As Christians, we often set our hearts on things that God has not promised while failing to take heart in what he has promised. It is important for us to know what God has, and has not, promised. Once we see the great and enduring promise that God has made to us, we find hope.
The book of Acts includes two kinds of promises. One kind is a specific word of assurance to an individual about the situation he is in. In Acts 27 Paul and many others are on a storm-tossed ship and the winds are so violent that they lose all hope of making it to land alive. An angel from God comes to Paul and promises that neither he, nor any of those with him, will die.
While we are happy for Paul, and we can see how this promise to him fits into God’s plan to get him to Rome, it’s still hard for us to draw much assurance about our next road trip. Does this account in Acts 27 include a promise that we will make it to our destination and home again without incident? We know the answer is “no.”
The other kind of promise in Acts surfaces in Paul’s defense before the Jews and the Romans. Paul has been arrested on religious charges: blasphemy and desecration of the Temple. But he knew that the real reason he was on trial was for the hope of the resurrection of the dead. He was preaching that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, had appeared to him, and had appointed him to preach salvation to the Gentiles.
During his defense before the king, Paul said he is on trial “because of the promise made by God to our fathers.” He then said that the promise is that God raises the dead (Acts 26:6-8).
This promise is not to a specific person, nor is it about a particular situation. This promise is to God’s people. The resurrection of the dead is God’s plan. Throughout Acts we come to see that the plan of God was to raise Jesus from the dead so that he will return and bring with him the fullness of God’s rule. We call this the kingdom of God. When Christ returns, he will raise up his people of faith to be with him in the kingdom.
The resurrection into the kingdom of God is the plan and promise of God. This is the promise that all other promises serve. This promise is for all who believe in his Son. Everyone who receives Jesus draws their hope for the future and their motivation for faithful obedience from this promise.
When we read the Bible, it is important that we understand what promises were made to the individuals in the Bible, and what promises were made to all who believe in the message of the Bible.
We may not have a promise from God that we will make it through the next stormy journey we take, but we are promised that by faith we will make it safely into the kingdom of Jesus our Savior. That is promise enough.
I hope you will read Acts 27 this weekend and join us as we worship the God of promise on Sunday.