trying to find a reason not to go out every evening,
I need someone that’ll help me think of someone besides myself.”
– Aubrey Graham, Girls Love Beyoncé (ft. James Blake)
Fairly self-explanatory, one of the few things that I’m not just allegorizing to fit my own definitions and intentions. Drake laments the culture of men that espouse, explicitly or implicitly, wicked mottos like, “Get money and fuck these hoes.” He’s at a loss to pinpoint the source of these poor values, and in contrast to them, he values simplicity and romance. He’s just looking for something simple to avoid the party scene (“going out every evening”) and someone to draw his attention away from himself. He recognizes the unbiblical, empty worldview these “young boys” preach.
“Nigga we made it.”
– Aubrey Graham, We Made It (ft. Soulja Boy)
A choral praise that the angels lead us in upon arrival into heaven.
“Time after time after time
Money’s all I get and there’s still money on my mind
But I ain’t never satisfied
Yeah, I ain’t never satisfied
I found the one and say, “I’ll never cheat again”
We don’t talk for like some months
I ended up fucking with her friend
I ain’t never satisfied
I ain’t never satisfied
I’m putting pressure on these niggas and I know
But I still be on the road like I’m scared of going broke
Cause I ain’t never satisfied
I ain’t never satisfied.”
– Aubrey Graham, Never Satisfied (ft. Future)
Another song that I don’t even need to allegorize. Drake is highly aware, like the author of Ecclesiastes, that money and sex are never satisfying. Time after time after time, “money’s all I get” and yet “there’s still money on my mind,” and then he believes himself to have found “the one” only to wind up cheating on her a few months later. He’s never satisfied, and he’s looking for satisfaction where it cannot be found. Fulfillment is only found in the Lord.
“I’m just tryna stay alive and take care of my people
And they don’t have no award for that
And they don’t have no award for that
Shit don’t come with trophies, ain’t no envelopes to open
I just do it cause I’m ‘sposed to, nigga.”
– Aubrey Graham, Trophies
Again, identifying empty value systems that many in modern culture adhere to, Drake isn’t chasing after the money and the fame and what not, the “trophies” or “envelopes to open,” but rather he’s just trying to live and pastor the flock he’s been given. God gives authority to those who walk with Him, and Drake is fulfilling his calling to “take care of [his] people.” The people of God walk in freedom as slaves of God, an inexplicable paradox, and as slaves we have responsibilities and obligations to bring the reign of God to this world. We don’t do it for trophies, we do it because we’re “‘sposed to.”
“Oh Lord, know yourself, know your worth, nigga
My actions been louder than my words, nigga
How you so high, but still so down to Earth, nigga
If niggas wanna do it, we can do it on they turf, nigga
Oh Lord, I’m the rookie and the vet.”
– Aubrey Graham, 0 to 100 / The Catch Up
Drake has obviously been reading through John Calvin’s Institutes, as he begins, “Oh Lord, know yourself,” with the similar concept derived from the introduction to Institutes: “Man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.” Amen. Beyond this, we’re exhorted to know our worth. We’re in union with the risen King, all of his merit and worth is ours, wholly undeserved. As a result of this, Drake’s “actions [have] been louder than [my] words,” in line with the inspired words of James, Jesus’ half-brother, throughout the second chapter of his epistle, that our faith apart from works is dead. Our love should match the gospel we preach.
In the second half of the selected verse, Drake’s line very clearly echoes C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, speaking of Christians who are so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good. “How you so high, but still so down to earth?” He then spouts a line of contextual wisdom, in which we should “do it on they turf,” that is, “become all things to all men” (1Cor. 9:19-23), and, like God, reach people where they’re at rather than expect them to reach a particular standard before they can follow Jesus. Lastly, Drake looks to the Lord and expresses the paradox found in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Mt. 20:1-16), in which both the first and the last, “the rookie and the veteran,” the old and young, the rich and the poor, receive the same reward in Christ. Praise God.
“What Augustine once said about time could well be said about humor: that we know very well what it is until someone asks us to explain it. Humor seems to mock all attempts at definition. In spite of the elusiveness of definition, it appears that, by general agreement, humor is more than the bare ability to make or perceive jokes. True, it often works through smiling and laughter; and laughter may be produced by and express joy, merriment, and amusement. But, it may also be produced by mockery, derision, and scorn. Scripture provides examples of both types of humor. Thus, humor generally refers to the capacity for amusement, with all of the varied forms that it may take. This definition is broad enough to include both “positive” and “negative” forms.
Why has little attention been given to the theological significance of humor? Here are a few myths to dispel:
1. Humor Cannot Be Analyzed
2. Humor is Too Complex a Subject
3. Humor is Too Diverse
4. Humor is Incompatible With Religion
5. We Are Too Familiar With Bible Text Without Humor
6. Influence of Asceticism
7. Influence of Puritanism
8. Humor is Too Frivolous a Subject
Here are the beneficial theological ramifications of humor:
1. Deepens Our Knowledge of God
2. Humor is a Part of Religious Life
3. Humor is an Antidote for Pride
4. Humor is a Coping Mechanism
5. Jesus Appreciated Humor
6. God Has a Sense of Humor
7. Humor is Healing”
– Cheryl Taylor, A Theology of Humor (read article for explanation of each point)
“When at its best, humor builds fellowship. It restores perspective, keeps us humble, helps us think more clearly, and allows us to share goodwill. It bases fellowship on our weakness and foolishness, at the same time inviting us to leave behind the foolishness but keep the fellowship. If human foolishness is being pointed out, the one doing the pointing includes himself in the group that the joke is on. There’s a willingness to share foolishness and disgrace for each others’ sake and in each others’ company.
At its worst, humor is an attack. Mockery and scorn are the voice of bitterness and rage. These are forbidden to Christians, though in practice we do not seem to have noticed. At times like that, “humor” expresses a hatred in our hearts for our brother and both invites and incites further hatred. The Bible has a lot to say about derision and scorn, and about mockers. None of it is good.”
– Weekend Fisher, Ethics of Humor: Fellowship, Division, and Derision
“Humor is everywhere, it’s vital to relationships and it’s ancient, but as a student of humor I just want to take a look at what the Biblical view of humor is. Many Christians (myself included) make an unintentional assessment regarding what kind of humor is acceptable for Christians: the kind that makes me laugh. This isn’t a good litmus test and as common as it is in our culture, I think it’s time we move toward a theology of humor.”
– William Adams, Toward a Theology of Humor
“In a collection of essays called “Holy Laughter”, Conrad Hyers says, “A common trait of dictators, revolutionaries, and ecclesiastical authoritarians alike is the refusal to laugh at themselves or permit others to laugh at them.”
Of course, “them” can easily mean “us.” At times we all take ourselves too seriously, forgetting to laugh at the mirror and refusing to let others see us as we are, as little children toddling toward the Kingdom. If we do not laugh at ourselves, and allow others to laugh at and with us, we tend to worship ourselves. Making fun of ourselves is like making a good confession. Letting others make fun of us is like accepting prophecy.
In The Joyful Christ, Cal Samra says, “Humor is a balancing, disarming, and therefore peacemaking force that touches on the divine.” Peaceful men and women have a divine sense of humor, a healing force. They have an accepting way of rejecting things. The peaceful ones can fight without hating, and therefore seldom fight. As Cal Samra says, “It is possible to wage peace with humor.”
The best humor occurs when the supernatural Gospel is acted out in real life: a three-star general turns the other cheek; a president of a major corporation works for minimum wage; a Paris fashion designer gives up the runway to make robes for nuns. Whenever someone lives out the Gospel, it is a hilarious contra-diction to what the world takes seriously. The world laughs at those who wish to be perfect. The world laughs at people like Xenia of St. Petersburg who sold everything she had and gave the money to the poor. The world laughs and calls Xenia a fool. The Church smiles and calls her a Fool for Christ, and a Saint.
In Medieval England, there was typically one person who could challenge the ruling king and live. That was the court jester, foolish enough to spout the truth instead of flattery. And in sixteenth-century Russia, Ivan the Terrible would take no criticism from anyone except Basil the Fool. Perhaps today we all need to employ a jester, if not a Holy Fool, in our own little kingdoms.”
– The Theological Necessity for Humor, David Athey
– Richard Beck, The Theology of Everyday Life: The Theology of Humor, Part 2, “Kidding on the Square: Humor as Prophecy”
– Richard Beck, The Theology of Everyday Life: The Theology of Humor, Part 3, “Friendship, Laughter, and Smiles”
Blessed is the man who sits not in the seats of scoffers. Psalm 1:1
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion…our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” Psalm 126:1-2
How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Proverbs 1:22
The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse. Proverbs 10:31-32
Condemnation is ready for scoffers, and beating for the backs of fools. Proverbs 19:29
Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who decieves his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” Proverbs 26:18-19
Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath. Proverbs 29:8
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” Luke 6:21
Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
Speak the truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:4
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6
“I’ve heard it said many times: “The Bible never says Jesus laughed.” My response is always the same: “Yes, because Jesus was telling all the jokes.””
– Joel Kilpatrick, God, That’s Funny
“I’m always surprised how people use the word “pleasure” and “joy” to mean one thing in their personal lives, but change its meaning when applying it to God. We picture his joy and gladness as a calm feeling of mature fulfillment, tranquility, high-minded appreciation. We believe that “In your presence is fullness of joy,” (Psalm 16:11, NKJV) but how often do we picture the kind of joy we have with friends on an unforgettable weekend? Or the joy that must have broken out at these festivals and feasts? Why is it so hard for us to imagine God enjoying entertainment and humor with us?”
– Joel Kilpatrick, God, That’s Funny