Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2016
The Priority of the Promise
Galatians 3:15–20; Genesis 9:11–17; Matthew 5:17–20; Exodus 16:22–26; Genesis 15:1–6
August 5, 2017
He promised to contribute $425,000. The Beaverton, Oregon charity called Lift For The 22, was excited about the large gift that would take their program to the next level. The program was created to help fellow veterans transition back into civilian life by offering them free gym memberships. The name of the organization came from the number of US veteran suicides that happen on average each day. Their byline is, “Saving veteran lives one gym membership at a time.”
Garyn Bowen worked out at one of their gyms and claimed to be a wealthy business owner who wanted to help the program. He said he had served in the military and was the CEO of a large business. He claimed to run a tech company, own multiple houses, and had access to a private jet. Lift For The 22 was thrilled at Bowen’s generosity and immediately created marketing materials and set up a check presentation party at a local restaurant.
But as the cameras rolled, what Bowen handed Dennis Wright, co-owner of Lift For The 22, was an empty envelope. Then Bowen began giving excuses. He said the check was coming. Then he said a new deal with another company would double the gift size. But it all fell apart when someone at the gym where Bowen worked out found their wallet was stolen from their locker. When surveillance video from a nearby store was viewed, Garyn Bowen was the culprit. His generous donation offer was an empty promise. 
In this week’s Sabbath school lesson we consider a promise made to Abraham by God. By faith, not by works of the law, the patriarch was considered righteous and blessed with a miracle child. But if that is true, then why did God give the Israelites the law 430 years after Abraham? Was God’s promise nullified or empty and a new deal was in the works? Was the true covenant between God and Israel based on a combination of faith and law-keeping?
The lesson skillfully points out the difference between a covenant and a will, and reveals that the Greek term used by Paul did not emphasize a treaty between two parties, but rather an agreement based solely on God’s own will. That’s a good thing when you study the life of Abraham. He made plenty of mistakes in his life and certainly couldn’t chalk up a perfect 10 in order to deserve eternal life.
Nothing we do can earn us the right to salvation. No works of the law can ever fulfill some bargaining point to leverage God to hand over the keys to heaven. It is only by faith in God’s grace can we receive the free gift of eternal life. All we need to do is reach out and take the envelope. It’s not an empty promise for Jesus already gave us the right to heaven by dying on Calvary.