Coheirs with the Child of the Promise (Galatians 3:16)

Unlike other memorable Three Sixteens in this series, here in Galatians the 3:16 verse is no piece of cake! It is perhaps quite confusing. It talks of the promises to Abraham (land, people, fame, blessing) which you usually think of as being received by many descendants. God made the promised family group descending from Abraham into a great, blessed nation. Through this nation all the world would be blessed. Yet here Paul seems to be saying ONE person receives the promise. Have a look:

Galatians 3:14-18 (NLT)
Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith. 15 Dear brothers and sisters, here’s an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or amend an irrevocable agreement, so it is in this case. 16 God gave the promises to Abraham and his child. And notice that the Scripture doesn’t say “to his children” as if it meant many descendants. Rather, it says “to his child”—and that, of course, means Christ. 17 This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise. 18 For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise.

The Scripture referred to here in verse 16 is Genesis 12:7 and 13:15, where God promises he will give this land to Abraham’s “offspring”, or in Hebrew “seed”.
Now like me you may be taken at this point with the fact that “seed” could be used as a singular noun, or a plural one. Perhaps Paul was using this grammatical anomaly to his advantage (as some commentaries would suggest), playing on the “seed/seeds” confusion to make a point to his Jewish audience. Just because they were Jews, one of the many “seeds” who had sprouted up as part of Abraham’s family tree, this did not automatically make them a true child of Abraham, a true child of this promise. Afterall, these were the “foolish Galatians” (3:1) who were hoping to receive the salvation Christ won for many (by his death and resurrection) by their own good works – by keeping the Jewish law. Paul says no. Don’t go back to trying to keep the law! You must be IN Christ, who is the true heir of this promise.

This is the certainty we have. Christ and only Christ is the way of blessing, open to all who receive him as their Lord and Saviour, regardless of their racial credentials. Through Christ many can come into God’s family, not by their own merit, but by Christ’s. Jesus is the ONE descendant from Abraham who makes it possible for us to receive the GRACE of this promise. He is the promised Seed, who fulfilled all the promises of God, promises to Adam and Eve, promises to Abraham, promises to King David – promises made through Isaiah of a suffering servant King who would give his life as a ransom for many. The Promise was to Abraham, and it is fulfilled in Christ. We must be IN Christ, not just in Abraham’s family tree, to be co-heirs of the Promise, with Christ. This is a remarkable reminder of God’s grace to us IN Christ. In Him we receive the undeserved favour of the Son who should ALONE receive the blessings of the Father. But we also receive these blessings IN Christ, if we are IN Christ.

Let’s continue to rest in His righteousness and not our own.

Ps. If you are intrigued by that CD cover image at the top, you can click here to find out more about the album.

The great unveiling (2Corinthians 3:16)

open eyes“But whenever someone turns to the Lord the veil is taken away.” (2 Corinthians 3:16)

For this next verse in the Three Sixteen series I am going to say very little. God/Paul can speak for himself here. He does it so well.

I’ll start from a little way back, at verse 7, to give you a run-up to the standout verse, 16.
“The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? 9 If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! . . . . . 13 We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. 14 But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. 15 Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.
16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

What magnificent grace! What privilege has been shown to us in Christ! We have received the grace of the knowledge of God, through the Spirit of Christ. We have had the veil lifted, unlike so many who still are stumbling in the dark. Even the Jews, who were the first recipients of God’s favour, they stumble over Christ. Both back then and now. The veil is not lifted.
Praise be to God! He has turned us around, back to himself, and removed the veil which kept him hidden from us! Now we can reflect His glory to others!

2 Corinthians 4:6 – “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

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Image created by Sarah Danaher with a Canon EOS 5D MkII

Stones or bricks: God lives in us together (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Exploring the Three Sixteens has taken us through some exciting stuff so far. We saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus at His baptism, John the Baptist discussed Jesus’ sandals, the 12 apostles were chosen, God “so loved the world”, the Name healed the lame, and great misery pursued those who refuse to follow Christ.

Moving on to the seventh book in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians, another gem is revealed at 3:16. Here it is:
“Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? (NLT)
The NIV puts it this way: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”

The Corinthian church needed Paul to remind them many times about the danger of division amongst God’s people. Paul speaks boldly here, explaining that as a Body of believers, WE ARE the temple of God where He dwells. He lives in us! He no longer chooses to reveal himself and meet with people in an earthly building (as he had done in the past, in Solomon’s temple, God’s house). Now he LIVES in us together. He reveals Himself in us. He has put His Spirit in us, collectively.

This echoes the words of Peter (1 Peter 2:5): “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

How this changes things for us when we think it’s okay to not meet regularly with our fellow believers, or to let petty differences divide. All of us are living bricks, living stones in the new temple made through the new covenant, through Christ. God has poured His spirit into us, giving us a new heart to know, obey and love Him. This is the unifying feature of the bricks of God’s new living temple!

Now some of us may be a bit rough around the edges, a bit off colour, a bit sharp or a bit broken. We have personalities and experiences which are so different from one another. But we are  God’s living temple, together. He is in us and we need to accept each other on the basis that we are all saved by Christ. It is awesome to consider how we sinful people, born as enemies of one another in this fallen world, can actually be at peace with others who are part of this same building! We have been cemented together by the bond of Christ.

Let’s work at seeing ourselves in this way. And if there should ever be some cracks in the cement, if some of the bricks have fallen aside or broken, let’s not give up on restoring and repairing this living building where God lives. Let’s work at reconciling ourselves with other bricks in whom Christ dwells.

All this reminds me of some great words from 1 John 4:11-13
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit”.

Romans 3:16 – Pursued by mercy not misery

“Destruction and misery always follow them.” Romans 3:16

We seem to be a little let down by Paul’s letter to the Romans in our great run of significant “Three Sixteen” verses. I have thought long and hard about what to write. I can’t really see this verse appearing on a pretty motivational poster, or embroidered on a wall hanging in your toilet! But the verse is significant none the less.

In context this verse is speaking about the fact that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are born sinners. We are under the power of sin, slaves to sin. The Jews are no better off. All humans are born into sin. We don’t understand, we are not righteous and we don’t seek God. In this section Paul has tied together several Old Testament verses (from Psalms and Isaiah 59) to make his case. In verse 15 Paul is speaking of the unrighteous who are swift to shed others’ blood; they rush into murder. And what follows this? Destruction and misery! They have no peace and no fear of the Lord.

What a wretched position to be in, and what a contrast to those of us who now do know the Lord and are resting in His righteousness. This grace is open to all in Christ, Jew or Greek, slave or free.

Psalm 23 paints a picture of the goodness and mercy that always follow and protect His sheep – we are not hounded destruction and misery. So if we know Christ, and know that we are IN Christ, this “miserable” 3:16 verse must give rise to celebration and thankfulness. It reminds us that this is what we have been rescued from, from being followed by destruction and misery. What terrible companions. What horrific pursuers! For me this evokes the mental image of a nightmare where you are relentlessly pursued by some unknown yet horrible creature. (I can vividly remember the first one of those I had about age five.)

Anyway, back to Romans. The destruction and misery that pursues unsaved sinners is exactly what Christ delivers us from. And this is not down to us. It is not by our desire or effort that we know the Lord. It is only by His immense grace. Praise be to Him for sending his goodness and mercy after us.
“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6) NLT

Faith in Jesus’ powerful name (Acts 3:16)

Here in Acts we continue our journey through the “Three Sixteens” – Peter and John have just gone up to the temple to pray. Peter commands a beggar, lame from birth, to get up and “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Literally Peter means a continuous action ‘be walking‘. He grabs him by the right hand to raise him up. “The power was Christ’s but the hand was Peter’s” (John Stott 1990). This healed beggar then famously goes “walking and leaping and praising God!” He becomes the living embodiment of the Messianic age, predicted in Isaiah 35:6, Then will the lame leap like a deer.

The result of all this is another hugely important 3:16 verse:
“By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.(Acts 3:16)

Peter explains to those in the temple courts that this healing reveals Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. He is the promised suffering Servant who brings healing to all the nations. Peter’s own “power or godliness” did not heal the man. It was the power of the risen Lord Jesus. Peter tells the Jews that though they acted in ignorance and killed the “author of life“, this is howGod fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer (verse 18).

This miracle, performed “in the name of Jesus”, brings physical healing and a great testimony. Peter wants them to repent and receive the promised Messiah who can bring them healing, promised healing that is so much more than physical.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33)

Peter has received the Spirit of the risen Christ, and in Jesus’ name alone can Peter heal.  In Jesus’ name we can be healed from our sinful separation from God. He has offered to give us a new heart, a heart transplant. Our sick, dead, un-beating, stony hearts can be replaced. This is the healing we all need to receive – in Jesus’ powerful name.

Finally, here is the link to Chris Tomlin ‘s take on “The Name of Jesus” which he describes as “a saving place to run, a hope unshakeable . . . there is power in Your name, in the name of Jesus there is life and healing, chains are broken in Your name”.

2010 worshiptogether.com Songs / sixsteps Music 

This is How we Know (John 3:16)

John 3 16If you have only recently joined me for the Three Sixteens, you should know that this series explores my observation that nearly all New Testament books have some “lightbulb” moment, a standout verse, event or promise, landing at the point of chapter 3 verse 16. (And no one knows why!) The 3:16 of John’s Gospel is no doubt the most famous of all. It has been printed on shirts, cards, keyrings and stickers and taught in Sunday School songs til it has become the most famous bible verse of all time (even with non-Christians). And fair enough. This verse reveals God’s great love to us in Christ, his great sacrifice of sending his perfect son to be scorned, suffer and die, to satisfy the law and save us as his own. This eternal life cannot be earned, it is free and available to all who will believe.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Since I really don’t need to convince you that this is a significant summary of God’s love and His redemptive purposes in Christ, I won’t. Instead I will share a song where another clever person (yes, being cheeky here) noticed the 3:16 connection. Matt Redman has connected John 3:16 with 1 John 3:16, and put them together in a song called “This is How we Know” (from the album We Shall not be Shaken, 2009).

1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

Redman takes us from God’s great love, demonstrated in Christ, to our response: love God and love others! We recently taught this song to our evening congregation, to match with the sermon series in 1 John. It’s not the easiest song for a congregation to learn, but it is worth the few weeks of revision for the benefit of singing these glorious truths together. You can find the lyrics below.

THIS IS HOW WE KNOW

This is how we know, this is how we know what love is
Just one look at Your cross
And this is where we see, this is where we see how love works
For You surrendered Your all
And this is how we know that You have loved us first
And this is where we chose to love You in return

For You so loved the world that You gave Your only Son
Love amazing so divine, we will love You in return
For this life that You give, for this death that You have died
Love amazing so divine, We will love You in reply, Lord

And our love will be loud, Our love will be strong
Our love should be hands and feet that serve You in this world
So let it stay true and let it endure
That You will be glorified worshipped and adored

Authors Beth Redman  Matt Redman Copyright 2009 Thankyou Music

Baptism of Fire in Luke 3:16

“John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Luke 3:16

As far as memory verses go, this one is exciting! Matthew’s 3:16 was about the dove coming to rest on God’s beloved Son, and Mark 3:16 about Jesus choosing his disciples. But here in Luke, the people are wondering in their hearts if John (the Baptist) could possibly be the Christ. This is his reply, to set them straight. (Did John have some special ability to know their thoughts? Perhaps he was just very wise and perceptive). While John’s baptism, with water, pointed symbolically to the cleansing Christ would bring, he knew this water could not save them. John told them to bear fruit in keeping with repentence, to show they were ready to receive the Son of God. Jesus would clean their hearts with fire, with the purification and power of the Holy Spirit. This was something no one else could do – only the God Man, Jesus, who would lay down his life for us, and pour His Spirit out on all believers. And just how it works is a mystery! But I am so thankful it does.

I also love the reference to sandals here. This ‘untieing’ would normally be done by a lowly servant, who would then go on to wash the feet of the wearer. John the Baptist says he is not even worthy of being a lowly, foot washing servant in comparison with the Messiah.
How I need to remember this, and not treat the Saviour of the universe, the one who baptises with FIRE, as my servant.

Mark 3:16 – The Twelve are chosen!

the-bible-jesus-and-disciplesWelcome to my second post in the Three Sixteens series. In chapter three of Mark’s Gospel, verse 16 lands at the moment where Jesus has chosen those who will eventually be his apostles, his special representatives charged with the task of calling people to repentence and faith. Now I would call that a significant moment!

Mark 3:13-19: “Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. . . These are the twelve he chose: Simon (whom he named Peter), James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).”

These disciples are taught directly by Christ in plain language (not just in parables, as spoken to the crowds). They accompany him in his ministry travels for three years (equivalent to a university degree!) and are given the authority to cast out demons and preach salvation in His name. I can’t help thinking how ill-equipped for the task they probably felt!

These young men were plucked from the normality of their lives, their homes, their work, their possessions – to face scorn and hardship. They followed the Man who had no home so that many might have an eternal home with him! These men gained an intimate knowledge of the One through whom all things were made, the Creator of the Universe, but at the same time they were often confused by his teachings and rebuked by him for their lack of faith.

These young men would become eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, preachers of his gospel, and in turn they would share his sufferings. Indeed most were martyred during the early church era for the sake of the glorious gospel message: salvation in Jesus name. Really you could say they were martyred for us, that we might believe and become His disciples. Their deaths are such a powerful testimony to the truth of Jesus and the reality of salvation in Him.

Two millennia later, how do we show that we too are disciples of Christ?
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
John 13:35 (NLT)

Remember that old song from the 70s/80s?
A new commandment
I give unto you
That you love one another
  As I have loved you,
That you love one another
  As I have loved you.
    By this shall all men
    Know you are My disciples
    If you have love one to another.

Just as these disciples were the start of a movement which would sweep the world bringing many souls into the Kingdom, so too we can offer our lives as his disciples. May the Lord start with me, start in me, to accomplish his purposes in this place. Listen to how Meredith Andrew sings of this willingness: Start with Me

 

Three sixteens: let’s make a start with the Spirit – Matthew 3:16

baptismHas anyone ever noticed how many New Testament books have really significant verses land right at the place which has become chapter 3 verse 16 (just like the most famous, John 3:16). This is a curious coincidence which I intend to explore a little.

Matthew 3:16 says: “And when Jesus was baptised, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him”.

This is immediately followed by the voice of God acknowledging that Jesus is his beloved son, with whom he is well pleased.

This Spirit, descending on Jesus, comes at the public commencement and validation of his ministry. He will baptise others with the Holy Spirit and with fire, clear out the threshing floor, and gather in the wheat. This Spirit is not some warm fuzzy feeling, but a person of the trinity who brings down the Truth about Jesus and His mission – and this Truth will divide people! It does the same today. It will also save people.

The Holy Spirit is not characterised by timidity and fear, but by “love, power and self-discipline” or “sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God has put his Spirit into our hearts, by which we cry, Abba, Father. We have received the spirit of sonship and are now heirs with Christ!  How astounding is the certainty of our hope, sealed with the Spirit as the deposit:

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Cor 1:21-22).

Such awesome truths are wrapped up in this, the first of the Three Sixteens – which begin the account of Jesus’s anointing and ministry. Only 26 to go!

Please listen to the song below which contains such a beautiful description of the change the Spirit brings in our lives. He changes both what we see and what we seek:

Spirit of the living God
Spirit of the living God
We only want to hear Your voice
We’re hanging on every word
Spirit of the living God
Spirit of the living God
We want to know You more and more
We’re hanging on every word
‘Cause when You speak, and when You move
When You do what only You can do
It changes us
It changes what we see and what we seek
When You come in the room
When You do what only You can do
It changes us
It changes what we see and what we seek
You’re changing everything
Writer(s): Fieldes Mia Leanne Cherie, Sooter Jacob Lee
From the Album “Deeper” (2016)