Essential Truths of the Christian Faith - Thursday, November 21, 2013
There are many things in this world we "hope" for. We hope that we will receive a raise in our salary. We hope that our favorite team will win the World Series. This kind of hope expresses our personal desires for the future. We have hope concerning things that are uncertain. We don't know if our desires will come to pass, but we hold out hope that they will.
When the Bible speaks of hope, however, it has something different in view. Biblical hope is a firm conviction that the future promises of God will be fulfilled. Hope is not mere wish projection, but an assurance of what will come to pass. "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil" (Hebrews 6:19).
Hope takes its place alongside faith and love as one of the Christian virtues that the apostle Paul sets forth in 1 Corinthians 13:13. Hope is faith directed toward the future.
Hope is used in two ways in the Bible. The less common usage points out the object of our hope. Christ is our hope of eternal life. The more common usage is as an attitude of assurance regarding the fulfillment of God's promises. The Christian is called to hope, that is, to have full assurance of the resurrection of God's people and the coming of God's kingdom. Hope is inextricably bound up with eschatology.
Paul reminds Christians that until the kingdom comes in its fullness, believers can only have an assured hope; they must "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). This hope is neither unfounded nor groundless. Though the life of the Christian is marked more by suffering than triumph (1 Corinthians 4:8-13; 2 Corinthians 4:7-18), the foundation for hope is in the Godhead.
First, the believer looks upon the death and resurrection of Christ. His death was the darkest hour for His disciples. The promised Messiah was dead, His kingdom apparently lost. With the Resurrection, that despair turned to hope. Alongside suffering, whether great or small, the Christian's hope must endure. God is always sufficient and faithful.
Second, the believer has the Holy Spirit as a down payment on the kingdom. His presence assures us that the kingdom will be fully consummated. The Spirit is not only a sign toward hope, but the sustainer of hope. He fulfills the role of Comforter, girding up the believer in strength and hope. It is the Spirit who encourages the believer to pray to the Father, "Your kingdom come."
Biblical hope is a matter of assurance rather than wishing.
Hope is a virtue, not a weakness.
Faith is trust in what God has already done. Hope is trust in what God promises for the future.
The resurrection of Christ gives us hope in the midst of suffering.
The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, gives us hope. His presence is a guarantee of the coming kingdom of God.