Are Christ's Loftier Promises Valid Today?
by Cory Tucholski
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When Luke Skywalker’s X-wing fighter sank into the swamp, he immediately abandoned all hope of ever leaving the Dagohba system. Yoda told Luke to use the Force to extricate the sunken fighter. Luke could not budge the craft, and told Yoda that he asked the impossible. Yoda effortlessly raised the fighter and placed it on the shore.
Luke exclaimed, “I don’t believe it!”
The old Jedi master replied, “That is why you fail.”
There is certainly a lesson in that story for all seekers. It seems that in order to know the subtleties of the Force, Luke must believe that the Force can do what he needs. The lesson for seekers is the same: belief in God’s promise is necessary to realize the fulfillment of that promise. Jesus told His disciples “whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith,” (Mat 21:22, emphasis added). That means first believing that all promises are valid. Even a promise as lofty as the one in Mark 15:16-18 will be granted: “[I]n my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Can Average Joe Christian really perform an exorcism, speak a language he never studied, pick up deadly animals, survive poisoning, and heal the sick? An old adage indicates that if it is too good to be true, than it probably is. But, the Bible says all things are possible with God (Mat 19:26). With God, even things that seem to good to be true are true, if He promised it. God is always truthful (Ti 1:2).
The promises made by Jesus to His disciples in Mark 15:16-18 are not fulfilled today in each individual, but in the Church as a whole. 1 Corinthians 12:13-14 tells us that Church members are baptized into one body by one Spirit. The Church does not consist of one member, but many. Paul also asserts the following regarding individual Church members:
"To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills." (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)
So Christ fulfills the promise not through each individual, but through the entire Church using spiritual gifts given at the Holy Spirit’s discretion. Now, how does belief in Christ tie in?
In Luke 23:39-43, as Jesus is hanging on His cross, one thief ridicules Him, telling Him to save Himself if He is the Christ. The other prisoner rebukes his crass counterpart, admits his own sin, and asks Jesus for help. He does not ask Jesus for help out of this situation, he asked to be remembered in Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus tells this thief he will see heaven. This took a lot of faith on the part of the thief; to make a statement like that, he would have had to be assured of something he cannot see (see also Heb 11:1 and 11:6). He grasped what Paul meant by what is seen is temporary, and that a Christian’s eyes should be focused on the unseen, the eternal (2Cor 4:18).
Matthew 8:5-13 is the story of the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal a servant. Jesus offered to go at once, but the centurion declined. He told Jesus that it was not necessary to visit, that he believed Jesus would heal the paralyzed servant with His words. Jesus told the crowd that He had never found this kind of faith anywhere in Israel. To the centurion He said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed” (Mat 8:13, emphasis added).
Belief in what God promises is central to practicing this faith. The Bible says that Christians are effectively calling God a liar if they do not believe His testimony (1Jn 5:10). Furthermore, Jesus Himself reminds Christians that He must know them personally; calling on His name is not enough. That implies Christians must obey the will of God, which is found in His Word (Mat 7:21-23; see Mat 12:50, Rom 12:2, Eph 6:6, Heb 13:21, 1Pet 4:2, and 1Jn 3:24).
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Excellent, and very true. I particularly like your last paragraph.