NATURE OF COVENANTS
Royal grants/promises, unconditional promise not dependent on human response in any way. Example: Noah, land promise to Abraham, seed promise to Abraham. Renewed to David in 2 Sam 7. In this covenant, the grant is certain, based solely on the grantor.
Suzerain, sovereign, with subject. Example: Abraham, Gen. 17, v. 4, v. 9. Such covenants were conditional, as at Sinai, and again in the New Testament.
The NT covenant is not a royal grant, but a sovereignty covenant or treaty. Promise to all Israel (former and to be) to forgive sins and establish relationship on the basis of the blood of Jesus. Grace extended, but there is not grace where there is no standard. The very word grace implies a standard or obligation, or else grace is more license.
THE CONCEPT OF PROMISE
No Heb word for promise, but familiar with concept. In the Bible, promise contains the elements of covenant, Eph. 2:12, contract, pledge, with blessings bestowed to beneficiary. Promises are in a sense prophetic, in that fulfillment of the promise is expected (Ps. 119:123). In the NT, promise seems synonymous at times with salvation (2 Tim. 1:1), gospel (Gal. 3:18), Holy Spirit (Lk. 24:49), Jesus (Acts 13:23), NT covenant (Gal. 3), eternal life (1 Tim. 4:8). The promises of God are sacred (2 Sam. 22:31; Ps. 12:6; 119:50,148), and to be distinguished from human promises which are subject to human frailties. Many of God's OT promises were temporal, having to do with this world. God's great spiritual promises were to be ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.
Beginning in Gen. 3:15, God's people were sustained by the promise of restoration and preservation until the coming of Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20). All the divine promises of God converge in "the promise of God" to provide salvation.
Thus the significance of being heirs of the promise, not merely physically but spiritually. Spiritual heirs are not limited to the Jewish chosen race (Heb. 11:9), but may like the patriarchs and their faithful descendants who "received promises" (Heb. 11:33), sustain hope and endurance to receive what is promised (10:23,26). Thus Rom 9:8 says children of flesh are not the descendants and the children of God, but the children of promise are such.
In a distinct way, Jesus is the heir of the promise, Gal. 3:16-18, and the law did not annul the promise. The promise of God as reflected in the promises and blessings of old and continuing are focused in Jesus Christ.
Finally, the promise was centered in the Holy Spirit who is the seal and testimony of the promise. It is these two dynamics that we want to examine in the last two sermons in this series: "The Promising God Who is With Us to Save" and "The Promising/Saving God Who is Within Us to Save Eternally."
Paul makes clearest the connection of promise with God's gift of salvation. God has absolute power to fulfill his promise (Rom. 4:21). In fact, God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2). Paul, as a Jew, thought through the question of connections between God's law and promise, between God's demands/desires and his gift of salvation. Jewish thought was that humans could enjoy the promised salvation only on the basis of fulfilling the duties of the law. Paul shares insights which are essential to the gospel.
It is not the law which qualifies us as recipients of the promise and fulfillment, but the righteousness of faith (the righteousness which comes by faith) (Rom. 4:13).
Since the law cannot make one alive to God, law and promise are really opposites, or at least compatible, but not complementary (Gal. 3:18-21). These promises are focused in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).
GOD WITH US
When the Christ comes (Mt. 2:5-6), Jesus (1:18), he is in fact Immanuel (God with us). God will intersect the human experience and dilemma to provide the needed restoration. God has come among us, providing a savior who can show how humans can participate in the divine nature and realm.
This is paramount in Matthew, Jewish gospel, most natural bridge between OT and NT. When Jesus is to leave, natural question is, is God now leaving? No, always with us, to end of age, when such becomes insignificant for fellowship is eternal. In John, we learn what we shall explore next week, that this continuing presence is mediated through the Comforter, Holy Spirit.
This Promising, Blessing God does not give up on us. His promises and blessings proceed first from his own nature, and are part of his revelation of himself, so we might know his nature and person and character. This promising God has come among us.
THE BLESSING OF SALVATION
This promising God has come among us to bless, specifically to save. Jesus came to save. Lk. 19:10. God's purpose is salvation, 2 Pet. 3:9, 1 Tm. 2:4.
Salvation is clearly seen in the recreating power of God. Romans 3 pictures this work of God under three helpful metaphors--justification, redemption, propitiation.
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