Romans 3:3-4
The Promise Keeper

Marrieds with a Ministry Sunday School Class
Two Rivers Baptist Church
Nashville, TN, USA

For Sunday, 28 April 2002

Handout: The Promise Keeper


Green: on hand out

Ink: to be filled in on hand out

Bright blue: term from text (to be defined or discussed)

Gray: added comments from class


I. God is able to keep His promises

·  v. 3 God's faithfulness is not contingent on man's belief. God doesn't make any contingency plans; He needs no Plan B.
·  Man cannot nullify God's will, but God can nullify man's will. Ps. 33:1-12. Whatever anyone or everyone does, God will accomplish all His will. Satan cannot keep Him from it. Man cannot keep Him from it. Why? Because He is in charge, and has the power to bring His will to pass, even when other wills are involved. God's will is sovereign over our will.

...the Lord, notwithstanding the lies of men, and though these are hinderances to his truth, does yet find a way for it through a pathless track, that he may come forth a conqueror. - John Calvin, Commentary on Romans

Ruben De Peña asked about the role of our will in salvation. Paul is laying down a principle here, not pertaining specifically to salvation, but in preparation for delivering God's condemnation of fallen humanity. Our will is involved in salvation but the Scriptures don't emphasize that role; they emphasize the role of faith itself, rather than the role of making a choice to believe. We do choose to believe, of course, but we should distinguish between choice and faith, and respectfully keep our emphasis in line with that found in Scripture.

II. God is determined to keep His promises

·  v. 4a God forbid, Gk. me-genoito: Banish the thought! Let it not be conceived of!1 The Gk. term literally means "let it not be." Dave Fry pointed out that this term is the opposite of "amen," which literally means "let it be."
·  Let God be true—We must acknowledge God as true and faithful—but every man a liar—however dire the consequences to the reputation of humanity.2
·  Ps. 94:4-11 "The Lord knows thoughts of man, that they are futile."
·  v. 4b Even when our own reputation is on the line. (David's confession re: Bathsheba & Uriah.) We must acknowledge God as faithful and true however dire the consequences to our reputation.
·  Not only does the unbelief of some Jews not nullify God's faithfulness, but even if all men rejected His truth, He would still remain faithful to His promises. Mal. 3:6
·  There's something a little tongue in cheek about this, because Paul is about to demonstrate in the following verses that all men are, in fact, untrue, both in the sense of unfaithfulness and lying.

"Let God be true, but every man a liar" is an arresting way of placing in the forefront the indefectible faithfulness of God to his Word. It illustrates the conception which governs this epistle, that God is not determined in his purposes or in his promises by what is extraneous to himself or to his will.3

III. God promises good and bad, and delivers both.

Two kinds of oracles: weal and woe, blessing and curse. In the same way, God's promises are two-fold: to reward those who keep His Law and covenant, and to punish who do not.

Dana De Peña stated that, while she holds a free-will position, she loves our class because it challenges her thinking and motivates her to study. That reminded me of the following quote by John Wesley, which I then read to the class:

Is it not the duty of every Arminian Preacher, First, never, in public or in private, to use the word Calvinist as a term of reproach; seeing it is neither better nor worse than calling names? -- a practice no more consistent with good sense or good manners, than it is with Christianity. Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly of it? And is it not equally the duty of every Calvinist Preacher, First, never in public or in private, in preaching or in conversation, to use the word Arminian as a term of reproach? Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly thereof; and that the more earnestly and diligently, if they have been accustomed so to do? perhaps encouraged therein by his own example!4

Examples of God's faithful promise-keeping despite man's unbelief or disobedience:

  • David's adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. Through her, Solomon was born, who brought Israel to its greatest ancient glory, and who wrote two books of the Bible and most of a third book. He also was a direct ancestor of Joseph, Jesus' stepfather. Also the gift of Psalm 51. II Sam. 11:1-12:25
  • The fall. Adam's disobedience in the garden did not ruin God's plan, but rather gave opportunity for the first promise of the Messiah. God created the world already knowing that man would sin, and He already had a plan to deal with it. I Pet. 1:18-21, II Tim. 1:9, Rev. 17:9, Matt. 13:35 (Ps. 78:2), Matt. 25:34, Eph. 1:4
  • Isaac's birth. Abraham and Sarah both secretly laughed at God's promise to give them a son in their extreme old age. God called them on it, brought it about anyway, and commanded them to name him Isaac, which means "He Laughs." Genesis 17:17, 18:12, 21:1-6
  • Joseph's captivity. The Joseph's brothers were so jealous of him for his special treatment and prophetic dreams of leadership, that they sold him into slavery and told their father he had been killed. Later, in Egypt, the wife of Joseph's master lied about him and got him thrown in prison unjustly. But through both circumstances, God put Joseph in charge of saving the whole Middle East, including the family of Jacob, from starvation. Gen. 50:19-20
  • The ten plagues. A later Pharaoh repeatedly hardened his heart and went back on his promise to let the children of Israel go. But that provided the opportunity for God to show His power in the ten plagues, and finally for the Passover rite itself, which was the means by which Israel escaped the angel of death. Ex. 7-12
  • Wilderness wandering. The children of Israel rebelled against God in the Sinai wilderness. They had to wander there forty years but God brought their children into the Promised Land at the end of that time. Numbers-Joshua21.
  • Conquest of the Promised Land. During the time of conquest under Joshua, Israel was sometimes disobedient, and seldom completely obedient, to God. But God used them to accomplish His purpose of cleansing the land of the Canaanites, and He fulfilled every one of His promises to their fathers. Josh. 7 (Achan), 21:43-45; Judges 1:21-2:23
  • Caiaphas and the mob. Unbelieving men made prophetic utterances under the circumstances of Christ's crucifixion.
    • Caiaphas - John 11:47-52
    • The crowd in Pilate's court - Matt. 27:24-25. Even at his very worst, man's will is subject to God's.
  • The Crucifixion. Provided the opportunity for the display of resurrection power and for glorification.

Recommended reading:

David J. Finnamore
Orlando, FL