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Chapter 1 Saved in Hope
We are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Romans 8:24-25 We who are believers are saved right now. In a certain sense, we are completely saved. We are entirely saved from the guilt of sin. The Lord Jesus took our sin and bore it in His own body on the cross. He offered an acceptable atonement that did away with the iniquity of all His people once and for all. The penalty of sin has been paid for by our great Substitute and, by faith, we have accepted His sacrifice. "He that believeth on him is not condemned" (John 3:18). When we receive Christ by faith, we are immediately saved from the defilement of evil and have free access to God our Father. By faith, we are saved from the ruling power of sin in our lives. As Romans 6:14 says, "Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." In the heart of every Christian, the crown has been removed from the head of sin and the strength of its arm has been broken by the power of faith. Sin strives to gain control, but it cannot win the victory, for he who is born of God does not delight in committing sin. He does not sin as a daily habit. Instead, the believer guards and protects himself so that the Evil One does not touch him. Now, the Scripture passage that we will be focusing on comes from the eighth chapter of Romans, and it reads, "We are saved by hope." However, this does not seem to agree with other parts of Holy Scripture. Everywhere in the Word of God we are told that we are saved by faith. For example, Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore being justified by faith." Faith, not hope, is the saving grace, except that in some respects hope is equivalent to faith. In the original Greek, the meaning of Romans 8:24 is, "We were saved in hope." If the passage were translated in this way, it would prevent misunderstanding. As the distinguished commentator, Bengel, said, The words do not describe the means, but the manner of salvation. We are so saved that there may even yet remain something for which we may hope, both of salvation and glory. Believers receive the salvation of their souls as the culmination of their faith. They receive salvation by faith, so that they may also receive it by grace. We are saved by faith and in hope. "Therefore, we rejoice right now in the salvation that we have already obtained and that we already enjoy by faith in Christ Jesus. Yet, we are conscious that there is something more than this to be obtained. We will receive salvation in a larger sense that we do not yet see. For, at the present moment, we find ourselves living inside temporary tabernacles. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened" (2 Cor. 5:4). And, all around us, creation is clearly experiencing labor pains. We can see signs of the earth’s contractions in the unrest, upheaval, and anguish occurring in nature. Things are not the way God originally made them. Thorns are growing in earth’s plowed fields; a disease has fallen on her flowers; there is mildew on her grain. The heavens weep and saturate our harvests; the depths of the earth move and shake our cities with earthquakes. Frequent tragedies and disasters foreshadow a great future that will be born as a result of these labor pains. Nowhere on earth can a perfect paradise be found. Even the best things of our world point to something better. And all of creation groans with us in the pains of labor. Even we who have received the firstfruits of the Spirit and are blessed and saved, groan within ourselves, waiting for something further, a glory not yet seen. We have not yet attained salvation but are pressing on. The first thirstiness of our parched, sinful souls has been quenched, but we have still greater desires within us. We hunger and thirst for righteousness with insatiable longings. Before we ate of the Bread of Heaven, we were hungry for the equivalent of pig slop. Now, however, our newborn nature has brought us a new appetite, which the whole world could not satisfy. What is the cause of this hunger? That is not a difficult question to answer. Our griefs, longings, and unsatisfied desires fall under two general areas. First, we long to be totally free from sin in every form. Second, we long to be free from our physical bodies and to receive our resurrected bodies.
Longing for Freedom from Sin
We are burdened by the evil that is in the world. We are troubled by the evil conversations of the ungodly, and we are grieved by their temptations and persecutions. The fact that "the whole world lieth in wickedness" (1 John 5:19) and that people reject Christ and perish in unbelief is a source of great distress to us. We could even wish to live in a deserted area, far from civilization, so that we might commune with God in peace and never hear anything more about blasphemy, murmuring, depravity, and crime. This world is not our home, for it is polluted. We are looking for a great deliverance when we will be taken out of this world to dwell in perfect fellowship with others. Yet, even the presence of the ungodly would be a small matter if we could be completely delivered from sin within ourselves. This is among the "things not seen" (Heb. 11:1) that will be fulfilled at a later time. If a person were free from all tendency to sin, he would not be liable to temptation any longer. He would not need to guard against it. If something cannot possibly be burned or blackened, fire cannot hurt it. However, we feel that we must avoid temptation because we are conscious that there are logs or kindling within us that may soon catch fire. Our Lord said, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me" (John 14:30). But when the Enemy comes to us, he finds not only something, but much that is compatible with his purposes. Our hearts all too readily echo the voice of Satan. When he sows his weeds, the fields of our old natures soon produce a harvest. Evil remains even in those who have been redeemed, and it infects all the faculties of their minds. Oh, if only we could get rid of the memory of sin! What a torment it is for us to remember dirty words and snatches of obscene songs. If only we were free of sin in our thought lives! Do we mourn enough over sins in our thoughts and imaginations? A person may sin, and sin horribly, in his thoughts, even though he may not sin in his actions. Many people have committed fornication, adultery, theft, and even murder in their imaginations by finding pleasure in the thought of them, and yet they may never have fallen into any of these sins in an overt way. If only our imaginations and our whole inner natures were purged of the corruption that is in them and which ferments into something rancid. There is evil inside us that makes us exclaim from day to day, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). If anyone reading this book is saying, "I never feel that way," I pray to God that he may soon experience it. Those who are content with themselves know very little about true spiritual perfection. A healthy child grows, and so does a healthy child of God. The nearer we come to perfect cleanness of heart, the more we will mourn over the tiniest spot of sin and the more we will recognize as sin things that we once excused. He who is most like Christ is most conscious of imperfection and is impatient to be rid of the least sin. When someone says, "I have reached the goal," I am very concerned for him, for I believe he has not yet begun to run. As for me, I endure many growing pains and feel far less pleased with myself than I used to. I have a firm hope of something better, but if it were not for hope, I would consider myself truly unhappy to be so conscious of my need and so racked with desires. Therefore, this is one major source of our spiritual groaning. We are saved, but we are not completely delivered from tendencies to sin. Neither have we reached the fullness of holiness. "There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed" (Josh. 13:1).
Longing for Our Resurrected Bodies Another reason for this "winter of our discontent" is our bodies. Paul called the body "vile" (Phil. 3:21), and indeed it is, when compared to what it will be when it is formed in the image of Christ Jesus. It is not vile in itself, viewed as the creation of God, for it is fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14). There is something very noble about the body of man, who has been created to walk on two feet and to look upward and to gaze toward heaven. A body that has been so marvelously prepared to house the mind and to obey the soul’s commands is not to be despised. A body that can be the temple of the Holy Spirit is no lowly structure; therefore, let us not despise it. We should be eternally grateful that we have been made human beings- that is, if we also have been made new in Christ Jesus and have "put on the new man" (Eph. 4:24). The body came under the power of death through the Fall, and it remains under its power. Because of this, it is destined to die sooner or later, unless the Lord suddenly returns. And, even then, the body must be changed, for flesh and blood, in its present state, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. And so, our poor bodies are not well matched with our newborn souls, since they have not yet been born again. They are somewhat dull and dreary dwellings for heavenborn spirits! With their aches and pains; weariness and infirmity; need of sleep, food, and clothing; susceptibility to cold, heat, accident, and decay, as well as to excessive labor and exhausting toil, they are pitifully incapable of serving those who are sanctified. They drag down and hinder spirits that otherwise might soar to great heights. Consider how often bad health snuffs out the noble flame of high resolve and holy desires. Think about how often pain and weakness freeze the cheerful streams of the soul. When will we be freed from the chains of this natural body and put on the wedding dress of the spiritual body? Since sin dwells in our hearts and we are clothed in mortal clay, we are glad that our salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed, and we long to enter into the full enjoyment of it. Our Scripture text gives us a great amount of encouragement about this. There will come a time when we will be fully delivered from the cause of our present groaning. We will receive a salvation so wide that it will cover all of our needs and even all our desires. A salvation awaits us whose parameters are immense and eternal. Anything we could wish for is encompassed within it. This is what our text is talking about when it says, "We are saved by hope." By hope, we have taken hold of this great and wide salvation. In light of all this, I want to describe for you the kind of hope that has a firm grip on the greater salvation that we are longing for. The Goal of Our Hope Complete Perfection Our hope, first of all, is in our own complete perfection in Christ. We have set our faces toward holiness, and by God’s grace we will never rest until we attain it. Every sin that is in us is doomed, not only to be conquered, but to be put to death. The grace of God does not help us to hide our sins but to destroy them. We are to deal with sin as Joshua dealt with the five enemy kings when they hid in the cave at Makkedah. While Joshua was busy with the battle, he said, "Roll great stones upon the mouth of the cave" (Josh. 10:18). For a while, our sins are shut up by restraining grace, as in a cave. Great stones are rolled at the cave’s mouth, for our sins would escape if they could and once more snatch at the reins of our lives. However, we intend to deal with them more effectively later on in the power of the Holy Spirit. When Joshua said, "Bring out those five kings unto me" (Josh. 10:22), he struck and killed them and then hanged them. By God’s grace, we will never be satisfied until we hate and denounce all our natural inclinations to sin and they are utterly destroyed. We hope in expectation for a day when not a taint of past sin or an inclination for future sin will remain in us. We will still retain free will and freedom of choice, but we will choose only good. Believers who are now in heaven are not passive beings who are driven along the path of obedience by a power that they cannot resist. As intelligent beings with free wills, they freely choose to be holy before the Lord. We too will enjoy forever the glorious liberty of the children of God, which is found in constantly choosing what is good and right. In this way, we will experience unbroken happiness. Ignorance will no longer exist, for we will all be taught by the Lord and will know as we are known. We will be perfect in our service to God and completely delivered from all selfwill and the desires of the flesh; we will be near to our God and will be like Him. As Isaac Watts has written:
Sin, my worst enemy before, Shall vex my eyes and ears no more; My inward foes shall all be slain, Nor Satan break my peace again.
What a heaven this will be! I think that if I could become absolutely free from every tendency to sin, I would not care where I lived, on earth or in heaven, at the bottom of the sea with Jonah or in the low dungeon with Jeremiah. Purity is peace; holiness is happiness. He who is holy as God is holy will be happy as God is happy. This is the chief goal of our hope.
The Redemption of Our Bodies Another goal is the redemption of our bodies. Read the verses in which Paul taught that truth:
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (Rom. 8:10-11) When we die, we will leave our bodies behind for a while. We will not, therefore, in regard to our entire beings, be perfect until the resurrection. We will be morally perfect, but since a complete person is made up of body and soul, we will not be physically perfect while one part of us remains in the tomb. When the resurrection trumpet sounds, our bodies will rise, but they will rise in a redeemed state. Our regenerated spirits are very different from what our spirits were when they were under the bondage of sin. In the same way, when our bodies are resurrected, they will be greatly different from what they are now. The diseases caused by sickness and age will be unknown among glorified believers, for they will be as the angels of God. No one will enter into glory lame, maimed, frail, or deformed. No one will be blind or deaf. There will be no paralysis or wasting away from tuberculosis. We will possess everlasting youth. The body that is sown in weakness will be raised in power and will immediately obey the commands of its Lord. Paul said, "It is sown a natural [soulish] body" (1 Cor. 15:44), appropriate for the soul, and "it is raised a spiritual body" (v. 44), appropriate for the spirit, the highest nature of man. I suppose we will inhabit the kind of body that cherubim wear when they fly "upon the wings of the wind" (2 Sam. 22:11), or the kind of body that seraphim inhabit when, like "a flame of fire" (Heb. 1:7), they rush to obey Jehovah’s commands. Whatever they will be, our poor bodies will be very different from what they are now. At present, they are shriveled bulbs that will be put into the earth. But they will rise as glorious flowers, golden cups to hold the sunlight of Jehovah’s face. We do not yet know the greatness of their glory, except that they will be formed like the glorious body of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, this is the second goal of our hope, that we will receive glorified bodies that will be able to unite with our purified spirits.
Our Spiritual Inheritance Viewed in another light, the goal of our hope is that we will enter into our spiritual inheritance. Paul said, "If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and jointheirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). Whether we own only a little or a great amount in this life, our estates are nothing compared to what God holds in trust for us, what He has pledged that we will receive on the Day when we will come of age. The fullness of God is the heritage of believers. All that can make a person blessed and noble and complete is reserved for us. Measure, if you can, the inheritance of Christ, who is Heir of all things! What must be the portion of the wellbeloved Son of the Highest? Whatever it is, it is ours, for we are jointheirs with Christ. We will be with Him and see His glory; we will wear His image; we will sit on His throne. I cannot tell you more, for my words are povertystricken. I wish that we would all meditate on what the Scripture reveals about this subject until we know everything that can be known about it. Our hope looks for many things; it looks for everything. Rivers of pleasure, of pleasures forevermore, are flowing for us at God’s right hand. Paul wrote of "the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18). He said that it is "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17). Glory - what a word! Glory is to be our ours, even though we are poor sinners. Grace is sweet but what must glory be? And this glory is to be revealed in us, around us, over us, and through us, for all eternity. Paul also wrote of "the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21). Liberty is such a delightful word! We love the idea of liberty, especially when we hear the sounds of freedom coming from the silver bugles of those who fight with tyrants. But what will it be like when the trumpets of heaven proclaim eternal freedom to every spiritual slave! There is no comparison between human and heavenly liberty, the liberty of the children of God. We will have the freedom to enter into the Holy of Holies, to dwell in God’s presence, and to see His face forever and ever. The apostle also spoke of "the manifestation of the sons of God" (v. 19). Here on earth, we are hidden away in Christ as gems in a jewelry box. Later on, we are to be revealed as jewels in a crown. Christ was revealed to the Gentiles after He had been hidden for a while. In the same way, we who are presently unknown are to be revealed before men and angels. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43). I cannot tell you what this manifestation will be like. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor. 2:9). And, although "God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit" (v. 10), our spirits have been able to receive only a small part of this revelation. I suppose that only someone who has had the privilege of seeing the eternal home of those who have been perfected in Christ can tell us what it is like. And I imagine that even he could not do so, for language could not describe it. When Paul was in paradise, he heard words, but he did not tell us what they were, for he said that it was not lawful for a man to speak them. They were too divine for mortal tongues to speak. Not yet, but later on, the object of our hope will be revealed to us. Do not think less of it because it will come in the future, for the interval of time is inconsequential. What are a few months or years? What if a few hundred years intervene before we are resurrected? They will quickly sweep by us, like the wing of a bird, and then! Oh, then! The invisible will be seen; the unutterable will be heard; eternal life will be ours forever and ever. This is our hope.
The Nature of Our Hope
Now, this hope in which we are saved consists of three things: belief, desire, and expectancy. Our hope of being completely delivered from sin in our spirits and of being rescued from all sickness in our bodies, arises out of a solemn assurance of our salvation. The revelation of Him who has brought life and immortality to light, bears witness to us that we also will obtain glory and immortality. We will be raised in the image of Christ and will share in His glory. This is our belief because we know that Christ has been raised and glorified and that we are one with Him. We not only believe this, but we fervently desire it. We desire it so much that, at times, we want to die so that we may enter into it. All the time, but especially when we get a glimpse of Christ, our souls long to be with Him. This desire is accompanied by confident expectation. We expect to see the glory of Christ and to share in it, as much as we expect to see tomorrow morning. Actually, we may not live to see the sun tomorrow morning, but we will certainly see the King in His beauty in the land that is very far away. We believe it, we desire it, and we expect it. That is the nature of our hope. It is not an indefinite, hazy, groundless wish that things will turn out all right, such as when people say, "I hope things will go well for me," even though they live carelessly and do not seek God. Rather, it is a hope that is made up of accurate knowledge, firm belief, spiritual desire, and an expectancy that is fully warranted. This hope is grounded on the Word of God. God has promised us complete salvation; therefore, we believe in it, desire it, and expect it. Jesus has said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). The widest meaning that we can give to the word saved must be God’s meaning for it, since His thoughts are always above our thoughts. We expect God to do what He has said, to the fullest extent of His promise, for He will never back off from His word or fail to keep His commitments. We have committed our souls to the care of the Savior, who has declared that He will save His people from their sins. We are trusting in our Redeemer.
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. (Job 19:2526) Our bodies will be raised imperishable. The Word of God contains many more precious words to the same effect, and we hold onto them, certain that what God has promised He also is able to carry out. We will die without any doubt that we will rise again, even as we have already committed to the dust many of our loved ones in the firm and certain hope of their resurrection to eternal life. The farmer drops his seed into the ground and does not doubt that he will see it rise again. Similarly, we bury the bodies of believers and will eventually resign our own bodies to the grave in the certain expectation that they will live again as surely as they have lived at all. This is a hope worth having, for it is grounded on the Word of God, the faithfulness of God, and His power to carry out His own promise. Therefore, we have a very sure and steadfast hope, and no one who has it will be put to shame. This hope is stirred up within us by the Spirit of God. We would never have known this hope if the Holy Spirit had not awakened it in our hearts. Ungodly people have no such hope and never will have. It is only when people are renewed that this hope enters into them, since then the Holy Spirit dwells in them. And, because of this, I rejoice with unspeakable joy. If my hope of perfection and immortality has been instilled in me by God, then it has to be fulfilled, for the Lord never would inspire a hope that would put His people to shame. The true God never gave mankind a false hope. That could never happen. The God of hope, who has taught you to expect salvation from sin and all its effects, will do for you according to the expectation that He Himself has inspired. Therefore, be very confident and patiently wait for the joyful Day when the Lord will appear. This hope operates within us in a holy manner, as every gracious and holy thing that comes from God must do. It purifies us, as John said: "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (1 John 3:3). We are so certain of this inheritance that we prepare for it by putting off all things that are contrary to it and putting on all things that suit it. We try to live in the prospect of glory. How often it has occurred to me (and, I imagine, to you) to say, regarding something, "How will this look in the Day of Judgment?" We have acted generously or consecrated ourselves, not because we cared anything about what people would think of it but because we looked at it in the light of the coming glory. Our greatest motivation is that a crown of life is reserved for us that will never fade. This blessed hope makes us feel that it is shameful for us to sin, shameful that princes and princesses of the royal bloodline should play in the mire like children of the gutter. Instead, we willingly live as those who are destined to live forever in inexpressible light. We cannot walk in darkness, for we are to live in a splendor that makes the sun seem pale. We are to be immersed in the fellowship of the Trinity. Should we, therefore, be the slaves of Satan or the servants of sin? God forbid! This blessed hope draws us toward God and lifts us out of the pit of sin.