Bible Basics (5th edition): A study manual revealing the joy and peace of true Christianity

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3.1 The Promises of God: Introduction

At this point in our studies we have reached a broad understanding of who God is and how He works. In doing so we have cleared up a number of common misunderstandings about these things. Now we want to look more positively at the things which God has “promised to them that love him” (James 1:12; 2:5) by keeping His commandments (Jn. 14:15). If we open the New Testament, the first book we read is a transcript of the Gospel message as preached by Matthew. He starts off in the very first verse by introducing Jesus Christ as the son of David and the son of Abraham, and then gives a genealogy to prove this (Luke does similarly). This may seem odd at first reading. The point is, these early believers recognised that the fulfilment of the promises to Abraham and David through Jesus Christ is the basis of the Christian message. Paul preached likewise- the Gospel is centred in the promises (Gal. 3:8). Paul taught “the good tidings [Gospel] of the promise made unto the [Jewish] fathers” (Acts 13:32 RV).

The promises of God in the Old Testament comprise the true Christian hope. When on trial for his life, Paul spoke of the future reward for which he was prepared to lose all things. “Now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers...the hope of Israel…for which hope’s sake...I am accused” (Acts 26:6,7). He had spent much of his life preaching “glad tidings (the Gospel), how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God has that he has raised up Jesus”(Acts 13:32,33). Paul explained that belief in those promises gave hope of resurrection from the dead (Acts 26:6-8 cf. 23:8), a knowledge of the second coming of Jesus in judgment and of the coming Kingdom of God (Acts 24:25; 28:20,31). It must be understood at the outset that the true Christian hope is “the hope of Israel”. God sent His Son to save the Jews first and foremost (Gal. 4:4,5); yet God is not willing that any should perish and by His grace the Gentiles may share in the promise of salvation also.

All this sinks the myth that the Old Testament is merely a rambling history of Israel which does not speak of eternal life. To understand the promises of salvation explained there is to understand the Christian Gospel. God did not suddenly decide 2,000 years ago that He would offer us eternal life through Jesus. That purpose was with Him from the beginning.

“(The) hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; but has in due times manifested his word (concerning it) through preaching” (Tit. 1:2,3).

“That eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 Jn. 1:2).

Seeing that God’s purpose of giving His people eternal life was with Him from the beginning, it is unlikely that He would remain silent about it during the 4,000 years of His dealings with men recorded in the Old Testament. In fact, the Old Testament is full of prophecies and promises which give more detail of this hope which God has prepared for His people. It is because of this that an understanding of God’s promises to the Jewish fathers is vital for our salvation. Paul reminded the believers in Ephesus that before they knew these things, they “were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12) - although doubtless they had thought that their previous pagan beliefs did give them some hope and knowledge of God. But this is the seriousness of not knowing the promises of God - in reality “having no hope, and without God in the world”. Remember how Paul defined the Christian hope as “the hope of the promise made of God unto our (Jewish) fathers” (Acts 26:6).

It is a sad fact that few place the emphasis on these parts of the Old Testament that they should. Some parts of Christianity have degenerated into a solely New Testament religion. Jesus clearly put the emphasis the right way round:

“If they hear not Moses (i.e. the first five books of the Bible which he wrote) and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Lk. 16:31).

The natural mind might reason that believing in the resurrection of Jesus is enough (cf. Lk. 16:30), but Jesus said that without a solid understanding of the wider issues surrounding it, this would not be fully possible.

The disciples’ collapse of faith after the crucifixion was traced by Jesus to their lack of careful attention to the Old Testament.

“He said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe (properly) all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk. 24:25-27).

Note his emphasis on how the entire Old Testament spoke of him. It was not that the disciples had never read or heard the words of the Old Testament, but they had not properly understood them, and therefore they could not truly believe them. So a correct understanding of God’s Word, rather than just reading it, is necessary to develop a true faith. The Jews were fanatical in their reading of the Old Testament (Acts 15:21), but because they did not understand its reference to the things of Jesus and his Gospel, they did not really believe it, and so Jesus told them.

“Had you believed Moses, you would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if you believe not his writings, how shall you believe my words?” (Jn. 5:46,47).

Despite all their Bible reading, they were just not seeing the real message about Jesus, although they liked to think they were assured of salvation. Jesus had to tell them.

“You search the Scriptures for in them you think (are confident) you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (Jn. 5:39 R.V.).

And so it can be with many people who have an outline knowledge of some of the incidents and teachings of the Old Testament: it is just knowledge which they have picked up incidentally. The wonderful message of Christ and the Gospel of God’s Kingdom still eludes them. It is the purpose of this study to take you out of that position by demonstrating the real meaning of the main promises of the Old Testament.

§         In the Garden of Eden

§         To Noah

§         To Abraham

§         To David

Information about them is found in the first five books of the Bible (Genesis-Deuteronomy) which were written by Moses, and in the Old Testament prophets. All the elements of the Christian Gospel are found here. Paul explained that his preaching of this Gospel said “none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people” (Acts 26:22,23).

The hope of Paul, that supreme Christian, should be the hope which motivates us also; as it was the glorious light at the end of the tunnel of his life, so it should be for every serious Christian. Fired with this motivation, we can now “search the Scriptures”.


Bible Basics: Contents

Part 1: "The things concerning the Kingdom of God" Study 1: God 1.1  The Existence Of God || 1.2  The Personality Of God || Belief In Practice 1: Knowing God || 1.3  God's Name And Character || Belief In Practice 2: Grace (John Parkes) || Belief In Practice 3: The All Seeing God || Belief In Practice 4: God Is Omnipotent || Belief In Practice 5: Responding To The One God || 1.4     The Angels || Belief In Practice 6: God As Creator || Digression 1: God Manifestation || Digression 2:  Why The Trinity Was Accepted || Study 1: Questions Study 2: The Spirit Of God 2.1  Definition || 2.2  Inspiration || 2.3  Gifts Of The Holy Spirit || 2.4  The Withdrawal Of The Gifts || 2.5  The Bible The Only Authority || Digression 3: Is The Holy Spirit A Person? || Digression 4: The Principle Of Personification || Belief In Practice 7: The Implications Of Inspiration || Study 2: Questions Study 3: The Promises Of God 3.1  Introduction || 3.2  The Promise In Eden || 3.3  The Promise To Noah || 3.4  The Promise To Abraham || 3.5  The Promise To David || Belief In Practice 8: Covenant Relationship With God || Study 3: Questions Study 4: God And Death 4.1  The Nature Of Man || 4.2  The Soul || 4.3  The Spirit || 4.4  Death Is Unconsciousness || 4.5  The Resurrection || 4.6  The Judgment || Belief In Practice 9: Judgment Now || 4.7  The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?|| 4.8  Responsibility To God || 4.9  Hell || Digression 5: Purgatory || Digression 6: Ghosts And Reincarnation || Digression 7: The 'Rapture' || Belief In Practice 10: The Motivational Power Of Understanding Death || Study 4: Questions Study 5: The Kingdom Of God 5.1  Defining The Kingdom || 5.2  The Kingdom Is Not Now Established || 5.3  The Kingdom Of God In The Past || 5.4  The Kingdom Of God In The Future || 5.5  The Millennium || Digression 8: The Kingdom Of God Now (Graham Bacon) || Belief In Practice 11: What The Kingdom Of God Means Today || Study 5: QuestionsStudy 6: God And Evil 6.1  God And Evil || 6.2  The Devil And Satan || 6.3  Demons || Digression 9: The Implications And Origin Of The Belief In A Personal Satan || Digression 10: Witchcraft || Digression 11: What Happened In Eden? || Digression 12: Lucifer || Belief In Practice 12: Battle For The Mind || Study 6: Questions

Part 2: "The things concerning...the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12) Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus. 7.1  Old Testament Prophecies Of Jesus || 7.2  The Virgin Birth || 7.3  Christ's Place In God's Plan || 7.4  "In the beginning was the word" || Digression 13: Jesus The Son Of God (Michael Gates) || Digression 14: Did Jesus Create The Earth? || Belief In Practice 13: Jesus Didn’t Pre-exist: And So What? || Study 7: Questions Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus 8.1  Introduction || 8.2  Differences Between God And Jesus || 8.3  The Nature Of Jesus || 8.4  The Humanity Of Jesus || 8.5  The Relationship Of God With Jesus || Belief In Practice 14: The Real Christ || Digression 15: How The Real Christ Was Lost || Digression 16: The Divine Side Of Jesus || Study 8: Questions Study 9: The Work Of Jesus 9.1  The Victory Of Jesus || 9.2  The Blood Of Jesus || 9.3  Jesus As Our Representative || 9.4  Jesus And The Law Of Moses || 9.5  The Sabbath || Digression 17 The Crucifix || Digression 18: Was Jesus Born On Dec. 25th? || Belief In Practice 15: The Meaning Of Christ’s Resurrection For Us || Belief In Practice 16: Christ Died For Me- So What Should I Do? || Belief In Practice 17: The Real Cross || Belief In Practice 18: The Inspiration Of The Cross || Study 9: Questions || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus 10.1  The Vital Importance Of Baptism || 10.2  How Should We Be Baptized? || 10.3  The Meaning Of Baptism || 10.4  Baptism And Salvation || Digression 19: Re-baptism || Digression 20 The Thief On The Cross || Belief In Practice 19: The Certainty Of Salvation || Study 10: Questions Study 11: Life In Christ 11.1  Introduction || 11.2  Holiness || 11.2.1  The Use Of Force || 11.2.2  Politics || 11.2.3  Worldly Pleasures || 11.3  Practical Christian Life || 11.3.1  Bible Study || 11.3.2  Prayer || 11.3.3  Preaching || 11.3.4  Ecclesial Life || 11.3.5  The Breaking Of Bread || 11.4  Marriage || 11.5  Fellowship || Study 11: Questions ||