By Ron Halbrook
“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6).
The gospel points out the goal God has appointed, or the “one hope.” Hearing and believing in the reality of this goal or “hope,” we burn inwardly with a desire to obtain it. We are moved in life by this “hope” within us. Which hope does Paul refer to: (1) the “hope” which is offered and appointed as our goal through the gospel, or (2) the burning “hope” within us which inspires our daily living? The question is worth raising that we may see the hope which burns within us (subjective hope) is based upon the goal which God has appointed for us (objective hope). Little will be gained by arguing over precisely which one Paul meant. If he means the hope burning within the subject or person, he immediately implies the real object or goal which the person desires to reach.
No Hope Without Christ
In Eph. 2:12, Paul refers to the Gentiles before the coming of Christ and the Gospel Age. They were “without Christ . . . having no hope.” This does not mean they did not entertain various hopes, for they did. But instead of letting God appoint the true object of hope, “when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful … changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man … changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator” (Rom. 1:21-25). “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections” and did not commit “the oracles of God” into their wicked hands (Rom. 1:26; 3:1-2). The Gentiles, as a whole, did not look to God and so He did not give them His word (“oracles”) which pointed to Christ as the hope of the world.
Thus for many generations the Gentiles “walked according to the course of this world, . . . were by nature (i.e., by nature of the way they walked) the children of wrath,” and “their foolish heart was darkened” (Eph. 2:2-3; Rom. 1:21). Living in this darkness, they had no idea what a wonderful hope God was preparing in Christ; it was all a hidden mystery to them. Even the Jews did not realize that God planned to offer hope in Christ to the wicked Gentiles. This had “been hid from ages and from generations,” but now God has fully revealed “what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles.”
And what is “this mystery” which is now uncovered, no longer hidden, no more a mystery? “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 2:26-27; see also Eph. 3:4-6). What a wonderful blessing! But those who refuse Christ still have no hope (Jn. 12:48; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Called In One Hope
“Even as ye are called in one hope of your calling,” Paul said. We have been called. Our calling – “the divine call,” “the invitation to enter the kingdom of God” – offered and pointed us to but one hope. When we obeyed the gospel, we made that one hope-and it alone-our hope. The Christian must “know what is the hope of his calling,” (Eph. 1:18)-“the hope to which God calls’.’ him. The calling, the divine invitation brings this hope to the Christian. We are called with a` holy calling, we are offered a glorious hope, and we make that hope our own. (Quotations from Greek-English Lexicon by Arndt and Gingrich, p. 436).
How does God call us-strange voices in the night, physical sensations like chill bumps, emotional feelings, sudden ‘ideas which pop into our mind, unexplainable impulses, better-felt-than-told experiences? None of these! The Ephesians had been called (Eph. 1:18; 4:1; 4:4). How did they learn the will of God and learn to trust in Christ as the basis of hope? Paul says that they trusted in Christ “After that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13). How do we obtain “salvation,” “sanctification of the Spirit,” and “belief of the truth?” “Whereunto He called you by our gospel” (2 Thess. 2:13-14).
God’s call is in the preaching of the gospel. Our answer is in obeying the truth (1 Pet. 1:22).
The Reality of This Hope
The Christian’s hope is not merely empty wishing. It is not what scorners call a silly “pie in the sky”-like a child’s dream, wishing for all the toys in the world.
Vincent, in some of his comments, emphasized “not . . . the thing hoped for, but the sentiment or principle of hope which God’s calling inspires” (Word Studies). When the Ethiopian official heard God call him through the preaching of Christ, he obeyed the gospel. When he came “up out of the water” of baptism, “he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8). Hope was burning within him.
Is this wonderful hope within us blind and empty, a gushing sentimentalism? Is the gospel of Christ a fable and the goal we seek in him without reality or basis in fact? The truth is that eyewitnesses saw Christ after he rose from the dead! Therefore, “we have not followed cunningly devised fables” (2 Pet. 1:16). “Though the way we journey may seem often drear, WE SHALL SEE THE KING SOMEDAY,” as the song says. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2).
God is. The Bible is the word of God. Christ is the Son of God. There is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.
Lenski emphasized the reality of that for which the Ephesians hoped, “The Ephesians are personally involved, yet this basis of unity (hope) stands even apart from them” (Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles). Thus the hope within us has a true basis outside of us. God offers a real hope. Seeing the (objective) hope God offers, the Christian lives by (subjective) hope. THE TWO ARE INSEPARABLY BOUND TOGETHER. Our hope is not mere wishing; it involves adopting for OUR GOAL that which God offers AS A REAL GOAL.
Effect of Hope
After affirming that “we shall see” Christ and “be like him,” John states the effect of this hope. “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 Jn. 3:2-3). Hope inspires us to live a godly course of life. The gospel call is a divine call, its hope is true. Just as John said, Paul says we should “walk worthy of the vocation (calling) wherewith ye are called” (Eph. 4:1-2). The worthy walk includes lowliness, meekness, patience, and love.
The effect Paul most emphasized in Eph. 4 is unity. Sharing one hope draws us together like seamen in a storm-tossed ship . . . facing the same dangers, sharing the same ship, seeking the same shore. This binds us together in holy unity. “How can Christians contend in an angry manner with each other, when the hope of dwelling in the same heaven swells their bosoms and animates their hearts?” (Barnes’ Notes)
But What Is This Hope?
What is this hope we have in Christ, to which we are called, which is a hope of reality, which has wonderful effects on our living? We do not hope for the Son of God to be born, to die, and to be raised; that already happened (1 Cor. 15). We do not hope for new revelations of the gospel; God revealed it in its entirety (Jude 3). We do not hope for remission of sins; we already have it by obeying the truth (Acts 2:38; 1 Jn. 1:7). “Hope that is seen is not hope” (Rom. 8:24).
We are “joint-heirs with Christ;” we shall receive the inheritance: “if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” We await “the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope” (Rom. 8:17-25). Christ shall “come to be glorified in his saints …. when He shall appear, we shall be like Him” (2 Thess. 1:10; 1 Jn. 3:2). We are “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). At the end, Christ will destroy death, deliver up “the kingdom to God,” AND “SO SHALL WE EVER BE WITH THE LORD” (1 Cor. 15; 1 Thess. 4:15-18).
Followers of R. H. Boll, Hal Lindsey, Ellen G. White, the Armstrongs, the (so-called) Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others tell us we are living before the time of Christ’s kingdom among men on earth (MILLENIUM). They claim Christ must come back to earth before that the establishment of that kingdom. They do not realize it is already here and Christians are already in it (Col. 1:13). When Christians accept the premillennial hope, they have accepted another, false hope. They get so engrossed in these theories that they are not content to dwell with those who keep the “one hope.” Beware lest ye be led away and fall (2 Pet. 3).
Truth Magazine, XX:4, p. 13-14
January 22, 1976