by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 5 April 1, 2012 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(163)Thesis:"Promise" is a fundamental aspect of God's self-revelation in terms of a guiding principle of understanding.
Introduction:Last week we looked into the fact that Paul deliberately inserted Christ's identity as the sole seed of Abraham and the sole recipient, beyond Abraham, of the commitments God has made in history. The promises were not made to you and me except as members of Christ. All of the biblical declarations of promises to particular individuals must be understood as only being "to" them because of the reality of their position "in" Christ. Even Abraham did not receive any promises that by-pass his essential participation in the Person of Jesus, the Christ. There are no commitments of a positive nature from God to human beings that stand outside of the Father's commitments to the Son.
This reality has some very potent implications, the chief of which is the freedom of God to overrule any and every human freedom, real or imagined, in order to bring blessing into any particular human being's existence. There are two consequences to this implication: first, God remains absolute as Sovereign over His creation; and second, any particular human being's sense of "blessedness" is absolutely rooted in "grace" without any kind of root atall in any human sense of entitlement.
This evening we are going to look into Paul's claim that "Promise" stands before "entitlement" with no possibility whatsoever of being subject to it.
I. The Rationale For the Primacy of the Covenant of Promise.
A. The foundations of the primacy are two.
1. The indisputable nature of "covenants" established by the Creator and recognized by all men everywhere.
2. The indisputable reality of "time" as an "on-going" flow from one established reality to the next.
a. There are, without dispute, a host of "circles" in the flow of history (the most notable being the period of the judges), but those "circles" are the result of the principles of creation within history, not the result of the flow of time.
b. The biblical revelation is that of linear time.
c. Within this flow, those covenants that are established earlier have a decided primacy over any that come later.
B. A demonstration of the primacy was provided by God both in history and verbal revelation preserved by God for men.
1. The historical demonstrations were, by reason of the on-going flow of time, limited to those alive and present when the events took place.
2. The verbal revelation preserved by God make those demonstrations available to us.
3. Thus, Paul simply declares that the prior covenant stands in spite of any developments that arrive later in the historical narrative.
II. The Significance Of the Primacy of the Covenant of Promise.
A. The root is the integrity of God in the face of human vacillation in faith (Hebrews 6:16-17).
1. At the heart of "integrity" is the issue of what Hebrews calls "the immutability of His counsel".
2. James 1:6-8 coupled to 1:17 are echoes of this most fundamental issue ("faith" is absolutely crucial and its roots are found in the immutability of God and its expression in the words of God).
B. The reasons for "Promise" are ...
1. A "return" to the challenge of Satan in the Garden ("...hath God said..." Genesis 3).
2. The mutability and extreme weakness of every creature that has come under the dominion of Sin (Romans 7:24 in context).
C. The impact of "Promise" stands in multiple places.
1. As to the "freedom" of created personalities, God has not made the ability to make choices and take actions an inviolate ability: God overrides any and every determination of man that puts "Promise" at risk (Daniel's record of miraculous deliverances) and, additionally, inserts determinations into the hearts of men that make "Promise" develop according to His intention (Proverbs 21:1).
2. As to the "methods" of God, there are no hard and fast commitments (His judgments are unsearchable and His ways are past finding out: Romans 11:33) so that men are often stunned by what happens because the "means" was totally unexpected, though the outcome was set because of "Promise").
3. As to later additions to God's revelation in the form of covenants (such as "Law"), "Promise" stands as the guiding rule and the additions become means to the end declared by "Promise".
4. As to the issues of "faith", "Promise" provides the basis.