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The Promise of the Father
By David A. DePra
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry you in the city of Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)
Jesus told the disciples that He was going to send them, "The Promise of the Father." What is, "The Promise of the Father?"
Well, without leaving this verse, we are able to see two things for certain. First, minutes before Jesus ascended, The Promise of the Father had NOT yet been sent – for He was at that time promising TO SEND IT.
There is no confusion or uncertainty here. Jesus was standing on the Mount of Olives, after His death and resurrection, and only minutes before His ascension. He said The Promise of the Father was TO BE given. Thus, according to Jesus, "The Promise of the Father," was, at this point in time, NOT YET GIVEN. Sure. On this occasion, He said, "I WILL send the Promise of the Father….so wait in Jerusalem UNTIL I DO."
The second thing we are able to prove from our verse is that The Promise of the Father WAS sent in Acts 2. It is clear that what the disciples received in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit came upon them, was The Promise of the Father. Acts 2 ended the ten days they had tarried, in obedience to this instruction from Jesus, and was the day they were, "endued with power from on high."
If we had no other passages to prove that The Promise of the Father was given in Acts 2, Jesus’ words from Luke 24 would be sufficient. But just to seal this proof, we need only read Acts 1:
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:4-5)
Again we see that according to Jesus, what was going to happen in Acts 2 was The Promise of the Father. But note: In addition, we see that Jesus referring to this promise of the Father by another name: The baptism with the Holy Ghost.
This proves that The Promise of the Father and the baptism with the Holy Ghost are the SAME thing – in other words, the baptism with the Holy Spirit IS The Promise of the Father, that is, it fulfills that promise. The disciples received this ONE promise in Acts 2, after they tarried in Jerusalem. We can now proceed to find out exactly what was contained in this promise; in this baptism.
The Promise of Sonship
The Promise of the Father was given in Acts 2. So how you define Acts 2 is how you define The Promise of the Father. And visa versa – how you define The Promise of the Father is how you define Acts 2. This is inescapable. The Promise of the Father and what happened in the upper room in Acts 2 are ONE and the SAME event.
So the question is: What is The Promise of the Father?
Let’s begin by going back and discovering where the term, "The Promise of the Father," came from. This will not be hard. The Promise of the Father is precisely the promise that God made to Abraham.
I’m not going to go through the entire story of Abraham. It is well known. God promised Abraham a son, and Isaac was eventually born. Then Abraham was called upon to sacrifice Isaac, and when God saw that he was willing, God pronounced a further blessing upon him. God promised that, "the seed of Abraham," would bless the entire world:
By myself have I sworn, says the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Gen. 22:16-18)
Now, Paul declares that Abraham’s seed is, in fact, Jesus Christ:
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He says not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Gal. 3:16)
So, when God said to Abraham, "And in thy seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed," God was NOT talking about Isaac. No. He was talking about Jesus Christ. Christ was THE SEED OF ABRAHAM – He was The Promise of the Father – that God originally made to Abraham. Yes, Isaac would be the son of Abraham, but it was through Isaac that the real SEED would eventually come -- Jesus Christ – and all would be blessed through Him.
Originally, the blessings of Abraham would be restricted to the nation that was born of him. Isaac gave birth to Jacob, and Jacob to the twelve tribes that eventually became Israel. But eventually, the real SEED, the Messiah, would come from that nation, and carry all of the spiritual promises of God. But not just for Israel. No. God had a bigger plan – one that could not be limited to Israel. God sent Christ to redeem the entire world, and to release the promise to all.
The NT teaching on how this works is clearly shown in Galatians. Paul says that if you have your faith in Jesus Christ that you ARE a child of Abraham. You are a child and a seed of Abraham because, by faith, you are, "born again in Christ – and Christ is THE SEED and child of Abraham.
Paul says this directly:
Know you therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham…..And if you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to PROMISE. (Gal. 3:7, 29)
Now ask: How do you become Abraham’s seed? By faith in Christ – or to elaborate – by being BORN AGAIN in Christ. Sure. We are all born, "in Adam," through natural birth. But through death and resurrection, we are born again in Christ. And if we are born again, we are a son or daughter of God – IN Jesus Christ. But Paul tells us what the means: If we are IN Christ, then we are, by the ONENESS we have with Him through the new birth, Abraham’s seed. WE are that because HE is that, and WE are in HIM! This makes us SONS of God and means that we are heirs according to promise. What promise? The Promise of the Father – going all the way back to Abraham!
This is all ONE package, indeed, ONE promise. You cannot divide it up into TWO promises. Notice: Faith in Christ = the new birth = son of God IN Christ = Abraham’s seed = heirs according to The Promise of the Father to Abraham. All the same PROMISE.
God promised Abraham that, "his seed," would inherit the promise. Jesus Christ is Abraham’s seed. But if we are born again, we are IN HIM, and that makes US Abraham’s seed as well – it makes US sons of God -- and therefore makes us joint heirs with Christ.
We have already seen that The Promise of the Father was given in Acts 2. No one denies this. Therefore, the question is what The Promise of the Father IS. Lest anyone continue to doubt that The Promise of the Father was the very same promise given to Abraham, we need only read a few more passages:
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the PROMISE of the Spirit through faith. (Gal. 3:14)
For the PROMISE, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the PROMISE made of none effect: Because the law works wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the PROMISE might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all. (Rom. 4:13-16)
For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of PROMISE: but God gave it to Abraham by PROMISE. (Gal. 3:18)
It is impossible to read these verses and miss the fact that The Promise of the Father was the promise God gave to Abraham. They are the SAME promise – the ONE promise. As we have seen, that promise was embodied in Jesus Christ, and given to the disciples in Acts 2.
The Promise of the Father to Abraham was of a son, yes, but sonship is a matter of INHERITANCE. Read Genesis 12 and on. You will clearly see this. God promised to GIVE to Abraham an inheritance – one that could be passed on to his heirs. Aside from the physical fulfillment of this promise, we have seen that the entire thing has a greater spiritual application. The true heir of Abraham – who is the only one who can inherit the promise of the Father TO Abraham -- is Abraham’s seed: Jesus Christ. Thus, the only way for US to become an heir of Abraham – the only way for US to become the seed of Abraham—is through the new birth IN CHRIST. By being made one with Christ through death and resurrection, WE are Abraham’s seed, and joint heirs according to The Promise of the Father. (see again Gal. 3:29)
Inheritance is based on the family into which you are BORN. We are all born, "in Adam." But there is NO inheritance for anyone in Adam. No. Adam lost everything when he rejected God. But Christ redeemed it all. Therefore, the only way for us to inherit what God has for us is to be BORN AGAIN in Christ Jesus, and become Abraham’s seed. But again, since Acts 2 was when The Promise of the Father was fulfilled, this means that it was Acts 2 when the disciples were BORN AGAIN in Christ.
Acts 2 fulfilled The Promise of the Father. Acts 2 was the new birth. Acts 2 was Christ in those disciples. Acts 2 was the ONE promise and ONE blessing of God of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 was the inheritance God promised to Abraham being given to his seed:
That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Eph. 1:10-14)
According to this passage, it is IN CHRIST that we receive an inheritance. The Holy Spirit in us is a down payment, or, "earnest," of that full inheritance – because in this life, in this body, we cannot fully experience it. But the down payment nevertheless represents the whole. In fact, it is by the Holy Spirit that we are SEALED.
Now he which established us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. (2 Cor. 1:21-22)
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (Eph. 4:30)
Promise of SONSHIP
The Promise of the Father is essentially a promise of SONSHIP. But included in SONSHIP is really everything Christianity IS. For you cannot be a son of God unless you are BORN AGAIN – so The Promise of the Father includes the new birth. And if you are born again, you are in line for the inheritance of a son – which means that inheritance is likewise included in The Promise of the Father, or sonship. And of course, most important of all, sonship is the result of being IN THE SON. As we have been seeing, it is only because we are IN Christ that we are sons – Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to PROMISE. Thus, we see that God’s promise to Abraham was the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
The reason you and I are sons of God is because we have received Jesus Christ – who is the seed of Abraham – by faith. This births us anew and brings us into a relationship of a SON with the Father, and make us joint-heirs with Christ.
But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal. 4:4-7)
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Rom. 8:14-17)
First Time Ever
The Promise of the Father is embodied in the Person of Jesus Christ, and therefore, if we have CHRIST IN US through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have received The Promise of the Father. In Christ, we are Abraham’s seed, and HEIRS according TO PROMISE. In Christ, we are SONS – indwelt with the earnest of our inheritance, the Holy Spirit.
All of this was received for the first time by God’s people in Acts 2. Jesus said so. He said, "I’m ascending to heaven. Tarry in Jerusalem because I am going to send you The Promise of the Father."
Have we realized that before The Promise of the Father was given in Acts 2 that no one had ever before been born again? That no one had ever yet had the Holy Spirit IN THEM? That is a fact. Read the following:
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:37-39)
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16-17)
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (John 16:7)
Under the Old Covenant, you could be legally saved by putting your faith in Christ – by keeping the OT laws and ordinances. But you could not be born again. The Holy Spirit could be WITH you, but not IN YOU – which is what the new birth IS. This was the case with Jesus’ own disciples, as we see from John 14:16-17 above. We also see this illustrated many times in the book of Acts, where people had only been baptized with John’s baptism for the remission of sins, but who later had to receive the Holy Spirit WITHIN them. For them, this was not a matter of receiving a SECOND blessing or baptism, but a matter of them receiving the one and only Promise of the Father, which was not possible to receive until Acts 2.
Jesus plainly said that the Holy Spirit – The Promise of the Father – could not be sent until Acts 2. The reason is now more clear: Jesus had to finish His redemptive work. He had to die, be raised, and just as importantly, ASCEND to heaven. We see from John 16:7 above that the ascension was a MUST before the Holy Spirit could be sent. Why?
The Holy Spirit could not DESCEND until Jesus ASCENDED. This is because Jesus had to completely finish His redemptive work and take it UP to God, before the Holy Spirit could bring it DOWN to us. The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to take everything Jesus IS, and everything Jesus DID, and both reveal them to us, and make them real in our experience. None of this was possible while Jesus remained here bodily – even after His resurrection. No. He had to ascend. Clearly, Jesus could not dwell IN people through the Spirit all the while He was standing there bodily. No. He had to first ascend before His people could be baptized into Him through the Spirit.
Not only do we have the words of Christ quoted above to the effect that the Spirit had never been given, and could not yet be given, and had not yet dwelt IN people, but we have all of the teaching of John 14 through 16 where Jesus continually says, "When the Comforter comes…..," which proves the Comforter had NOT yet come. These passages, and many more, prove that Acts 2 was the first time Jesus ever dwelt in anyone through the Holy Spirit, and consequently, was the first time anyone was ever born again into the kingdom of God. But there is even yet another big proof to which we can turn to verify:
Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.(Mat 11:11-14)
Notice that Jesus says that John was the greatest human being that had ever been born since Adam. Of course John is said to literally embody the Old Testament. It was all summed up in him -- he was, "the voice crying in the wilderness," to make way for the Lord -- which is really in large part what the OT was in written form. So John was the greatest human being of all -- and this would include being the greatest of all who were saved under the Old Covenant system.
But Jesus said that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John. This is direct proof that John had NOT been born again into that kingdom. The statement would be nonsense otherwise. It could not be more clear. It is as if Jesus is listing all who were ever born of woman to that point, and John is at the top of THAT list. But then Jesus makes a HIGHER list of those born again in the kingdom -- no one had been yet -- but comparatively, John would still be below the least on that list, howbeit on the top of the Old Covenant list. Thus, John could not have been born again into the kingdom, if the least in the kingdom were greater than he. The conclusion is that if John was the greatest of all men under the Old Covenant, and he wasn't born again into the kingdom, then surely no one else was born again up to that point because everyone born of woman was less than him.
If you look at the passage, it would seem that the entire point Jesus is making, other than to affirm John's calling, is to show the VERY FACT that no one is yet born again -- because if John is less than the least who are born again, then certainly he was not born again, and neither are the rest of mankind under him. This proves no one was born again under the Old Covenant -- meaning Acts 2 was the first time anyone was born again.
Now, just as an aside, the rest of the passage becomes clear. Jesus said, And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." This is not a praise Jesus was giving to those who would take the kingdom by force -- because how can you take the kingdom by force? The answer is, you can't, and it is WRONG to try. So what is Jesus saying? His words are built upon the fact that He has just said that no one can yet been born again into the kingdom. He is condemning those who would try to enter in ANOTHER WAY -- take it by force, rather than be given it by grace in Christ. Even the disciples tried to do that -- they wanted the kingdom their way. This was the constant temptation of Satan on Jesus -- bring the kingdom without the Cross. The rest of the chapter follows this thought because it is a rebuke to those who would not listen to Him and come into the kingdom the right way -- but tried to take the kingdom by force, through the efforts of the flesh. Note especially Matt. 11:28-30.
But back to the point: If John the Baptist, who Jesus said was the greatest ever born of a woman, was the still LESS than the LEAST of those born again into the kingdom of God, then it proves that John was NOT born again into that kingdom. There is no other conclusion possible. And if John, the greatest of all men of NATURAL birth, was not born again of the SPIRIT, it is certain that no one else had ever been born again either. This means Acts 2 was the first time anyone was ever born again through the Holy Spirit; the first time Christ ever came to dwell IN a person. Sure. For Christ in us is what the NEW BIRTH IS!
Not a Second Blessing
Despite the very clear teaching of the Bible, there are nevertheless millions of Christians today, mostly charismatics, who believe that Acts 2 was NOT the first time anyone was born again, or the first time Christ dwelt in anyone through the Holy Spirit. These folks believe that Acts 2 was a, "second blessing" – in addition to Christ already being in the disciples – and that it was a greater FULLNESS of the Holy Spirit.
We have already seen that this is impossible. Jesus clearly identified the Acts 2 event as the fulfillment of The Promise of the Father. And we have seen that The Promise of the Father is the new birth, Christ in us, and everything HE holds. Thus, the teaching of the second blessing is error. In Acts 2, the disciples received the ONE and ONLY blessing of Christ in them.
The Promise of the Father, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, the new birth, salvation through Christ in us, being in the Spirit, and the Spirit of Sonship are all ONE PROMISE, and all received when we receive Christ. One verse from Romans refers to this same promise using many different terms to describe this ONE event:
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. (Rom 8:9-11)
Read this verse again. It is clear that Paul is talking about the ONE Spirit, of the ONE Christ, of the ONE Father, received through ONE promise and blessing. There is not a second blessing received on top of salvation. This is never taught in the Bible.
Once we establish this as the Truth, everything else begins to line up. For example, we are able to see that passages like John 20:22, where Jesus, after His resurrection, tells the disciples, "receive you the Holy Spirit" – we are able to see that He was talking about the Holy Spirit being WITH them, and not yet IN them, because as we have seen, it was impossible for anyone to receive the Holy Spirit before Jesus ascended. Jesus Himself said so, and He would not contradict Himself. Furthermore, we are able to see that all of the people in the book of Acts who received the baptism with the Holy Spirit – but who were not in the upper room – had not already been born again before they received the Holy Spirit. They had salvation before that point only through the Old Covenant. They did not have the Spirit IN THEM, but had received only the baptism of John, who Jesus Himself said had not been born again. Furthermore, we are than able to understand why there is not the slightest hint in the entirety of the NT of so much as the possibility that a person could be born again, but not receive the second blessing. Not one teaching to that effect, and not one exhortation to anyone to go on to receive a second blessing. Ever. But what we do have is the continual teaching of the apostles to the effect that IN CHRIST we have ALL THINGS.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit is not a second blessing on top of salvation. Rather, it IS salvation – it is Christ received through the Holy Spirit. And the purpose of this baptism is to take everything of Jesus and make Him real to us, and in us. We are to become living witnesses unto Christ.
In Acts 2, on the very day that the disciples received the baptism with the Holy Spirit – The Promise of the Father – Peter gave the very first sermon under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In it he clearly stated much Truth about The Promise of the Father:
This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he has shed forth this, which you now see and hear….Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. (Acts 2:32-39)
Peter is saying that The Promise of the Father was fulfilled that day – "He (Jesus) has shed forth THIS, which you now see and hear." And at the end of the sermon, many in the crowd were convicted of their sin. They asked what they needed to do to be saved. Now note: These people were NOT yet saved. They were not disciples. Many of them actually helped to crucify Christ. So when they asked what they needed to do be saved, Peter told them, "Repent and believe, and if you do, you will receive the Holy Spirit." And then Peter says, "For THE PROMISE is unto you….."
Clearly, THE PROMISE is the same Promise of the Father that the disciples received that day. And Peter describes it as salvation – read the passage again. This cannot be escaped. There is no mention of any need to receive a second blessing. There is only ONE salvation, and ONE experience God has to offer – and ONE PROMISE that He does offer to ALL in Christ Jesus.
All in Christ
It is essential for Christians to understand that IN CHRIST – who is The Promise of the Father given to us through the Holy Spirit – that IN CHRIST we do receive ALL things. We don’t receive SOME things. No. In Christ we receive all things, for when we receive Him, we receive the ONE and ONLY Promise of the Father.
Paul continually emphasizes this in his many letters:
In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col. 2:3)
And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Col. 2:10)
Christ, who is our life. (Col. 3:4)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (Eph. 1:3)
But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (1 Cor. 1:30)
The fact that we receive all things in the Person of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit does not do away with the need for growth. This is why despite receiving all things you and I don’t seem to know it, or experience them. They are all wrapped up in Christ – and it is only through the on-going revelation of Him, and our experiencing of Him, that we come into them.
Have we yet recognized that God has wrapped up everything in His Son? That there is no Truth apart from knowing Christ? That there is no righteousness but HIS? That even sanctification is the result of Christ in us coming to be manifest through us, and coming to govern us? This is all about Jesus Christ – for He is The Promise of the Father.
Again – the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to make Jesus real to us, and in us, and to bring everything He has done into our actual experience. The biggest indication that someone is under the work of the Spirit is that they become more and more governed by, and focused upon, and OBSESSED, if you will, with Christ. One of the biggest points in this work of the Spirit is to bring about our complete surrender to Jesus as Lord. When we surrender to Jesus as Lord there is a great release of the Holy Spirit, for such a surrender is a relinquishment of all that previously hindered that release.
All of this is part of The Promise of the Father – Jesus Christ. That through CHRIST IN US we might become formed together with Him and become witnesses unto Christ to God’s glory.
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