Monday, December 13, 2010

Have You Given Up Hope?

Reading: Romans 7, 8  

Who hopes for what he already has? (Romans 8:23-24) This obvious statement draws attention to the fact that we were saved in hope of something. We've received the firstfruits of it, but we now groan inwardly for the finishing of what began, what was introduced when we were saved.

What Are We Hoping For?
In Romans 8:4, Paul describes the effect, or goal, of the cross in this way, 

in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (ESV1)

So, then, one way to describe what we hope for is to say, “we hope to be a people who are fulfilling the requirement of the law (apart from the law).” He further paints a picture of us as those who now can please God because they are living with their minds set on what the Spirit desires, because they actually have Christ living in them, and the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead2 living in them and giving life to their mortal bodies enabling them to walk in righteousness. This is a picture of the lame walking! A picture of those who were previously completely unable to walk in righteousness, to whom the law came and produced nothing but death, though it was good (Romans 7:13), now having life in their legs and able to walk in righteousness—i.e. to live! Is this your hope?

Paul then assures us of the truth of this present possession and future hope. It is because we have the Spirit that we cry, “Abba, Father.” He testifies that we are God's children. That is a present possession. But that also means that we are waiting in hope for the future possession.

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17)

What is this glory that we long to share in? I addressed this initially last week in a post titled, What is the Advantage of Grace?. In short, man was made in the image and glory of God. “As in Romans 3:23, 'the glory of God' is that state of 'God-like-ness' which has been lost because of sin, and which will be restored in the last day to every Christian.”3 In 1 Corinthians 11:7, Paul refers to man as “the image and glory of God”. While in Genesis we read that man was made in the “image and likeness” of God, “image and glory” of God seemed to become synonymous with those. The glory of God was an element of God's person, His likeness manifest amongst us. This is the glory of God in which we long to share. This is Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27), this is the on-going work of the Spirit in the life of God's children. Christ-likeness is our guaranteed inheritance.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Who Hopes for What He Already Has?

How often do we question whether or not we are saved because of how far we seem to be from Christ-likeness? It is to this point that Paul's question rings loud and clear.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? (Romans 8:24)

There is work to be done yet. We don’t have the inheritance yet, just the deposit which guarantees it. Our present sufferings (which are a share in Christ's sufferings) are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us! (Romans 8:17,18). The people of God, transformed into the image of Christ, is so glorious that the whole creation waits in eager expectation of it (Romans 8:19). In fact it is groaning, and indeed we too are groaning as we wait for this final adoption, or the final receiving of our inheritance, Christ being fully formed in us.

Don't get discouraged because you haven't arrived. (I realize that we are all discouraged at times because we haven't arrived. But, let that turn our attention to our hope.) Realize that it is our hope, the very hope in which we were saved, and the hope which we continue to pursue.

Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:3)

It is this waiting status that makes up the substance of our groaning. It gave me pause, this morning, to consider that maybe this “groaning” over the gap between what we are called to be, even hoping to be and what we haven't yet become, might be what Paul is describing in Romans 7:14-25. Might be, but of course, we won't settle that debate this side of heaven.4

This gap between what we are hoping to be, and what we haven't yet become gives us an inherent weakness. We don't know what we ought to pray for. Is it, “Lord, deliver me from this painful trial,” or, “Lord, use this suffering to conform me to the image of your Son.” Indeed it is both! We are told to pray for deliverance from evil. Even Jesus prayed, “if it is possible take this cup from me.” But he also prayed, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) The Spirit works in our prayers as we bring our hopeful, yet incomplete, renovation projects to the Father in prayer. He accompanies our prayers with groans that words cannot express. The Father hears our prayer and answers us.

And we can know that God will work all things toward the purpose He set out to accomplish: a people conformed to the likeness of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. This whole process started with God's love in advance (foreknew), and His predetermining our destiny to be like His Son, so He not only called, He justified, and He also glorified. (It is so sure that this glorification will be accomplished that Paul can speak of it in the past tense.)

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Not even our suffering. Not anything. It is a sure thing, and therefore, our sharing in the His glory, His likeness is a sure things also. But it remains a hope; not a complete possession.

Are you still hoping for it? If you've been discouraged by the fact that you haven't already arrived, be encouraged by the truth of Romans 8 and stir up that hope!

Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

1If reading through Romans or Galatians, and you see the words, “sinful nature,” it is usually best to read, “flesh,” following the ESV, or NASB. “Flesh” is a direct translation, while “sinful nature” is a interpretation.

2This is not two Spirit's but One... confirming the doctrine of the Trinity.

3Douglas Moo, NICNT Commentary on Romans, pg. 302.

4I can't even settle it fully for myself.