Fellow redeemed and esteemed members of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod:
At this 50th regular convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod we are privileged to take note of the 450th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. Any worthy observance of that historical and spiritual event must receive its impetus from the power of the Gospel truth that was eminently brought to light by God’s great servant of the Reformation, Martin Luther. That truth is the word of God’s promise which forms the theme for our convention this year: THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.
When we look at this beautiful and vital word, we note that it. is a promise — a promise of God. As individual, Christians, as Christian congregations, and as a synod, we are very dependent on God’s promises, all of God’s promises, Without them we have, no hope, for everything we are and hope to be, everything we have and hope to obtain are indisputably linked to the promises of God.
Especially as we prepare to celebrate, in 1968, the Golden Anniversary of the reorganization of our Synod, we should be mindful of God s promises. It was not only in faithfulness to God’s explicit commands, but also in reliance on His immutable promises that our spiritual fathers dared to walk the lonely but blessed road of obedience. That our fathers were not put to shame — nor shall we be, if we implicitly trust these promises — is clearly revealed by the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 1:20: “For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen.”
Note well that we speak of the promises of God. For that reason, namely, that these are of God, are they gilt-edged promises. Paul had just had occasion to speak to the Corinthians of his own word to them which was not ambiguous, not yes and no at the same time, for the simple reason that, the Christ, whom he faithfully proclaimed is eternally true. At which point, the apostle is moved to exclaim: “For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen.”
When anyone makes a promise, he is giving something of himself. If he himself is a minus quality, his promises will lack quality. If he is faithful, his promises will partake of that faithfulness. From our viewpoint, it is true, the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of a man is determined by how well he keeps his promises. From God’s viewpoint the faithful keeping of promises is determined by the inherent quality of faithfulness. The promises of God also display the attributes of Him who uttered them, or caused them to be uttered. These promises are robbed of their rightful dignity only when man would ascribe to their author the frailties and failings of ordinary man.
It is interesting to note that, with one exception, in the Old Testament the words used to express the idea of the English word “promise” are two ordinary words for saying and speaking. And the instances in which, these words are translated by the English word “promise” are almost always those in which God is authoring the word. As surely as God is true His promises are true. As surely as God is immutable, His promises are immutable. As surely as He is powerful, His promises are powerful. As surely as He is eternal, His promises take on the quality of eternity. The fact that the promises upon which we depend are the promises of very God himself lends them the dignity which commends them to our acceptance.
How joyful we ought to be that this assertion of the Apostle is made concerning all God’s promises. Many would consider a high percentage performance of promises to be a pretty good effort; but with God it is all or nothing. All the promises of God. You and I do not have to waste our time trying to figure out which promises of God have most prospect of fulfillment. His word is truth, whether threat or promise, and we are here, concerned especially with the promises. The Scripture is filled with these promises, and it is well for us that this is so, because we are very much in need of them.
The promises of God are found in the Old Testament and the New Testament, from Genesis to Revelation, from, the Protevangel of Genesis 3:15 to the “Surely, I come quickly” of Revelation 22:20. The promises range far and wide in their concerns and their effects; they concern things temporal and things eternal, things bodily and spiritual, things personal and general. There are promises of seedtime and harvest, of sun and rain, of food and clothing, of care and protection, of forgiveness of sins, of the Holy Ghost, of regeneration, of the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
These promises are, for the most part, well known to us, but even here there is danger that familiarity may breed contempt or, if not contempt, at least lack of appreciation for the wealth that is ours. We are not to assume that because we “believe the Bible from cover to cover” we are absolved from the study by which alone the hidden treasures of the Scripture are found. (L.N. Bell). If we will continue to mine the rich are of the unfailing promises of God, we shall be immeasurably rich. What a boon is ours in the promise of preservation, justification, sanctification; of pardon, of peace and of joy in the Holy Spirit.
And these promises — all of them — are reliable. There is a certainty and finality about them that is lacking in the promises of mere men. “All the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen.” The Greek word yea (yes) and the Hebrew word Amen are words of affirmation, of certainty, being made clear here to Jew and Gentile. Even as we use the word Amen to affirm that which we have said, so every promise of God is itself an Amen.
Every promise of God finds its validity and stability in Jesus Christ, for besides being the true God himself, He is the sum and substance of God’s plan of salvation for us. All the promises that God has made to a fallen world revolve about the Son in whom He is well pleased. This eternal Son of God is himself the Amen (Rev. 3:14). By His incarnation, His life, His atoning death, His glorious resurrection and ascension, His session at the Father’s right hand, He has effected and placed His seal upon the wondrous promises of God for our redemption, our justification, our preservation in the faith and our final deliverance.
Only because of the Lord’s promise does it remain true that “the just shall live by faith.” So long as this promise stands, we have the solid footing from which to look for all the other promises. As Solomon on the day of the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem could assert concerning the Lord: “There hath not failed one word of all his good promises, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant;” (I Kings 8: 56) so we can with confidence and joy declare today concerning the promises of God to us. We need have no fear that, when God makes out His checks to us, His bank account will ever be overdrawn.
We purpose now to go forward in our synodical life. We surely resolve to do so only on the basis of God’s promises. Let us constantly be cashing those checks. Though these promises are preposterous by human standards, let us not stagger at the promise of God through unbelief, but in child-like trust and confidence — yes, and with great joy — continue to manifest that we are the heirs of promise. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA!