Jesus, Our Great Hope
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” ~ Romans 5:1-2
A recent season loosened my grip on the world a bit. Not as loose as it ought to be, for sure, but improving. Makes me genuinely grateful for that time. The last three years, I found myself running to the Word more often. Running to secret prayer. Running to the wisdom of saints that are long gone - ones that went through unimaginable adversity and faithfully endured to the end. The luster of the world grows duller while the expectation of seeing Jesus grows brighter.
The luster of the world grows duller while the expectation of seeing Jesus grows brighter.
Paul, an apostle, is one of those saints. He knew the horrors this world could inflict. In fact, he participated in them for a time (Acts 8:3, 9:1-2). Having persecuted, imprisoned and watched as Christians were killed - a powerful encounter with the Lord on the way to capture more disciples, left him a completely new man. A man that immediately went on to proclaim the cross of Christ (Acts 9:20). Ironically, he became a man so concerned for the glory of God and for other Believers, he risked his life in order to encourage and teach every detail of the gospel.
Paul shares some of his sufferings in 2 Cor 11:23b-28 “...with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,] in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” Lots of Paul’s letters were written from a prison cell or from house arrest. And surprisingly, they are packed full of hope.
What made Paul so hopeful? Well, Paul knew, as he wrote his letters inspired by the Holy Spirit, who he used to be and who he had now become. Paul, at one time was a rebel and, was in a very real sense, at war with the holy God. Therefore, God’s wrath (anger revealed in punishment) was hanging over him (Rom 5:9). Paul was in desperate need of righteousness with absolutely no ability to help himself. His body and soul were headed for eternal destruction and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
He was a hopeless state. Much more hopeless than the temporal, earthly sufferings he faced. The Savior had to step in and rescue him (while Paul was on his way to torture God’s children, no less Acts 9:3-9, Rom 5:10). I think he must have thought about this often as he begged others to consider Christ. I was the worst of the worst - I was going after God Himself but He had mercy on me and saved even me! Look what He can do with sinners. He makes them new! (1 Tim 1:15-16)
Look what He can do with sinners. He makes them new! (1 Tim 1:15-16)
Christ opened Paul’s eyes to the gospel that day on the road. And just like Paul, it is necessary that God intervene on our behalf and rescue us from our hopeless state. Man was made by God, to walk with Him and enjoy Him. Sin entered the world, destroying that relationship and separating all of us from the only One we require. We all, now born sinners and enemies of God, have His wrath covering us. Then Jesus - being fully God and fully man - out of love, lived a perfectly righteous life in our place. On the cross, He joyfully took on the complete punishment we owed. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and need of the Savior we, like Paul, are empowered to believe and repent. And in turn, God freely forgives us, declares us justified, gives us the Holy Spirit to dwell in and seal us, and reconciles us back to God. Forever. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Eph 2:8)
We all, now born sinners and enemies of God, have His wrath covering us. Then Jesus - being fully God and fully man - out of love, lived a perfectly righteous life in our place. On the cross, He joyfully took on the complete punishment we owed.
Paul knew, as he wrote Romans 5:1-2, that he was now at “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. He knew that he now had “access by faith into this grace in which we stand”. This was Paul’s secure, permanent status. Righteous. At peace. Standing in grace. A new creation. No man could change that. This was his certain hope. The world could hurt his body but it could never take away his Lord or damage his soul (Matt 10:28).
What is left to do but rejoice in this assurance and tell everyone, plead with them, about this Hope? 2 Cor 5:20 says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Paul and the rest of the writers of Scripture become our mentors, discipling us with the splendor of Jesus. We must do the same. What we were and what we now are, because of Christ, should make us want to share the hope of salvation with the world!
Join Faith Community’s Women’s Ministry for a conference on October 29th from 8:30am-3pm as we learn more about our “Living Hope in a Hard World”. Sign up at the link below.