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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The Certainty of God's Promises
Text:2 Corinthians 1:12-24 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's faithfulness
 
Preached:2017/11/12
Added:2019-10-15
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
“The Certainty of God’s Promises”
2 Corinthians 1:12-24
 
Early on in my life as a parent I learned not to make promises to my children. I learned that some of the most heart wrenching words from a little child, are, “But Dad, you promised!” I learned instead to say, “Maybe we can go to the baseball game.” “Maybe we can play Junior Monopoly tonight.” “Maybe we can order pizza for supper.”  But in each case, it wasn't a promise; it was a maybe.
 
I learned, as I'm sure you have, that things come up that force a change of plans, causing a promise that has been made to be broken. That has undoubtedly happened in your life, just as it has happened in mine. And that is what had happened to the apostle Paul. The apostle had planned to visit Corinth again after he had gone to Macedonia. But circumstances prevented him from making it back to Corinth. That is the situation that he is explaining in verse 15 to 17. He writes: I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to return to you from Macedonia, and then to have you help me on my way to Judea. When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner that in the same breath I say, “Yes, yes” when I really mean “No, no”?
 
Paul’s plans didn't pan out. And because of that some of the Corinthians were saying: “He’s fickle; he says ‘Yes, Yes’ and ‘No, No’ in the same breath.”  And the apostle is replying to that charge by saying, in effect, “That’s not true. I gave careful thought and planning to the visit, but other things came up that were beyond my control. When circumstances changed, I realized a letter would be more suitable than a visit at this time.”
 
And then, after explaining his own actions, he shifts attention from himself to the Lord. As he does so, he focuses on the certainty of every promise that God has ever given. In our text, in verse 20, he writes: For no matter how many promises God has made they are “Yes” in Christ.  And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
 
We may fail to come through on our promises. Perhaps sometimes not enough thought is put into what is promised. At other times a promise is given that we think we can easily fulfill, but then we find out that we don't have the means to fulfill what we have promised to do after all. And at other times circumstances shift and change; those circumstances are beyond our control leaving us unable to fulfill the promise that we made.
 
But that is never the case with the Lord. His promises never fail. And that is true for every promise that he has made. You undoubtedly noticed in verse 20 how it says no matter how many promises God has made they are “Yes” in Christ.  In other words, it is not as though just some of the promises of God will come true, but each and every promise that he has made will be fulfilled.
 
The Old Testament believers certainly recognized that. Consider Joshua 21:45. It declares: Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass. And a couple chapters later in Joshua 23:14, as Joshua realizes that his days on earth are coming to a close, he tells the people: And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.”
  
God's people in every era have recognized the certainty of God's promises. When Solomon gave his benediction, in 1 Kings 8:56, he said: “Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promises, which he spoke by Moses his servant.”
 
Since the promises given in the Old Testament were fully kept, we have great assurance in knowing that the Lord will keep all the great and precious promises that we read in the New Testament as well. And one reason why is that nothing is impossible for God.
 
Circumstances that we find overwhelming, and situations that we see as impossible, pose no problem to the Lord. Nothing can thwart God, nothing can keep him from fulfilling the promises that he has made. There are no circumstances beyond his control. As Psalm 33:10-11 puts it: The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
 
People of faith have always realized that truth. In Romans 4:21 we read how Abraham was fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised to do. Abraham had saving faith in Christ, for as Jesus said, “…Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). But even though Abraham, along with all the other believers in the Old Testament, saw Christ – the eternal God – with the eye of faith, they did not have the full revelation of him that we have as we look back on the life of Jesus.
 
For instance, we know his words to the disciples when they expressed doubt that anyone could be saved. You recall that Jesus had told them that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved. When they expressed their shock, he reminded them – and reminds us – “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).
 
Promises Grounded in Christ
 
One of the reasons why nothing is impossible for God – except, of course, for sin – is because God’s promises are grounded in Christ. Our text tells us, For no matter how many promises God has made they are “Yes” in Christ.   
 
We know that Jesus sacrificed His life on the cross of Calvary so that our sins can be forgiven. But he also allowed himself to be crucified so that the promises of his heavenly Father would be “willed” to all who believe in him for salvation.
 
The death, and subsequent resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, legally puts all the promises of the Father into our possession. The very word “testament” in the Bible refers to promises. When someone dies, we speak of a last will and testament.  Whatever is promised in that last will becomes the legal possession of those who are named in the will.
 
And the same is true with the promises of God. The promises of God the Father are legally willed to all who believe in the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 9:16 makes that abundantly clear. It says: In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is only enforced when somebody has died.
 
Many of you parents have your house in your will. You leave your house and your material possessions to those who are named in the will. In much the same way our heavenly home is listed in the last will and testament of Jesus Christ. He fulfills the promise of his Father, that we who believe in the Son will have an everlasting home in heaven. And that will of the Father is put into effect by the sacrificial death of the Son.
 
You see, the promises of God the Father hinge on the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. That is why our text says, For no matter how many promises God has made they are “Yes” in Christ. Jesus died and rose again to save us from our sin, but also through his death, all the promises of God the Father are “willed” to us, including the promise of everlasting life in our heavenly home.
    
Every Sunday we profess in the Apostles’ Creed, that we believe in “the life everlasting.” It is a focal point of Christ’s redeeming work and it is a great comfort to those who have saving faith in Christ alone. The Heidelberg Catechism also addresses that belief in Q&A 58: “How does the article concerning ‘life everlasting’ comfort you?”
 
Answer: “Even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, so after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God eternally.”
 
One of the many Scriptures which supports the teaching of the catechism is 1 John 2:25, And this is what He has promised us – even eternal life.  The promise of God is that we have eternal life both here and now and throughout eternity, in all its fullness, in a heavenly home not built with human hands. We have a home in heaven which is perfect because the architect and builder of our heavenly home is God Himself. But the only way that this home in heaven is “willed” to you and to me it is through the perfect life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ – and the gracious gift of saving faith in him alone for salvation.
 
Shortly after World War 2 ended, John W. Peterson, a well-known hymn writer, brought a hymn about heaven to his publisher. The hymn about heaven was entitled, “Beyond the Sunset Mountains.” The editor at the publishing house looked it over.  “We would like to use it,” he said, “but we have one suggestion. Can you take out this reference to Jesus and expand a little more on heaven itself?”
 
“Heaven without Jesus? Never!” said Peterson. As he brought the hymn to another publisher, he was already forming the words to a new hymn entitled, I have no song to sing, but that of Christ my King.”
 
No matter how many promises God has made they are “Yes” in Christ! And that certainly includes the greatest of all promises, the promise of our heavenly home in the blessedness of the everlasting life that we will share in that glory yet to be revealed. There is no greater promise than that promise of salvation. Yet from that grand promise spring many other promises of God, including the provision of our daily needs.
 
Since our God has promised us an eternal home in heaven, we can be sure that he will meet our every need as we live in our earthly homes here below. Yet often, even the most sincere and strong Christians, anxiously wonder how God will meet their needs.
 
A few weeks ago, my wife and I were on 95th Street waiting for the red light to change by Southwest Highway. It was close to five o'clock and both 95th St. and Southwest Highway were backed up, clogged with traffic. You could see that some of the people were agitated waiting for the light. But up above the maze of traffic there were two blackbirds on a telephone wire looking down at the traffic below. Whenever I see a couple birds, sitting so peacefully on a telephone wire while all the people below are so agitated and anxious, I'm reminded of an old illustration. The old illustration has the same setting as what my wife and I saw. All the people are anxious and agitated, while two birds are perched peacefully above  on a wire.
 
In the illustration the one bird says to the other, “I wonder why all those people look so anxious and agitated.” The other bird thinks it over for a moment and then thoughtfully replies, “Maybe they don't have a heavenly Father who feeds them and cares for them the way we do.”
 
How did Jesus put it in Matthew 6:26? – “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Or, in the words of the hymn writer:,  “Be not dismayed whate'er betide, God will take care of you; beneath his wings of love abide, God will take care of you.” That, too, is one of the many promises of God.  And all his promises, without exception, are fulfilled in Christ.
           
The promises also include the promise that God will deliver us through times of affliction. God has never promised that we won't experience affliction and trial. Living as sinners in a fallen world makes affliction and trial inevitable in your life and mine. But God gives this promise, in Psalm 34:19: A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.
 
That promise even includes deliverance through the last great affliction, physical death. You know the words of the familiar Psalm, printed on almost every funeral bulletin: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).
 
We are comforted by God throughout the afflictions of life and even in the sorrow of death because of yet another promise: the promise that God will never leave us nor forsake us.  In Isaiah 43:1-3 we read this promise of God: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
 
Before ascending into heaven Jesus gave that same promise. In Matthew 28:20 he said, “And surely I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” And writing under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:35-39: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
That is the promise of our God. Nothing will ever separate us from his love.  God’s promise is that you will stand firm in Christ, and he guarantees it by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. As verse 21-22 put it:  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
 
Our Response
 
How are we to respond to such a God? First, we must believe the promises of God. That is, after all, exactly what the people of faith in the biblical record did. They not only heard the promises of God, but they took them to heart and believed them. The 11th chapter of Hebrews gives us example after example of people who believed in the promises of God. Because they took those promises to heart, their lives were changed eternally.
 
In Hebrews 11:6 we are told how without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. And then throughout the rest of the chapter we read of how people responded to the promises of God by taking them to heart and believing them, no matter what the cost. One of the examples is that of the father of the faith, Abraham and his wife, Sarah. Hebrews 11:11 describes how by faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.
 
How about you? Do you consider him who has given you the promises recorded in the Holy Bible to be faithful? Do you believe that he is all powerful, and therefore able to fulfill the promises that he has made? Do you have assurance that by grace, through faith in Christ alone, you have been forgiven of your sins and granted eternal life? And further do you believe that every promise God has made is indeed “Yes” in Christ?
     
If so, then the second response is to speak the “Amen” to the glory of God. That is how our text puts it: For no matter how many promises God has made they are “Yes” in Christ.  And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
 
 “Amen” means “truly”, or in the words of Heidelberg Catechism, “This is sure to be!”  (Q & A 129). If we have truly taken to heart the promises of God, knowing they are certain to be fulfilled because of Christ, then speak the “Amen” to the glory of God!
 
It is a great tragedy when the people to whom God has made great and precious promises, secured by the life, death, resurrection and ascension of his Son – walk around with long faces instead of joyful praise and adoration! If you know, by saving faith, the promise of God for everlasting life, as well all the other promises he has given, then speak the “Amen” to the glory of God: Be a joyful Christian filled with praise!
 
That is, after all, the purpose of our lives as God’s redeemed people, for in him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11-12). Or, in the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism the chief end of man – our purpose for living – is to “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
 
And as you live to the praise of God’s glorious grace, stay immersed in God's “Promise Book”, the Holy Bible. It is in the Bible that we read of all these wonderful promises of God.  Because we live in a hostile sinful world, and because we easily become discouraged, it is crucial to read and re-read the promises of God from his word. Psalm 19 describes the beauty of God's word as it summarizes his precepts, ordinances, commands and statutes. Then the psalmist points out, They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:10-11).
 
Likewise, 2 Peter 1:3-4 describes how the Bible contains the precious promises of God. The Bible is the most valuable possession that we have on earth, for it is God's written word to us. The Holy Spirit applies that word to the hearts and lives of his people, imparting the gift of eternal life and all the blessings that flow from it, just as God has promised. But unfortunately, so often God's Book of Promises, which also contain his warnings given in love, is a closed book collecting dust.
 
Years ago, a man was promised a great inheritance by his aunt. She assured him that after her final expenses were paid he would be the beneficiary of her will. But when the elderly aunt died and was buried all that the man received was an old family Bible and a few dollars. He put the few dollars away in a drawer, and he stashed the Bible in a trunk in the attic. He figured that his aunt was either poorer than anyone thought, or just unable to follow through on her promises.
 
Years passed by. His health was failing, and he was planning to move in with his son. As he packed his few belongings together, he came across the Bible in the trunk in the attic. As he leafed through it, he found bank notes scattered throughout the pages. He found over $5,000.00, a substantial inheritance in those days, tucked between the pages of that old Bible.
 
In this book God has given us there are so many promises, and no matter how many promises God has made they are “Yes” in Christ.  They are, indeed, more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb (Psalm 19:10).
 
Is your Bible still tucked away in the attic, so to speak? Is it collecting dust throughout the week? Or have you taken this Book of Promises to heart, believing the promises by faith in Jesus Christ, finding them more precious than gold? And does your life, as well as your words, speak the “Amen” to his glory, to his praise, and to his honor? May that truly be the story of your life, and of my life, this day and always. Amen!
 
 
- bulletin outline -
 
 
For no matter how many promises God has made they are “Yes” in Christ.  And so through Him the “Amen” is
spoken by us to the glory of God. - 2 Corinthians 1:20
 
“The Certainty of God’s Promises”
2 Corinthians 1:12-2:1
 
I.  Human plans and promises are often broken (12-17), but God's promises never fail (Joshua 21:45; 23:14;
    1 Kings 8:56), because:
      1) Nothing is impossible for God (18; Matthew 19:26; Romans 4:21)
 
 
 
 
      2) God’s promises are grounded in Christ (20a) and cover every area of our lives, including the promises of:
             a) Everlasting life (1 John 2:25)
     
 
   
             b) Provision of daily needs (Matthew 6:26)
 
 
 
             c) Deliverance through affliction and death (Psalm 23:4; 34:19)
 
 
 
             d) Constantly abiding with us (21-22; Isaiah 43:1-3a; Matthew 28:20; Romans 8:35-39)
 
 
 
            
II. Our response:
       1) Believe the promises (Hebrews 11:6, 11)
 
 
 
 
       2) Live a life of joyful praise and obedience (20b), immersed in God’s “Promise Book”, the Holy Bible
           (2 Peter 1:3-4)
 
 
 
         
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Ted Gray

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