Gary Ray Branscome
“For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God by us.” (2Corinthians )
Salvation has always been, and always will be, through Christ and faith in Him alone. There is “no other Name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts ). Moreover, the focal point of that faith is God’s promise of forgiveness in Christ (Ephesians 1:7). It is only through that promise that we know, and can be certain, that we have forgiveness (1John ). And, it is only through the work of the Spirit that our confidence in that promise does not waver. [Romans and , 1Corinthians 12:3, John 6:44, Ephesians 2:8-9.]
Throughout history, that same promise has been given to God’s people. Adam had the promise of a descendant (Christ) who would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis ). Abraham had the promise of a descendant (Christ) through whom all the world would be blessed (Galatians 3:6, Genesis ). And, today, we have that same promise, the promise of forgiveness in Christ (Acts , 1John 1:7).
In the third chapter of his epistle to the Galatians, The Apostle Paul points out that Abraham was saved through believing God’s promise. He then goes on to tell us that salvation has always been through faith in that same promise (compare verse 6, 8 and 13-22). Now that may not be obvious in Genesis, because each time God’s promise to Abraham is mentioned only part of it is recorded. However, in explaining that promise, Paul brings the parts together quoting from Genesis 15:6, , and as parts of the same promise. At the same time he tells us that what Abraham believed was the gospel, (Galatians 3:8) the same gospel that we trust in when we place our faith in Christ (Galatians ). [Compare Gal. 3:6 with Gen. 15:6, Gal. 3:8 with Gen. 18:18, Gal. with Gen. 22:18. See also Gen. 13:16 and 26:4.]
Now the fact that Abraham was only given one promise is significant. However, the words, “all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, to the glory of God through us,” tell us that all of God’s promises to us are parts of that one promise, the promise of God’s grace in Christ Jesus (2Corinthians 1:20). In other words, when we trust in Christ all of God’s promises are ours. We do not need faith in each specific promise, the only faith we need is faith in Christ. If our faith is in Him, all the promises of God are ours. If our faith is not in Him, we can expect only God’s condemnation and wrath.
However, if all the promises of God are ours in Christ, then why don’t we have everything that is promised? In answering that question we need to consider the fact that one of the most important promises (the promise of eternal life) is ours now, even though we will not experience the fullness of that promise until this life is over. Therefore, even though all of God’s promises are ours now, we may not experience everything that is promised just yet. In some matters, God may not think that is would be good for us to have what is promised just yet. Or, we may fail to ask. Or, we may be double-minded.
Some people claim to trust in Christ for salvation, but trust in works to make them “obedient”. That is double-mindedness. We may want to do what is right, but as long as we are sinners we are not obedient, for it is impossible to be obedient without doing everything that the law requires (James 2:10, Galatians 5:3). The words, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness,” tell us that it is faith (not works) that makes us righteous [i.e. obedient] in the sight of God.
WALKING IN THE LIGHT OF FAITH
Because all of God’s promises to us are parts of one promise, the promise of His grace in Christ Jesus, all of God’s promises need to be understood in the light of what the Bible says about faith in Christ.
When it comes to promises that directly relate to faith and salvation, we have little difficulty seeing the connection between faith and what is promised. For example: we have little difficulty seeing how the promise, “Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” relates to faith in Christ (John , 2Peter 1:4). However, many believers fail to realize that the grace that is ours in Christ is not limited to promises explicitly mentioning Christ, but includes all of the promises of God's grace, even some connected to a specific commandment or requirement of the law.
Consider for example the promise found in Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly.” Upon reading those words our sin-darkened hearts are quick to assume that what is promised (God's blessing) can only be acquired by performing the required work. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, anyone who tries to gain this blessing by their own works is walking in “the counsel of the ungodly,” for the Bible warns us against trusting in works (Jeremiah 17:5). What we need to understand is that only those who have had their sins washed away by the blood of the lamb are sinless in the sight of God (1John 1:7 and ). And, if only those who trust in Christ are sinless then what is promised in Psalm 1:1 belongs only to those who trust in Christ. [Galatians 3:22, Psalm 51:3, Matthew 7:3, Jeremiah 3:13, Psalm 32:5, Psalm 52:8, Psalm 13:5, Psalm 136:26, Isaiah 55:7, Micah 6:8, Luke 1:77-78, 2 Samuel 22:3, Luke 1:47.]
MERCY AND NOT SACRIFICE
What I have just said applies to all the promises in the Old Testament that were connected to a sacrifice. Many people fail to understand why the law required these sacrifices. Because their thinking is locked into a works mentality they cannot see how those sacrifices were really a matter of grace, not works.
Those sacrifices were never something required to make people righteous. On the contrary, they were instituted as a way of getting people to confess their sin and seek God’s mercy. The words, “I wanted mercy, not sacrifice,” tell us that sacrifices were instituted for one reason, and one reason only, namely, to impress upon God’s people the importance of seeking His mercy (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13 and 12:7).
God used those sacrifices as a way of giving those who brought them His promise of forgiveness. Without that promise those who were burdened with guilt might have despaired (as Judas did), or looked to works for assurance of salvation. Instead, God used animal sacrifice as a way of leading them to trust in His mercy (Psalm 13:5, Psalm 147:11).
When these sacrifices were carried out as God intended, the person bringing the sacrifice went away assured of God’s mercy. At the same time those sacrifices prepared the way for Christ by creating a culture in which the idea of blood atonement made sense.
Today, animal sacrifice has been abolished. However, we are saved by trusting in the same promise of God’s mercy that those living before the time of Christ trusted in. The law did not change the way of salvation. The way of salvation confirmed by God at the time of Abraham, was not nullified by the law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, so as to make the promise of no effect. (Galatians 3:17). Therefore, when we trust in Christ we are saved by believing the same promise of God’s mercy that all of God’s people who lived before the time of Christ trusted in (Psalm 13:5).
Once we have been cleansed from sin through faith in Christ, a multitude of blessings open up to us. For example, because we have been cleansed of sin we are the apple of God's eye, and He wants what is best for us (Zechariah 2:8, Psalm 17:8, Romans 4:8 and ).
Therefore, when it comes to the promise, “Whatever you shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” what is promised only belongs to those who trust in Christ (John 14:13, 2Corinthians 1:20). Therefore, those who are truly praying in Christ’s name are not those who outwardly say “In Christ’s name,” but those who believe that God loves them, and will hear their prayers because of Christ and the forgiveness that is theirs in Him (John 16:26, Galatians 3:22, 1John 1:7).
The same holds true for the promise, “And all things whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive” (Matthew ). Those who “ask in prayer believing,” are not those who just believe it will happen, but those who believe that God will hear their prayer because their sins have been washed away in Christ (Galatians , John , Romans ).
Similarly, when it comes to the promise, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” it is faith in Christ that receives the promise (James ). If you want to understand why, notice the word “righteous”. Because it is forgiveness, not works, that makes us righteous in the sight of God only those who are forgiven are righteous. And, because forgiveness comes only through faith in Christ, that promise only belongs to those who trust in Christ. [Romans 10:4, Luke 1:77, Romans 5:19, 1John 1:9, Galatians 3:6 and 22].
Because many Christians fail to understand that Biblical faith is faith in God’s promise of forgiveness in Christ, some speak of faith in Christ as if Scripture played no part in it. However, the Bible makes it clear that our faith is not in Christ apart from Scripture, but in Christ as He is revealed in Scripture. And, the promises of God are the foundation stones of that faith (Romans , 2Peter 1:4).
“Our faith is but a little spark of faith, which only begins to render unto God His true divinity. We have received the first fruits of the Spirit, but not yet the tenths. Besides this, reason [i.e. the carnal mind] is not utterly killed in this life.” (Luther's Commentary on Galatians, page 128)