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- Jacob Ninan
The promises of God in His word are an anchor for us in the storms of life, giving us hope and strength. But many times like a drowning man clutching a straw, we try to hang on to verses that are not applicable to us, without fulfilling the conditions attached to some of them and even converting verses into promises that were never meant to be treated like that!
"Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Pr.22:6). We have problems if we treat this as a promise! Which parent can claim that he has trained up his children entirely in the right way? When we haven't, where is the question of claiming the result? Is this really a promise from God, or just a proverb that emphasises the great responsibility parents have in bringing up children? We see parents who have taken the entire blame on themselves when one child has gone astray, not remembering that the will of their child was not entirely in their hands and also that there were other influences on the child on which the parents didn't have complete control.
The Philippian jailer came to Paul and Silas and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Ac.16:30,31). Did Paul say that if one person came to believe in Jesus his entire family would be saved? That would certainly go against God's way of saving us as individuals who must put our trust in Him. None of us can save another person by our faith. So the question is, can a believer claim this as a promise from God for the salvation of his family members? Unfortunately no. We would have to ignore the context of the verse and the truths we learn from other parts of the Bible in order to take it that way. What this actually says is that both we and our family can be saved by believing in Jesus.
"Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers" (3Jn.2). This was just John's greetings to Gaius to whom he was writing this letter! To convert this into a promise for all of us or even for Gaius would be totally in neglect of the context.
Promise seekers are scouring the Bible to locate promises. What about the damage to faith when others claim all kinds of verses as promises and get disappointed? Can we then put the blame on God?
We don't have to go that way. There are many promises in the Bible which are clearly given to us. Some may have conditions that we can then seek to meet. We must not also forget that apart from promises God has also given commandments and instructions for us to follow.
(We must recognise, however, that God may sometimes speak to us individually in our time of need using words from the Bible even out of context, in order to communicate His special promise to us for that time. We know it when we receive such a promise. But we can't take that verse as universally applicable to everyone at all times or preach it like that!)