Precious Promises to the Church

GOD’S Word is a storehouse of many wonderful promises. Israel was the first nation to receive tangible blessings as a consequence of these promises. A summary of fulfilled promises to Israel is given in I Kings, eighth chapter, in a beautiful prayer by King Solomon on the occasion of the dedication of the Temple. After the prayer, Solomon turned to the people and said (vs. 56), “Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.” Earlier in his prayer (vs. 53), Solomon had said, “For thou didst separate them [Israel] from among all the people of the earth to be thine inheritance, as thou spakest by the hand of Moses thy servant, when thou broughtest our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord God.”

Although Israel was Abraham’s natural seed and was separated to be God’s inheritance as Solomon had said, we know from other scriptures that the true seed of Abraham is Christ, and that the true inheritance of God is the Christ. Those separated as a people for his name are the church or the body of Christ. This is confirmed in Galatians 3:29 and Acts 15:14.

God’s faithfulness in keeping his promises to Israel is an assurance that he will do likewise for the church. The Apostle Paul, in Hebrews, chapter ten, writes that this assurance was given when Jesus, in fulfillment of the prophecy of the fortieth psalm, gave his life as a ransom sacrifice. Thus he prepared a way of entrance into the spirit begotten condition, pictured by the Holy of the Tabernacle. In so entering, he said, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith, for he is faithful that promised.”—Heb. 10:22,23

God’s promises to the church began in Eden. After the condemnation and sentence of death was passed upon Adam and Eve, God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15) Here is the first veiled indication that some day would come the seed, born of a woman, that would crush evil and its instigators. God later elaborated upon this promise when he said to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”—Gen. 12:3; 22:18

These promises of future blessings were expanded further in God’s dealings with the nation of Israel through the expectation of a promised Messiah, the Anointed, who was to be the son of David. Israel, and mankind in general, came a giant step closer to the realization of these blessings at the coming to earth of Jesus as a man. When Jesus gave his life as a ransom, God’s plan for the blessing of mankind and the stamping out of evil was assured.

As we consider our Lord’s death and its effectiveness as a ransom for all, it has been asked by some, “Why, after the death of Jesus did not God proceed to crush out evil and bless man immediately?” We might ask this question only if we were unfamiliar with what God has been accomplishing in the nearly two thousand years since Jesus lived and died. The benefits of Jesus’ ransom for the blessing of the world of mankind have not been delayed, but rather have been used first to fulfill wonderful promises to the church In advance of the rest of the world.

As a result of Jesus’ teachings, and also that of the apostles, it became evident that many of the Old Testament promises were intended for a select group of mankind. This “little flock,” as Jesus called them (Luke 12:32), were chosen first out of Israel, and later from the Gentiles. The statement by God to our first parents in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15), does not involve Jesus alone as the promised seed, but also includes the church, his body. The Apostle Paul confirms this by saying the Christ, or the Anointed, is not one, but many. (I Cor. 12:12) God has planned that the church shall share with Jesus in fulfilling these promises of coming blessings, and together they will be used by the Heavenly Father in the kingdom to crush evil forever. An allusion is made to this basic promise of Genesis by the Apostle Paul in Romans 16:20. “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” When Paul says ‘your feet’, he is referring to the entire body of Christ who share with Jesus in this experience. Nor is Jesus alone the promised seed of Abraham. The Apostle Paul tells us how the church is included in that seed when he says, “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:29) This privilege of the church to share with Jesus comes only by the grace of God, the ransom merit having been applied first for the church. This class has been predestinated by God, not as individuals but as a group, and its prospective members are being selected and perfected during this Gospel Age.

Our sharing with Jesus in these promises is further emphasized by Paul in II Timothy 2:11-13. “It is a faithful saying: for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him. If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us. If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” We note from this text that the church’s sharing in these promises is conditional: we must be perfected through sufferings first. If we fail in fulfilling our part of the agreement, God is not obligated to give us the promised reward of blessing the world in the kingdom. Hence, Paul tells us in II Corinthians 6:1, “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” In the context of this scripture, he proceeds to emphasize that the time for accepting this blessed privilege is limited to the present, the Gospel Age.

Paul also cites himself as an example, relating his endurance of very difficult experiences for the cause of Christ. These experiences were recounted to the brethren at Corinth because they had become careless, and Paul was endeavoring to help them separate themselves from the unclean things in their lives, and to receive the promise of becoming members of God’s family. In doing so, Paul quotes from the Old Testament prophecy of Jeremiah 31:1,9, “I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (II Cor. 6:18) “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.”—II Cor. 7:1

The privilege of becoming members of God’s family in the present time belongs only to the church. But we should never forget that we were born in “sin and shapen in iniquity.” Hence, our understanding of the fact that Jesus died to redeem us from this condition is all important. Only by properly acting on this understanding is sonship possible. The Apostle John tells of this sonship in his first epistle, “Beloved now are we the sons of God.”—I John 2:2

While still on earth, Jesus promised on several occasions to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) “And being assembled together with them, [Jesus] commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence.” (Acts 1:4,5) “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:25,26) “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.”—John 16:13

That promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost, when the Apostle Peter preached: “Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:38,39) But note that this promise was only to those who were willing to repent and accept Jesus as their Redeemer, who would fully consecrate themselves to do God’s will, as symbolized by water immersion. In confirmation of this, the Apostle Paul wrote, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the Word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.”—Eph. 1:13

As in the promise of sonship, we receive the benefits of this promise of the Holy Spirit now. The Holy Spirit, God’s influence and power working in our hearts and upon our minds, assists us to remove the spirit of this world: the spirit that lusteth to envy, the spirit of hatred and strife, of fear and of vainglory, of superstition and error. It replaces this wrong spirit with the disposition or spirit of truth, of love, of faith, of holiness, of joy and peace, and of a sound mind. We can see this promise fulfilled in the lives of our brethren as a remarkable change occurs in them. Each and every one of us is daily employed in striving to make this change, and if we are faithful in accomplishing this transformation of our minds with God’s Holy Spirit assisting us, we will be able to inherit the other precious and innumerable promises of God.

This transformation is not an easy task, especially so since it has to be done in the environment of this present evil world. Here too, God give us help even as promised. One example of this assistance is recorded in Hebrews 13:5. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” In order to receive God’s help we must cooperate with him. When Paul admonishes us to be “strong in the Lord” (Eph. 6:10), he also tells us to put on the whole armor of God so as to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, because “we wrestle not [merely] with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

The opposition we receive in our walk as Christians would be overwhelming if we were not aware of other promises of God, such as Romans 8:31, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” But we need constantly to approach God in prayer to seek and claim this promised help, as the text in Ephesians 6:18 states, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication.” If we do this, nothing can prevent our achieving the promises. The Apostle Paul makes this clear when he says, “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:38,39

The Apostle Peter, too, gives us assurance when he says, “Casting all your care upon him [our Lord]; for he careth for you.” Though the adversary walks around as a roaring lion, we must resist him by being “steadfast in the faith.” (I Pet. 5:7-9) The Apostle James is even more emphatic: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”—James 4:7

The world, too, will give us trouble. But we have in the example of Jesus, a promise of help. Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Then, as we already know, our flesh will hinder us constantly. Here we also get all the help possible: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”—II Cor. 4:7-10

When the Apostle Paul beseeched the Lord thrice to remove his thorn in the flesh, he was told, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” So Paul said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities [hardships], in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Cor. 12:9,10) The only way we can overcome our flesh and develop the fruits and graces of the Spirit is to recognize our weaknesses and to ask God’s strength to help us overcome our flesh in the face of difficult and trying circumstances.

If we rely on the help of God to overcome our foes, we shall inherit the promised glory. In Hebrews 6:4-6 the Apostle Paul broaches the matter of possible failure in gaining this inheritance. But he goes on to say, “Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (vss. 9-12) He then associates us with the heirs of the Abrahamic promise and the hope which we have “as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.” (Heb. 6:19) This is a reference to the Most Holy, which symbolizes our hope of a spiritual birth—a birth to the divine nature! The expression ‘divine nature’ is exactly that used by the Apostle Peter when he says God “hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”—II Pet. 1:3,4

The Apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 15:53, “This mortal must put on immortality.” It is described as the crown of life by the Apostle James. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” (James 1:12) In Revelation 2:10 the promise is, “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.” The Apostle John refers to this blessing as eternal life. “This is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.” (I John 2:25) Finally, the Apostle James tells us that God has promised us a kingdom if we love him and keep his commandments. (James 2:5) May we, through faithfulness to our consecration vows, receive these promises and enter into fullness of joy with our Lord.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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