God’s Promises Are Sure
Text: Hebrews 6:9-20
Reading through the Bible, we find many promises of an eternal home in heaven with God. But how can you or I be sure that such a home is really there? None of us get to visit it beforehand. It is not like a hotel that you can check out on the Internet, or ask someone if the beds are soft or if the view is good. None of you personally know people who have been there who can tell us what heaven is like. So how can we know it is really there waiting for us?
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews was concerned that Christians would abandon their hope during their struggles on earth. Part of the purpose of the letter to the Hebrews is to give confidence in the reality of God’s promise.
To counter this very real possibility, the writer of Hebrews wants us to have confidence that heaven is really there waiting for us. If we truly believe it, then we will work hard to gain permission to enter it. “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12). However, to have such a confidence, we must first have confidence in the one who made the promise. When God promised His servants a home in heaven, He did not just say “trust me.” He offers proof to you and I from His past dealings with men as evidence that His promises are sure.
When people make promises, they generally speak of their intentions, but often they fail to keep their promises. There are a number of reasons why people don’t keep their word. They might be forgetful, lazy, or hindered. Knowing that many people will not keep their promises if left on their own, we ask people to bind themselves in some way. For example, if I took out a loan to purchase a car, I might sign an agreement. One term of that agreement might say that if I forget to make my car payment on time, the bank will charge me extra the following month. It might go on and say that if I get more than three months behind on my payment, the bank can come and take my car to cover their loses.
Because people don’t always keep their word, banks will sometimes accept a cosigner on the loan. The cosigner is a person with a better record of paying off his promises. He agrees to make payments if the actual borrower doesn’t pay. “For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute” (Hebrews 6:16).
A formal promise is called a covenant. Ephesians 2:12 speaks of “covenants of promise.” Covenants are similar to our modern-day contracts. A covenant specifies who are the agreeing parties in the covenant. It sets out the terms of the agreement and establishes the consequences of either breaking or keeping the agreement. It establishes a reminder, or witness, to the fact that the covenant exists and sets out how the parties are going to remember the covenant. The covenant is then established by swearing an oath and a sacrifice is offered to someone greater who will oversee that the covenant is kept. Usually the sacrifices were offered up to God.
This last part causes a problem when God enters into a covenant with mankind. Who is going to back up God’s promises since there is no one greater than God? “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself” (Hebrews 6:13). God is His own back up. He put His own reputation as God on the line. The history of God’s past covenants allow us to determine His reliability.
It is easy to think that covenants were only a part of the Old Testament, but the Bible tells us that Christians are under a covenant with God today. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."” (Acts 2:37-39). Take careful note that Peter called it a “promise.” Part of what was being promised was forgiveness of sins.
Yet, like covenants in the Old Testament, there are conditions placed on these promises. In Acts 2:38 the condition was the men had to repent and be baptized to enter into this covenant. There was also consequences to keeping this covenant: Peter stated that men would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Stop a moment to wonder: Why did God bother making oaths and covenants? He is the supreme being in this universe. He can do as He pleases. So why would He bother with making covenants with His own creation? “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17-18). The writer of Hebrews tells us that He did it for two reasons. First, it demonstrates His unchangeable purpose. Through covenants, God stated in advance what would happen. The regular reminders insured that men would remember what God had said. When it eventually did happen, even though it was hundreds of years later, people see that God’s purpose never changed over time. Second, God used covenants to give us solid hope. We have received promises, but we know we can trust that the outcome will be as God said, because of his past promises which were kept. “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19).
When we talk about faith, we are talking about people who showed confidence in God’s promises. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). On many occasions Abraham believed God, despite the seeming impossibility of what he was promised, and as a result his faith in God grew stronger. “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Romans 4:20-21). Joseph knew that God would bring his family out of Egypt. “And Joseph said to his brethren, "I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob."” (Genesis 50:24). Joseph knew because God had promised. Hence, he gave orders that his bones be taken to Canaan when the people went. David also knew that God’s words were true. “And now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant” (II Samuel 7:28).
As we mentioned in the previous lesson, God cannot lie. “Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Titus 1:1-2). Paul also wrote, “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (II Corinthians 1:20-22). When Paul says “all the promises of God in Him are Yes,” he is saying that all of God’s promises are true; they always come to pass. Thus, the conclusion must be “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
Do you trust God’s promises? “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Look back on your life. Are you acting like you positively know that God gives homes in heaven to those who follow Him? “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Corinthians 7:1). God made you a promise, will you accept the terms of the covenant? He loved you so much that even before you had a chance to say “yes” or “no,” long before you were born, God sent his Son to be the sacrifice to seal that covenant. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Will you be one of that number?
- Hebrews 6:18 says God demonstrated His ability to keep His promises by two unchangeable things in which God cannot lie. What are those two things?
- The word “testament” means “witness,” in particular, a witness to a covenant. How does the New Testament both contains a covenant and serves as witness to the covenant?
- Put on your thinking caps: if Christians are under a covenant, then what are the parts of the
covenant? In other words:
- Who are the parties to the covenant?
- What are the terms of the agreement?
- What does it say will be the consequences of breaking or keeping the covenant?
- What are the conditions of the covenant?
- How do people accept the terms of the covenant?
- What serve as reminders or witnesses to the covenant?
- What is offered as a sacrifice sealing the covenant?
- In past covenants, the parties who made a covenant would share a meal together to
demonstrate that their differences were resolved and that they now were in fellowship (See
Genesis 26:30; 31:54; Exodus 24:9-11.)
- Now read I Corinthians 10:15-17 and look up the meaning of the word “communion.” What serves as the covenant meal for Christians?
- Read Matthew 26:26-29. With whom are we sharing this meal?
- Read I Corinthians 11:23-26. What other covenant purpose does the Lord’s Supper serve?
- When Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper, what are they doing
- Find songs which speak of promise and hope. Ask some of the boys in class to lead a song.