The Way to Hope

The Way to Hope

Studies In Paul’s Letter to the Romans
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Lesson 17: Romans 5:1-5

Our world is filled with insecurity, uncertainty, and fear.

There are a lot of things people generally worry about. They wonder what calamities or accidents might be ahead for them. They know that sometimes they will become ill, will it be serious the next time? They sometimes wonder how long they have left to live, and how their lives will eventually come to an end. In a world where economies balance upon fragile markets and perceptions they wonder if the day will come when they will not be able to pay their bills and keep all their things. Some live in fear of embarrassment, or loneliness, or of crowded elevators.

It doesn’t help much when false hopes are offered in the infomercials and ads that promise quick fixes for all the little things in life that concern us. Misguided or intentionally misleading preachers promise things God never promised. They build up people’s hopes with irresponsible assurances, ask for money, and if things don’t work out they blame it on their victim’s own lack of faith.

So many experts, so many needs, so many claims to examine. Can we ever be sure we will not be disappointed? really 100% sure?

When people usually speak of having hope it doesn’t mean much. Hope has come to mean little more than a wish, a dream of things imagined. Empty promises are made, and with a pleading sigh people say, “Oh, I hope so!” Since they hope in fallible things, or in the promises of mere men who cannot deliver what they offer, deep inside they know that it is little more than a wish.

Most troubling is the dreaded feeling many have deep inside when they wonder if they will be accepted by God when they stands before him to be judged at the dawn of forever.

The Bible uses the word “hope” in a very different way. There, it is connected with the promise of God. The word “hope” appears 3 times in the short passage of Romans 5:1-5. The Greek word used there is elpis (ελπις). It means, “to anticipate with confidence, faith, trust”. Here it builds upon the solid foundation of the first four chapters and paves the way for a realistic optimism.

Paul begins Chapter Five by declaring that
believers have peace with God.

Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

The first three chapters of Romans lay out the reason for our fears and insecurities. There is good cause for them. All have inherited the guilt of Adam because they were represented in him when he sinned. The spiritual death he brought upon himself was passed on to all of future humanity. By birth we are enemies of God.

Fallen man twists God’s truth into a religion that pretends that a person can control his own fate. However the Bible teaches that in his fallen estate there is no one who can do anything that is purely and truly good (Romans 3:12). As Jesus said of the unbeliever in John 3:36, “… the wrath of God abides on him.”

However, there is the good news. Paul tells us here that those enemies who come through Christ can have peace with God. The world seeks peace by hoping in vain to avoid bad things happening. The gospel tells us that there is a peace which is different from the empty hope the world imagines. Instead of promising deliverance from calamities, sickness, and adversity, the gospel promises a peace even in the midst of our troubles.

It is that peace of which the ancient prophets spoke. Jesus promised it in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

We have this peace when we are restored to fellowship with God by grace. This section starts with the connective, “therefore”. It builds upon all that Paul had been explaining up to this point. We are all unworthy and unable to do anything that is purely and truly good. There are no exemptions because of our nationality. Jews and Gentiles stand together as part of this fallen and condemned race. There are no ceremonies that have the power to deliver us independently of the promises of God’s covenant which has always pointed to the work of our Savior.

It is obvious that this peace cannot be found by keeping God’s law or by doing good deeds. These are unable to remove the existing guilt that separates us from our Creator. No one can do anything that can make him who is lost to become right with God.

Since the obedience and intentions of the sinner cannot help him, salvation can only be the work of God’s grace. Jesus paid the debt by his own suffering and death in place of his people. That salvation is applied to the sinner by the work of the Holy Spirit. In this deliverance the righteousness of Christ is given to the sinner, and the guilt of the sinner is placed upon Christ. When the sinner’s guilt is removed by grace, he is also given faith to confidently rest in the provision of Christ alone. By that graciously implanted faith he is declared to be justified. With the barrier of moral guilt removed, he is “reconciled” with God. The former enemy at war with God, becomes a child at “peace with God.” When men are at peace with God, a sense of true inner solace emerges.

So the gospel of Christ delivers from turmoil, uncertainty, and insecurity. We do not have peace by being delivered from bad circumstances. They are a part of living in this present world and age. We instead have a peace independent of our circumstances, a peace that passes our understanding.

By the gospel we have a gracious hope.

Romans 5:2, “through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

The peace we long for is not a vain dream or wish. It is not based upon the questionable promises of men, or in a vain hope that nothing can go wrong. It is a firm and certain confidence based upon the promise of God himself. This is the kind of hope spoken of in the Bible. It gives us a firm promise to stand upon.

This verse tells us that the hope we have is in “the glory of God.” In our natural state, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (3:23) When we studied that passage we noted that the word for glory, “doxa” (δοξα), has several meanings. It speaks here of a glory that comes from God. In this kind of construction it most commonly means to approve of something.

Jesus said in John 12:43 when he spoke to the Pharisees, “for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” The same word is used. The Pharisees received the “praise”, the approval (glory) of men, but they will not get the same from God. Here we find by grace, that we can stand firmly knowing that we have God’s approval. We appear in his sight not clothed in our own offensive garments, but clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

This is why we rejoice triumphantly in that hope which we have in Christ. As the Reformer Martin Luther pondered this truth he wrote, “Where Christ is truly seen, there must needs be full and perfect joy in the Lord, with peace of conscience, which most certainly thus thinketh: Although I am a sinner, by the law, and under condemnation of the law, yet I despair not, I die not, because Christ liveth, who is both my righteousness and my everlasting life…” (Haldane on Romans 5:2 pg. 187 of his commentary).

The joy, hope, and peace that comes out of this graciously implanted faith is a distinguishing characteristic of the Christian. He rejoices even through situations he would not have expected he could survive.

This triumphant rejoicing extends also to our tribulations.

Romans 5:3, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;”

This peace is not tied to just good circumstances. No Scripture denies that bad times come, or tells us that they are not unpleasant. However, for the child of God trials have a good purpose, even when that purpose is not seen. Hebrews 12:11, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Paul wrote later in this same book, Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

In the Beatitudes Jesus spoke of the blessedness of those who endure trials (Matthew 5:4,10-12).

This is the kind of joy and peace that strengthens us in hard times and trials. The confident hope we have in the love of the God who redeems us leaves no grounds for uncertainty or fear of judgment. While in prison and wrongly accused, The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content”

As he wrote to the troubled Corinthians he said in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.”

Beyond our contentment and comfort in trials there is more promised here. The tribulations produce perseverance. James wrote about this in James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

When we confidently rest in what God has said by the faith Christ implants in us by grace, we learn that good will emerge to accomplish its greater ends, even when how it all fits together remains unseen.

Patience is hard to learn. We often have to wait for things we long for. We often fail at things and have to keep trying again and again to accomplish them. The good things we set about to do in our lives often take a long time to realize. We do not lack opportunities to practice patience. What we need to learn is that the source of growing in patience is that we better appreciate the promises and power of God. We need to grow in our confidence in the gospel, that which makes unworthy sinners into forgiven children by Christ. We learn to rest in the wisdom and love of an all powerful and all knowing God who loves his children dearly.

Verse 4 adds that this perseverance produces proven character and hope.

Romans 5:4, ” and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

The first words are often translated as “proven character.” It means that virtue which is proven by trial. Dr. Haldane comments, “trial may detect a hypocrite as well as a manifest saint.”

It is when we persevere through trials that the power of the gospel is seen in us. The world sees that work of God which testifies to the truth of our message. We see it in ourselves, and become confident of God’s love, that he will not give up on us. It is not “perfection” that shows us that we are his. For in this life no one is perfect. It is this repeated coming in humble petition to Christ for help that evidences a living faith. James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

That proven character produces real hope. Our confidence grows as we find Christ’s power in us to bring us joy even through trials.

Fallen religion takes the evidences of being made right with God, and make them into causes of being made right with God. It teaches the error that man’s works, his obedience, his rituals, his innate goodness, or his sincerity become the confidence in which he stands before God.

In reality it is God’s undeserved grace alone that causes us to be made righteous in Christ. If truly redeemed, there will be these evidences: a confident faith in Christ alone for our righteousness, and a perseverance in pursuing the joy God has promised to his children.

Verse 5 concludes: this is a hope that does not disappoint us.

Romans 5:5, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

This hope will not fail us. It will not leave us abandoned before God to stand on our own. It is not like the vain hope of the world that rests upon uncertain things. That is just wishful thinking. It will instead bring with certainty that which is hoped for. It is not only a hope for blessings in the final judgment. It is there for us in life’s daily and special trials as well. There is no disappointment when we rest in the truthfulness and greatness of God.

The promises at the root of our hope flow from the love of God. That love is not simply seen by us at a distance. It is poured into our hearts. It is given in a flood of abundance. It comes by the Holy Spirit himself, who was given to us who are the redeemed in Christ.

When you face those trials, when patience is tried, when hope seems a mere dream: rather than living in denial, getting angry, hoping in vain things, or imagining how things could have been worse, turn instead to the heart of the gospel. Hope in the promise of God.

First we remove the fear that we have not done enough or lived holy enough. We are not made right with God by our attitudes, choices, or works. It is God’s grace that implants a simple faith in our hearts to find confidence in Christ alone.

Then we trust the promise of his continuing love as ministered by the Holy Spirit. That teaches us to find joy in knowing that we are approved in Christ by the Almighty God. That implanted life helps us through the trials. It shows us joy even in the midst of calamity. It comes by knowing the God who is Lord over all. It drives us to persevere, strengthening our character, and strengthening the hope that cannot fail.

Paul recorded an ascription of glory to God in Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

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About Bob Burridge

I've taught Science, Bible, Math, Computer Programming and served 25 years as Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Pinellas Park, Florida. I'm now Executive Director of the ministry of the Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies

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