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From the editor: "The God of Hope" (Rom 15.13)

J Grant

From the many titles and names of God which are found in Scripture that of "The God of Hope" stands alongside those that have encouraged the troubled, lifted up the despairing, dried the tears of the sorrowing, and strengthened the arm of the feeble. Truly the words of the Psalmist could be repeated by many: "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God" (Ps 146.5).

It is fitting that Paul uses this title towards the end of the Roman Epistle, for the gospel, which is its subject, is a message of clear and definite hope. In the surrounding darkness of an evil age in which sin tirelessly spreads its tentacles and powerless victims suffer its ravages, the bright burning light of the gospel is that He who planned salvation’s story and saw it carried out at Calvary is the God of Hope.

But not only does this bright beacon shine out to lost sinners, it is a truth from which believers can take constant solace. So often when hopes are expressed it is in anticipation of events that we trust will take place, despite the fact that there may be an element of doubt. Those, however, which are given by the God of Hope have no shadow of doubt in them. The pledge bears the stamp of heaven and confident, certain fulfilment is the believer’s anticipation.

What is the substance of this hope? It is the realisation of promises in the Word of God that have still to be fulfilled. Those cause us to abound in hope. The word "abound" must be considered. It means "to overflow" or "to excel". An appreciation of these promises will allow our hope to reach the high water mark. When sin abounded, that is when it reached its high water mark, grace came in and reached higher; it did much more abound and overwhelmed sin. No other hope, however, can overwhelm the hope possessed by believers. What is promised, the full eternal enjoyment of that life we received at salvation, when sin will be absent never to intrude, when serving Him will be constant joy, when all that blighted this earth will be gone forever, all will be enjoyed in the fullness that He gives.

But can this hope ever be dashed? Hope, states Paul, "maketh not ashamed" (Rom 5.5), it will never let us down. Paul gives us three reasons why we can be confident of this. There are others in Scripture but we will look at just these three.

First there is the statement that "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (v.5). The expression "shed abroad" speaks of the liberality of God’s giving. But in Jude v.11 it is translated "ran greedily" referring to the motives of Balaam. So in Romans 5 the love of God has run greedily through our hearts, but in what way? To "run greedily" expresses the idea of wishing to possess all. So God’s love wishes to possess all of our heart. He wants it all for Himself and He has the right to have it. We must not expect him to share it with other "gods" whether these be the idols of yesteryear or the idols of today. May He have more of my affections, more of my heart.

Second, it was while we were "without strength" that "Christ died for the ungodly" (v.6). There may be those who would die for a "good" or a "righteous" man but there was nothing in us that deserved such a sacrifice. He, therefore, who did so much for those who are ungodly, will not falter in satisfying the hope that He has placed in the breasts of the redeemed.

Third, not only were we without strength, unable to help ourselves, and sinners deserving no favour, we were also enemies of God (v.10). Ours was not a neutral stand; we were opposed to God, active enemies intent on pursuing a life of sin. But now, we who were sinners, through faith are reconciled to God, and to His reconciled He has given hope.

This epistle commenced with the condemnation of God on those who are completely filled with unrighteousness (1.29), and ends with believers who are filled with hope. The former is the work of a sinner, the latter the work of God, so precious, so real and sure that we do well to allow Him to fill us with the joy and peace which can only be the portion of those who believe, fully confident that "hope maketh not ashamed".


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