The Blessing of Hope - Part 3 (series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
Things will not go on forever as they are now. God’s marvelous grace, that brings salvation, will deliver us from the corruption of sin and death, even in the body. These bodies will be changed if we are living when the Rapture takes place. If we die and the flesh returns to dust, these bodies will be raised incorruptible and we will be like the Lord Jesus Christ. According to Titus 2:11-14, the grace of God that brings salvation teaches us to look for “that blessed hope” and the glorious appearing of our great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us, so that He might redeem us and make unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Yes, in hope we are saved.
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
The attitude of hope is a distinctive Christian characteristic. It implies that there is more in store for the Christian than anything he has today. Our hope for deliverance from the presence of sin and all its damage to our lives is based on the promise of God and is therefore as certain as if we had already received it. Therefore, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. This expression of patience is a fitting conclusion to this chapter which deals with the provision of assurance.
Looking to a future redemption of the body provides the opportunity for our faith to grow and mature. Consequently, the virtue of patience is developed in addition to hope and faith. Therefore, although we are assured of eternal heirship, nevertheless we develop patience in waiting for the coming of the Lord.
You see, faith, hope, and love are the vital parts of the believer’s life. There would be no hope if they were all realized. Someday, hope will pass away in our attainment of glory. In fact, both faith and hope will pass away in the glory that will be revealed in us. Only love abides.
The redemption of the body is the final step of salvation, and we were saved in anticipation of that. The redemption of the body has not yet occurred, but we are to eagerly anticipate it and patiently wait for it, while we may experience suffering in the present.
Glory refers to the state of blessedness into which believers are to enter through being transformed into the likeness of Christ.
Revealed in (as well as to and through) us, refers to the salvation and glory that can be seen in believers as they progress through sanctification to be more like Jesus. In addition, it looks forward in time to the resurrection of the body (v. 23), and the subsequent complete Christlikeness which is the believer's eternal glory. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Phil.3 20-21). When the Lord Jesus comes from heaven, He will change these bodies of ours.
There is nothing vile or evil about the human body in itself. The evil lies in the wrong uses to which it is put. However, it is a lowly body, a body of humiliation. It is subject to wrinkles, scars, age, suffering, sickness, and death. It limits and cramps us! The Lord will transform it into a body of glory. The full extent of the meaning of this we do not know. However, we do know that it will no longer be subject to decay or death, to the limitations of time or of natural barriers. It will be a real body, yet perfectly suited to conditions in heaven. It will be like the resurrection body of the Lord Jesus.
waits—to remain in readiness or expectation. In Scripture, the word “wait” normally suggests the anxious, yet confident, expectation by God’s people that the Lord will intervene on their behalf. One example is waiting for answers to prayer—“Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You, I wait all the day” (Ps. 25:5). God wants to show you His ways, teach you His paths, and lead you in His truths. The Word of God and prayer always go together, so spend time in His Word. If you ask Him sincerely, He will answer you clearly. Waiting, therefore, is the working out of hope.
Futility refers to the inability to
achieve a goal or purpose. Because of Man’s sin, God cursed the physical universe (Gen. 3:17-19), and now no part of creation fulfills God’s original purpose.
Hope—confident expectancy. In the Bible, the word “hope” has two meanings:
1. The act of hoping—“Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. (1 Cor. 9:10). That is, of being rewarded. It is only natural and right, but more than that, it is scriptural that one should expect profit from his labors.
2. The thing hoped for—“because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel” (Col. 1:5). In this verse, hope does not mean the attitude of waiting or looking forward to something, but rather it refers to that for which a person hopes. Here it means the fulfillment of our salvation when we shall be taken to heaven and will enter into our eternal inheritance. Hope does not arise from the individual’s desires or wishes but from God, who is Himself the believer’s hope: “My hope is in You” (Ps. 39:7). Genuine hope is not wishful thinking, but a firm assurance about things that are unseen and still in the future.
Hope distinguishes the Christian from the unbeliever, who has no hope—“that at that time you 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. (Eph. 2:12). Paul speaks of the misery and unhappiness of the lost. Being without Christ, we were all at one time: without rest (Mt 11:28); without life (Jn 14:6), without light (Jn 8:12); without salvation (Acts 4:12); and without peace (Col 1:20). Without a doubt, a Christian is one in whom hope resides.
Firstfruits - the firstborn of the flocks and the first vegetables and grains to be gathered at harvest time. The Hebrew people thought of these as belonging to God in a special sense. They were dedicated or presented to God on the day of the firstfruits, a part of the celebration of PENTECOST (Num. 28:26; 2 Chr. 31:5).
Adoption—an expression used by St. Paul in reference to the present and prospective privileges of Christians. Rom. 8:15, 23; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5. He probably alludes to the Roman custom by which a person not having children of his own might adopt as his son one born of other parents. The relationship was to all intents and purposes the same as existed between a natural father and son. The term is used figuratively to show the close relationship to God of the Christian. Gal. 4:4, 5; Rom. 8:14-17. He is received into God’s family from the world and becomes a child and heir of God.
Perseverance— the steadfast effort to follow God’s commands and to do His work. The New Testament makes it clear that faith alone can save. But it makes it equally clear that perseverance in doing good works is the greatest indication that an individual’s faith is genuine (James 2:14–26). Indeed, perseverance springs from a faithful trust that God has been steadfast toward His people. Through persevering in God’s work, Christians prove their deep appreciation for God’s saving grace (1 Cor. 15:57–58). As a result of perseverance, the Christian can expect not only to enhance the strength of the church but also to build up strength of character (Rom. 5:3–4). In short, Christians can expect to become closer to God. They learn that they can persevere primarily because God is intimately related to them (Rom. 8:25–27) and especially because they have the assurance of a final reward in heaven (1 John 5:13).
Paul contrasts the sufferings of the present with the glorious hope for the future. Paul had suffered greatly for the sake of the gospel. Yet he acknowledged that those sufferings were nothing compared to the future glory he anticipated. God’s children will participate in the glory of Christ, and they will experience complete conformity to Christ. The suffering we experience or see in our world does not discourage us, because we have hope. The presence of God’s Spirit within, assures us that the best is yet to come. The Jews celebrated the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost by dedicating the firstfruits of the wheat harvest to the Lord (Lev. 23:15–21). Believers have received the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit as God’s down payment or guarantee that we will be eternally with Him.