The Bible contains many “exceedingly great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4), which provide the Christian with hope and encouragement in times of trial and difficulty. God’s promises are sure and trustworthy. But as Christians can we claim all the promises that we find in the Bible? Are there conditions that we must meet or restrictions as to what we may claim? These important questions have clear answers.
Some of God’s promises are conditional
For example, James 1: 5 promises wisdom when we are in times of trial, but verse 6 sets the condition that we must “ask in faith, nothing wavering.”
Similarly, Isaiah 40:31 promises renewed strength and perseverance but the condition is to “wait upon the Lord.”
“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
There are also certain promises that we will fully enjoy only when we are home in glory.
For example, Isaiah 53: 5 promises that “by His stripes we are healed. ” Now, by faith in the Lord Jesus, we may claim the promise of being spiritually healed because verse 6 tells us that “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” But while we are certainly spiritually healed at this present moment, not until we are in heaven will we enjoy the complete fulfillment of the promise of physical healing. At that time we will receive new bodies that will no longer be subject to disease and infirmity.
The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that ” These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:6) Thus, although some promises of God will be fulfilled only in the future, as Christians we may claim them and live in light of them.
There are promises in the Bible that are directly applicable only for specific individuals or ethnic groups. For example, the 91st Psalm, being messianic, has promises pertaining specifically to the Lord Jesus.
“For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12)
The special promises of the psalm were fulfilled to the letter during the earthly life of the Lord Jesus. However, these promises do not directly apply to the Christian. None of us believes that angels will carry us in their hands, so that our feet will not stumble on a stone. Personally, I have tripped on a stone more than once in my life and in doing so I did not blame the angels for their negligence.
However, even in these cases of special promises there are times when the Lord may speak to us in a personal way. William MacDonald, in the introduction of Believer’s Bible Commentary, relates how he felt the 91st Psalm had special meaning in his life. William recounts that at the age of five years old he was dying of an illness. As his uncle read Psalm 91, he received a promise from the Lord that William would not die, but rather go on to be saved by the grace of God and that he would enjoy a long life. These promises of the Lord were indeed fulfilled in the life of brother William.
While many of us have received special promises from God that are precious and that give us encouragement and hope, there are numerous general promises that all believers can claim every day and live confidently in them.
- His forgiveness: 1 John 1: 9 “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
- His presence: Hebrews 13: 5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
- His care: 1 Peter 5: 7 “casting all our cares upon Him, because He cares for you. “
- His victory in trials: 1 Corinthians 10:13 “… but God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but will with the temptation also make a way of escape.”
- His provision: Philippians 4:19 “My God will supply all needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
- His peace: Philippians 4: 7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
- His good purposes for us: Romans 8: 28-30 “All things work together for good to them that love Christ.”
- The hope of His coming: Revelation 22:20 “Behold, I come quickly.”
The Lord’s promises can never fail. ” For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
– Charles Wooler
Mr. Wooler is a veteran missionary with forty years of service on the mission field in Ecuador and Honduras. Mr. Wooler is currently an elder in the Sala Evangelica Guadalupe assembly in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.