“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” (Romans 8: 24 – 25)
The word “hope” is a lovely word. But what do we hope for? “I hope that dress goes on sale.” “I hope I win $20 on my lottery ticket.” “I hope my car makes it.” “I hope she calls.” “I hope the stock market turns around.”
But that definitely doesn’t sound like the kind of “hope” the Bible is referring to! In fact, hope is one of the three great virtues of I Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.”
What’s the Difference between Faith and Hope?
We understand that love is different from faith and hope. But how are faith and hope different? Looking back to 1 Cor. 13:13, they seem to be the same thing but the Greek words are different.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Heb. 11:1)
FAITH = belief. Greek: pistis (pis’ tis), faith, faithfulness. Faith is based in our understanding of the truth. You can talk about “my faith,” meaning that you believe that what the Bible says is true. You can also “have faith,” which means that you believe you can trust in God in your daily life. In both cases, faith is an intellectual response – you decide to believe that what Jesus Christ said is true. However, faith as in belief does not necessarily lead to hope. In James 2:19: You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
Therefore Christian faith is followed by HOPE = the reaction to faith in Christ. Greek: elpis (el-pece’), expectation, hope. Hope is based the will, you will that what you believe is true. The Greek doesn’t mean “Oh I hope I win the lottery,” which is a nice daydream. It’s a much stronger word, closer to expectation. Because we believe that we have eternal life in Christ, we hope for eternal life!
New Testament authors understand how the intellectual function of faith – believing in the truth – leads to the emotional outcome of hope – a joyful expectation.
“They differ in respect of their office, i.e. of their working. Faith tells what is to be done, teaches, prescribes, directs; hope stirs up the mind that it may be strong, bold, courageous, that it may suffer and endure adversity, waiting for better things.”
So what is Christian hope?
According to the Bible, Christian hope hopes for the promises of God. Eternal life in the future and abundant life in the present. How great is that?
- Christian hope looks forward to the great promises of God.
- Christian hope focuses the entire direction of a person’s life – it is active, not passive.
- Christian hope grows from the hard knocks of this world.
Looking forward to the great promises of God
How is hope different from faith? They are deeply intertwined. But there is a difference. Faith is belief – we believe that what God said in the Bible is true. Hope looks forward to the fulfillment of what we believe, the great promises of God: the present and final forgiveness of sins, abundant life now, eternal life and joy.
We can say that hope means confident expectation.
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Rom. 8:24,25)
Christian hope is active
Christian hope is not passive. It is active because it spurs our response to God’s call.
Christian hope isn’t sitting around and hoping that heaven is nice. Christian hope spurs us to action because many of God’s promises are conditional on our response.
- Do you hope for eternal life? Then you need to accept Jesus as your personal Savior.
- Do you hope for a closer walk with God? Then you need to pray and read the Bible and act in love.
- Do you hope for abundant life? Then you need to develop the fruits of the Holy Spirit and your spiritual gifts.
Christian hope grows from hard knocks
Romans 5:3 says “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Why in the world would character produce hope? Everybody hopes for something, even very weak people. Remember that we are talking about Christian hope here, not the “hope” that I’ll win Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes and solve all my problems. Christian hope is active and rises out of faith and strong character.
Christian hope sometimes goes against the grain and the evidence. Look at the death of Christ! What kind of hope did his followers have then? Maybe not much by themselves – but they only had to remember what Jesus had told them for the last 3 years. He would die, but then He would rise again! Christian hope and faith operate as light in darkness. And that takes character and growth in Christ.
Verses on Hope
To live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:12,13)
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Heb. 11:1)
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:5)
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations. (Rom. 4:18)
We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:24-25)
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 )
Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)