Jesus is God’s unique Son. He is, therefore, the act of God to and for humans as human. So we must be careful not to separate who Jesus is from what he does for us. For what Jesus does for us is one and the same with who he is as God’s Son. With T. F. Torrance we hold together the person of Christ in his work and the work of Christ in his person.
God acted to create all things, but in that action he created a reality wholly distinct from himself. But in Jesus, God acts in such a way that he is himself in his act. What he acts he is, and what he is he acts.
In his work of revealing he is himself what he does. Only God can truly reveal God. And Jesus is himself God’s self-revelation. Jesus speaks the truth; he does the truth; he enacts the truth ; he is the truth. And the Spirit of truth opens up to us the heart of the true God towards us through Jesus, the truth.
In his work of reconciling he is in himself what he does. He is God reconciling the world to himself as the one who is the reconciliation. Reconciliation isn’t something that Jesus achieves it is someone. He is the one in whom God and humanity are reconciled and the Spirit brings us into union with him so that we share in the reconciliation as dearly loved children.
The Father’s unique Son became fully human. He did so to live in total solidarity with his fellow humans. He is God and yet he identifies totally with us even in our sin. He submitted to a baptism among sinners at the Jordan and finally to a baptism in blood on the cross even becoming sin for us. Between these two points he continually identified with sinful humans. This was no easy thing. It threw in him into an intensity of battle within his own soul reaching its culmination in the agony of Gethsemane. And yet, throughout it all he was tranquil resting trustfully in his Father.
Just as Jesus lived in total oneness with us he lived in total oneness with God his Father. As he said himself, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me…I and the Father are one” This oneness meant he entered more and more intensely into the hostility of humanity against the true God. For he was living out, in the midst of humanity, his own oneness with the God that humanity rejects. And yet he did so in total solidarity with the hostile humans. This too was no easy thing. It threw in him into an intensity of battle within his own soul reaching its culmination in the agony of Gethsemane. And yet, in Gethsemane, he came to rest trustfully in the will of his Father. In union with his Father he wants to be one with humanity in sin and suffering in order to gather men and women into the heart of God.
Before the world was even made the Father wanted to bind himself to us in the deepest union and communion. And even though we resisted God’s purpose he resisted our resistance. For at God’s appointed time the Father’s Son stepped among us as human deliberately entering into living solidarity with his fellow humans. At last in the midst of our fallen humanity, in spite of our estrangement from God, he comes in his love binding himself to us for ever. In this total solidarity with us he even Jesus went down the lowest place to lift us up to the highest place at home with his Father.
So in Jesus, the Father’s Son, God has pledged his very Being to us and us to himself. Can God go back on this? If he did so he would deny himself. As T. F. Torrance says, “He cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself”. For Christ is God himself as human giving himself totally to us and for us that we might belong with him to his Father in the communion of the Spirit. God and humans are now bound together in Jesus as new covenant that is better by far than the one before.
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.