Tuesday, December 26, 2017

"Hope, Part II" By Romans

Last week we began a Series on the occurrence of the word, “hope” in Scripture. We looked at the major and significant occurrences in the Old Testament, and I explained why the word “hope” appeared only once in the Four Gospels: The Messiah had finally come. The centuries-long hope of the Jews had arrived and was on the earth and in their midst. After Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, the use of the word “hope” returned making an appearance fifty-two times: eight times in the Books of Acts, thirty-nine times in the Epistles of Paul, Peter and John, and five times in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Let's begin to look at those occurrences, tonight, and see what we can learn from them.

The rest of the New Testament:
What I would like to share with you first occurs in the first sermon Peter delivered after both the Resurrection of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. We read beginning in Acts 2:22: “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus of Nazareth by doing wonderful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. you followed God’s prearranged plan.

With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to the cross and murdered him. However, God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life again, for death could not keep him in its grip. King David said this about him: 'I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is filled with joy, and my mouth shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. For you will not leave my soul among the dead allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. You have shown me the way of life, and you will give me wonderful joy in your presence.’

Peter's declaration to the unsuspecting crowd of worshipers who had come to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Pentecost heard words that reverberate, or at least should do so, down to this day, because they are words of hope unlike good news that has ever been declared. David wrote, “My heart is filled with joy and my heart shouts his praises. My body rests in hope.” David was speaking prophetically of Jesus who had died, but unlike any person who had died before Him was resting with hope in the tomb. We read in Hebrews 9:27 appointed unto men once to die. That applies to us. When our time comes, our bodies can rest in that same hope of the resurrection that will bring us back from the dead.

As we move forward into New Testament, we read in Acts 16:19, an event where the Apostle Paul cast out a demon who enabled a woman to tell fortunes. We read, “And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers.” Here, again, we encounter the word, “hope” but this time in a very different light. They did not have a hope of a resurrection followed by the gift of Eternal Life. Their hope, like so many in the world today, was in gain. Scripture, however, also speaks of what we should regard as great gain. We read of it in 1 Timothy 6:6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

The Life Application Bible tells us, “This statement is the key to spiritual growth and personal fulfillment. We should honor God and center our desires on Him, and we should be content with what God is doing in our life.”

Cross Reference: Philippians 4:11-13: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. “

The Life Application Bible tells us, “Paul could get along happily because he could see life from God’s point of view. He focused on what he was supposed to do, not what he felt he should have. Paul had his priorities straight, and he was grateful for everything God had given him. Paul had detached himself from the nonessentials so that he could concentrate on the eternal. Often the desire for more or better possessions is really a longing to fill an empty place in a person’s life. To what are you drawn when you feel empty inside? How can you find true contentment? The answer lies in your perspective, your priorities, and your source of power.

And then commenting on verse 13, the Life Application Bible says, “Can we really do everything? The power we receive in union with Christ is sufficient to do his will and to face the challenges that arise from our commitment to doing it. He does not grant us superhuman ability to accomplish anything we can imagine without regard to his interests. As we contend for the faith, we will face troubles, pressures, and trials. As they come, ask Christ to strengthen you.”

The Apostle Paul was arguably one of the most brilliant men who ever lived. When he, on his way to arrest and extradite Jews who had embraced Christianity, and bring them bound in chains back to Jerusalem to be tried and punished for heresy, he was struck down by Jesus on the Road to Damascus. When you read the account of event, what I read is that the Glorified Jesus, Himself, appeared to Paul on that road. The account reads that the light that appeared there was, in Paul's words to King Agrippa, “a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me” (Acts 26:11). Paul was converted by that encounter and he fully embraced the Person and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But the Jewish Community was scandalized by that conversion. During a riot in which they tried to kill Paul in the Temple Area, the Romans rushed in, rescued him and arrested him. When Paul faced his accusers as mandated by Roman law, we read of a facet of Paul's brilliance in Acts 23:6: “But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.”

The Life Application Bible tells us of this: “The Sadducees and Pharisees were two groups of religious leaders but with strikingly different beliefs. The Pharisees believed in a bodily resurrection, but the Sadducees did not. The Sadducees adhered only to Genesis through Deuteronomy, which contain no explicit teaching on resurrection. Paul’s words moved the debate away from himself and toward their festering controversy about the resurrection. The Jewish council was split.”

Today, in our society, few quibble over the idea of the resurrection. It is not a subject that is mentioned very often in any of the sermons I hear in person, or on radio or TV. However, in Paul's day the resurrection was not only a hot topic, it was, in Paul's mind, the heart and soul of Christian belief. We read his words beginning in 1 Corinthians 15:12: “tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless.”

The Life Application Bible tells us of this, “The resurrection of Christ is the center of the gospel message. Because Christ rose from the dead as he promised, we know that what he said is true—he is God. Because he rose, we have certainty that our sins are forgiven. Because he rose, he lives and represents us to God. Because he rose and defeated death, we know we will also be raised.” That is our hope, as Paul said in so many words beginning in 1 Corinthians 15:17: “And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still under condemnation for your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ have perished! And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world.”

Paul speaks once again of hope being intertwined with the resurrection in Acts 24:15: “And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.”

Paul speaks of a hope that has been in place for all believers beginning with the founding fathers
beginning in Acts 26:6 where he says, “I am on trial because I am looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, O king, they say it is wrong for me to have this hope!” The Paul asks at his hearing before King Agrippa and others, a question which, at the same time identifies exactly what that hope was for him then, and is for us, now. He asks in verse 8, “Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?”

The Barnes Bible Commentary says of this, “Acts 26:8
Why should it be thought ... - The force of this question will be better seen by an exclamation point after why, as if to say: “What! is it to be thought a thing incredible?” etc. It intimates surprise that it should be thought incredible, or implies that no reason could be given why such a doctrine should be unworthy of belief.
A thing incredible - A doctrine which cannot be credited or believed. Why should it be regarded as absurd?

With you - This is in the plural number, and it is evident that Paul here addressed, not Agrippa alone, but those who sat with him. There is no evidence that Agrippa doubted that the dead could be raised, but Festus, and those who were with him, probably did, and Paul, in the ardor of his speech, turned and addressed the entire assembly. It is very evident that we have only an outline of this argument, and there is every reason to suppose that Paul would dwell on each part of the subject at greater length than is here recorded.

That God should raise the dead - Why should it be regarded as absurd that God - who has all power, who is the creator of all, who is the author of the human frame should again restore man to life and continue his future existence? The resurrection is no more incredible than the original creation of the body, and it is attended with no greater difficulties. And as the perfections of God will be illustrated by his raising up the dead; as the future state is necessary to the purposes of justice in vindicating the just and punishing the unjust, and as God is a righteous moral governor, it should not be regarded as an absurdity that he will raise up those who have died, and bring them to judgment.”

Let's move on to our next New Testament occurrence of the word, “hope.”
Paul was arrested, imprisoned and released several times. In one of those imprisonments, in the City of Rome, he called for the Jewish leaders of the city to come to where he was under house arrest, and he said in Acts 28:20: “For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”

Barnes Commentary on the Bible says, “Because that for the hope of Israel - On account of the hope which the Jews cherish of the coming of the Messiah; of the resurrection; and of the future state.”
As Christians we know that our Hope the Messiah has come, we have hope in the Resurrection and, as Jesus instructed to pray daily “Thy Kingdom come,” we also have hope in the future state of Israel. That future state, like the Resurrection, is rarely brought up from the pulpits but it was a primary focus of Jesus' followers both before His death and after His Resurrection. Jesus is coming again to rule this earth when He establishes His Throne in Jerusalem and sets up His Kingdom on the earth. It is my hope when I pray daily, “Thy Kingdom come.”

Romans 5:2: “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Barnes' Commentary on the Bible says, “We have access – Jesus said in John_14:6, “I am the way.” It means, “by whom we have the privilege of obtaining the favor of God which we enjoy when we are justified.” The word rendered “access” occurs but in two other places in the New Testament.”

Let's take a look at those: Ephesians 2:18 which says, “Now all of us, both Jews and Gentiles, may come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” and Ephesians 3:18: “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God’s presence, assured of his glad welcome.”
Of this the Life Application Bible tells us, “It is an awesome privilege to be able to approach God with freedom and confidence. Most of us would be apprehensive in the presence of a powerful ruler. But thanks to Christ, by faith we can enter directly into God’s presence through prayer. We know we’ll be welcomed with open arms because we are God’s children through our union with Christ. Don’t be afraid of God. Talk with him about everything. He is waiting to hear from you.”

Back to the Barnes Commentary:
By faith - By means of faith.
Into this grace - Into this favor of reconciliation with God.
Wherein we stand - In which we now are in consequence of being justified.
And rejoice - Religion is often represented as producing joy. The sources or steps of this joy are these: (1) We are justified, or regarded by God as righteous. (2) we are admitted into his favor, and abide there. (3) we have the prospect of still higher and richer blessings in the fulness of his glory when we are admitted to heaven.

In hope - In the earnest desire and expectation of obtaining that glory. Hope is a complex emotion made up of a desire for an object; and an expectation of obtaining it. Where either of these is lacking, there is not hope. Where they are mingled in improper proportions, there is not peace. But where the desire of obtaining an object is attended with an expectation of obtaining it, in proportion to that desire, there exists that peaceful, happy state of mind which we denominate hope And the apostle here implies that the Christian has an earnest desire for that glory; and that he has a confident expectation of obtaining it. The result of that he immediately states to be, that we are by it sustained in our afflictions.

The glory of God - The glory that God will bestow on us. The word “glory” usually means splendor, magnificence, honor; and the apostle here refers to that honor and dignity which will be conferred on the redeemed when they are raised up to the full honors of redemption; when they shall triumph in the completion of the work: and be freed from sin, and pain, and tears, and permitted to participate in the full splendors that shall encompass the throne of God in the heavens.

The Life Application Bible tells us of this, “Paul states that, as believers, we now stand in a place of highest privilege. Not only has God declared us not guilty; he has drawn us close to himself. Instead of being enemies, we have become his friends—in fact, his own children.”

Wading deeper into the Book of Romans, we read beginning in Romans 5:3: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

The Life Application Bible tells us, “For first-century Christians, suffering was the rule rather than the exception. Paul tells us that in the future we will become, but until then we must overcome. This means we will experience difficulties that help us grow. We rejoice in suffering, not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life’s difficulties and Satan’s attacks to build our character. The problems that we run into will develop our perseverance—which in turn will strengthen our character, deepen our trust in God, and give us greater confidence about the future. You probably find your patience tested in some way every day. Thank God for those opportunities to grow, and deal with them in His strength.”

Barnes Commentary tells us, “And hope maketh not ashamed - That is, this hope will not disappoint, or deceive. When we hope for an object which we do not obtain, we are conscious of disappointment; perhaps sometimes of a feeling of shame. But the apostle says that the Christian hope is such that it will be fulfilled; it will not disappoint; what we hope for we shall certainly obtain.; The expression used here is probably taken from Psalm 22:4-5 which says, “Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.”

Because the love of God - Love toward God. There is produced an abundant, an overflowing love to God.
Is shed abroad - Is diffused; is poured out; is abundantly produced. This word is properly applied to water, or to any other liquid that is poured out, or diffused. It is used also to denote imparting, or communicating freely or abundantly, and is thus expressive of the influence of the Holy Spirit poured down, or abundantly imparted to people. Here it means that love toward God is copiously or abundantly given to a Christian; his heart is conscious of high and abundant love to God, and by this he is sustained in his afflictions.

By the Holy Ghost - It is produced by the influence of the Holy Spirit. All Christian graces are traced to his influence: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,” etc.
Which is given unto us - Which Spirit is given or imparted to us. The Holy Spirit is thus represented as dwelling in the hearts of believers. In all these places where it occurs it is meant that Christians are under his sanctifying influence; that he produces in their hearts the Christian graces; and fills their minds with peace, and love, and joy.”

I used the next occurrence of “hope” which we find in the Book of Romans last week in an effort to explain why the word “hope” is virtually missing in the Four Gospels. That reason, again, was because these were four accounts of Jesus' being alive and on the earth, daily in their presence. And I quoted Romans 8:24: “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”

Barnes Commentary has a slightly wider and more insightful take on this: “For we are saved by hope - It cannot be said that hope is the instrument or condition of salvation. Most commentators have understood this as meaning that we have as yet attained salvation only in hope; that we have arrived only to a condition in which we hope for future glory; and that we are in an attitude of waiting for the future state of adoption. But perhaps the word “saved” may mean here simply, we are kept, preserved, sustained in our trials, by hope. Our trials are so great that nothing but the prospect of future deliverance would uphold us; and the prospect is sufficient to enable us to bear them with patience. This is the proper meaning of the word “save”; and it is often thus used in the New Testament.”

The thought continues in verse 25: “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Barnes Commentary says, “But if we hope ... - The effect here stated is one which exists everywhere. Where there is a strong desire for an object, and a corresponding expectation of obtaining it - which constitutes true hope - then we can wait for it with patience. Where there is a strong desire without a corresponding expectation of obtaining it, there is impatience. As the Christian has a strong desire of future glory, and as he has an expectation of obtaining it just in proportion to that desire, it follows that he may bear trials and persecutions patiently in the hope of his future deliverance. Compared with our future glory, our present sufferings are light, and but for a moment. In the hope of that blessed eternity which is before him, the Christian can endure the severest trial, and bear the intensest pain without a complaint.”

But hope that is seen - Hope is a complex emotion, made up of an earnest desire, and an expectation of obtaining an object. It has reference, therefore, to what is at present unseen. But when the object is seen, and is in our possession, it cannot be said to be an object of hope. The Word hope here means the object of hope, the thing hoped for.”

Moving forward we read in Romans 15:4: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

Barnes Commentary says, “For whatsoever things ... - This is a “general” observation which struck the mind of the apostle, from the particular case which he had just specified. He had just made use of a striking passage in the Psalms to his purpose. The thought seems suddenly to have occurred to him that “all” the Old Testament was admirably adapted to express Christian duties and doctrine, and he therefore turned aside from his direct argument to express this sentiment. It should be read as a parenthesis.

Were written aforetime - That is, in ancient times; in the Old Testament.
For our learning - For our “teaching” or instruction. Not that this was the “only” purpose of the writings of the Old Testament, to instruct Christians; but that all the Old Testament might be useful “now” in illustrating and enforcing the doctrines and duties of piety toward God and man.

Through patience - This does not mean, as our translation might seem to suppose, patience “of the Scriptures,” but it means that by patiently enduring sufferings, in connection with the consolation which the Scriptures furnish, we might have hope. The “tendency” of patience, the apostle tells us is to produce 'hope.'

And comfort of the Scriptures - By means of the consolation which the writings of the Old Testament furnish. The word rendered “comfort” means also “exhortation” or “admonition.” If this is its meaning here, it refers to the admonitions which the Scriptures suggest, instructions which they impart, and the exhortations to patience in trials. If it means “comfort,” then the reference is to the examples of the saints in affliction; to their recorded expressions of confidence in God in their trials, as of Job, Daniel, David, etc. Which is the precise meaning of the word here, it is not easy to determine.

Might have hope - We may learn here, (1) That afflictions may prove to be a great blessing. (2) that their proper tendency is to produce “hope.” (3) that the way to find support in afflictions is to go to the Bible. By the example of the ancient saints, by the expression of their confidence in God, by their patience, “we” may learn to suffer, and may not only be “instructed,” but may find “comfort” in all our trials;

The Life Application Bible tells us of this: “The knowledge of the Scriptures affects our attitude toward the present and the future. The more we know about what God has done in years past, the greater the confidence we have about what he will do in the days ahead. We need to diligently read our Bibles so we may have confidence that God’s will is best for us.”

In the next occurrence of the word, “hope,” it is included as a title of God, Himself. It is the only place in Scripture where God is given this exact title, and we find it in Romans 15:13: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

Cross Reference: Eph 1:13: “{Christ} in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,”

Of this reference to God, as the “God of Hope,” Matthew Henry writes, “Here is another prayer directed to God, as the God of hope; and it is, for spiritual blessings: these are the blest blessings, and to be first and chiefly prayed for. Observe how he addresses himself to God, as the God of hope. It is good in prayer to fasten upon those names, titles, and attributes of God, which are most suitable to the errand we come upon, and will best serve to encourage our faith concerning it. Every word in the prayer should be a plea. Thus should the cause be skilfully ordered, and the mouth filled with arguments. God is the God of hope. He is the foundation on which our hope is built, and he is the builder that doth himself raise it: he is both the object of our hope, and the author of it. That hope is but fancy, and will deceive us, which is not fastened upon God (as the goodness hoped for, and the truth hoped in), and which is not of his working in us. We have both together as in Psa 119:49: Thy word - there is God the object; on which thou hast caused me to hope - there is God the author of our hope. That they might abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. The joy and peace of believers arise chiefly from their hopes. What is laid out upon them is but little, compared with what is laid up for them; therefore the more hope they have the more joy and peace they have. We do then abound in hope when we hope for great things from God, and are greatly established and confirmed in these hopes. Christians should desire and labour after an abundance of hope, such hope as will not make ashamed. This is through the power of the Holy Ghost. The same almighty power that works grace begets and strengthens this hope. Our own power will never reach it; and therefore where this hope is, and is abounding, the blessed Spirit must have all the glory.”

This concludes this Evening's Discussion, “Hope, Part II.”

This Discussion was originally presented by Romans “live” on September 6th, 2017

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