Here’s a summary of our Bible study on November 19.
The Promised One
Next month many people will celebrate “Christmas,” which is typically defined as “the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.” In the U.S., we have other holidays that celebrate the birthdays of famous people, like George Washington and Martin Luther King Jr. We celebrate their birthdays because they became famous people many years after they were born.
But Jesus Christ is different. His birth was celebrated, at least by some, when he was still a baby. Why? Because his birth was the fulfillment of promises and prophecies made many hundreds of years before his birth. He was the one God’s people were hoping and waiting for. He was (and is) “the Promised One.”
God’s Promise for the Nations
In the Old Testament period, God made several promises or covenants. Though God made promises to certain people (like Abraham and David), and a certain group of people (Israel), God’s central promise (which I’ve called “God’s promise for the nations”) has application to all people, including us today.
In our study this semester, we’ve discussed four major promises or covenants revealed in the Old Testament, including: 1) God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:9-21; 17:2-21); 2) God’s covenant with Israel, through Moses (Exodus 19-24); 3) God’s promise to David (2 Samuel 7:5-16); and 4) God’s promise of a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). (Though not all of God’s promises are in the form of “covenant,” his major promises and covenants are tied together.)
The New Testament reveals how God's promises/covenants are fulfilled. The New Testament begins with these words: “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). Around 6-4 BC, a baby was born in the town of Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7; cf. Micah 5:2). He was named “Jesus.” How does Jesus relate to the four major covenants (and “God’s promise for the nations”)? The following is a response to that question.
God’s Promise to David
About 1000 years before Jesus’ birth, God made a promise to King David (2 Samuel 7:5-16). God promised David a “house” – that is, offspring to succeed him as king (7:11). God said, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (7:16). How would this promise be fulfilled?
Luke 1:26-33 says this: “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’” (NIV)
Jesus is the promised king (the Messiah or Christ) who would reign over the everlasting kingdom of righteousness and peace. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s covenant with David.
Covenant with Israel through Moses
About 1440 years before Jesus’ birth, God made his covenant with Israel, including God’s giving of “the Law” to instruct Israel in how to live as God’s people. When Jesus began his public ministry, he often interacted with the Law. He interpreted the Law and applied it with great authority, which made the Jewish religious leaders uncomfortable.
In his “sermon on the mount” (Matthew 5-7), Jesus kept saying, “You have heard that it was said (referring to the Law and the Jewish leaders’ teaching of it) … But I tell you…” (5:21-47, italics added). Some people questioned whether Jesus’ bold teaching was opposed to the Law recorded in the Scriptures, but Jesus didn’t want his hearers to misunderstand.
Jesus said, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (Old Testament Scriptures); I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (5:17). “To fulfill them” means “to be bring them to their intended goal.” Jesus fulfills the Law and the Prophets in that they point to him. Jesus fulfills the Law through his morally perfect life and his fulfillment of the sacrificial system.
Paul wrote, “Christ is the culmination (end and goal) of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). As God’s people Israel repeatedly failed to obey the Law, all humans repeatedly fall short of God’s standard of holiness (3:23).
Paul wrote, “through the law we become conscious of our sin” (Romans 3:20). This was one of the main purposes of the law. It reveals our sin, and our desperate need of God’s gracious salvation from the tyranny of sin, and God’s righteous judgment of sinners. Jesus Christ is the Savior, and the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel through Moses.
The New Covenant
About 600 years before Jesus’ birth, God promised a “new covenant.” In Hebrews 8:6, Jesus is called “the mediator” of the new covenant. Jesus proclaimed the beginning of the new covenant when he celebrated the last supper with his disciples before his crucifixion. He “took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” (1 Corinthians 11:25)
Through faith in Jesus Christ, we become beneficiaries of the new covenant. In Christ we have forgiveness of sins, a personal relationship with God, a new heart, and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of the New Covenant.
God’s Promise to Abraham
About 2100 years before Jesus’ birth, God made a promise to Abraham. God said, “I will make you into great nation, and I will bless you” (Genesis 12:2). This included many descendants and a land (place) for them to live (13:14-17). And God promised Abraham, "…through your offspring (seed) all nations on earth will be blessed" (22:18; 12:3). This is why I called this study series "God's Promise for the Nations". How does Jesus fulfill the promise to Abraham?
The Promised Seed
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). In other words, Jesus Christ is "the seed" in whom all nations on earth can be blessed. What is needed to receive this blessing?
Paul wrote, “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith … If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26, 29; italics added). As people (from any nation) place their faith in Jesus Christ, they enter a relationship with God, and receive the promised blessing (3:6-9; 3:26-29). Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (and “God's promise for the nations"). Jesus is “the Promised One”.
The Promise & You
The problem with humanity is universal, but so is God’s offer of the Solution. God's promise applies to "all nations and peoples on earth." Every spiritual blessing is found in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3). These blessings include forgiveness of sins, salvation, love, peace, joy, hope, meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and everlasting life in a loving relationship with God. All peoples on earth are invited to receive these blessings. Do you need to trust in the Promised One?
Brothers & sisters, having trusted in the Promised One, you “belong to Christ” and have been “clothed with Christ” (Galatians 3:29, 27). Does your life show it? What needs to change? Reflect on Colossians 3:1-17 and by God’s grace seek to “clothe yourself” with Christ-like attitudes and actions, “all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Yes, Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises and covenants! As Paul wrote, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ…” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Still questions may remain concerning God’s promises. For example, we see many descendants of Abraham and blessing to the nations through his seed, but what happens to “the land?”
In the Old Testament, God said “Israel” was his “treasured possession.” So what happens to Israel? The New Testament says Jesus is the great king God’s people expected. So where is the kingdom of righteousness and peace? Where is the perfect relationship with God indicated in the New Covenant? Stay with us. We’ll talk about these things in the final two lessons.