While the Arminian boasts in the fact that he “asked Christ into his heart” and he “promised to give his life to God,” the Scriptures teach us that salvation is not the result of man’s will and works, but it is the gift of the sovereign grace of God alone (Eph. 2:8-9). If we are to boast, therefore, we must boast not in what we have done, but in what God has done for us and in us. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (I Cor. 2:31). God alone is our Savior.
This becomes even more evident when we consider the fact that we can do nothing to save ourselves. We are sinners who are “‘dead in our trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Our very wills are held in bondage to sin, so that we can not even choose God apart from His grace (John 8:34, 44). If we are to be saved, it must come from God. God’s saving grace is our only comfort and hope.
This fact is very beautifully set forth for us in the Scriptural doctrine of the covenant, and more particularly in the promise of the covenant. Our hope of salvation is not based upon something that we say or promise. It is based upon the promise of God. We with the apostle Paul can rejoice in “the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers” (Acts 26:6), for God has indeed made a most blessed promise. He has made a promise to all of His elect people, the church of all ages. A promise so rich and abundant that it encompasses every aspect of our salvation from beginning to end. There is absolutely nothing left for us to do. God has promised to do all that is necessary to redeem us from destruction and give to us everlasting salvation. So wonderful is this covenant promise in all of its parts, that the apostle Peter refers to it in the plural and speaks of “promises” that are “exceeding great and precious” (II Pet. 1:4).
That the promise is indeed “exceeding great and precious” can be seen very easily from the Holy Scriptures. They are filled from cover to cover with the promise of God as it is progressively revealed in all of its details and implications.
Consider the promise, first of all, as it was given to our father Abraham, for here we find the very essence of the promise. God said to Abraham, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17:7). God promised Abraham that He would be his God and the God of his seed. Is that not a blessed promise? This is the promise that God will be our Covenant God. The promise that He, as our God, will be our Friend and that we, as His people, will be His friends. He will be our God, not as He is the God of all, as their Creator, but in a very special way. We will have a relationship of friendship and fellowship with Him. He is not our enemy. He does not seek to destroy us. He is not filled with wrath and indignation against us. Rather, He is filled with love for us. He knows us and loves us as His own peculiar people, chosen by Him before the world was. God takes us up into His own blessed covenant life, that we in a creaturely way may partake of that life. This promise is the promise that God will establish His covenant of friendship with us.
That this promise is intended, not only for Abraham, but also for the new dispensational saint is clear from the fact that the apostle Paul applies this promise to us. Quoting the Old Testament he says, “as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. . . . And I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (II Cor. 6:17-18). This is substantially the same promise that God made to Abraham. Yet, after having written these words the apostle says to the Corinthian believers, “Having therefore these promises. . .” (I Cor. 7:1). He applies these promises to new dispensational saints. They had these promises and so do we today. The promise of God is fundamentally the same in every age.
It must be seen, moreover, that in this one promise God has promised to us all that belongs to salvation. There are many aspects to that promise, but they are all encompassed in this one fundamental promise—God will be our God and we His people. This one promise implies all others.
It is no surprise, then, that the promise of the covenant includes also the promise of Christ as the Savior. Because we are sinners, God can not be our God and we His people apart from Christ. We need a Savior to pay the price of our sins. We need a Substitute to bear the wrath of Almighty God on our behalf. That Savior, God Himself promised to provide in His own Son, Jesus Christ. The apostle made reference to that fact when he preached at Antioch. He said, “Of this man’s seed (David’s) hath God according to His promiseraised unto Israel a Savior, Jesus” (Acts 13:23). God Himself raised up Jesus as the Savior of Israel, His elect people, and He did that according to His promise. The covenant promise is the promise ofChrist.
Thus we see that throughout the old dispensation Christ was promised as the One Who would come in the name of God to deliver His people. The very first promise, the one God gave to Adam and Eve after the fall, was the promise of Christ. He is the promised Seed of the woman Who bruised the head of the serpent on the cross (Gen. 3:15). He is the Seed of Abraham in Whom all the nations of the earth are blessed (Gal. 3:8, 16). He is the promised Son of David Who sits on David’s throne and reigns over the house of Jacob forever (Luke 1:32-33). He is the Branch spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isa. 11:1). He is the promised “Redeemer” Who “shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob” (Isa. 59:20).
As the Redeemer, He is the One of Whom it was promised, “He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. . . . Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. . . . But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. ” (Isa. 53:3-5). When God promised Christ the Redeemer, He promised the cross and the shed blood which redeems us from our sins.
Oh yes, God has promised us the Savior. He has promised not only His death, but also His resurrection from the dead and His exaltation to the highest heaven (Acts 13:32-33). In fact, God has even promised that He is coming again to give to us the perfection and fullness of the promised salvation. When the scoffers asked, “Where is the promise of His coming?” the apostle Peter could answer, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness… but the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (II Pet. 3:4, 9, 10). Christ is coming again. We can have that blessed hope, because God has promised.
But there is more. For if God merely promised to accomplish for us an objective salvation on the cross and then left it up to us to appropriate that salvation by our own works, we would still be without hope. Such, however, is not the case, for the promise is so great and precious that it also encompasses the application of salvation to our hearts. The promise of the covenant is also the promise of the Holy Spirit.
It is impossible to speak of the promise of Christ without also speaking of the promise of the Holy Spirit. As the apostle says, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law. . . that the blessing of Abrahammight come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:13-14). Christ received the promised Spirit after His death and resurrection (Acts 2:33) and He poured forth that Spirit as His own Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, upon His church in accordance with the promise (Acts 2:39). Thus through the promised Spirit He applies all of the work of the cross to His people.
In the promise of the Holy Spirit we have the promise of regeneration and conversion. Thus God promised through the prophet Isaiah, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit (Holy Spirit—S.H.) upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring: And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses” (Isa. 44:3-4). The giving of the Holy Spirit is like the pouring forth of water upon a dry land. He brings life out of death, He makes the dead desert-like sinner to be as a beautiful lush green garden. This figure is very similar to the one Jesus used when He spoke of Spirit-wrought regeneration. He said, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
It is, however, in the prophecy of Ezekiel that we see very vividly that the promise is a promise of faith, repentance, and even obedience. God promises, “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: that they may walk in My statutes and keep Mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be My people, and I will be their God” (Ezek. 11:19-20). Here God promises that in the giving of His Spirit, He also gives to us all that we need to comply with the demands of the gospel. For when He gives us “an heart of flesh,” when He regenerates us by the mighty working of the Spirit of Christ, He gives to us also repentance and faith, so that we walk in His statutes. Faith and repentance, then, are not “Man’s part” in salvation. No, we have no part in that great work. The promise of God is that He converts us so that we comply with the demand of the gospel. He makes’ us obedient servants who keep His ordinances. He, by the power of the promise, makes us to be His people who walk with Him and talk with Him, who serve Him and worship Him, who know Him and love Him forever.
The promise, however, does not leave us at this point either, for it carries us all the way to final glory. Thus the apostle writes that we have the “promise of life that now is, and of that which is to come” (I Tim. 4:8). We, according to the promise, have eternal life. In fact, it was promised to us in eternity. The apostle speaks of the “hope of eternal life, which God, that can not lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2). We have that blessed eternal life in principle now and we will have it in all its fullness in glory. God has promised to raise us from the dead even as He did our Lord (Acts 26:6– 8). Indeed, we shall not remain in the grave. Death has lost its sting. We shall not rot in the corruption of our sins. For we are heirs of the world. We have been called of God that we might “receive the promise of eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15). We, in hope, are waiting for that promised day of the Lord when the end of all things shall come and we shall stand with our Savior and be like Him. As the apostle Peter says, “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” (II Pet. 3:13).
Surely then, our salvation is not dependent upon ourwills, our works, our words, and our promises to God. It is not what we have said that counts. The all-important thing is that God has promised it. For if God promises to be our God, if God promises to save us through Jesus Christ in the power of His Spirit, if God promises to give us eternal life and an inheritance in glory, then He will do it. Therefore, we by the power of the promise must be like our father Abraham, of whom it is written, “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform” (Rom. 4:20-21). Indeed, we children of the promise have a blessed hope, for our Covenant God is faithful. What He has promised, He will perform.