Christian Hope

by Mike Ratliff

13 Ὁ δὲ θεὸς τῆς ἐλπίδος πληρώσαι ὑμᾶς πάσης χαρᾶς καὶ εἰρήνης ἐν τῷ πιστεύειν, εἰς τὸ περισσεύειν ὑμᾶς ἐν τῇ ἐλπίδι ἐν δυνάμει πνεύματος ἁγίου. Romans 15:13 (NA28)

13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing for you to abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The concept of “hope” as it is viewed in the world today, and, sadly, by much of what calls itself “Christian” is an expression of a wish or a want, such as, “I sure do hope I get…,” or “I sure hope I do not get…” In this, there is no certainty in the usage of the word “hope.” However, in the passage above (Romans 15:13) for example, the Greek noun which is the lexical root for both ἐλπίδος and ἐλπίδι, which is ἐλπίς (elpis) speaks of a “desire of some good with expectation of obtaining it.” The Christian concept of our hope in Christ, our blessed hope, is exactly this. We are not hoping, as the world does like football fans that our favorite team will win a game or even the title of conference or whatever. That is not what we base our hope upon. No, our hope is based upon certainty. 

8 ἡμεῖς δὲ ἡμέρας ὄντες νήφωμεν ἐνδυσάμενοι θώρακα πίστεως καὶ ἀγάπης καὶ περικεφαλαίαν ἐλπίδα σωτηρίας· 9 ὅτι οὐκ ἔθετο ἡμᾶς ὁ θεὸς εἰς ὀργὴν ἀλλʼ εἰς περιποίησιν σωτηρίας διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ 10 τοῦ ἀποθανόντος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, ἵνα εἴτε γρηγορῶμεν εἴτε καθεύδωμεν ἅμα σὺν αὐτῷ ζήσωμεν. 11 Διὸ παρακαλεῖτε ἀλλήλους καὶ οἰκοδομεῖτε εἷς τὸν ἕνα, καθὼς καὶ ποιεῖτε. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11 (NA28)

8 But we, being of the day, let us be sober, having clothed ourselves with a breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation 9 because God did not appoint us to wrath but to the attainment of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ 10 the one having died on our behalf that whether we are awake or we are sleeping we may live together with him. 11 Therefore, encourage one another and build up one another, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11 (translated from the NA28 Greek text) 

Christians look forward with hope to the joy of being with their Lord Jesus Christ in glory in eternity. In Hebrews 11:1 we are told that faith is “the assurance of things being hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. “ The unregenerate cannot understand our hope because they do not possess this faith. This faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8.9) and the promises of  those invisible things in the future are grasped through this faith. Hope for those with this faith is, therefore, certain (Hebrews 6:18, 19). I pray you noticed that our hope is never based in the ministry of some man nor in some man-focused or man-centered religion that attempts to generate a “certain hope” based upon doing enough good works. No, according to God’s Word, Christ is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1), and our God is called the God of hope as we saw in Romans 15:13 (above).

Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians promised a pilgrimage that is full of comfort, perfect health, wealth, and prosperity. Instead, what we see is that it portrays the Christian pilgrimage of as one of strangers on their way home (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11). This ethic is one of purity, as the one who hopes to be like Jesus when He appears “purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). This ethic is one of preparedness, that is, to be ready to leave this world at any time (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-24; Luke 12:15-21). This hope that we possess calls us to be patient (Romans 8:25 5:1-5). Those who possess this hope will also be given strength and confidence for running the race, fighting the good fight, and enduring the tribulations that continue in this life (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Romans 8:18; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8).

A commercial runs on television during the news hour in our area about a group of hospitals with locations all across the country that specializes in nothing else but treating cancer. While there is nothing wrong with that and I believe they should continue to do what they do, their commercials have a common theme that really show the world-centeredness of how people view this life. They have testimonials of people who have gone through their hospitals and have been declared cancer-free while before their own doctors had told them they had either an inoperable case or had terminal cancer. In those commercials the common thread was that each person stated emphatically the reason they went to the cancer treatment hospitals was that they “were not ready to die” and the only ones giving them hope was this set of doctors and their cancer treatment system.  To be honest, I have had friends and relatives who have developed cancer and gone through those radical treatments and still did not recover.

In what is our hope? In who is our hope? It cannot be in any man our man-based system in this life in this world. It can only be based in the God of hope and the finished work he has done on our behalf. If we have the faith of one who has been saved by grace then we also have that hope.

Do you have it?

Soli Deo Gloria!