If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. Jeremiah 7:6-7.
We are interested in only one aspect of this passage from Jeremiah: its conditional character. It is to this conditional structure of the verse that a question sent to us refers: "Are the promises of God always conditional? A brother I am in correspondence with recently wrote to me quoting Jer. 7:6-7 as proof that God makes conditional promises. . . . [This passage] calls to obedience with attached promises of blessing. The question is, are the promised blessings conditional on obedience?"
In the last article, we discussed what the promise of God is from a formal point of view; and, using Hebrews 6:13-18, we showed that God's promise is an oath which He swears by Himself.
Now we must ask the question: What is the promise of God from a material point of view, i.e., from the viewpoint of its content? What does God promise?
This is suggested already in the same passage in Hebrews 6 when we read that God swear by Himself "saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee (vs. 14)." In other words, God promised Abraham a seed which would be greater in number than the stars in the heavens.
But we must inquire more carefully into that question of Abraham's seed. Who constitute the seed of Abraham? How was this promise fulfilled?
The answer to that question is found basically in Gal. 3:16: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."
Now, although the text says in so many words that the promise of God was made to Christ, the idea very clearly is that the promise was in fact Christ Himself first of all. So it was that already in Paradise God promised Adam and Eve that He would give them the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent and his seed (Gen. 3:15). Throughout all of the Old Testament and throughout our entire dispensation the promise is one grand and glorious promise which God makes: "I will give Christ to my Church." That is in fact still the promise today, a promise that will be fully realized when Christ comes again.
Yet Scripture uses the word "promise" in the plural in many instances and speaks of "promises." So Paul, after quoting one aspect of God's promise which is found in Zech. 8:8 and Jer. 31:1, 9 in his second letter to the Corinthians (6:16-18), he goes on to say in the next verse: "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved . . . ."
Scripture uses the plural instead of the singular because the one promise of Christ is, after all, many, many promises; for the one promise of Christ is the promise of a full and perfect salvation which includes so many wonderful blessings that it is almost impossible to list them all. They are the blessings of forgiveness of sins, fellowship with God in His covenant, grace for every need in life, everlasting membership in the church which is Christ's body, to be a part of the wife of Christ, heaven forever and ever, regeneration, faith, calling, justification, sanctification, a new name which no one knows, food from the tree of life in the midst of the Paradise of God, etc., etc. Who can count all these blessings? They are all promised.
That is, God swears an oath that He will surely give them to us, as He has determined to do in His own immutable counsel. He swears that oath by His own divine being.
How can those promises be conditioned on our obedience. How is that possible? Can God swear by Himself as the one true God, the only living God, that He will give to Abraham (and to us) those promises, and then make them conditional on our obedience?
Anyone knows that the coming of Christ was not dependent in any sense on the obedience of Israel or Judah. In fact, quite the contrary was true. The nation was repeatedly disobedient until it was driven into captivity. If Christ's coming had been dependent on Israel's obedience, Christ would never have come at all. In fact, it sometimes seemed as if Israel did everything it could to prevent that coming. Christ came only because God is faithful to His promise and the oath He swore.
And so it is today. Still the promise is that God will give us Christ when Christ comes again. Is Christ's coming at the end of the world dependent upon our obedience? How can that be? He will come to save His own and bring them to heaven with Him. And His own are exactly those who are chosen by God from all eternity, given to Christ as His own possession; thus those for whom Christ died, and those who are sovereignty and efficaciously called to a new obedience.
No conditional promises there at all.
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 5
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
Address725 Baldwin Dr. B-25
State or ProvinceMI