By Michael L. Dubose
Paul said, “And now abildeth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). We understand that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6) and we emphasize its importance in His plan. We remember the occasion of the lawyer asking Jesus which is the greatest commandment. Jesus answered that we are to love God above all else and that we are to love our neighbor as ourself. He said that the whole law hangs on these two commandments (cf. Mk. 12:28-31). Thus, we continually teach about love as the central force in our obedience to God. However, we don’t deal with hope quite as often. As a result, many Christians fail to take advantage of the great power of hope.
On two other occasions Paul mentions the three together. In 1 Thessalonians 1:3, he wrote, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Again in 5:8 Paul said, “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.” It is significant to note that Paul said our helmet, the thing which protects our most vital part, the head, is the hope of salvation. Hope provides us with great protection against the temptations and snares of the devil. It is our “patience of hope” that motivates us to continue working in the Lord’s vineyard.
We can understand the great motivating power of hope by considering everyday occurrences. In fact, life, without hope, would be impossible to bear. We have all seen or heard of someone injured in an accident which results in paralysis to the limbs of the body. Over the days and weeks after the injury, the individual works, moving the paralyzed muscles with great difficulty and often in great pain. But the hope of one day walking again motivates the person to continue, to endure the hours of therapy and the suffering.
It is no wonder that Paul repeatedly connected hope with faith and love. As Christians, hope is necessary to our spiritual well being. It is hope that motivates us to endure in spite of temptation, persecution, and indifference. It is our hope of heaven that helps us to patiently labor despite all of life’s setbacks. The Hebrew writer said, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. . . ” (Heb. 6:19). Our hope is Christ. He is the anchor that holds us secure in life’s troubled waters.
We need to understand that there is a vast difference between hope and wishful thinking. Hope is desire plus expectation. Often we desire something but have no real expectation of receiving it; that is not hope. It is wishful thinking. Sometimes we fully expect to receive something, but have no desire to receive it. That is hardly hope. But, when we truly desire something and have a reasonable expectation of receiving it, then we joyously hope for it.
Without Christ, we would have no hope of heaven. All men sin and separate themselves from God (Rom. 3:23). All are lost and unworthy of heaven (Rom. 6:23). But God sent His Son to die that through Him we might have the hope of everlasting life. Paul told the Colossians that it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Christ is the anchor of the soul in stormy seas. We desire to live in heaven and because Christ died on the cross we can fully expect to enjoy eternal life, if we keep His commandments (Heb. 5:8,9).
While hope is a powerful weapon in our arsenal for quenching the fiery darts of Satan, we must understand the basis of hope. There is only one hope (Eph. 4:4). Only those who obey the truth have that hope. John wrote, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 Jn. 3:3). We purify ourselves, as John explained, by keeping God’s commandments, by doing righteousness. He said, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (1 Jn. 1:3-5). And again, “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (1 Jn. 3:7).
Peter taught, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth . . .” (1 Pet. 1:22). Those who have the one hope of which Paul spoke have obeyed the gospel of Christ and are continuing to do righteousness by continuing in His word. These are the ones who have been made free from sin (Jn. 8:32). Others may hope to live in heaven while rejecting the truth, but they have confused hope with wishful thinking. The desire may be there, but they have no right to expect to live in heaven. By refusing to obey God’s word, the basis of hope is gone.
Paul wrote of those outside of Christ as those “which have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). Truly, the most horrifying statement in the Bible is Paul’s description of man without Christ. “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). The hopelessness of those who reject God’s word is mirrored in the account of the rich man in Luke 16:19-31. He rejected God’s pleading while he was alive, his opportunity to obey God had passed and only eternal agony stretched before.
Peter said, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1: 13). The idea here is that the child of God must set his heart firmly on Christ. We must recognize that only by doing His will can we hope to live eternally. This earth is not our permanent home; we are on a journey to heaven. Hope enables us to patiently endure, to overcome temptation that we might one day enjoy the mansions prepared for us in heaven.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 10, p. 301
May 17, 1984