I frequently hear people say that the Bible promises this or the Bible promises that. But what does that mean? Is it as simple as saying that anything the Bible says must be a promise for us to hold on to? Some would think so.
I would like to express caution when claiming a Bible promise. Make sure it is a promise before you hold on to it.
I once heard a friend describe this as a Bible promise that we can claim.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 ESV)
The problem is that this is not a promise. As a proverb it is an expression of general principles. In general, the future of a child will benefit from a godly upbringing. But this is not a promise where God will supernaturally intervene.
What about this one?
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)
This is a beloved passage that many Christians have found hope in. The problem is that Jeremiah 29:1 tells us this promise was given to specific group of Jews and not to every Christian.
Before assuming a passage is a promise, look at the context. What is the genre of the passage? Who is being addressed? Look to see if it is a promise that goes beyond time and geography.
That sounds disappointing. Does that mean that there are no promises in the Bible? No, there are plenty of promises. Here is one example.
“For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)
This promise is to “whoever.” Not a specific group of Jews. Not a specific group of Christians. This is to whoever will believe. All who believe will receive eternal life.
I am not trying to diminish Bible promises. I am trying to show that we should hold as promises only those passages that really are promises for us. Having a chapter and verse is not enough.