Daring Confidence in Unshakable Promises

God’s speech is characterized by truth. His word is void of deceit. According to Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”  Titus 1:2 states that God “cannot lie.” Hebrews 6:18 says it is “impossible for God to lie.”

This means that every biblical promise is solid and trustworthy. A God who keeps covenant is a God who is worthy of our trust. As Luther put it, “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” Daring confidence is always rooted in solid promises.

In this post, I want to introduce you to a rich concept in the Greek language that serves to highlight a specific angle on the promises of God. The concept has been called “emphatic negation.” In the New Testament there are many occasions where an author throws together two different words for “no” to emphasize impossibility.

Daniel Wallace defines this grammatical concept in his book, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics, An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. 

“Emphatic negation is indicated by  οὐ μὴ [both words are translated as ‘no’] plus the aorist subjunctive or less frequently οὐ μὴ plus the future indicative. This is the strongest way to negate something in Greek. One might think that the negative with the subjunctive could not be as strong as the negative with the indicative. However, while  οὐ + the indicative denies the certainty,  οὐ μὴ + subjective denies a potentiality. The negative is not weaker; rather, the affirmation that is being negatived is less firm with the subjunctive. Oὐ μὴ rules out the idea of even being a possibility.”

The following are a few examples of emphatic negation. Consider the richness of what God promises he will never do. The translation of Oὐ μὴ is highlighted in bold.

  • All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).
  • “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will grab them out of my hand” (John 10:28).
  • “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Romans 4:8).
  • “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you'” (Hebrews 13:5).
  • “For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame'” (1 Pet 2:6).

These are mighty promises, each one worthy of meditation and application. There are five things here that God has vowed he will never ever do. It is words like these that invite daring confidence and faith. What happens to a man who believes that God has forever refused to hold his sin against him? What about someone who trusts that God will never allow him to perish or be taken out of his hand? How would you be impacted if you rested in the reality of a God who will not shame you at the last judgment and will never forsake you?

My guess is that you would follow Luther and stake your life on this truth telling God a thousand times over. Here is another article that goes into further depth on this topic and touches on some other key texts: Emphatic Negation: Drawing Out the Riches of God’s Promises. Any thoughts on this topic?

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2 comments

  1. Great post Kory! Though I think I need an interpretation of Wallace’s definition. Maybe the article will help. The same day I got your post, I got the following excerpt from Tozer. It may seems to contradict your post initially, but I think it actually complements it.

    Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with a span and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?—Isaiah 40:12

    We must be concerned with the person and character of God, not the promises. Through promises we learn what God has willed to us, we learn what we may claim as our heritage, we learn how we should pray. But faith itself must rest on the character of God.

    Is this difficult to see? Why are we not stressing this in our evangelical circles? Why are we afraid to declare that people in our churches must come to know God Himself? Why do we not tell them that they must get beyond the point of making God a lifeboat for their rescue or a ladder to get them out of a burning building? How can we help our people get over the idea that God exists just to help run their businesses or fly their airplanes?

    God is not a railway porter who carries your suitcase and serves you. God is God. He made heaven and earth. He holds the world in His hand. He measures the dust of the earth in the balance. He spreads the sky out like a mantle. He is the great God Almighty. He is not your servant. He is your Father, and you are His child. He sits in heaven, and you are on the earth. Faith Beyond Reason, 44.

    “God, I fall on my face before You in worship this morning. Forgive me for those times I have treated You as though You were my servant, somehow expected to meet my demands. I am Your servant, Lord, and I humbly bow before You today. Amen.”

    This is humbling to me. And I think God’s character is the foundation of His promises, as you alluded to in the beginning of your post.

  2. Thanks for the quote. I agree, the character of God is foundational to his promises. Words are only as good as the mouth that speaks them. To trust someone’s word is to ultimately trust them.

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