How do I know which promises in the Bible are for me and which are not?
That is a great question because we have much incorrect teaching today based on “promises” that are jerked out of context from all over the Bible.
When it comes to Bible “promises” as spoke of today, there are really two categories: promises and principles.
Promises are direct statements that always come true, period. For example, when we are truly saved, we receive eternal life. That’s a promise. It is a result that always happens, period.
A principle is a general truth that has typical results, but differs from a promise in that it is not as cut and dried as “if you do A, then B will happen”.
For example, “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov 22.6). This is generally true, but as many Christians parents can tell you, it’s not a universal promise because when children grow up, they have a choice to serve or reject Christ. And not all kids raised in good Christian homes end up being Christians.
All through Proverbs we have principles that say if a Godly man is honest and works hard, he will prosper. But the sin curse that has infected the world sometimes causes even hard-working Godly men to lose everything they own, be cheated or suffer disaster.
Once you determine whether something is a promise or a principle, you then have to ask if it applies to YOU specifically, or you in general, or not at all.
Many verses from the Old Testament that were promises (or principles) that were given explicity to the Israelites are taken out of context and preached to Christians today. Some are taught as promises, when at best, they should be presented as a general principle. For example:
2 Chronicles 7:14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (NKJV)
This was a promise specifically given to Solomon by God explicitly for the Israelite nation. We don’t hear much about the surrounding verses that talk about bondage, dispersion and suffering that will occur if God is forsaken.
While it is generally true that God will bless a nation who honors Him (ie, America), this verse is not a PROMISE for us specifically. It was a promise for the Israelites which also could be a general principle for us to live by.
No matter, the point is, we need to be very careful about taking promises in the Bible meant for a specific people of a specific time… and saying they are the same promises for us today. I’m not saying it’s always incorrect, or that there are no promises for us, there are… I’m saying we need to be MUCH more careful because there is MUCH false teaching built around this technique claiming promises.
Principles spring from God’s nature. Because God has certain character traits, then it is generally true that He will respond/act in a certain way given certain actions/choices on our part.
Promises are direct condition/result statements in Scripture and determining who those promises were made to, is paramount. We can’t “claim” every promise in the Bible – only the ones that apply to us. We can’t “claim” every principle as a promise.
- Is this a promise or a principle?
- Who is it specifically being presented to?
- If not New Testament Christians, does it still generally apply to us today?