The Vault

The promises of God (2 Corinthians 1:20)

“For how many so ever be the promises of God, in Him is the yea: wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us” (2 Cor 1:20, R.V.) Let us see how much we can learn from this one verse about the promises of God.

Their author. These words remind us that God has revealed and pledged his love towards us in his promises. There are, if we will but examine the Bible to see, a thousand and one things that God has undertaken to do. Surely such words merit our attention and afford us hope. For they are promises of God; they are not in vain hopes of men’s fancy, hut nothing less than what God himself has said that he will do.

Their number. Paul writes here as one aware—even if we often forget it—that God’s promises are not a few. He says “all the promises.” The word used in the Greek recognises a large number to be embraced. Paul speaks of God’s promises “as many as they are” or “how many so ever they be.” For God’s promises are without number. They correspond to the limitless abundance of divine recourses. They are so manifold and varied, so comprehensive and detailed, that they cover all our need. There is no problem in life which cannot be met and answered by a promise of God.

Their guarantor. Paul tells us more. He gives us the guarantee, or rather tells us the Guarantor, of the genuineness of the promises. For they are so many and so wonderful that we may well ask: Can they be true? Are they really meant for us? The answer to all such questioning is the declaration that they are pledged and certified in Christ. “In Him is the Yea” of assent and assurance, of affirmation and accomplishment (compare Rom 15:8). Two truths about him form the foundation of our certainty, first who he is, and second what he has done—that is his person and his work. These are summed up in his name—”the Son of God, Jesus Christ”; “in Him is Yea” (see 2 Cor 1:19). Just like a cheque, which is a promise to pay, has on it a name or signature, which ratifies and seals the promise; so the promises of God are pledged and guaranteed in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The appropriation. Nor is this all that Paul here tell us. For things are not meant to end there. These promises of God are, so to speak, made out to us, and meant for us to enjoy. In the Revised Version the verse continues—”wherefore also;”—introducing a statement of what right to follow as a consequence of the truth already stated. Such promises, thus certified, can and ought to be appropriated.

(a) The request for fulfilment, that is “the Amen.” When one is given a cheque, one endorses it, and presents it to the bank with, or as a request for payment. One as good as says, “Please make good to me this promise. Let it be fulfilled.” This is exactly the significance of “Amen;” it virtually means “So be it” (see Jer 11:5); and it is to be said to God. We ought, therefore, to come to God with his promises and thus present our request for fulfilment.

(b) The ground of appeal—”through Him”. When we present a cheque for payment our request is really made through the person who has signed and given us the cheque. Similarly, when we go to God to seek the fulfilment of his promises, we can make our request “through Him” by whom the promises are pledged. So we make our appeal “through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen”. This is the proper way to pray for the fulfilment of God’s promises.

Their fulfillment. “…unto the glory of God.” The very faith in God and his faithfulness, in Christ and his power to work, which is just expressed in the “Amen” of true prayer, itself gives God glory; it is honouring to him (see Rom 4:20). But there is here a further suggestion. Taken literally as they stand the original Greek words express the idea that we say the “Amen” to God with a view to glory; and the word for “glory” sometimes has the sense of “display” or “visible manifestation” (see John 1:14, 2:11). Also, when God fulfils his word in men’s experience, his faithfulness to his promises, and his ability to fulfil them, are openly shown forth; and so men are constrained to recognise his handiwork and to give him the credit or praise for it; so God is glorified. Paul’s statement here implies that God will only thus be glorified, when believing souls say, through Christ, “Amen” to God’s promises. And it is in this way that we sinful men can, as we receive God’s saving grace, bring special glory to his name; for we thus become proof-documents that God’s promises are true, and his grace and power sufficient to fulfill them.

The place of the preacher and his preaching. Finally, it can be contended that the last two words “through us” have the same sense as in the previous verse. They introduce not a general reference to “us Christians” or “us believers in Christ,” but a particular reference to “us preachers.” For, says Paul in verse 19, the Christ, in whom is the Yea, was preached by us. So we are reminded that men are brought to the response of faith in the God of the promises through hearing his word. They cannot believe without hearing; nor can they hear without a preacher.

It is, therefore, the preacher’s privilege so to present Christ and so to expound those promises of God whose fulfilment to sinful men is assured that through him, hearers say to God their “Amen,” and become those in whom God is glorified by their salvation.

This article was first published in the Australian Church Record on 26 June 1958. In this series we hear reflections on Scripture from the Rev. Alan M Stibbs.