What Are God’s Promises For?

by Christian Union Day and Night Staff
Some of God's promises of grace are conditional.

Many of God's promises to graciously give us His presence and favor are conditional. We must fulfill certain conditions before God will make good on His end of the promises. Does this amount to earning the grace of God? No. As pastor and author John Piper points out, "fulfilling conditions does not imply earning anything or meriting anything. Grace is still free, even when it is conditional. There is such a thing as unmerited, conditional grace" (Future Grace, 234). In James 4:8, "the future grace of God's increased intimacy with us, and his willingness to return to us in power and blessing after times of backsliding...is conditional upon our drawing near to God: ‘Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded' (James 4:8)” (Future Grace, 242).

God makes many of his promises to us with similar conditions:

"The LORD...is a shield for all those who take refuge in him" (2 Sam. 22:31).

"Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love" (Psa. 33:18).

"He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them" (Psa. 145:19).

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart...and he will make straight your paths" (Prov. 3:5).

"The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him" (Lam. 3:25).

"And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation" (Luke 1:50).

"Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him" (John 14:21).

"Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible" (Eph. 6:24).

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (1 Pet. 5:5).

The conditions of these and many, many more of God's promises are not meritorious. Just the opposite, in fulfilling them we are "turning away from self and our emptiness to all that God is for us” (Future Grace, 242). Moreover, when we meet the conditions of God's promises, our very meeting of them is by God's grace, for He is the one who stirs us up to meet desire to meet them (Hag. 1:12–14) and who supplies the strength to do so (1 Pet. 4:11).