Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 1 Study # 10
Thesis: Possessing the promises boils down to having an incredibly committed Ally in the process of living.
Introduction: In our studies of the extraordinary advantages possessed by the nation of Israel, we have seen that they had a "scenario of the future" that is unmatched by anything anyone could possibly "dream up". This scenario was captured by Paul's declarations regarding the adoption and the glory.
We have also seen that they possessed a two-fold, historically set, methodological process that was intended to be the means to the fulfillment of the future scenario. That process consisted of being given both "covenants" and "law". The "covenants" were specifically designed commitments on God's part to address the matters which would undercut their participation in "the glory", which, in turn, would directly affect the quality of "the adoption". On the other hand, the "Law" consisted of an immutable revelation from God in verbal form that superseded the generational, hand-me-down form of oral "traditions". With such an improvement, the foundations of faith were greatly solidified and established.
Last week, in our look at "the service", we saw that God had given to Israel a very detailed "first rail" for the accomplishment of the acquisition of "the glory" and, thus, a phenomenal "adoption". That "first rail" consisted of an enormous set of "phenomenal" indicators of the reality of the "glory". These phenomenal indicators did two things. On one hand, they became a part of the warp and woof of the entire culture so that they colored how the Israelites "saw" things. This made it possible for the people to "understand". And on the other hand they contained physical level illustrators of the Spirit Who is God. If the Israelites had been willing to use these indicators of the reality, they could have entered into a rich life of relationship with God. This was the reason for the apostle's unceasing grief: to see people have such a present opportunity and to do nothing with it is sad indeed.
This evening we are going to look one step further: Paul says Israel possessed "the promises". We want to try to understand his point.
September 16, 2008
- I. The "Connection" Between "the Covenants" and "the Promises".
- A. The formal structure of Paul's words consists of an A, B, B, A reality in which the covenants and the giving of the Law are the first A and B and the service and the promises are the second B and A.
- 1. The first set (A, B) is broad and general.
- 2. The second set (B, A) is deliberately "particular" to the first set.
- a. The "giving of the Law" was a general and immutable provision of divine revelation and "the service" was the highly detailed part of that "Law" that unveiled, for those willing to learn from it, "the glory".
- b. The "covenants" were a set of "general commitments" by God to address the needs of men and the "promises" were the specifics that detailed those commitments.
- B. The "promises", according to Paul's grasp of them, had a very specific focus.
- 1. In Ephesians 2:12 he deliberately aligned the "covenants" under "the promise".
- 2. In 1 John 2:25 another apostle, realizing how easily one can be "lost" without a legitimate controlling focus, pointedly summarized everything that God has promised under one issue: eternal life.
- C. The "promises", being plural, means that there are a multiplicity of them.
- 1. Peter said that this multiplicity had a very specific objective: participation in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
- a. This is as clear a declaration that "promises" are designed to enable participation in "the glory" as can be found in the Bible.
- b. Since "the adoption" is absolutely tied to this "participation in the glory", it is as clear as it can be that "promises" are the key to the quality of our inheritance.
- 2. The issue for us in all of our Bible studies is to grasp the meaning of the promises so that they may have this impact.
- D. Thus, the connection between covenants and promises is one of significant general encouragement with significant specifics given to address specific instances of life.
- II. The Focus of "the Promises".
- A. Paul, in his treatment of Abraham, made it as clear as he could that "promise" is a very fundamental method of operation in which one foundational principle overrides everything else: Romans 4:21.
- 1. Before drawing this conclusion, the apostle had already argued that "promise" was fundamentally different from the majority focus in men's minds about "Law" (4:13).
- a. In that argument he declared that "Law" voids "Faith" (4:14).
- b. He intensified his argument by pointedly declaring that "promises" do not contain demands that can frustrate their fulfillment by failure on the part of the recipient (4:15).
- 2. Once establishing these particulars about "promises", he simply declares that the bottom line of a "promise" is one: the one who makes it is responsible to fulfill it.
- B. In another place (Galatians 3:16-18) Paul intermingled covenants and promises and tied both to the future issue of "inheritance".
- III. The "Technicality" of "the Promises".
- A. Though it is true that "promises" are void of demands that can end up destroying their "fulfillment" (2 Timothy 2:13 insists upon this even in the face of "unbelief"), it is not true that those who disbelieve benefit from what was promised.
- 1. The commitment of God in "promise" is to those who "believe" Him so that even if no one else does, He comes across for the one who did.
- 2. When we get a bit further into Romans 9 we will see how critical is this reality.
- B. This means this: though there is no "law" in promise, one does not get "into" the benefits of "promise" without "believing".
- C. It is simply the nature of Divine Reality that relational reality demands trust.
- IV. The "Method" of "the Promises".
- A. The promises do not mean that God acts for those who do not believe Him.
- B. The promises do mean that it is fundamentally God Who is in action when those who are also "in action" are so in "faith".
- 1. The issue here is this: men want "promises" to be good while they do not believe them.
- 2. The reality is that "faith" directs actions in a way that allows God to move into gear.
- 3. Thus, it is a major perversion of "the promises" for people to claim to be trusting when they are not.
- a. To operate "by faith" means that one first "believes" what God has said about what is valuable (one cannot "believe" God while pursuing an unworthy goal).
- b. To operate "by faith" means that once accepting the worthy goal(s) one sets out in pursuit of it by believing (expecting that God will make the objective reachable either by means of, or exclusive of, the actions the "believer" is taking).
- c. The "believing" pursuit means that one refuses to use "means" which are declared by the "believable God" to be unsuitable and embraces those "means" which men may mock, but are declared by God to be the way.