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The Christian’s Hope (1)

Malcolm C Davis, Leeds

Our subject is the hope in which New Testament believers today rejoice as members of the one true Church, the Body and Bride of Christ. This hope, as will be explained later, differs somewhat from "the hope of Israel" (Acts 28.20), namely, the coming of the Messiah to fully and finally deliver that nation from all their enemies within and without, although these twin aspects of hope are in many respects inseparably linked together in the person and work of Christ. The aim, as with all ministry, is threefold, namely, "edification, and exhortation, and comfort" (1 Cor 14.3); first, to build up believers in their faith by clarifying the doctrinal basis of our hope in Christ and emphasising the importance of "handling aright" (2 Tim 2.15, RV) the Scriptures relevant to it; second, to challenge all believers to live daily lives consistent with the prospect of the coming of our Lord for us; and, third, to comfort the hearts of believers in all parts of the world who are suffering various trials and persecutions in this present evil age with the hope of imminent and final salvation from them all when our Saviour returns. We trust, therefore, that there will be something here to feed our Christian minds, consciences, and hearts.

Its Necessity

There are three main reasons why all men and women living today desperately need a hope to which they can cling. The first reason is that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Rom 1.18). That this affects all mankind alike, both Jews and Gentiles, Paul proceeds to prove in the following three chapters, and then asserts the fundamental fact that makes the gospel of Christ a necessity, namely, that "all the world" is "under the judgement of God" (Rom 3.19, RV), or "guilty before God" (AV), on account of sin. Furthermore, during the present age of God’s grace, ever since the full revelation of Himself in the Person of His incarnate Son as both light and love, the final condemnation of individual men and women depends upon their refusal to believe on, and thus yield obedience to, the claims of Christ Himself, so that "he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (Jn 3.36). If men refuse to respond positively to God’s fullest light, even calling Him evil, and spurn the greatest expression of His love, even judging Him worthy of a common criminal’s cross, then they must bear the wrath and judgment of God against their sin themselves. The wrath which will fall one day upon this world is called not only the wrath of God, but also "the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev 6.16). For the very One who died in apparent weakness on Calvary"s cross as the only acceptable sacrifice to take away the sin of the whole world will be the sole executor of "the wrath to come" in almighty power from His Father’s throne in heaven.

Second, we need a hope today because there is a general fear amongst mankind concerning the future of the world as we know it. This is fuelled not only by threats to our personal security from terrorists and other criminals, but also by the apparently increasing incidence of various kinds of natural disasters in many parts of the world, such as the Indian Ocean tsunami, earthquakes, famines, and hurricanes, some of the latter even devastating regions of the far western world which are usually spared such events. And the problem posed to all nations of the world by the question of the future of Jerusalem has never been such "a burdensome stone" (Zech 12.3) as it is today, nor with such potentially catastrophic consequences. All these distressing events and intractable problems are in fact allowed by God to occur in a world disturbed by sin as His "providential voice" to us urging us to repent of our sinful ways and turn to Him, lest we "all likewise perish", as the Lord Jesus said on one occasion when He was asked about this very subject (Lk 13.1-5). Yes, this world needs a Saviour from ultimate catastrophe.

The third reason why we need a hope is that Satan is doing his utmost to oppose and frustrate all God’s purposes of grace and judgment in Christ, and wishes to bring all mankind down with himself into the lake of fire, which was originally prepared only for him and his fallen angels, thus wrecking all our lives as well as his own. Even as believers, we should constantly seek God’s help in the continual war against him and all his agents, human and demonic. It is most unwise to underestimate our ultimate enemy, the originator of sin and the architect of all that is against us both before and after conversion.

Its Source

God Himself is our only source of hope, both in this life and the life to come. Yes, the very same God against whom we have all sinned so grievously! Such is the greatness of His love, mercy, and grace towards us, His sinful creatures, counterbalancing perfectly the judicial and moral requirements of His absolute holiness and righteousness. In Romans 15.13, Paul writes of "the God of hope", meaning that He is its Author (see WE Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, under "Hope"). The preceding chapters of the letter to the Romans have clearly explained how God has given hope to all believers on the righteous basis of the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ His own Son. Their identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection to a totally new kind of life free from slavery to sin and consecrated to fulfil His will in the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit is also taught. So the work is all His from first to last, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, our almighty, only-wise, and ever-faithful Saviour God! And "the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2.5) is the only, but perfectly qualified, mediator of all God’s purposes of grace and glory for believers in Him, as He will be the mediator of all His purposes of judgment for all mankind also. In this sense, Paul calls Him "Christ Jesus our hope" (1 Tim 1.1, RV), for apart from Christ, and before our conversions, none of us had any hope at all (see Eph 2.12). "But now in Christ Jesus…", as Paul goes on to say in 2.13, how very different our lives and prospects are! Also, according to Colossians 1.27, the complementary truth of "Christ in you", which here means the whole local assembly at Colosse, including each believer in it, is "the hope of glory". The risen Christ indwells every believer in Him by His Holy Spirit, who is the divine implementer and energizer of all these purposes of grace, and is Himself called by Paul in a parallel passage "the earnest [guarantee] of our inheritance [in Christ] until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph 1.14). This latter event, as we shall explain, has reference to our final salvation and entrance into glory at the Lord’s return.

To be continued.


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