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Colossians 1:5 & 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10 by Robert Dean
This lesson also includes Romans 8:20-25
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 56 secs

Hope: Future Reality, Present Motivation. Colossians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10; Romans 8:20-25

 

At the very beginning of this epistle we see the emphasis on these three words: faith, love, and hope. Now we want to focus on hope. Hope is s future reality that provides motivation and strength for the present. As we face various challenges and difficulties and tribulation or adversity during our present life that which gets us over the hump, that which helps us to stay focussed in the midst of the struggle, no matter how long that struggle may last, is hope. This hope is something that is absolute and absolutely true, something that gives tremendous confidence, a certainty that things will be a certain way in the future and because they will be that way in the future it gives us strength for the present time. So the concept of hope in the Scripture is a much more profound concept than what we find in the normal use of the language that we experience on a day-to-day basis.    

 

Hope has to be based on some prior spiritual growth, it is not that as a young believer someone can't have a measure of hope but to really have the kind of hope that the Scripture speaks about it means that he has grown beyond spiritual infancy and mastered some of the very basic spiritual skills that God has provided for us in Scripture. Faith is a focus on what God has said in His Word to be true, and faith means that we believe it to be true.

What does it mean to believe something is true? It is not a sort of distant belief that, yes, academically that is true and it doesn't really affect how we think, how we do anything. It is a belief that something is true, for example, when you are sitting down filling out your income tax and are trying to pull together all of the information and making sure that all of the figures balance out, and when everything does you stop. You don't keep going, you rest in that. You believe it is true that it is all accurate information and so you quite working. That is the rest aspect when we talk about faith-rest. Faith focuses on the belief aspect that something is true and the rest aspect is when we relax. Because it is true we are now able to relax and to rest. It doesn't mean that we don't do certain things. Scripture says that we walk by faith but there are hundreds and hundreds of mandates and prohibitions within the New Testament that are part of the spiritual life. So we believe that the Scriptures are true, and because we believe them to be true, we obey the positive commands and we avoid doing the things we are told not to do. That is, if we want to remain in fellowship, abide in Christ and walk by means of the Holy Spirit. So even though we walk by faith it is not a faith that is a sort of mystical, contemplative type of thing, it is the faith that means we understand that the Word of God is true and therefore we rest in its truth, we do what God says to do, and because of that we are not running around with our lives governed by fear, anxiety, worry, and all of these other things. As we master that faith then we move top the next level which is understanding hope because hope is built on that confidence in God and His Word that has been developed by our consistent use of the faith-rest drill and by consistently claiming promises and applying them in our lives.

This is the structure that Paul has in the opening paragraph which extends from verse 3 to verse 8. He begins, "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, [4] since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; [5] because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel." The phrase "because of the hope" is not related to everything that Paul has said, it is related to the last statement of verse four, the "love for all the saints." They have love for all the saints because of the hope which is laid up in heaven. So the hope that is seen in terms of the grammatical structure of this verse as being that which is critical to the love for all the saints and moving into a consistent application of the principle that we are to love one another as Christ has loved us.

In terms of a definition of hope we see that hope is a confidence in future realities that motivate us through present difficulties. It is interesting to see that in a number of different contexts hope is always related to perseverance, to endurance in times of testing and of trouble.

In terms of the elementary skills, the basic skills that we have to master in the Christian life in order to move forward and advance to maturity we have to advance to these faith-focussed spiritual skills. Each of them is oriented to developing our ability to consistently trust God: Confession of sin, walking by the Spirit, the faith-rest drill, grace orientation and doctrinal orientation. The way they are listed indicates a logical progression but we don't grow in that kind of way. Spiritual growth is the result of learning what you are taught from the pulpit. We don't grow in a neat, straight line. Life is dynamic, we grow in fits and starts, in different ways, and so the way we are structuring this is not in a logical way but to show the eternal relationship of these spiritual skills to one another.

Faith in terms of how we normally describe it is a faith-rest drill. The rest part doesn't necessarily emphasize passivity, i.e. that we don't do anything, that we just sort of have this mystical contemplative idea of faith, e.g. let go and let God. That is not what we are talking about here. The reality is that we walk by faith, 2 Corinthians 5:17. That means we have an object to our faith which is the Word of God.

In terms of believing what God's Word says that intersects with the other four elements that are basic to spiritual growth. Confession of sin: that if we disobey God, if we have committed any sin we are out of fellowship and so we have to confess to God. We believe 1 John 1:9 to be true and so when we know we are out of fellowship we confess our sins and we believe that God has forgiven us and cleansed us. So we don't even need to have a guilt complex over it. It is wiped out; the slate is wiped clean. God has separated our sins from us as far as the east is from the west, it is not an issue anymore and so we can go forward without being dragged down by the chains of guilt and remorse that often accompanies certain kinds of sin. Confession just gets us back in fellowship, into a place where we can grow; it doesn't cause growth it just takes us back to a position where we can grow. That is in terms of a partnership, a fellowship with God the Holy Spirit. So now in order to go forward we have to walk by the Spirit.

The focal point in life isn't confession of sin; that is just a recovery mechanism. The focal point is consistency in walking by the Spirit, abiding in Christ, walking in the light, walking by means of truth; all of these are different ways that the writers of the New Testament describe the spiritual life. The idea is to stay in fellowship. When we do that we also are learning about God's grace. Not only His grace in terms of what He has provided for us at salvation but that the whole spiritual life is based on grace. Grace means that God doesn't deal with us on the basis of some sort of tit-for-tat procedure where we have to do certain things and then He will bless us. He has already given us, as Ephesians 1:3 says, every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. Peter 1:3 says that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. It is a free gift, it was given to us at the instant of salvation; we don't have to do anything for it.

When we ask God for something sometimes we ask for just a few things. We really don't want to inconvenience God in any way, and we don't want to exploit God's grace. But that is what we are expected to do—exploit God's grace. He has given us everything and we need to take advantage of that and to use it. That is part of learning to grow as a believer. But grace orientation also goes hand in hand with doctrinal orientation. In grace orientation we are changing the way we think so it lines up with God's grace principles of Scripture, and doctrinal orientation basically means that we are learning what God's Word says and we are learning to think as God thinks. All this is based on believing the Word of God to be true.

Love is defined as that which is best for the object of love, best being defined by what God says is best. That gives it an objective basis rather than a subjective basis on our part that often may be motivated by a personal or selfish agenda. But the advanced spiritual skills—personal love for God, unconditional love for all mankind, occupation with Christ, inner happiness or tranquillity—all flow out of that focus on God that develops as our love for Him matures. But what gets us from the basics to the advanced is hope. Hope is when we have this robust confidence that the future is more real to us than our present circumstances, so that that enables us then to surmount the difficulties, the adversities, the problems and then we can move forward toward spiritual maturity.

There are many times in Scripture where these three virtues are linked together—faith and love in a number of passages, love and hope in a number of passages, and a few passages that mention all three of them, such as 1 Thessalonians 5:8 NASB "But since we are of {the} day, let us be sober [have an objective mindset], having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation." Paul here uses the Roman soldier's armor as his illustration. He is communicating protection: that what protects us in the Christian life is this armor. It is defensive, so that whatever is attacking us, whatever the circumstances are that we run into, it is these three things that provide a protection for us. The helmet is the hope of salvation. When we use the word "salvation" often, because of the way we use this in modern evangelical usage, we think of salvation only in terms of justification salvation, moving from being an unbeliever to a believer. That is not how Paul uses it in many cases. In fact, in many cases the word doesn't refer to justification at all, it refers to either the ongoing spiritual growth of the believer as we are being saved from the power of sin—experiential sanctification—and in a number of passages it refers to the end game, which is when we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord and we are saved or delivered from the presence of the sin nature. That is how Paul is using the word in this verse.

See the next verse. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 NASB "For God has not destined us for wrath…" The context is very important here. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Paul gives the foundational discourse on the Rapture, on what happens at death, and that just because a believer dies it doesn't put him in an inferior position to believers who are still alive when Jesus returns. Then at the beginning of chapter five he shifts to talking about what happens after the Rapture, which is the period we call the Tribulation, otherwise called here the day of the Lord. He contrasts the believer today—we are of the day, and those who are unbelievers are of the night; they are the ones who will be caught off-guard when the day of the Lord comes. We are of the day and therefore we are to be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet, the hope of salvation. Why? Because God did not appoint us to wrath. Here the term "wrath" is a technical term for the Tribulation period. God has not destined us for that sort of divine discipline and judgment in history but to obtain salvation, i.e. deliverance, through our Lord Jesus Christ. So the word here for salvation isn't even talking about phase two, experiential salvation deliverance, it is focussed on the fact of ultimate glorification and that whether we are alive or not at the Rapture we have the promise, we do not go through the Tribulation period.

1 Thessalonians 5:9, 10 NASB "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him." Living together with Him is our future destiny. It is our destiny as believers to be with Him forever (1 Thess. 4:17). So when we talk a bout the hope of our salvation that salvation is that phase three deliverance from this body when we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord. Whether that comes with the Rapture or death we will be with Him forever.

1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." In the next verse there is a different "now," the Greek word nuni [nuni]. The difference is that although many times the words can be used interchangeably when you find different words in the same context, as here, the word that is used in verse 12 is the more immediate "now" (right now) and the "now" that is used in verse 13 has a broader sense, e.g. now in this time period, this decade, in this age, etc. So in this section of 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul has talked about how the gift of prophecy and the gift of knowledge will be abolished and the gift of tongues will cease he then goes on to give a couple of illustrations of how that will happen. In that he talks about now and then. Example: v. 12. Now in this pre-canon period we see through a mirror dimly. Why is the reflection dim? We don't have the complete revelation of God. We don't have all the parts. But then, face to face with the completed canon of Scripture we can see ourselves as we truly are. So face to face is not face to face with the Lord but face to face with a completed canon. Only love abides after we are face to face with the Lord. 

1 Corinthians 13:13 NASB "But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love." Faith and hope don't operate when we are face to face with the Lord. Now we walk by faith and not by sight. When we are absent from this body and in heaven we will be walking by sight. Same with hope; hope does not operate with what we see. This verse emphasizes that faith and hope are crucial in this age and in this life, but when this life is over with what continues is love.

Romans 5:2 NASB "through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in [on the basis of] hope of the glory of God." Hope flows out of the robust certainty we have in our future destiny and leads to a fuller peace that passes all understanding. Hope of the glory of God takes us to a future time; we are focusing on the end game.

Romans 5:3 NASB "And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations…" Because we understand hope, this robust confidence that we have, we can glory in all of those miserably tough circumstances that we face on a day-to-day basis. That is why the spiritual life is supernatural. We can't do that on our own, we can't manufacture it; we can only do it if we are walking by the Spirit. "… knowing that…" i.e. because we know something. Knowledge comes from doctrinal orientation, and to know with confidence that that tribulation produces endurance. We can't learn to persevere if we don't have something tough to persevere through. So God is just giving us an opportunity to grow, and perseverance produces character. Character then produces hope. [4] "and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope." So hope isn't something that you have coming out of our spiritual diapers, we have to grow a little more before we can get to this perception, this confident expectation. [5] "and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." So hope gives us that expectation and provides stability in our life in the midst of life's difficulties.

In the next passage in Romans chapter eight we have to remember that we are talking about those who are already justified but are needing to experience full spiritual growth. Romans 8:24 NASB "For in hope we have been saved, but hope…" It sounds like he is using "saved" here to refer to something that happened in the past, especially as it is in the aorist tense. The problem is that the aorist tense is often used in what is called a future sense—something in the future is so certain that it is spoken of as already completed. That is the idea here. Nowhere else in Romans has Paul used the word sozo [swzw] for salvation or saved in reference to justification. Justification isn't the context here, it is experiential growth, ongoing spiritual life. So this is not talking about getting eternal life. It is not saying we are justified by this hope but that we grow to spiritual maturity by this hope. It is a motivational factor. "…[hope] that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he {already} sees?" That's why hope ends when we are face to face with the Lord. [25] "But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it."

Romans 8:23 NASB "And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit…" The focus on the first fruits of the Holy Spirit is all that we are given at salvation—baptized by the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit, sealed by the Spirit, given spiritual gifts, and then we have the filling by means of the Spirit which is the only thing that we can lose and when we recover we are back in fellowship. But where is the focus here? "… even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for {our} adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." Waiting, that's future. Here's an example for people who think that redemption applies only to what Jesus Christ did on the cross: this applies to the physical body. Paul is using the concept of redemption here to indicate what happens when even creation gets to its renovated state. This is when we are face to face with the Lord; it only comes after the Rapture.

Romans 8:18 NASB "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." When we are fixated on the glory, that hope of our calling, that future expectation, then no matter what the hell on earth is that we are going through on a day-by-day basis it pales in comparison with what our understanding of our future destiny is. [19] "For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. [20] For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope." It is brought under the curse but it will have a future reversal of that curse at the end of the Millennial kingdom. [21] "that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." There is not going to be an environmental cleansing until Jesus comes back. It will only be partial during the Millennial kingdom but it is complete in the new heavens and the new earth. So there is a physical dimension to sin that when Adam sinned it didn't just mess up Adam, it messed up creation. [22] "For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now."  

1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; Ephesians 1:15; Philemon 5; Romans 15:13 NASB "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."