Intro: What is the Bible about? That is a big question. How much time do I get to answer? Yet, as vast as our answer might be, to understand the Bible at all requires us to see its overall meaning and message.
- It is a revelation about God. It is His message, and it reveals Him to us.
- It is also a revelation about humanity (as opposed to the rest of creation) and is a message about man’s redemption from sin.
- The central message, or theme of the bible is not hard to trace. The story stays on track. But how can it be characterized and viewed?
- I believe that one way to view and recognize the unity and centrality of God’s message in the Bible is through a study of the promise of God.
I. The Bible is about the Promise of God…We will see how God has revealed Himself to us through the words of promise. Thus, His promises become the central message of the Bible, His revelation. Notice How Peter expresses this thought in…
- 2 Peter 1:3-4 – …His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. This is where we started in our discussion in January. God’s promises are a thread running throughout the scriptures.
A. What we notice in our Bible study is that, after the introduction of sin and its consequences into God’ perfect creation, God revealed His will for man, and the subsequent history of humanity, by issuing promises, and then facilitating their fulfillment in our behalf. If we follow the promises and their fulfillment we can trace the plan of God for humanity. We see God’s purposes. God’s promises form the theme of the Bible.
II. The Promise of God in the Gospel Message. It is helpful in viewing the place of God’s promise to the plan of God to notice how those promises are developed and emphasized in scripture. God’s promise is God’s plan.
A. The O.T. Messianic teaching was regarded as the development of a single promise repeated and unfolded throughout the centuries. Although there are many diverse promises, given under different circumstances, to different people, they share a common goal and end. The scriptures often express this singularity of promise in the plan of God. Walter Kaiser, Jr. puts it this way… “The Old Testament Messianic teaching was regarded as the development of a single promise (Gr. epangelia), repeated and unfolded through the centuries with numerous specifications and in multiple forms but always with the same essential core. (Kaiser Jr., Walter C. (2009-10-06). The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments)
1. So central was God’s promise to the gospel message that the apostle Paul, when he was on trial for his life, wrapped up his total life and ministry by saying: “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? (Acts 26:6-8) Paul’s words identified a definite promise (notice the “the“) made centuries before to the patriarchs, that was alive and was the thrust of his preaching. The validity of that promise was in view in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. God’s plan was being revealed through the promise. In fact, the fulfillment of the promise was the plan.
2. The N.T. writers traced the development of this messianic theme back to Eve, Abraham, and their descendants, including David and his lineage leading all the way to their own time. Events were understood and defined in their relationship to God’s promises.
a. Stephen traced this path for the Sanhedrin: Acts 7:2-3 – Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’… v. 5 – God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him. …. v. 17 – the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased.” The events of the exodus were to be viewed as a time when God was fulfilling His promises to Abraham. But the Exodus was not the complete fulfillment of the promise. The promise was still alive. Stephen went on to trace the promise of God through the tabernacle, to David, and then the building of Temple by Solomon. All of these events happened in order to fulfill God’s promise.
b. Paul’s sermon in Acts 13 is a treatise on the centrality of God’s promise to the gospel message. Paul called on his audience to view their history in the context of God’s promises: Acts 13:16-17 – Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: 17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it…from the Exodus to the wilderness to Canaan to the days of the Judges, to King Saul,. v. 22-23 – And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ 23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior — Jesus — …Acts 13:26-27 – “Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. 27 For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. …Paul describes the events of the crucifixion and resurrection in v. :29-37 – Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead. 31 He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. 32 And we declare to you glad tidings — that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ 34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’ 35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ 36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; 37 but He whom God raised up saw no corruption.
B. The blessings of the Gospel are described in the words of God’s promises in the O.T. scripture. There are so many places to see this. Consider Paul in Galatians 3:
1. God’s promise to Abraham in Gen. 12:1-3 was not to be limited only to Abraham’s people, but it was to be for all nations. Gal 3:8-9 – And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. Paul goes as far as to teach that Abraham received the gospel in advance when he received the promises of God. He claims that the substance of the gospel was found in the very words of the promise: “All nations will be blessed through you”. The promise to Abraham was the glue that cemented the Jew and Gentile together under the same gospel message.
2. When the apostles in Jerusalem gathered to declare God’s word on the controversial subject of circumcision as it applied to the Gentiles, James spoke boldly concerning the acceptance of the Gentiles based on their faith in Christ. His evidence of God’s blessings came from the promises of the O.T. scriptures. Acts 15:13-17 – And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: 16 ‘After! this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; 17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the Lord who does all these things.’
a. God’s promise to rebuild the tabernacle of David in Amos 9 and Isaiah 16 was at the heart of the hope of Israel. It was the promise of a complete restoration for the nation. James says that promise was being fulfilled in the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles. The words of Amos and Isaiah, (as well as many other promises of the prophets of the O.T.) were further specification of the promise God made to Abraham.
3. Paul’s argument for salvation through faith in Christ, as opposed to perfect law keeping (especially as it pertained to the law of Moses) was made on the basis of God’s promise.
a. Romans 4:13-16 – For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. If righteousness was earned, then it could not come through God’s promise, and the O.T. certainly declared that God’s promises to Abraham were the foundation of Abraham’s righteous position before God. Paul goes on to illustrate this is God’s promise to Abraham of a son in his old age. He had faith (trust) in that promise, against all odds, and did not waver at the promise of God (v. 20). It was this faith that was credited to him as righteousness. But Paul says that this does not just speak to Abraham’s justification. It describes how we are justified as well, as we believe on the crucified and resurrected Christ (v. 23-25). The promise to Abraham was an explanation of the blessings of the Gospel message.
C. The promise of given to Abraham, and the subsequent promises that flowed from it, find their final destination and fulfillment in the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Rom 15:8-9 – Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, 9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: ” For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, And sing to Your name.” If we miss this, we miss the meaning of all the promises of God.
1. Our Lord held the people of his audiences (readers of the OT scriptures) accountable for knowing who He was and what He was doing. The two disciples whom Jesus encountered on the road to Emmaus were rebuked for their failure to understand the message of the Old Testament as it contained the promise of the coming Messiah. He said to them “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:25-26) Later Jesus said to the disciples, as he opened their minds to understand the OT scriptures… These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” (Luke 24:44)
Conclusion: Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 was an exposition of God’s promises.
- Joel- And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. (v. 17)… And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’ (v. 21)
- David – For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.'(v.27-28) …This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses, 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”‘
- Acts 2:37-39 – Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”