Abraham’s Fulfillment pt. 2 Gen. 12:1-3; John 1:1-18

Today we’re looking at the fourfold promise to Abraham again. People. Place. Presence. Program.  But I’ve been persuaded that Plan is a good replacement for program.  So, people, place, presence, plan. 

Last week we covered the first two:  people and place.  The fulfilment of place under Jesus points out a key truth in how God’s work operates in the cursed world.  Namely, that in the cursed world, God’s concern is first spiritual.  That’s not to say God doesn’t care about our physical beings, but until he removes the curse when Jesus returns, God’s work for his people is primarily spiritual.  

The promise of place showed us that, because through Jesus, in the New Covenant, the closest thing living believers have to a place isn’t physical at all.  It’s the place of being with fellow believers, it’s the fellowship of the Spirit which commends and encourages us to live for the place Jesus is actively preparing for us now, the New Jerusalem, the New Heavens and New Earth.

I said this last week, but it bears repeating, because it’s easy for us to think that the promises of the OT were merely physical, while the NT is only spiritual.  And that’s just not the case.  In both testaments the promises are for all of life and for the whole person—they are spiritual promises with physical realities and vice versa, physical promises with spiritual realities.   

In the OT the promised land was the physical land of Canaan, but the spiritual reality was the peace of God that permeated Israel’s existence and both realities—the physical reality of Canaan, and the spiritual reality of God’s peace—pointed to the final fulfilment in heaven.  In the NT the promised place is in the community of believers where God’s peace is a beacon to the nations even when believers are being martyred for their faith.  This spiritual peace awaits the day when Jesus will physically return bringing heaven with him, and consummating God’s promises to Abraham.

The final two promises, God’s presence and God’s plan, focus our attention on the spiritual nature of the biblical promises that await final physical fulfilment. 

  1. Presence—Like last week, today we started with Abraham in Genesis 12 where the promises are first recorded
    1. But to really understand the promise of God’s presence we have to back track
      1. Eden—at creation
        1. God made everything
        1. And he made mankind the pinnacle of everything he made
        1. He planted a garden for Adam and Eve to tend
      1. The garden was where God met with his people—where they could live in God’s presence
        1. But sin put an end to that
        1. God’s presence was lost to mankind
      1. It’s important that we see the garden as the first temple
        1. Genesis 2:15 tells us that Adam and Eve’s task was “to work and keep” the garden God had planted
        1. Hebrew to Abad and Shamar it:  everywhere else in the Pentateuch these words refer to the priests’ work in the tabernacle
        1. As we go forward I’ll try to point out some distinctive features in the tabernacle and the temple that point back to the garden and God’s presence that we lost in sin.
        1. The presence of God in the garden is the pattern the gospel is built on in the Bible.  Before Jesus was born, Gabriel told Joseph, “Mary will bear a son and his name is Immanuel, God with Us.”
    1. Under Moses and then Solomon God’s presence is most clearly seen in the tabernacle and temple
      1. The Day of Atonement—the High Priest would enter into God’s focused presence in the Holy of Holies
      1. Lev. 16 is the center of the Pentateuch—in normal Hebrew writing the center of a book or collection of books in this case, is the point.
      1. The Day of Atonement shows us the gospel in encapsulated form, the dwelling place of God is with man
    1. Then we get to John 1:14 “The word became flesh and dwelt among us”
      1. John uses an interesting word for dwelt—it’s not totally unused in the Bible, but it’s interesting because it’s the verb form of “tent” or even better “tabernacle”
      1. “the word became flesh and tabernacled among us”
      1. It becomes even clearer when John 2 records Jesus saying to the Jewish leaders, “destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days” about himself.
      1. And it’s the same word John uses in Rev. 21 when the angel says “behold the dwelling place of God is with man.”  So, yeah, I’d say that word choice is significant.
    1. For the church, God’s presence is primarily found in the corporately assembled body of Christ.  What I’m saying is that the fulfilment of God’s presence is the church herself.
      1. This is the blessing of blessings
      1. Or grace upon grace as John 1:16 says
      1. Grace:  God is with you and in that you have confidence in your eternal security
      1. Grace upon grace:  not only are you secure, but you are being purified, sanctified, we are being made ready to enjoy the holy presence of God.
      1. Sometimes in our sinful state we have a hard time wrapping our heads around enjoying holiness, don’t we?  Not that we necessarily love sin, but that we don’t always see holiness as something that’s enjoyable?  We sometimes think of holiness as a laundry list of “thou shalt nots”.  God’s sanctifying presence changes that. 
      1. In Christ’s ongoing work for believers our wills become God’s will, our hearts yearn for the things, people, and ideas God loves.  Holiness becomes our passion.
      1. Col. 1:18, 19 and 22, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” “he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,”
    1. This promise has already been fulfilled in the church, Christ has conquered sin and death, the saint’s problem is believing it, returning to it, and embracing God’s sanctifying presence as the way we are prepared for Christ’s return.
      1. After the Israelites received the tabernacle building plans but before it was begun, God explained that their faith, their sacrifices, their obedience didn’t sanctify them—he did.  Ex. 31:13 “I THE LORD, SANCTIFY YOU”
      1. Christ is your sanctification, he prepares you for heaven, as he prepares heaven for you.
      1. Rev. 21:3-4 “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
  2. Plan—God’s plan always was about faith more than blood
    1. But at the same time, we also see that God also used the primary institution of marriage and family to reproduce faith in the world
    1. God’s plan of including gentiles can be seen throughout the OT
      1. For instance, Genesis 15:2 Abram is lamenting the fact that God hasn’t given him a son yet and says, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”
      1. Abram saw Eliezer of Damascus as his heir, as the person whom God would continue to bless because of his relationship with God through faith.
    1. Moses’ time—at the Exodus there were 600,000 Israelite men leaving Egypt with their wives and children, but they weren’t alone.  Ex. 12:38 “a mixed multitude also went up with them”.
      1. And we can see in the law itself that there are multiple instances where God’s commands explicitly included the sojourner.  This means that God’s laws didn’t only protect the natural born Israelite, they also protected the people who lived among them that weren’t Israelites by birth!  That was revolutionary for the time!
      1. For instance, Dt. 5:12-15  paraphrased ““ ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. … On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant…or the sojourner who is within your gates… You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”
    1. Solomon—at the dedication of the temple, Solomon prayed
      1. 2 Chronicles 6:32-33  “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel…comes and prays toward this house, hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you.
    1. Jesus—he gave us the Great Commission as an extension of God’s covenant of grace
      1. Matthew 28:18-20   “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
      1. In our passage, John 1:6-8 tells us about John the Baptizer God’s most important prophet.  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
    1. The Church—Jesus is the light of the world, the pure goodness of God shining into the darkness of the world
      1. As we imitate John and obey Jesus, “making disciples as we live our lives”, we pick up the mantle Adam and Eve dropped in Eden.  God planted that garden, their task was to cultivate the entire world so all of Eden would be a garden, a temple, where God would meet with his people. 
      1. Genesis 1:28  And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
      1. Or as 1 Cor. 3:16-17 says, the church is the temple of God.  “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”  And our command is to extend the temple throughout the earth.
  3. Abraham’s fulfillment came through Christ and is finished in the church, who awaits Jesus’ return.  In the meantime, we enjoy what God has given us now, the New Age of the Holy Spirit.
    1. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in us and among us.  The Holy Spirit is the agent of conversion, our witness doesn’t convert anyone, the Spirit does.  But the Spirit only works conjunction with the gospel communicated with intelligible language—Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
    1. His presence in his kingdom, the church.  “Seek him while he might be found” wasn’t written to the unbelieving heathen, it was written to Israel.  Don’t forsake the gathering of the saints, don’t forsake the outer forms of worship necessary to worshiping God in spirit and truth; but also remember fellowship and forms aren’t the goal—they are the means.
      1. Seek God through his means.
    1. His plan in the world which includes us.
      1. Evangelism is an outworking of hearts filled with God’s love and Christ’s grace.
      1. Pray for opportunities.  Look for opportunities.  Be bold in sharing, and be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading as well as the individual’s situation.  Share the gospel of Jesus Christ.