Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 October 16, 2016
“Our Promise-Keeping God”
Text: 2 Corinthians 1:20
Think back over the course of your life to the various promises you have heard—and, in particular, think on the promises issued to you. How many promises, and of what kinds, have you heard? Perhaps you have heard one like, “Satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back.” You may also have heard this one: “This attainment will open so many doors for you.” Here is a promise almost all of us have heard (and maybe uttered) at one time or another: “I’ll always love you.” Some of these held, but, alas, some of these failed. More particularly, of those uttering promises toward us, some delivered, whereas some failed to deliver. This seems to me, ever since the Fall of mankind in Eden, to be the human condition
However, and happily, the promises of our triune God to us never fail, because He never fails. We’ll note this in general this week, and—in weeks to come, God willing—we’ll look at a number of specific promises from God to us. Let us then hear Him speak to us today in His Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Context, particularly when preaching single verses—as today—is critical. After all, to quote D. A. Carson, longtime New Testament professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago, “A text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext.” Hence, we do well to note the context in which today’s verse occurs. The Apostle Paul, led by the Spirit, wrote the Corinthian Christian households about the change in his travel plans. He hoped to come to them (in southern Greece, on the Aegean Sea), from Macedonia (the nation just north of Greece) en route to Judea—the area touching and just south of Jerusalem in Palestine. Paul’s plans changed as he discerned by the Spirit that a visit to Corinth at that time would be too painful for the church.
Apparently some used this change in plans to accuse Paul of vacillating. Paul does allude to potential vacillation on his part—and then dismisses it with his succeeding comments. The ones perhaps accusing Paul of such knew neither the Spirit’s leading of him nor his sanctified powers of discernment. Yet from this context—yea, from this difficulty—arises Paul’s opportunity to declare God’s changelessness concerning His promises.
The New International Version renders Paul’s opening clause, “For no matter how many promises God has made….” There is some debate about exactly how many promises God has made in fact, but there is no debate that, whatever the number may be, it is a large one. Yet, no matter how many promises God has made, they find their “Yes” in Jesus Christ. The Person of Jesus Christ, and, by extension, His atoning work, is God’s supreme promise—and that promise never failed, never fails, and shall never fail. Hence, all other promises of God hold too—and that infallibly. This is unspeakably good news to our souls.
Therefore, through Jesus we utter our “Amen” to God for His glory. Have you, like me at one time, ever wondered why we say Amen at the end of our prayers? Have you ever wondered what that word means? We do a lot of things in our lives for reasons we don’t fully know, but we do well to know this. When I went to half-day private kindergarten at Lavonia, Georgia’s House at Pooh Corner, we said a unison blessing at snack time. The final word sounded to my ears like, “All men,” so that’s what I said. Later, at home, my mother told me the exact word they were saying. It took me years, however, to know the meaning to what I was saying.
The Hebrew word Amen, transliterated into Greek identically as Amen, literally means truly or so be it. It serves as a strong affirmation of what is said in prayer or as a strong affirmation of the One to Whom we pray. In the context of today’s verse, we affirm strongly both the promises of God and our God, Who guarantees these promises to us infallibly in the Person of Jesus Christ. This we do unto God for His glory—and, never forget, we exist to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism, answer 1).
We need to note and to heed a pair of cautions concerning our understanding of God’s promises—especially as contained in the popular books listing His promises. These promises of God, wonderful though they be, often are quoted out of context—and, as a result, often they are misunderstood and misapplied. Also, one can attempt to appropriate God’s promises without a saving relationship with God Himself, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit’s power. All such folk want is the thing promised. They don’t want God Himself. They don’t prize Him and cherish His nature. They don’t love His things, His people, and the like. They have no intention of living obedient, cross-bearing lives for His glory. Let us not, as we seek to stand upon God’s promises, so view Him and His Word in this way. Rather, may we be found in Christ through saving faith in Him, and may we by the Holy Spirit read and understand Scripture aright.
Therefore, if you be in Christ, then God’s promises are for you. No matter how many promises God has made, they find their Yes in Jesus Christ—and through Him we utter our Amen to God for His glory. God willing, then, let’s examine a few of these promises over the next few weeks. May the Lord bless you this week and in the weeks to come as we consider these precious promises of God.
 In D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984).