By Mark Scott
We taught a Sunday school class called H.O.P.E.—Hitched Or Patiently Engaged. Some maintain unwavering hope for a spouse. Families in surgical waiting rooms feel relief when the doctor says, “We think we got it all.” Some maintain unwavering hope for the health of a loved one. Why are we this way? Because we are creatures of hope.
Paul has established that everyone needs fixing because everyone sins (Romans 1:18–3:20). But those sinners are set right by God’s faithfulness through Christ and by our appropriating God’s grace through faith (3:21–4:25). Here in Romans 5 Paul traces some of the results of this salvation experience. One of the major results is unwavering hope. Then he probes deeper concerning the origin of sin and the death problem that plagues humanity (5:12-21).
Hope for the Unashamed
To admit that one needs help from God is a healthy thing. In fact only those who admit that they need help from God can be saved. Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Who are these who have been set right by God? Those who admit their need for God. Peace in this passage is almost a synonym for salvation. In verse 1 Paul said that we are justified by faith. In verse 9 he said that we are justified by Jesus’ blood. Jesus shed his blood, and we appropriate that blood by our faith in Christ. It is our only hope for salvation.
Jesus’ death on the cross became the means for humanity to gain access to God. We stand in this grace due to hope. This explains why Paul made such a strong statement, And we boast (brag in the best sense) in the hope of the glory of God. The glory of God is not only his nature but also our future.
This unwavering hope also causes our character to be refined. We also glory (boast) in our sufferings. Paul gave an abbreviated virtue list of four items—suffering, perseverance, character, and hope. One leads to the other. Suffering is feeling between a rock and hard place. Perseverance is enduring any situation. Character is what we are when no one is looking. And character produces hope. This hope will never be compromised, be put to shame, or disappoint because its genesis is God’s love that is poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
We can feel shame for our sin but not shame for our hope. Hope in Christ will never let us down. For hope is not just wishful thinking. Hope is a sure confidence that things will work out as God says (Hebrews 11:1).
Hope for the Hopeless
In this section of our text Paul used three expressions that describe our hopeless state before coming to Christ. He labeled us as ungodly, sinners, and enemies. None of these are terribly complimentary. Our situation is hopeless. But those labels frame the backdrop for God’s love.
Christ died for the powerless. This word typically refers to someone sickly or weak. These powerless people are really ungodly (those who lack respect for deity). A human comparison is given in Romans 5:7. Probably we should understand no distinction between righteous and good in the verse. The point being made is that once in a great while a person might give up his or her life for someone else—especially if that person had some nobility. But God demonstrates (causes his love to stand with us) his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. There was an old gospel tract that had this verse on one side, and when you turned the tract over it read, “God loves you so much it hurts.”
In the last paragraph of our text Paul used a typical rabbinic form of argumentation. It is the “how much more” argument. If this is true, then how much more is this true? If we are set right by Christ’s blood then we will be saved from God’s wrath. And if we are brought together (reconciled) with God when we are God’s enemies then we will be saved through his resurrection (life).
Our unique and unwavering hope is that God went out of his way to remove the distance between us. By his great love he has made hopeless people his friends again.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.