Claiming the Promises 2

by | Apr 12, 2012

Previously, I gave four guides to knowing when one can legitimately claim a Scriptural promise:

  1. To whom was the promise given?
  2. Has it been fulfilled?
  3. Is it conditional or unconditional, and
  4. Is it to national Israel or spiritual Israel? Let me add two more.

1) Distinguish the Spirit’s impressions from Scripture’s promises.

Occasionally, I have heard people testify, “While reading my Bible, God gave me a promise that He would do what I was asking him.” In many cases, the verse God gave them has nothing to do with the issue they were praying about, wasn’t given to spiritual Israel or to all believers generally. Such situations are what I’m referring to as “the Spirit’s impressions.” I find no examples of this in Scripture. Nonetheless, there is

Nonetheless, there is widespread testimony to the Holy Spirit using Scripture to impress upon the hearts of his children personal assurance concerning His will. I conclude then that this is something God does.

The same cautions that apply to saying “God told me …,” apply to saying, “God gave me a promise [from a non-promise text.]”  We should always qualify claims that God told us something with a statement like, “To the best of my ability to discern God’s voice, I believe God told me …” Deut. 18:20-22 indicates that falsely claiming to speak for God disqualifies a person from the respect of God’s people and, under the Mosaic Covenant, deserved death.

Claiming that God has spoken is serious! We should be careful to qualify our claims so that if we are wrong, it’s clear the fault is ours and not God’s.

In addition, we must keep clearly in mind the difference between God using the language of Scripture and God using the meaning of Scripture. While God may choose to use the language of Scripture in our lives apart from its contextual meaning, that does not determine or change the contextual meaning. Scripture’s meaning never changes.

The normal pattern we see in Scripture is the Holy Spirit applying the contextual meaning of Scripture to believer’s lives to make us like Jesus (Eph. 5:26-27). We should expect this to be the normal pattern of God working in our lives as well.

2) Distinguish descriptive texts from promises.

A “descriptive text” is a passage of Scripture that describes what God has done in the past. What God has done in the past, He may do again. However, a description of His past actions is no promise that He will again act in that way. Further, a non-promise passage is not changed into a promise passage because God uses its language to assure our hearts of something.

My observation is that God rarely does the same thing twice. There was only one burning bush, one Red Sea crossing, one altar consumed by fire from Heaven, one Pentecostal tongues of fire on disciples’ heads, and so on.

When claiming a promise given in or through Scripture, kind in mind that knowing the “what” of God’s will is not the same as know the “how” or the “when.” For example, Jesus promised that he would never leave us or forsake us. That’s the “when” (never) and the “what” (leave or forsake) of his promise. Precisely how we will experience or sense His presence he did not tell us.

Regarding Phil. 4:19, “My God shall supply all your need,” Paul’s confidence is rooted in Jesus’ promise that our Father knows our needs and will supply the needs (food and clothing) of those who seek first His kingdom—as the Philippians had been doing (Matt. 6:24-33). In other words, this promise is conditional, not unconditional. The Philippians had given evidence of their seeking first God’s kingdom; therefore, Paul could assure them that God would supply their need.

In conclusion, remember that promises are not a means of strong-arming God into doing what He would be reticent to do otherwise. Promises are God’s signal that He wants to do something. Our asking for God to keep His word is an act of in His faithfulness. In fact, our asking may be the trigger God is waiting for to spring into action (Jam. 4:2).

Dr. Phil