Meditations in Romans : 38: Living in Hope
Rom 8:24,25 For in this hope we wee saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Hope is all about the future and hope is one of those concepts that is so often misunderstood. We use the word in everyday life in respect of thing we would like to happen, for example, I hope the sun will shine today. Now certainly today the sophisticated weather forecasting can give us a good idea of what is likely to happen, but it still uncertain and is still just something we would really like to happen. Some thing we can contribute to as far as outcome is concerned. For example a student might say, “I am hoping to take my exams in the summer,” but that is dependent on them working hard and being allowed to take those exams.
When it comes to Biblical hope it means something of which we are assured, and the reason we are far more certain about it, is that God has said it will be so, and if He said it, we can be sure of it. These verses start, “in this hope”. What hope? That refers to the previous verses (not just the previous one). What future things has Paul been speaking about? He spoke of i) sharing Christ’s glory (v.17,18), of us ii) being revealed in the full wonder of God’s sons (v.19) and now iii) the redemption of our bodies, a glorious future existence (v.23). This is all future promise.
But this isn’t just Paul. For instance Jesus prayed, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:” (Jn 17:22) i.e. i) sharing in Christ’s glory. Just before that he had prayed, “May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Jn 17:21) i.e. ii) may they be revealed as your sons so that the world will see. Although he did not speak specifically about our bodies, Jesus did tell his disciples, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (Jn 14:3) i.e. iii) a future existence with Jesus.
Paul speaks of the resurrected body elsewhere, for example, “the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Phil 3:21) The apostle John also wrote, “we know that when he appears, we shall be like him.” (1 Jn 3:2). That is the amazing idea that is conveyed, that one day, when we leave this earth at the end of our lives on it, we are going to be changed and given a new body, that is part of the Gospel message or as Paul says it here, “For in this hope we were saved.”
But Paul is very down to earth and so he reminds us that this teaching is about the future and so it is something to be received by faith, and because it is still in the future it is therefore ‘hope’ but, he goes on, “hope that is seen is no hope at all”. It is not something we can see, something that is visible, something clearly visible on the horizon. No, what we are talking about is something in the mists beyond this life and we only know about it because we have been told about it in the New Testament.
So what point is he making? Why is this important? What practical relevance does this have for us? This is an area where modern Christians tend to be weak. We are very much ‘in the present’ people, people living for now and the future will just happen, it’s not very significant is it! But that is not the New Testament thrust. The New Testament again and again brings hope of something better in the future to help sustain us in the present. It may be that life then was not so certain, not so secure and therefore there were greater causes to worry, but when we start looking at the uncertainties of living today, although we are so much more prosperous and have so much technology and modern medicines to rely upon, many people are still worrying about how they will get by tomorrow. Worry about tomorrow is still a very real feature of living in this Fallen World.
The thing about uncertainty and insecurity is that it can produce unstable thinking, unstable beliefs and such a person becomes very vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. The temptation is to give up holding to Christian ethics and become just like the rest with their dubious and questionable ethics and ways of living. That has always been the temptation and it is still the same today.
The New Testament answer to this is to remind us a) of the God to whom we are related, and b) what He has done for us, and c) what He has made us (hence all the talk about sons of God) AND d) the future aspects of our life that we are yet to receive, which we have not yet received, hence, “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” This is Paul’s gentle way of saying, in the face of all the pressures of the world, and all the difficulties you face, and the temptations put before you by the enemy – be patient! When he says, ‘be patient’ he is saying, remain steady in your beliefs and in who you are because this is only part of it, there is more to come and it comes to those who remain faithful and true – so hang on in there!
This is why there is all this talk about hope and the future because it is to be one of the elements that God has provided to hold us secure. Thus we are to be people who are secure in the faith and in the Spirit today and who also have an eye to the future for those elements of our salvation that are yet to come. This takes us back to what he said a little earlier: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom 8:18) Whatever struggles we have today, don’t let them pull us down because the best is yet to come! Hallelujah!