I want to provide you with a little theology of hope in this post. And I want to start with the idea that our hope, fundamentally, is in God. It is in the unchanging God, the God who cannot speak anything other than the truth. That’s why Psalm 43:5 can say this:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
And why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,
My salvation and my God.
Things aren’t what they should be. Things aren’t the way we would plan them if we were in charge. And this can drive us to despair. But the psalmist says, “Stop that and hope in God.” God has promised to care for, protect, guide, and sustain us, and we can trust Him for eternal life.
The Bible also says that our hope from God is a gift of grace. It’s not something we can earn. Look at this benediction:
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father — who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace — comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)
Never let it be said that we did anything to earn our hope. God is the one who gives us something to hope for, and He gives us this good hope by grace.
Now, where do we find the essence of this hope? Where do we learn what exactly we are hoping for? This is what Romans 15:4 says:
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Whatever was written in Scripture — in both the Old and New Testaments — was written that we might have hope. Our hope comes from God by grace and is dispensed to us in Scripture. It is as we learn what Scripture says that we have hope. And because this hope from God by grace is given through Scripture, it is something that is reasonable. So says 1 Peter 3:15:
But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.
Peter is saying that our hope is defensible. It’s not a pie-in-the-sky sort of hope. Our hope in eternal life, in heaven, in ultimately being made like Christ, in a redeemed body wed together in indivisible oneness throughout all eternity with our redeemed spirit by which we will praise and serve the Lord, is a reasonable hope.
Someone may ask, “How is it defensible?” It is defensible because it comes from the Word of God. And God’s Word is true. Any honest study of the Bible will allow Scripture itself to unload its own truthfulness on an open-minded reader. The Bible can defend itself to anyone who studies it.
In addition to all of this, we know that our hope has already been secured for us. And how was it secured? By the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Again, Peter helps us with this.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)
We have hope that we’re headed toward eternal life. And we bless God because He’s caused us to be born again to this hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We died in Him and we rose in Him. We have risen to walk in newness of life in the very resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus went to the cross, there might have been some question about whether our hope was valid. There might have been some reason to wonder whether the promise of the Old Testament, “Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay,” would really be true (Psalm 16:10). Did the psalmist have a reason for that hope? It was at least open to question until one monumental event — the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
At the resurrection, our eternal life was secured. And so, we have a living hope. But that doesn’t end this amazing treatment of hope in the Bible. Look at Romans 15:13.
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.
It is the Holy Spirit who stirs up that hopeful attitude in the heart in response to the promises of God revealed in Scripture. Hope, then, encompasses the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father gives hope, the Son secures hope, and the Spirit confirms hope.
As believers, then, we are to live with hope. We are not a people who have hope only in this world; we have hope in the world to come, and it is a living hope. It is a hope for real life, guaranteed and secured for us because Jesus conquered death not only for Himself but for all who are in Him. And as we will see next time, this hope is our anchor through the doubts and trials of life.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 2003, titled “A Theology of Hope.”
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