Claiming ALL the Promises of God
We are rather selective when it comes to claiming God’s promises:
Many Christians are very keen on claiming God’s promises. And so they should be. But have you ever noticed how very selective they can be when it comes to doing this? That is, they readily and eagerly latch on to all the “good” promises. But they tend to avoid or want nothing to do with the not so good promises.
A very obvious promise of God that most Christians are not so eager to claim is 2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” That is a clear and definite promise of God. Yet how many believers go around excitedly saying they fully claim this promise?
Victory over enemies
My point is obvious: we tend to be far too selective when it comes to claiming the promises of God. Consider just one such category of promises: how God deals with our enemies. Scripture often speaks about how God will deliver us from our enemies, or even how he will defeat our enemies. Numerous psalms speak to this. Here are some of them:
Psalm 18:46-48 The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation—
the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me,
who rescued me from my enemies;
yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you delivered me from the man of violence.
Psalm 37:1-2 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
Psalm 54:4-5 Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.
He will return the evil to my enemies;
in your faithfulness put an end to them.
Psalm 60:12 With God we shall do valiantly;
it is he who will tread down our foes.
Psalm 89:22-23 22 The enemy shall not outwit him;
the wicked shall not humble him.
I will crush his foes before him
and strike down those who hate him.
Psalm 138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
Although some of these promises are quite specific (the one in Ps. 89 is made to David for example), believers are still happy to claim them. Don’t get me wrong: these are all terrific promises to latch on to. I have done this myself. I have enemies and I often pray for God’s help in dealing with them. But we must bear in mind that the promises of God are often conditional in nature. That is, they do not come automatically, but are dependent on our obedience.
What about obedience and disobedience?
Too often we Christians do not consider the conditional nature of these promises, and how they are bound up with obedience. Many texts speak to this, and the following article lists just some of the many CONDITIONAL promises found in Scripture: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2017/07/31/on-the-promises-of-god/
But some key texts on this are the lists of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience as found in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-28. I have written about them before. See here for an earlier piece on this: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/01/03/misappropriating-old-testament-blessings-and-curses/
But let me revisit these portions of Scripture and discuss them a bit further. The first thing to note is there are far more curses for disobedience found in these chapters than there are blessings for obedience. That in itself should help believers to be a bit more cautious about how we deal with these promises!
And let me discuss this in terms of what I spoke about above: our enemies. The selective Christian will note, claim and run with the promises of defeating one’s enemies as found in these chapters. Consider Lev. 26:7-8 for example: “You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.”
Great stuff! But all this is fully conditional – simply read verse 3: “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them…” And there are far more verses about the obverse, such as:
Lev. 26:17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.
Lev. 26:25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.
Lev. 26:31-33 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.
Lev. 26:36-39 And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.
Hmm, I am not aware of too many Christians latching on to THOSE promises! And those just have to do with enemies. There are plenty of other curses attached to disobedience. The simple truth is this: God will fight FOR his people when they are obedient. But God will fight AGAINST his people when they are disobedient.
It is the same in Deuteronomy. For example, Deut. 28:7 says this: “The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.” That is great news, but once again, we must read what precedes this. Verse one says, “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today…”
And again, we find plenty of curses for disobedience involving enemies. Just one of them is found in verse 25: “The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.”
But, some critics will say that all this is about ancient Israel, and not for us today. Let me offer two responses. First, if this is just for Israel of old, then why do you still keep claiming their blessings? Second, if you look at the first article I linked to above, you will see plenty of promises in the New Testament that are equally conditional, fully dependent on what we do.
So there is no getting around this. God’s promises are wonderful. But there are promises for good and for bad, depending on how we are responding. God indeed wants to bless us. But he also wants us to be holy. And sometimes he will chastise us, discipline us, and reprove us to get us to that place.
Therefore we need to be a bit more careful when we ‘claim all the promises of God’.
6 Replies to “Claiming ALL the Promises of God”
Excellent points but leaves me with the impression that Christianity is being defeated today because Christians are not coming to repentance. It seems to me that there should be spiritual power available in being obedient.
Thanks, btw, for your tireless efforts Bill.
Anyway I’ll have to go now and pray for persecution. (Just kidding.)
Unless you truly are an obnoxious person then being persecuted in whatever way that takes place, could be considered as a confirmation that you are living a godly life!
As you quoted Deuteronomy 28, I thought exactly along the lines which you then wrote – there are a lot more ‘curses’ than promises.
We are all going to mess up, that is a given but we have the promise that God will complete the work he is doing in us (Philippians 1:6) – which in my case has to be considered miraculous – and as we confess our sins He is just and faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9-10) but we do need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit when He gives us a nudge.
This is an excellent article and explains why I hate seeing odd verses propagated without the other parts which complete the promises of God. Such as John 3:16 and 17 – but how often do you see 18 added to it?
Even becoming a Christian in the first place requires us to believe, to exercise faith. However, as Peter said in answer to the question Jesus asked him about leaving Him as so many had after He had spoken about shedding His blood – “So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” John 6:68-69. This is by far and away my favourite scriptures – there is nowhere else to go and nobody else to turn to except Jesus Christ of Nazareth. So it is no hardship to seek to fulfil our part of God’s conditional promises.
There is one thing we all need to be mindful of and that is there are times when we are ‘nicer’ than God and that ‘niceness’ could be the cause of somebody never coming to know Jesus! For example never speaking about homosexuality, abortion, etc.
Being new to His word , your article is news to me but makes absolute sense n answers about 1000 very pressing questions. Thank you Bill.
There are many Christians I’ve run across who believe Jesus took all those punishments and curses on the cross so the promises left are the good stuff. All there is now is gravy no hemlock. “Jesus took it all so all we get is blessings, blessings, blessings!” To me it is just stone’s throw away from that to “I can sin all I want because Jesus took all my punishment and thus I am saved eternally. I am chained to him and nothing will unlock that chain”. I want a trophy I just don’t want to have to do anything to get it. I’m here that’s enough. I’m Christian that’s enough.
Yes Paul, those who skew the biblical understanding of what Christ did will also equally (and falsely) claim that since Jesus took the punishment we deserve, everyone will therefore be saved. Universalism is another dodgy view of what actually transpired at the cross.
‘Quid est veritas
A little boy was being garroted by a guard in Auschwitz while other prisoners were required to watch. One person was heard to ask: ‘Where is God now?’ A battered and beaten elderly nun standing beside him, clinging to what was left of her Carmelite religious habit to protect her modesty, and yearning for the gas chamber, whispered: ‘God is in that boy.’
Sancta Teresia Benedicta a Cruce died in 1942 during the mass murder of the Jews in the death camps of Europe. She was a convert from Judaism but died as a Jew. She now lives with God and the others in heaven, but if she were to peek over the clouds and look down on Australia today, what would she think?
Sister Benedicta knew about mass murder, she was there. But, in terms of numbers, that was nothing compared to the slaughter of unborn children that is now taking place in Australia. Just as no one came to her defense all those years ago, so no one is effectively coming to the defense of the modern-day victims of a different holocaust; indeed, the law protects those doing the killing, as of right. One byproduct of the abortion industry is the abortion tainted vaccines we have today, Bergoglio’s blessing notwithstanding. Would Sister Benedicta have had the jab; Bergoglio did.
Sister Benedicta would learn just how many Catholics voted to legalize same sex marriage; that is, men having anal sex with men and women having vaginal sex with women. As a Catholic she would probably take the view that people will do what people will do but is it wise for a government to aid and abet this and for Catholics to ignore the moral law and support it. Sister Benedicta was a philosopher and would probably look at the issue of moral complicity with a serious focus. It’s not easy to reverse a vote if one has a change of heart; it’s ‘get down on your knees and beg forgiveness’ time, and then spend the rest of your life praying to mitigate the collateral damage which you were part of. Thank God for Jesus Christ.
Sex education in schools involves teaching sexual practices to children before they are ready. Rather than presenting the unitive and procreative purpose of sexuality within the confines of consecrated married love, sex is reduced to the level of animal copulation. A human being is not an animal.
At about the time Sister Benedicta entered the gas chamber, an old tribal aboriginal bloke in the Northern Territory spoke a poem:
White man got no dreaming, em go different way, em go road belong emself.
There is no doubt that many aboriginal people are crushed by the relentless, inexorable, over-whelming power of the modern world, just as Sister Benedicta was crushed by the evils of her time. But her soul was not crushed; she went a different way. She would not overly bother herself with the matters of the world. As a Catholic, she knew that the things of this world were important, but they are not absolute. She knew where the real power was, and what the true meaning is. She knew the solution to the evils of the world; she knew of the God within.
‘Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.’ ‘The Kingdom of God is within you.’ ‘We will come to you and make our home with you.’ ‘If you do not believe that Jesus lives in you, then you have failed the test.’ ‘I am with you always, to the end of time.’ These bible quotes either from Jesus or Saint Paul, underline what Sister Benedicta said of that little boy. They capture the promise of Jesus, and it’s good to take him seriously.
We are drawn to the richness of the spiritual realm within when we accept that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit; this is literally true. When we begin to live that out, our prayer moves from being ‘said’ prayers, no matter how fervent, to praying in the inner company of the Almighty. We don’t need a lot of words, it’s enough to know that God is there, waiting for us to speak. With this in mind, our uniqueness becomes clear; we can know in advance the ultimate purpose of our creation – to be one with God.
The Roman Governor looked at Jesus and mockingly asked: Quid est veritas? The irony is that he was asking ‘Truth’ itself, what truth was. With Truth itself living within, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. We won’t be making the mistakes outlined earlier and doing silly things that contaminate our soul. The presence of God within is a guarantee of the healing of our souls. After establishing a relationship with the God within, a friend confided that two maladies left his soul. The first was fear or anxiety and the second was a craving for alcohol. I wasn’t surprised. I thought it was only to be expected. I started to question when he told me that these two companions had crippled him since he was eleven years of age; he is now well into his seventies. What a pity it took him so long to learn the truth – well, not really – maybe it was a coincidence. These days he forgets the world and spends a lot of time in quiet, inner prayer.
When talking to God at this intimate level, we have to be straight with him. We are talking to a person, albeit a divine person. If we go off on some fantasy about this or that, he is no longer listening. So be very careful to be honest with God even if it means saying very little for a long time. In any event, God will always bring us back to reality. As the Japanese holy man would say:
I bow to the God within you.