“Hope” by Gerald Cowan

On any list of important words, three that are most likely to appear are faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13). We have discussed faith in this column, and are now ready to discuss hope. We will discuss love in the next installment.

As noted before, “the faith” includes the whole Christian life and way, and exists independently of personal belief or action. But personal faith is required if one is to have any benefits from God.

Hope is a pivotal word on which many good things turn. We would not do certain things if there was no hope of success, no hope of benefit from them.

To get a feel for the importance of hope just think of the negative, hopeless. Despair means “without hope” (2 Corinthians 1:8). Surely the saddest condition in all the world, if one understands it properly, is having no hope and being without God in the present world (Ephesians 2:12). Hope does not “spring eternal in the human breast.” Many give up hope and end in despair. However, God has not departed from us, and He has not left us without hope of better things to come, salvation, and eternal life in His heaven (Titus 3:7; 1 John 2:25).

A PROPER DEFINITION OF HOPE

The word hope is frequently misused. We cannot exercise it properly unless we know what it is and is not.

For some, hope simply means desire. Desire without expectation is not hope at all.

The New Testament word is ELPIS and is invariably used as a positive thing – the expectation of something good to come, a good hope, not a bad hope or dread. Some Old Testament cognates emphasize trust and confidence (BETACH, Psalm 16:9), or desire and expectation (TIQVAH, Job 11:18; Psalm 71:5).

The proper practical definition of hope is “desire plus expectation.” If either of these ingredients is missing, it cannot be called hope. One may desire something without expecting to receive it.  That is not hope.  Expectation alone, without desire – as for example, expecting punishment (Hebrews 10:26-27) – is not hope.  Hope is always for the future, the desire and expectation of something not yet received. You do not hope to get something if you already have it (Romans 8:24).

It is also important to know that hope does not necessarily imply morality or righteousness.  One can hope for (desire and expect) a difficulty or misfortune for some other person.  One can hope for (desire and expect) an immoral or improper thing for oneself. However, we usually use the word hope in a good, constructive, and appropriate sense. We hope for a good or proper outcome to circumstances, etc.

RESULTS FOR THE CHRISTIAN WHEN HOPE IS PLACED IN CHRIST

The one hope that somehow includes all others is the hope of salvation from sin and the consequences of sin.  “And let us take as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8).  Other things we can hope for as saved persons include:

  • Glory

We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2, 4).  Christ in you is your hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

  • Righteousness

For through the Spirit we wait for the hope of righteousness which is by faith (Galatians 5:5).

  • Assurance of reward from God

Things that accompany salvation….God is not unrighteous to forget your ministry…..Show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end…..by faith and patience inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:9-12).

  • A place in Christ’s spiritual house

[His] house we are, if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope firm to the end (Hebrews 3:6).

  • Stability

We have hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast (Hebrews 6:19).

  • Eternal life, inheritance in heaven

In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18).

Being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7);  Begotten again to a living hope…to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-9).

  • Confidence and boldness in speaking to others

Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).

Since we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech (2 Corinthians 3:12).

JESUS CHRIST IS OUR HOPE IF WE OBEY HIS GOSPEL

Jesus Christ is our Hope (1 Timothy 1:1).  He not only gives us hope, but is our hope – the hope of the individual, the church, and the world personally, collectively, nationally, internationally, and universally.  He is the only real hope we have for escaping judgment and condemnation. He is our hope in every sense of the word: the object, the author, the foundation, the substance, and the guarantee of our hope; He is the personal embodiment of our hope.

Christ is our hope because His death on the cross supports our hope of forgiveness and salvation from sin (1 Peter 1:18-21; Hebrews 10:4, 12-14).

His sinless life of love and mercy set an example for us to follow in relationships with each other (1 Peter 2:21-24).

He provides access for us not only into the presence of God, but also into the perfection God offers those who draw near to Him (Hebrews 7:19, 10:19-23).

How can we lay hold on the hope that is set before us (Hebrews 6:17-20)? There are both positive and negative aspects to consider.

The beginning point is FAITH (Romans 5:1-4). Without faith in God one has no hope (Hebrews 11:6).

OBEDIENCE:  Jesus is the author of salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:9). Disobedience or failure to comply is a negation of any claimed faith, leaving no place for hope. Without obedience to the commands of the gospel, one has no hope (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

REPENTANCE is a necessary part of obedience (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38). It may seem negative to emphasize what one is not to do, but repentance means one will stop doing what God says must not be done (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Repentance is also positive, because it requires one to submit to the will of God and actually do what God says is right and required (2 Corinthians 7:11). Without repentance one has no hope (Luke 13:3, 5).

CONFESSION is also a part of one’s obedience.  It is not a one-time thing, and it is more than saying one believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

One must confess that Jesus is his Lord, his Master, the one he obeys (Romans 10:9-10). Unless one’s life is an ongoing confession of Christ, in word but also in act and deed, he will be denied by Christ. He has no hope (Matthew 10:32-33).

BAPTISM is not the end of obedience, though it amounts to the proof of one’s faith and repentance that makes him a Christian, a person saved by Christ (Acts 2:38).  Unless one is baptized into Christ, buried with Christ, and raised to walk in and with Christ, he has no hope (Romans 6:1-4).

Many claim baptism is not essential, that it actually has no bearing upon one’s salvation, and that one is saved by faith or grace or predestinated choice of God, etc. However, if baptism is not necessary then one can be saved outside of Christ, without the blood/death of Christ, without the body/church of Christ – actually without Christ, and without the forgiveness of sin.

Scripture says baptism is where we are placed into Christ and His church, identified with His death, and given the new life that is only in Him. It is where we receive remission of sins (Romans 6:1-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 2:11-12; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16).

If he is our hope, we must be in Him to have hope. There can be no hope for those who are not in Him. We cannot hope our way into Him or believe our way into Him.  But a penitent believer can be baptized into Him, and unless he does so he has no hope.

FAITHFULNESS to Christ and His gospel is required of those who want to maintain their hope in Him (Revelation 2:10). Unless one is faithful to Christ, keeping the commands and requirements of the gospel, he has no hope.  One who departs from the faith departs also from Him who is our hope (Matthew 7:21-28). We must be careful not to let the things of the Lord slip from us (Hebrews 2:1-2). Let us hold fast to our profession of faith because He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).

Jesus Christ is our hope and our salvation. We can say also that Jesus Christ is our faith.  He is the one who gives substance to our hope and convicting evidence for our faith (Hebrews 11:1).

All things needed for salvation, for peace of mind, for reward from God and escape from punishment and wrath of God, for hope of eternal life in heaven – everything needed is available and ready in Jesus Christ. But we cannot hope for any of those things, either for ourselves or others, if we do not respond properly to Him who is our hope.