The promises of God…. What we dread or hope for tomorrow changes who we are today. This foundational Christian doctrine colors all of our lives as believers, both in times of temptation and trial. God’s promises motivate holiness and awaken expectation and confidence in our pursuit of the Lord. But which biblical promises are for us? Can Christians legitimately appropriate all Old Testament (OT) promises as our own, when God gave them to specific individuals or peoples in a different time and under a different covenant? In this study, I seek to answer this query, considering why and how every promise in Scripture is “Yes” in Christ. In the process, I hope to help believers know better how to faithfully claim OT promises as our own.
I originally prepared this presentation as a special address to Bethlehem College & Seminary (23 February 2017) that celebrated my promotion to full Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology. The content is a substantial expansion of (and even correction to) materials first published in How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2017), 460–81. You can now read the whole study here, which was published in Themelios 42.1 (2017): 16–45.
Here is my basic outline:
- The Challenges & Need for Christians to Claim Old Testament Promises
- The importance of God’s promises in the believer’s life
- Which promises are for Christians?
- The NT’s application of OT promises to Christians
- Five Foundational Principles
- Christians benefit from OT promises only through Christ.
- All old covenant curses become new covenant curses.
- As part of the new covenant, Christians inherit the old covenant’s original and restoration blessings.
- Through the Spirit, some blessings of the Christian’s inheritance are already enjoyed, whereas others are not yet.
- All true Christians will persevere and thus receive our full inheritance.
- Guidelines for Appropriating OT Promises
- Celebrate that in Christ, all God’s promises (old and new) are already “Yes”––both blessings and curses.
- Affirm that while all the Bible’s promises (old and new) are already “Yes” in Christ, they are not yet all fully realized.
- Consider how Christ’s fulfillment of OT hopes influences our appropriation of OT promises (maintaining with no extension, maintaining with extension, completing, or transforming).
Below are links to the video, audio, PowerPoint slides and the publication of the study in Themelios in April 2017.
- “For Our Instruction: Jesus’ Bible as Christian Scripture”
- “How to See and Savor the Divine Son in All of Scripture”