by Mike Ratliff
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NASB)
What is the difference between faith and hope? Are they the same thing? They are not the same, but, so-to-speak, they are two sides of the same coin. If I want my old college to win in football against our biggest rival that is hope. On the other hand, if I believe it will happen then it is faith. With this faith, my hope is enhanced. It becomes active. On the other hand, if I have little faith that it will happen then my hope becomes simply wishful thinking. What about our faith through which we are saved by grace? Is this faith simply working up enough belief so that our hope becomes strong, or is there more to it than that?
In Martin Luther’s Table Talk, a collection of conversations with his colleagues and students, he poured himself into those whom he cared about deeply. He gave them advice from his accumulated knowledge from the Bible with that deep insight which enabled him to be the Reformer that changed the face of Christianity in the 16th Century. God used him to free the gospel from the prison of religiosity that had become the Roman Catholic Church. In the 21st Century, we often take for granted what the Reformers like Luther did for us. He and John Calvin, William Tyndale, John Knox and multitudes of other men and women risked their lives to get the Bible translated from the original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into the languages of their people. Their work put the Bible into the hands of people who before, had to endure allegories and highly improbable sermons from clerics reading the Latin Vulgate. The Vulgate was not an accurate translation and, to make matters worse, the clerics were, more often than not, not able to read it themselves. These Reformers were raised up by God in His timing to free the Gospel and put the Word of God into the hands of spiritually starving people.
Why did these men risk their lives to do this? Tyndale, in particular, paid the ultimate price of being executed for translating the Bible into English. The reason these men did what they did was because of their conviction that it was God’s will to do so. They believed they were doing God’s work. They hoped that the Church would become what God desired it to be. They hoped in a future in eternity that was promised in scripture.
Here are Martin Luther’s words about Faith and Hope from his Table Talk. The chapter is “Of Justification” the section we will examine is numbered: CCXCVII
“Faith and hope are variously distinguishable. And, first, in regard of the subject, wherein everything subsists: faith consists in a person’s understanding, hope in the will; these two cannot be separated; they are like the two cherubim over the mercy seat.”
In this introduction to this section we “hear” Luther as if he is lecturing at the University and we are his students. He tells us that faith exists in our understanding or reason. On the other hand hope is in the will. Our Souls are made up of our minds, our wills, and our emotions. Faith is of the mind, but hope is in the will. Notice that emotions have nothing to do with either. Notice also that Luther tells us that Faith and Hope are inseparable.
“Secondly, in regard of the office; faith indites, distinguishes, and teaches, and is the knowledge and acknowledgment; hope admonishes, awakens, hears, expects, and suffers.”
Faith is bound to our intellect. Our human reason has the ability to believe in such a way that it causes us to exercise our will to make decisions regarding what we are believing that makes us “step out on faith” by this belief. It separates what we see as true or false regarding what we believe is right and what is wrong. On the other hand, hope, being in the will, is the active part of our being where we “choose” to act on the beliefs our faith has grasped. We choose to hear or not. We choose to expect that what we have our faith in will take place. When it does not work out then we choose to suffer for our stand or, if we lose faith, then we don’t.
“Thirdly, in regard to the object: faith looks to the word or promise, which is truth; but hope to that which the Word promises, which is the good or benefit.”
Our faith believes even in intangible things such as truth, a word or a promise. Our hope, on the other hand, takes what is believed by our faith and looks to the promise of its fulfillment. As Christians, we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. We are promised eternal life, sanctification and glorification. Those are things hoped for. I long to be in the presence of my saviour. That is what I hope for. My faith is looking to the massive amount of evidence from God’s Word that I believe.
“Fourthly, in regard of order in degree: faith is first, and before all adversities and troubles, and is the beginning of life. Heb. xi. But hope follows after, and springs up in trouble. Rom. v.”
Our faith is the beginning of our eternal life. By His grace, through the faith He gives us, we believe and repent.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)
Immediately after God gives us this Faith and we believe, our Hope follows and according to Romans 5, our hope is produced by godly character which is produced through endurance which is produced in our suffering.
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5 (NASB)
We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. This is part of our promise as children of God. It is our glorification in eternity to be like our saviour. It is also our hope in our saviour, in His ultimate victory in the fulfillment of His Kingdom on Earth.
“Fifthly, by reason of the contrariety: faith fights against errors and heresies; it proves and judges spirits and doctrines. But hope strives against troubles and vexations, and among the evil it expects good.”
How do we fight the good fight? Where does the backbone come from to stand on the knoll of the hill as the enemy fires constantly with his darts of temptation, accusation, lies, and threats? It comes by our faith. Our courage to stand and not fall is found in our faith. Hope is the active part of this digging in, awaiting the Lord’s deliverance as it battles the lies and circumstances in light of God’s revealed Word. Our hope takes the blows because it expects the outcome our faith believes.
“Faith in divinity, is the wisdom and providence, and belongs to the doctrine. But hope is the courage and joyfulness in divinity, and pertains to admonition. Faith is the dialectica, for it is altogether prudence and wisdom; hope is the rhetorica, an elevation of the heart and mind. As wisdom without courage is futile, even so faith without hope is nothing worth; for hope endures and overcomes misfortune and evil. And as a joyous valor without understanding is but rashness, so hope without faith is spiritual presumption. Faith is the key to the sacred Scriptures, the right Cabata or exposition, which one receives of tradition, as the prophets left this doctrine to their disciples. `Tis said St Peter wept whenever he thought of the gentleness with which Jesus taught. Faith is given from one to another, and remains continually in one school. Faith is not a quality, as the schoolmen say, but a gift of God. – Martin Luther”
I must add that many theologians or preachers believe that Faith is a quality. However, scripture is clear that it is a gift of God. Those who believe otherwise have placed their faith in their own abilities to believe. This nullifies the need for God’s grace and is only spiritual presumption because they are really only hoping in their own actions and abilities.
Praise be to God that He has given us the faith to believe and thereby releasing our hope through our sanctification so that we can walk this walk, enduring all of the fiery assaults our enemy can come up with even to the point of death. Why? We are not hoping in anyone or thing this world contains. Our faith is in Christ and our Hope is in His promises. By His Grace, we can obey Him knowing that it His strength that will enable us to do all things because He strengthens us.
Soli Deo Gloria!