We continue to study Romans 5:1-11, in which Paul enumerates several blessings we now enjoy as a result of being justified through faith in the blood of Christ. The first is “peace with God.” The second is “introduction into this grace in which we stand.” The third is “exultation” in worship and in life, not only in the blessings of God but also in the tribulations we experience, which God uses to bring about within us endurance, character, and hope. The fourth is a further comment on hope:
…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 5:5).
Often, Christians misunderstand hope. Things we hope for often fail to materialize. We might study all week for a test hoping to get an A, but end up with a C. We might hope the Patriots will win one more Superbowl, but end up with a wildcard loss.
Those are not examples of hope as offered in the Bible. Christian hope is well-defined as “confident expectation.”
If we take away the expectation but leave the confident, we are left with something like resignation or even dread. I am confident I’ll have to keep my dentist appointment next week, but I’m not looking forward to it.
If we take away the confident but leave the expectation, we may be left with a pleasant dream, but not one with much assurance. Many people hope to win the lottery. A recent survey reported by several news outlets in May 2019 showed that 40% of Americans and 60% of Millennials believe buying lottery tickets every week is a legitimate way to plan for retirement. This is not hope. This is remote, foolish, pie in the sky.
Christian hope is not illusory—it is confident expectation. We miss the point when we thank God for the “chance” to be saved. That’s the language of the roulette table. Jesus died to give us the assurance of salvation. If you have obeyed the gospel, if you are justified in Christ by faith, if you are clinging to Christ, you are saved, and your future is the new creation.
Why is Christian hope a good investment, while the lottery is foolish? Both hopes are intangible. But actually, they are based on reliable past performance! Your chance of winning the lottery is roughly the same as your chance of drowning in your bathtub—it happens to some people, but not you or anyone you know. Your hope of winning the lottery is wishful thinking.
But our hope of Heaven is based on a historical truth. Christian hope does not disappoint, because “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts.” God has already proven Himself so generous, so kindly disposed to us, in the giving of His Son. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). How can I know God will follow through and give me heaven? Because He already gave me His Son!
And Paul says hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured in the form of the blood of Jesus on the cross, but more so, poured out within our hearts through the Spirit given to us. There are many passages which describe the role of the Spirit in the life of the Christian. What is in view here is the gift of the Spirit itself, in the same sense found in Ephesians 1:13-14,
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
The word “pledge” is rightly understood as a down-payment—an upfront payment that serves as a promise to make good on the whole. The Spirit then is a pledge of God’s intention to make good on full face-to-face fellowship with Him in eternity. The proof that our hope is well-founded, the proof that we are headed for heavenly fellowship with God, is that we already experience a sampling of it. On the last day, “He who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:12).
This hope should motivate us. In 1947, it was announced that the town of Flagstaff, Maine would be flooded in three years by the construction of a new dam. Neighboring communities watched as the town began to fall apart. People stopped repairing their homes. Crews stopped patching the streets and changing the lights. Residents stopped mowing their lawns and landscaping their yards. Piles of trash and stacks of wood cluttered front yards. Broken tractors were discarded wherever they happened to stop running. Soon, where there had once been a wonderful community, the town looked terrible! When asked, the people naturally responded, “What’s the use? Why maintain anything when it will all be wiped out in three years?” Where there is no hope in the future, there is no activity in the present. May hope the hope of Jesus drive us forward to work in His name! –John Guzzetta