“Hope, Part III” by Romans
Tonight, we re continuing in our Series on the word, “Hope.” This is Part 3, and we will be wading deeper into the pages of the Epistles of the Apostle Paul. He had much to communicate to his original readers (and us) regarding the concept of the word, “hope,” and there is much we can learn from his writings.
Let's begin, tonight, in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”It may seem unusual to cite a verse in which our topic word, “hope” is aced by another word entirely, namely “charity.”I almost did not use the verse because of that... I say almost because then I consulted Matthew Henry. Here are his thoughts on the subject: “To sum up the excellences of charity, he prefers it not only to gifts, but to other graces, to faith and hope: And now abide faith, hope, and charity; but the greatest of these is charity. True grace is much more excellent than any spiritual gifts whatever. And faith, hope, and love, are the three principal graces, of which charity is the chief, being the end to which the other two are but means.
Continuing: “This is the divine nature, the soul's felicity, or its complacent rest in God, and holy delight in all his saints. And it is everlasting work, when faith and hope shall be no more. Faith fixes on the divine revelation, and assents to that: hope fastens on future felicity, and waits for that: and in heaven faith well be swallowed up in vision, and hope in fruition. There is no room to believe and hope, when we see and enjoy. But love fastens on the divine perfections themselves, and the divine image on the creatures, and our mutual relation both to God and them. These will all shine forth in the most glorious splendours in another world, and there will love be made perfect; there we shall perfectly love God, because he will appear amiable for ever, and our hearts will kindle at the sight, and glow with perpetual devotion.
Continuing, “And there shall we perfectly love one another, when all the saints meet there, when none but saints are there, and saints made perfect. O blessed state! How much surpassing the best below! O amiable and excellent grace of charity! How much does it exceed the most valuable gift, when it outshines every grace, and is the everlasting consummation of them! When faith and hope are at an end, true charity will burn for ever with the brightest flame.”
Barnes' Notes tells us, “And now abideth - “Remains” The word means properly to remain, continue, abide; and is applied to persons remaining in a place, in a state or condition, in contradistinction from removing or changing their place, or passing away. Here it must be understood to be used to denote “permanency,” when the other things of which he had spoken had passed away; and the sense is, that faith, hope, and love would “remain” when the gift of tongues should cease, and the need of prophecy, etc.; that is, these should survive them all...
Continuing: “And the connection certainly requires us to understand him as saying that faith, hope, and love would survive “all” those things of which he had been speaking, and must, therefore, include knowledge as well as miracles and the other endowments of the Holy Spirit. They would survive them all; would be valuable when they should cease; and should, therefore, be mainly sought; and of these the greatest and most important is love...
Continuing: “Most commentators have supposed that Paul is speaking here only of this life, and that he means to say that in this life these three exist; that “faith, hope, and charity exist in this scene “only,” but that in the future world faith and hope will be done away, and therefore the greatest of these is charity” - Bloomfield.”
The Life Application Bible tells us, “In morally corrupt Corinth, love had become a mixed-up term with little meaning. Today people are still confused about love. Love is the greatest of all human qualities, and it is an attribute of God himself. We read in 1 John 4:8, 'But anyone who does not love does not know God—for God is love.' John says, “God is love,” not “Love is God.” Our world, with its shallow and selfish view of love, has turned these words around and contaminated our understanding of love. The world thinks that love is what makes a person feel good and that it is all right to sacrifice moral principles and others’ rights in order to obtain such “love.”
Continuing: “But that isn’t real love; it is the exact opposite—selfishness... And God is not that kind of “love.” Real love is like God, who is holy, just, and perfect. If we truly know God, we will love as he does. Love involves unselfish service to others; to show it gives evidence that you care. Faith is the foundation and content of God’s message; hope is the attitude and focus; love is the action. When faith and hope are in line, you are free to love completely because you understand how God loves.”
Let's move on to our next occurrence of the word, “hope.” We find it in 2 Corinthians 1:7: “And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.”Barnes' Notes elevates the word “hope” far above a mere idle wish, to a level of unwavering confidence. It says regarding, “And our hope of you is steadfast - We have a firm and unshaken hope in regard to you; we have a confident expectation that you will be saved. We believe that you will be enabled so to bear trial as to show that you are sustained by the Christian hope; and so as to advance your own piety, and confirm your prospect of heaven.”
Matthew Henry writes, “In these verses the apostle speaks for the encouragement and edification of the Corinthians; and tells them of his persuasion or stedfast hope that they should receive benefit by the troubles he and his companions in labour and travel had met with, that their faith should not be weakened, but their consolations increased. Note, past experiences are great encouragements to faith and hope, and they lay great obligations to trust in God for time to come. We reproach our experiences if we distrust God in future straits, who hath delivered us in former troubles...
Continuing: “What was desired of the Corinthians upon this account: That they would help together by prayer for them, by social prayer, agreeing and joining together in prayer on their behalf. Note, our trusting in God must not supersede the use of any proper and appointed means; and prayer is one of those means. We should pray for ourselves and for one another. The apostle had himself a great interest in the throne of grace, yet he desires the help of others' prayers. If we thus help one another by our prayers, we may hope for an occasion of giving thanks by many for answer of prayer. And it is our duty not only to help one another with prayer, but in praise and thanksgiving, and thereby to make suitable returns for benefits received.”
Next, we read in 2 Corinthians 10:15: “Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly.”
Barnes' Notes writes, “But having hope ... - So far from this; so far from a desire to enter into the labors of others and quietly enjoying the avails of their industry; and so far even from a desire to sit down ourselves and enjoy the fruit of our own labors, I desire to penetrate other untrodden regions; to encounter new dangers; to go where the gospel has not been planted, and to rear other churches there. I do not, therefore, make these remarks as if I wished even to dispossess the teachers that have entered into my labors. I make them because I wish to be aided by you in extending the gospel further; and I look to your assistance in order that I may have the means of going into the regions where I have not made known the name of the Redeemer.”
The next verse with the word, “hope” in it is an interesting one: We read in Galatians 5:5: “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”
Barnes' Notes says “The hope of righteousness - The hope of justification. They had no other hope of justification than by faith in the Redeemer.”
The Life Application Bible provides a cross reference in Romans 8:23-24, a thought we considered in the opening of this Series: “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”
The Life Application Bible goes on to comment in its notes, “We will be resurrected with bodies, glorified bodies like the body Christ now has in heaven. We have the “foretaste,” the first installment or down payment of future glory—the Holy Spirit—as a guarantee of our resurrection life. It is natural for children to trust their parents, even though parents sometimes fail to keep their promises. Our heavenly Father, however, never makes promises he won’t keep. Nevertheless his plan may take more time than we expect. Rather than acting like impatient children as we wait for God’s will to unfold, we need to have confidence in God’s perfect timing and wisdom.”
Regarding being “saved by hope,” Adam Clarke's Commentary says, “We are supported and are comfortable in the expectation we have of receiving from the hand of our God all the good we need in the troubles and adversities of this life, and of having our bodies raised from corruption and death at the general resurrection.”
Moving forward, in Ephesians 1:16-18, we read, “Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”
What it is that he more particularly desire they should grow in the knowledge of. 1. The hope of his calling: Christianity is our calling. God has called us to it, and on that account it is said to be his calling. There is a hope in this calling; for those who deal with God deal upon trust. And it is a desirable thing to know what this hope of our calling is, to have such an acquaintance with the immense privileges of God's people, and the expectations they have from God, and with respect to the heavenly world, as to be quickened thereby to the utmost diligence and patience in the Christian course. We ought to labour after, and pray earnestly for, a clearer insight into, and a fuller acquaintance with, the great objects of a Christian's hopes.
2. The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. Besides the heavenly inheritance prepared for the saints, there is a present inheritance in the saints; for grace is glory begun, and holiness is happiness in the bud. There is a glory in this inheritance, riches of glory, rendering the Christian more excellent and more truly honourable than all about him: and it is desirable to know this experimentally, to be acquainted with the principles, pleasures, and powers, of the spiritual and divine life. It is a difficult thing to bring a soul to believe in Christ, and to venture its all upon his righteousness, and upon the hope of eternal life. It is nothing less than an almighty power that will work this in us...
The apostle speaks here with a mighty fluency and copiousness of expression, and yet, at the same time, as if he wanted words to express the exceeding greatness of God's almighty power, that power which God exerts towards his people, and by which he raised Christ from the dead, Eph_1:20. That indeed was the great proof of the truth of the gospel to the world: but the transcript of that in ourselves (our sanctification, and rising from the death of sin, in conformity to Christ's resurrection) is the great proof to us. Though this cannot prove the truth of the gospel to another who knows nothing of the matter (there the resurrection of Christ is the proof), yet to be able to speak experimentally, as the Samaritans” when they said...
“We have heard him ourselves, we have felt a mighty change in our hearts,” will make us able to say, with the fullest satisfaction, Now we believe, and are sure, that this is the Christ, the Son of God. Many understand the apostle here as speaking of that exceeding greatness of power which God will exert for raising the bodies of believers to eternal life, even the same mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him, etc. And how desirable a thing must it be to become at length acquainted with that power, by being raised out of the grave thereby unto eternal life!”
As we move forward, this next verse is a powerful verse to me. I have used it in a number of other Bible Studies with other groups, and it has always had a great impact on me and my listeners. We read of our former state before we came to Christ. Paul reminds his original readers in Ephesus, and us today in Ephesians 2:12: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”
Rather than leave his thought without a positive resolution, I'd like to add the next verse, showing that God did not leave us to ourselves – without hope – in that supremely pitiable state. The next verse reads, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”
Matthew Henry writes of this: “In these verses the apostle proceeds in his account of the miserable condition of these Ephesians by nature. Wherefore remember.... As if he had said, “You should remember what you have been, and compare it with what you now are, in order to humble yourselves and to excite your love and thankfulness to God.” Note, converted sinners ought frequently to reflect upon the sinfulness and misery of the state they were in by nature. Gentiles in the flesh, that is, living in the corruption of their natures, and being destitute of circumcision, the outward sign of an interest in the covenant of grace.
The apostle describes the misery of their case in several particulars, “At that time, while you were Gentiles, and in an unconverted state, you were,” 1. “In a Christless condition, without the knowledge of the Messiah, and without any saving interest in him or relation to him.” It is true of all unconverted sinners, all those who are destitute of faith, that they have no saving interest in Christ; and it must be a sad and deplorable thing for a soul to be without Christ. Being without Christ, they were,
2. Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel; they did not belong to Christ's church, and had no communion with it, that being confined to the Israelitish nation. It is no small privilege to be placed in the church of Christ, and to share with the members of it in the advantages peculiar to it.
3. They are strangers from the covenants of promise. The covenant of grace has ever been the same for substance, though, having undergone various additions and improvements in the several ages of the church, it is called covenants; and the covenants of promise, because it is made up of promises, and particularly contains the great promise of the Messiah, and of eternal life through him. Now the Ephesians, in their gentilism, were strangers to this covenant, having never had any information nor overture of it; and all unregenerate sinners are strangers to it, as they have no interest in it. Those who are without Christ, and so have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant, have none in the promises of the covenant.
4. They had no hope, that is, beyond this life - no well-grounded hope in God, no hope of spiritual and eternal blessings. Those who are with out Christ, and strangers from the covenant, can have no good hope; for Christ and the covenant are the ground and foundation of all the Christian's hopes. They were in a state of distance and estrangement from God: Without God in the world; not without some general knowledge of a deity, for they worshipped idols, but living without any due regard to him, any acknowledged dependence on him, and any special interest in him. The words are, atheists in the world; for, though they worshipped many gods, yet they were without the true God.
The apostle proceeds (in Ephesians_2:13) further to illustrate the happy change that was made in their state: But now, in Christ Jesus, you who sometimes were far off, etc. They were far off from Christ, from his church, from the promises, from the Christian hope, and from God himself; and therefore from all good, like the prodigal son in the far country: this had been represented in the preceding verses. Unconverted sinners remove themselves at a distance from God, and God puts them at a distance: He beholds the proud afar off. “But now in Christ Jesus, etc., upon your conversion, by virtue of union with Christ, and interest in him by faith, you are made nigh.”
They were brought home to God, received into the church, taken into the covenant, and possessed of all other privileges consequent upon these. Note, the saints are a people near to God. Salvation is far from the wicked; but God is a help at hand to his people; and this is by the blood of Christ, by the merit of his sufferings and death. Every believing sinner owes his nearness to God, and his interest in his favour, to the death and sacrifice of Christ.
We read in Barnes' Notes, “Having no hope - The apostle does not mean to affirm that they did not cherish any hope, for this is scarcely true of any man; but that they were without any proper ground of hope. It is true of perhaps nearly all people that they cherish some hope of future happiness. But the ground on which they do this is not well understood by themselves, nor do they in general regard it as a matter worth particular inquiry. Some rely on morality; some on forms of religion; some on the doctrine of universal salvation;
all who are impenitent believe that they do not “deserve” eternal death, and expect to be saved by “justice.” Such hopes, however, must be unfounded. No hope of life in a future world can be founded on a proper basis which does not rest on some promise of God, or some assurance that he will save us; and these hopes, therefore, which people take up they know not why, are delusive and vain.
And without God in the world - “atheists;” that is, those who had no knowledge of the true God. This is the last specification of their miserable condition before they were converted; and it is an appropriate crowning of the climax. What an expression! To be without God - without God in his own world, and where he is all around us! To have no evidence of his favor, no assurance of his love, no hope of dwelling with him! The meaning, as applied to the pagan Ephesians, was, that they had no knowledge of the true God. This was true of the pagan, and in an important sense also it is true of all impenitent sinners, and was once true of all who are now Christians...
Continuing: “They had no God. They did not worship him, or love him, or serve him, or seek his favors, or act with reference to him and his glory. Nothing can be a more appropriate and striking description of a sinner now than to say that he is “without God in the world.” He lives, and feels, and acts, as if there were no God. He neither worships him in secret, nor in his family, nor in public. He acts with no reference to his will. He puts no confidence in his promises, and fears not when he threatens; and were it announced to him that there “is no God,” it would produce no change in his plan of life, or in his emotions.
Continuing: “The announcement that the emperor of China, or the king of Siam, or the sultan of Constantinople, was dead, would produce some emotion, and might change some of his commercial arrangements; but the announcement that there is no God would interfere with none of his plans, and demand no change of life. And, if so, what is man in this beautiful world without a God? A traveler to eternity without a God! Standing over the grave without a God! An immortal being without a God! A man - fallen, sunk, ruined, with no God to praise, to love, to confide in; with no altar, no sacrifice, no worship, no hope; with no Father in trial, no counselor in perplexity, no support in death! Such is the state of man by nature. Such are the effects of sin.”
As we move forward, we encounter another occurrence of the word hope in Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. We read in Ephesians 4:4: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;”
Matthew Henery writes, “Consider how many unities there are that are the joy and glory of our Christian profession. There should be one heart; for there is one body, and one spirit, Eph_4:4. Two hearts in one body would be monstrous. If there be but one body, all that belong to that body should have one heart. The Catholic church is one mystical body of Christ, and all good Christians make up but one body, incorporated by one charter, that of the gospel, animated by one Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who by his gifts and graces quickens, enlivens, and governs that body. If we belong to Christ, we are all actuated by one and the same Spirit, and therefore should be one. Even as you are called in one hope of your calling...
Continuing: “Hope is here put for its object, the thing hoped for, the heavenly inheritance, to the hope of which we are called. All Christians are called to the same hope of eternal life. There is one Christ that they all hope in, and one heaven that they are all hoping for; and therefore they should be of one heart. One Lord (Eph_4:5), that is, Christ, the head of the church, to whom, by God's appointment, all Christians are immediately subject. One faith, that is, the gospel, containing the doctrine of the Christian faith: or, it is the same grace of faith (faith in Christ) whereby all Christians are saved. One baptism, by which we profess our faith, being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and so the same sacramental covenant, whereby we engage ourselves to the Lord Christ. One God and Father of all...
Continuing: “One God, who owns all the true members of the church for his children; for he is the Father of all such by special relation, as he is the Father of all men by creation: and he is above all, by his essence, and with respect to the glorious perfections of his nature, and as he has dominion over all creatures and especially over his church, and through all, by his providence upholding and governing them: and in you all, in all believers, in whom he dwells as in his holy temple, by his Spirit and special grace. If then there be so many ones, it is a pity but there should be one more - one heart, or one soul.
2. Consider the variety of gifts that Christ has bestowed among Christians: But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Though the members of Christ's church agree in so many things, yet there are some things wherein they differ: but this should breed no difference of affection among them, since they are all derived from the same bountiful author and designed for the same great ends. Unto every one of us Christians is given grace, some gift of grace, in some kind or degree or other, for the mutual help of one another. Unto every one of us ministers is given grace; to some a greater measure of gifts, to others a less measure. The different gifts of Christ's ministers proved a great occasion of contention among the first Christians: one was for Paul, and another for Apollos...
Continuing: “The apostle shows that they had no reason to quarrel about them, but all the reason in the world to agree in the joint use of them, for common edification; because all was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ, in such a measure as seemed best to Christ to bestow upon every one. Observe, All the ministers, and all the members of Christ, owe all the gifts and graces that they are possessed of to him; and this is a good reason why we should love one another, because to every one of us is given grace. All to whom Christ has given grace, and on whom he has bestowed his gifts (though they are of different sizes, different names, and different sentiments, yet), ought to love one another.”
Barnes' Notes adds, “In one hope of your calling - In one hope “resulting from” your being called into his kingdom... The meaning here is, that Christians have the same hope, and they should therefore be one. They are looking forward to the same heaven; they hope for the same happiness beyond the grave. It is not as on earth among the people of the world, where, there is a variety of hopes - where one hopes for pleasure, and another for honor, and another for gain; but there is the prospect of the same inexhaustible joy. This “hope” is suited to promote union...
Continuing: “There is no rivalry - for there is enough for all. “Hope” on earth does not always produce union and harmony. Two men hope to obtain the same office; two students hope to obtain the same honor in college; two rivals hope to obtain the same hand in marriage - and the consequence is jealousy, contention, and strife. The reason is, that but one can obtain the object. Not so with the crown of life - with the rewards of heaven. All may obtain “that” crown; all may share those rewards. How “can” Christians contend in an angry manner with each other, when the hope of dwelling in the same heaven swells their bosoms and animates their hearts?”
And, finally for tonight, regarding this verse the Life Application Bible tells us, “All believers in Christ belong to one body; all are united under one head, Christ himself. Each believer has God-given abilities that can strengthen the whole body. Your special ability may seem small or large, but it is yours to use in God’s service. Ask God to use your unique gifts to contribute to the strength and health of the body of believers.”
There is much yet to explore where the word and concept of “hope” are concerned in the New Testament. We will have to defer our examination, God willing, until next week at this same time.
I hope to see all of you then...
This concludes this Evening's Discussion, “Hope, Part III.”
This Discussion was originally presented “live” on September 13th, 2017.
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