By Lewis Willis
Some form of the word promise appears in the Old Testament 42 times, and in the New Testament 72 times. The word translated promise means “speech, speaking: announcement.” In Biblical usage, promise contains the elements of covenant, contract and pledge, with blessings in store to the beneficiary. In a sense a promise is a prophecy, the fulfilment of which is properly expected (Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible IV:872).
There are man-made promises and God-made promises in the Bible. Some are temporal, and others are spiritual promises. The promises of God are sacred, while the promises of men are subject to human frailties. God made many promises to the nation of Israel. At the close of Joshua’s life he said “not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof” (Josh. 23:14).
God’s Promises Today
1. To be a Father to us. If Christians will separate themselves from the sins of the world, he will be their Father, and they will be his children. Paul said “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 6:17-7:1).
2. Life in Christ. Paul said he was an apostle “by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:1).
3. A Crown of Life. A man is blessed who endures temptation “for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (Jas. 1:12).
4. Rest for the Soul. The Hebrew writer said, “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it” (Heb. 4:1). 5. Eternal inheritance. Christ is the mediator of the New Testament so that “they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15).
6. Eternal life. John wrote, “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25).
Is it any wonder that Peter would refer to these promises as “exceeding great and precious” (2 Pet. 1:4)? They are great because they offer us so much. They are precious because they mean so much to the soul.
Promised to Christians
The promises of God that are precious to the soul are made to his children (2 Cor. 6:18). “They which are called” receive the promise of eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15). Christians are the people who have responded to the call of God issued through the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14). The promises of God are also said to be “to them that love him” (Jas. 1:12).
Gentile Christians were said to be “partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). Christians are the ones who have obeyed the gospel. The promise of life is said to be “in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:1). The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the promise of heaven is made for God’s people, Christians who compose the Church.
We Can Depend Upon God’s Promises
Three things are said about God that make his promises sure: (1) “He is faithful that promised” (Heb. 10:23; 11:11). (2) God cannot lie. Paul said he was “in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Tit. 1:2). (3) Peter said, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise . . .” (2 Pet. 3:9). Because God does not lie, when he makes a faithful promise, he will not ignore it — he will fulfill it!
He Is Able
The things which were listed before, which God has promised to his children, would be meaningless to us if the promises had been made by a mere man. Man simply is not able to give us a crown of life, eternal life, eternal inheritance, or eternal rest. We would not expect to receive such things from men. However, these promises came from God, and they are our hope for eternity. We are depending upon these things which God said he will do for his people. Paul said Abraham “staggered not . . . through unbelief” because he was “fully persuaded that, what he (God) had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom. 4:20-21). God is able to do what he has said he will do. Like Abraham, we also can depend on it!
What conclusions, then, can we draw from these truths about God’s promises? The promises are in Christ, and realized by our obedience to the gospel (Eph. 3:6). We must make absolutely certain that we have obeyed the gospel! Thereafter, we must be determined in our efforts to live the Christian life. We must meet the requirements of faithful living (1 Cor. 4:2), worshiping and serving God in all things (Matt. 4:10). God and the Kingdom must be the focus of our affection and our work (Col. 3:1-2; Matt. 6:33). Then, we must never become careless or impatient as we await the fulfilment of God’s promises. The Hebrew writer instructed Christians, “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12). We must have enough faith to persevere to the end (Rev. 2:10); we must be careful to maintain good works (Tit. 3:8, 14); we must not lay down our sword before the battle is won (Eph. 6:17). If we do so, this is the promise of Jesus Christ: “He that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22).
I still like the words of R. Kelso Carter, in his well- known hymn:
Standing on the promises I now can see, Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me; Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free, Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises, I cannot fall, List’ning every moment to the Spirit’s call, Resting in my Saviour, as my all in all, Standing on the promises of God.
Dear reader, can we say, “I’m standing on the promises of God”?