James W. Boyd
"Whereby he bath granted unto us his precious and exceeding great promises; that through these ye may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust." (II Pet. 1:4).
One of the basic principles of human nature is that man works in view of a reward. All human activity is Motivated by the desire for some kind of return. The man who labors long at a tedious task has in mind the remuneration which he shall receive. The farmer May love his work, but if it offered him nothing in return he would seek other employment. We may at times devote ourselves to labors of love which offer no physical pay, but nevertheless these labors do bring us satisfaction of some kind, though the returns may be intangible. No sensible person engages in activities which present no promise of reward.
Confidence in God's Promises
The Bible recognizes and uses this principle. We are told that "he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him" (Heb. 11:6). Those who do not bother to seek after God are the ones who do not truly believe in His ability to reward. In studying the lives of the great men of the Bible, we invariably find that they were motivated by the exceeding great promises which God made to them. It is inconceivable to think Noah would have taken the time and trouble to build the ark if he had not believed in the promise which God made concerning the saving of his house. The Hebrew writer states that Abraham obeyed God by becoming a sojourner because "he looked for the city which bath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Heb. 11:10). His obedience was prompted by his faith in God's faithfulness in making good His promises. Moses was willing to give up the treasures of Egypt and to suffer affliction with the people of God because "he looked unto the recompense of reward." (Heb. 11:26). In fact, all those of ages past who died in faith were men and women who saw and greeted the promises of God from afar. They desired a better country and believed that God had prepared for them a city. (See Heb. 11:13-16).
Paul was another who was moved by his faith in God's ability to reward. When the ship on which he was traveling to Rome was endangered by a terrible storm, he told his fear-stricken companions, "I believe God, that it shall be even so as it hath been spoken unto me." (Acts 27:25). When this gallant soldier of the cross was about to lay aside his earthly armor he stated, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing." (II Tim. 4:7, 8). The ambition and goal of his life had been the obtaining of the "prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The knowledge that the promise of God awaited him soothed him in his suffering and sustained him in his trials.
Like these men of old, we, too, are motivated by the desire of reward. Our service to God will depend upon our comprehension of the promises which He has made to us. The degree of our faithfulness will be largely determined by the extent of our belief in what He has promised. As our faith in God's promises increases, then our desire for them will also increase. And as our desire for His promises increases, then our obedience to his commands will increase.
God's Promises Are Certain — But Conditional
"Having therefore beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (II Cor. 7:1).
Two facts stand out about the exceeding great promises of God. First, His promises are sure and steadfast. They will certainly come to pass. When Joshua made his farewell address to the children of Israel, he reminded them, "ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which Jehovah your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, not one thing hath failed thereof." (Josh. 23:14). Peter reminds us that God is not slack concerning his promises. (II Pet. 3:9). We can rest assured that when God makes a promise, his part will be carried out. Second, we need to realize that, for the most part, God's promises are conditioned upon man's action. The exceptions to this rule are the promises about which we can do nothing such as our own physical death, the second coming of Christ and the judgment day. But the majority of spiritual promises are predicated upon conditions which must be met by those who would receive them. Here again we have the words of Joshua to the children of Israel: "And it shall come to pass, that as all the good things are come upon you of which Jehovah your God spake unto you, so will Jehovah bring upon you all the evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which Jehovah your God hath given you." (Jos. 23:15). What they received from the hand of God depended upon how they reacted to the covenant which he had made with them. In like manner, the better promises of the new covenant are conditioned upon man's action. We need not expect to receive the promise if we refuse to meet the condition.
God's Greatest Promise
Among the many promises which God has extended to his children, none outweighs the promise of an eternal abode in heaven. "Be thou faithful unto death and I wilt give thee the crown of life." (Rev. 2-:10). If, serving God brought us no other reward than this, it alone should cause us to love him with all our being. But let us never forget the reward promised to us in heaven is conditioned upon our faithfulness to God. If the promises of God do not cause us to forsake worldly lust and to partake of the divine nature, they are unmeaningful in our lives.
Finally, God's promises are intended to lead us to a nobler and more useful life. As Peter stated in our text, it is through His promises that we become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust. (II Pet. :14).