Through Jesus, our Great High Priest, we have bold access into the Holy of Holies where we freely embrace Abba Father as he embraces us. In his embrace, we embrace all people holding them within the sphere of our Father’s promised blessing.
We share in this ministry because, in union with Jesus, we are God’s royal priesthood interceding for humanity in the presence of our Father. But we only fulfil this calling through the Holy Spirit. For it is the Spirit himself who intercedes within us with goanings too deep for words. And we do not have to first pray the Spirit down. He’s here! Always alive in us, and always interceding through us. Through the intercessions of the Spirit, we are connected with the intercessions of Jesus, our Royal Priest in the presence of our Father.
So the priestly ministry of intercession is gift rather than task. We might say the New Covenant gift of praying is like breathing. Though not always thinking about it we are always doing it. For the Spirit is continually welling up within us connecting us with our Royal Priest in his Father’s presence.
We must also stress that this gift of prayer is not just for a special person at a special time in a special place! As a kingdom of priests we all share in the ministry of intercession by the Spirit in union with our Royal Priest in the presence of his Father.
God promised Abraham he would become a great nation that would be a blessing to all nations. In order to be a blessing, Abraham’s offspring were called by their God to be “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). Priests represent God to the people and that was Israel’s calling to the world as they lived in covenant under God’s rule. In their light the nations would see Israel’s God as the Blessed One who blesses. Priests also represent people to God and that too was Israel’s calling under God’s rule. They were to hold all nations before their God for blessing.
In this covenant calling Israel foreshadowed Christ. He is the Royal Priest who gathers to himself a new covenant people who are a blessed with every spiritual blessing in him. And also a blessed people empowered by the Spirit to become a royal priesthood for the blessing of all nations.
This new covenant priestly calling is ours. We represent our God to all people as we live before them in the blessing of our Father in Christ by the Spirit. And we also represent all people to our God as we hold the world before our Father within the sphere of his promised blessing. This we do in union with the Father’s Son through the intercession of his Spirit within us.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood
and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father,
to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen
God made a covenant with Abraham promising to bless him and make him a blessing to all. The Lord proved faithful to this promise. At the end of Abraham’s life we read, “The Lord had blessed Abraham in every way (Genesis 24.1). Abraham was blessed with material prosperity and an heir along with the promise of a future inheritance for his offspring. However, the primary blessing for Abraham was relationship with God himself. He was called the friend of God and walked with his friend in close relationship even after failing badly. In this love relationship he was truly blessed.
Paul tells us that in Jesus the blessing of Abraham has come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith (Galatians 3 :14). Jesus, the messiah, is himself the true seed of Abraham who was cursed so that we might be blessed. And, in union with him, we are truly blessed as we now receive the promised Spirit and enjoy God himself as our blessing.
Through the indwelling Spirit Father and Son make their home with us. And by the Spirit we are lifted up into the communion of Father and Son. Sharing in the Father’s love for his Son, we cry Abba Father by the indwelling Spirit of adoption knowing that our Father has bound himself to us in covenant love. He has done so in such a way that he will never let us go. Even if we fail him, his love for us will never cease.
We are truly blessed!
While the whole world was turned away from God he turned towards one man, Abraham. He made a covenant with Abraham promising to bless him and make him a blessing to the nations. This covenant promise was a freely-given and undeserved relationship of blessing. Abraham didn’t do anything to merit such a promise. God’s covenant relationship was an act of his free grace. It was unconditional.
God made this unconditional covenant of promise with Abraham and his offspring, Israel. He promised that they too would be blessed and a blessing to the nations. But was the covenant with Israel unconditional? There were many laws that Israel must obey to enjoy blessing. Nevertheless, the basis of this covenant with Israel was the unconditional covenant of promise with Abraham. And Paul makes the point that the law that came 430 years after Abraham was a temporary measure that does not annul the unconditional covenant of promise.
The covenant God proved faithful to his unconditional promise by sending his Son into the world for us. The Father’s Son was the faithfulness of God towards us in saving action. He was also our covenant faithfulness towards God for he lived before his Father as us. And now we put our faith in his faithfulness so that in him we are the faithful ones before our Father. Faithful, not through our own faithfulness, but only through the faithfulness of Jesus.
The covenant God also proves faithful by sending the promised Spirit into our hearts. He does so that we may live faithfully in union with Jesus through Spirit enabled transformation.
It’s all unconditional grace!
God entered into a covenant of love with Israel promising to be faithful to them always. Even when the people were unfaithful the Lord went on loving them with unfailing love. His promise was repeated over and over in all Israel’s history “I will be your God and your shall be my people” and he kept to his promise. For the covenant promise was fulfilled by unfailing love not by legal obligations.
The story of God’s covenant with Israel shows that we humans cannot be faithful as covenant partners. For that reason the God who is love made a new kind of covenant with us not like the one he made with Israel. In this new covenant God keeps both parts of the relationship himself. His own Son comes as God among us fulfilling his part to be our God according to his covenant promise. At the same time, Jesus also fulfils our part. He is the true man who was faithful to God on our behalf because he lived as us before his Father. In him we are faithful to our calling as God’s covenant partners. Not faithful because of our own faithfulness to God, but only because of the faithfulness of Jesus.
God’s Spirit brings us to faith in Jesus’ faithfulness and also joins us to Jesus, the faithful one, so that we share in his faithfulness to the Father. And so, our life in the new covenant does not depend on our faithfulness but rather on the faithfulness of the covenant God through his Son for us and his Spirit in us. This makes the new covenant “better” by far.
With our eyes fixed on Jesus we see God as three persons in communal giving and receiving. The three are always entirely with and for one another. Indeed, the three are so closely bound up with one another that they are said to “indwell” one another. While Father, Son and Spirit are distinct, they do not exist in isolated individuality. Father, Son and Spirit have always existed and forever will exist in a circle of intimate love.
God’s purpose for his creation must, therefore, be true to who he is as essentially relational. And so it is. For in Christ, we see that the purpose of the Triune God is to reach out beyond his own shared life in order to enjoy relationship with those who are not God. Furthermore, the way he achieves his purpose is also true to who he is as deeply relational. For he works out his eternal purpose in history through covenant relationships.
A covenant is essentially a promise, a vow. God’s covenant promise with Israel is frequently expressed in the words, “I will be your God and you will be my people”. This is God’s promise-plan to be our God in mutual love relationship.
The promise-plan of God makes its way to Christ. He is the “Yes” to all the promises of God. There is no “if” or “maybe” or “Yes, but…” Only Jesus is in view as God’s emphatic, “YES!” So, in union with Christ, we are now God’s people and he is our God as loving Father. And, in the Spirit, we confidently await our future on the new earth when God himself says, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3)
Before anything was made the Father decided to adopt us into his family in Christ. We only know of this eternal decision because God himself makes it actual through his Son acting for us and his Spirit acting in us. We now know that we are adopted children sharing in the Son’s relationship with his Father in the Spirit. That means justification as a legal settlement is not front and centre in our view of salvation. What is? Reconciliation to love relationship as sons and daughters in Christ.
We are now called to live in the freedom of the Spirit as the Father’s dearly loved children in union with Christ. For freedom Christ has set us free and his Spirit wants to take us into freedom so that we live for our Father with joyful assurance. But how easily we slip into legalistic conformity to religious rules continually driven by guilt and shame before a mean and menacing Judge.
Our Father decided before anything existed to include us in the circle of love with his Son and by his Spirit. He decided that we should share in this life with freedom and joy. And he decided to make all this actual in his Son and Spirit. With our eyes fixed on the Father’s astonishing decision to include us in the circle of shared life and love we must now decide to live in this freedom bringing joy to our Father’s heart.
Some consider God primarily as Judge whose chief concern is his law. In order for this “legal” God to be gracious towards us he must first punish his own Son in our place. He then demands us to meet all his legal conditions for true acceptance. Even though I try to meet his demands I cannot really be sure he accepts me. I have to constantly self-examine. Do I have enough faith? Is it “saving” faith? Did I repent correctly? Is God o.k. with my imperfect obedience? If I were to go this way the result would be lack assurance.
Looking through the lens of Christ, we see that God’s ways with us are primarily relational rather than merely legal. For through Jesus, we learn that God is Father and that his purpose is to bring us into family relationship. He wants us to find our true being-in-communion as sons and daughters in union with his unique Son by the Spirit.
Allowing the legal to eclipse this relational vision results in a distorted way of responding to God. We are workers trying hard to satisfy God’s demands rather than dearly loved sons and daughters. We are driven by guilt rather than drawn by grace. We endure condemnation and rarely enjoy communion.
In Jesus’ parable of the lost son, the father wanted his son home before the prodigal turned back. And he did not wish for his son to relate in terms of work as a mere servant. He wanted to welcome him back into the family with a warm embrace and joyful celebration. So our Father in Jesus longs eagerly for us all to return home and when we do there is great rejoicing in the Father’s heart and all heaven.
Jesus is God as human living among us in humility. As the One who loves, He doesn’t want to be high and exalted far above us; he wants to live among us as one of us. Indeed, God as human is marked by the deepest humility as he goes to the very lowest place to lift us up to the very highest place in union with himself.
The “god” that we humans imagine is so very different. We project a deity that is distant from us. One that towers above us as the unapproachable high and mighty Judge who sits in his far-off court room eager to condemn. In contrast, the God we meet in Christ is eager to know us in love; eager to cross the infinite chasm between the Creator and the creature; eager to stoop down to us bearing condemnation in himself for us; and eager to lift us up into union with himself so that we can share in everything that he is and has. Not the Judge high in his heavenly court room, but rather the Judge who is prepared to humble himself handing himself over to be judged for us in order to bring us into living union with himself.
Behind this vision of God stooping to enter into union with us is God as three persons in One communion of love. If God were a solitary being then he would have had no one to love before he created. But the Triune God has always loved within the communion of love that he is. His desire for oneness with us flows out of his own eternal Oneness in love.
Through Jesus, God makes himself known to us as the One who loves. To understand this “love” we must not begin with our own ideas of what love is. We must rather pay attention to who God is as made known in Jesus. In him, we discover that the One who loves gives himself totally to create communion with us. God does not will to be without us nor to leave us without him. So he acts, in love, to restore us to himself in spite of what we are like. Yes, the One who loves pours himself out without restraint for those who reject him in order to take them up into the communion of his eternal love as Father, Son and Spirit.
However, when considering what God is like, too many allow God as Judge to predominate. Make no mistake, God is Judge. But when we see that God is love, the meaning of Judge is somewhat different. With God as love fully in view, we see that God’s judgement is an expression of the love that he is. The Triune One is an inexhaustible fountain of love that overflows and expresses itself in all he does. So the One who loves must expresses his love in the justice that makes everything right in his world. That includes pursuing restorative justice because he does not want to simply punish offenders. He wants to restore them to fellowship within his family. So, in love, the Judge himself is judged for us so that we might live with him.
As those who are so well loved our hearts yearn to live in ever closer communion with One of such beauty.