Summary: The promise
July 4, 2012
I want to go back through Ephesians and look more closely at a couple verses. This time we’re going to look at 3:6. Paul is given the ministry of preaching to the Gentiles,
That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body,
and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.
What does it mean to be partakers of his promise in Christ and what are its effects? We’re going to look back through the Scriptures at when the promise was made, but before we do, I want to make you aware of a couple things: First, we have to understand that there’s a difference between the conditional promise and unconditional promise.
>Made to Abraham and his physical descendants regarding a physical land. Israel and Canaan are types and shadows.
>It’s theoretically everlasting as long as the people uphold their end of the contract.
>Do or die.
>Left to the power and will of men. This is why all but two fell in the desert and why Israel and Judah were overcome by Assyria and Babylon.
>Made to Abraham and his spiritual descendants regarding the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. These are the fulfillments of the types.
>It’s actually everlasting because Christ upholds His end of the contract.
>Watch and see.
>According to the will and power of God. The two who survived the desert had faith because they were heirs of the unconditional promise.
It’s very important to understand this because this is where a lot of confusion begins. Some people mix the two promises and end up with “I’ll make a way and if you believe in my way then I will save you.” You know, you’ve got this picture of Jesus desperately knocking at the heart’s door and the Holy Spirit floating around trying to find someone, anyone, who will believe Him and answer His call. “If you do this, then I’ll do this. If you love Me, then I’ll love you. If you choose Me, then I’ll choose you.” This is the foundation to what we call Pelagianism and Arminianism. It’s what most of the world believes, but they are in error. If we look back at the unconditional promise and see how it’s interpreted in the New Testament we’ll see that it’s something very different. It’s not “if you believe, then I’ll save,” but rather, “I will save My people.”
Second, let me be clear about something: I’m not saying that we don’t believe. It’s clear from Scripture that “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3) and “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is” (Heb. 11:6). What I’m saying is that people mesh the conditional and unconditional promises together and conclude that belief and acceptance catalyze the effects of the promise. “God wants to do something; He’s just waiting for you to respond.”
What do the Scriptures say? “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (Jn. 10:27). Do you see that difference? We do believe, and we are saved after believing, but the promise isn’t rooted in our belief—our belief is rooted in the promise.
Third, we must understand that the promise and all its effects are fulfilled in Christ and tied to our eternal union with Him. Essentially the unconditional promise is made between the Father and the Son. We’re only a part of it because of our union with Jesus Christ—a union which was before the foundation of the world.
In short, God made a promise to Jesus Christ: If you fulfill the Law and die for the sins of your people I will raise you from the dead and everyone in you will be raised also. We hear this promise through the gospel, we believe, and we are saved. Think about how baptism symbolizes this fact—we are one with Jesus Christ.
So let’s go back and find the promise in the Old Testament. First go to Genesis 3:13 to see that the promise is made to the seed. Adam and Eve have just eaten the fruit and they’re being confronted by God:
And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. 14And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen. 3:13-15)