The Promises of God

By Justus Hunter –

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame…. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:26, 28)

Has the promise been fulfilled?

“You will eat in plenty and be satisfied.”

Has the promise been fulfilled?

“My people will never again be put to shame.”

Has the promise been fulfilled?

“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”

God fulfills his promises. We know this. But we often struggle to see how. Because the promises God makes and the promises we would like aren’t always the same. His wisdom is not ours.

My sons want me to build them a playhouse. So I’ve been sketching a few ideas, and we’ve been scavenging useful things around the neighborhood on trash days. I came up with a small 8×6 structure with a hinged wall that lifts into an awning for hot or rainy days. (You’ll note a parent’s motivation here — even if it’s hot or wet, they can stay outside!) I was proud of my design. But when I showed it to the boys, they looked it over and asked, “Where is the desk? Where do we sleep?”

My plans didn’t suit their purposes. There was a gap, a rupture between my plans and their goals. I had my wisdom, and they had theirs.

In I Corinthians 2, Paul writes of two wisdoms. There is the wisdom of this age and its rulers, and there is the wisdom of God. And because there are two wisdoms, when he came to Corinth, Paul refused to speak as if he were wise. “My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom.” He decided to proclaim the mystery of God, but not in their words and according to their wisdom. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

This message, the very mystery of God, requires a suitable foundation. The wisdom of this age will not do. Why not? Because the wisdom of this age and its rulers is, in fact, no wisdom at all. As it turns out, the wisdom of this age is foolish, absurd, contradictory. Its conclusion is the crucifixion. “They crucified the Lord of Glory.” As the early church thinkers observed, such things are unthinkable. How can the Lord of Glory himself, the very one who gives all life, who is Life Itself, be crucified, and die?

But this is the very thing the wisdom of our age does: it goes on as if the absurd were true. It lives as if Life Itself could be crucified, and that be the end of it. It is wisdom that attempts to destroy the Son, who is true Wisdom.

This is the wisdom of our age. We hear it all around us. And sometimes we live it. We live it each time we imagine we can carve off some corner of our life, set it aside, keep it secret from our Lord of Glory. We crucify him from our plans, our hopes, our times, our loves. We absurdly imagine that he could remain in the tomb, apart from the promises of our own making.

But no eye has seen nor ear heard what God has prepared for our plans and hopes, our times and loves. No heart can conceive the promises of God. None, that is, except God himself. None except the very Spirit of God.

And so Joel prophecies, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh.” “You will eat and be satisfied.”

The promise is fulfilled. The wisdom of God, the Son himself, has come to us. He has come, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven. What else do you expect when the Lord of Glory is crucified?

The promise is fulfilled. The ascended Son pours out the Spirit. The Spirit has come. The Spirit that “searches everything, even the depth of God” is shed abroad in our hearts (1 Corinthians 2:10). Thanks be to God, we have received the Spirit. And so, “we will eat and be satisfied.”

I’m redesigning the boys’ playhouse. I’m adding a multi-purpose bench; desk by day, bunk by night. And maybe, if I’m lucky, they can take a nap out there as well. But I’m leaving the hinged wall and awning. You see, I know the boys will enjoy it. Their eyes have not seen what I have planned for them. My wisdom is greater than theirs.

God has poured out the Spirit on all flesh. The Spirit is present. It is here. Just as Christ walked by the Spirit, so might we. And so might we have the mind of Christ, that mind which crucifies the wisdom of this age.

Make no mistake — something must die. There are two wisdoms. And no matter how well our wisdom imitates the Spirit’s – no matter how noble or well-intentioned our promises might be — no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.

Justus Hunter is Assistant Professor of Church History at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. His research and teaching interests are in the areas of medieval theology, scholasticism, doctrine of God and Christology. Dr. Hunter’s current research is on the motive for the incarnation from Anselm of Canterbury to John Duns Scotus. This sermon first appeared on Wesleyan Accent (wesleyanaccent.com).

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