Monday, 17 August 2009

A better hope, scripture hope, future hope

a) The hope promised in Christ is better than that held out through the law:
“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 6:17-20)
“The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (Heb 7:18-19).

The gospel contains great hope, because it gives us absolute confidence to approach God as it is not dependent on ourselves at all, but all on Him. What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God DID by sending His own Son in the likeness of man to be a sin offering. When the law was given to Moses, it simply revealed to man that he was guilty of breaking the law. It did not offer man help to keep the law, and thus give man the righteousness he needs if he is to stand before a Holy God. God provided the solution needed - by sending His Son to keep the law and fulfil it, there is now One who is perfectly Righteous. When we trust and believe in Him, His very Righteousness is imputed to us, that is, God not only forgives our sin, but sees in us the very Righteousness of His Son. It has all been done by Him, it is finished, it is complete, nothing more can be added to it. We simply need to trust in the great truth that by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy, and live a life of gratitude and obedience in response as we draw near to God with confidence. What greater hope can there be?

b) The Scriptures give us hope:

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4).

We read that on the road to Emmaus, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to two of his disciples what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:27). What an amazing conversation that must have been! Time and time again in Acts we read that Paul went into the synagogues and “he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead” (eg Acts 17:2-3). The testimony of the New Testament seems to be that the Old Testament is full of Christ, and that we should read it in order to find out what is revealed about Christ and God’s redemptive plan for humanity. As we do this, our hope will increase and we will be mightily encouraged to see how this plan has unfolded throughout history, we will be humbled that we should play any part in this plan, and we will be inspired to endure to see how this plan reaches its conclusion in the Day of the Lord.

c) Our hope is in the future:

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1)
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subject to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Rom 8:18-27).

I believe Paul is here speaking about future redemption of both the earth and our bodies, which will take place after the return of Jesus Christ. Creation is groaning because it continues to suffer the curse which God issued after Adam sinned. We ourselves are groaning because even though we have spiritually been born again, we continue to live in mortal bodies which are subject to decay and death, again a result of the curse following the sin of Adam. We also have to daily wage war against our sinful nature, to walk in the Spirit rather than in accordance with the sinful nature. Yet in the future we are assured that our sinful natures will be destroyed, we will receive perfected bodies no longer subject to decay and death, and there will be new heavens and a new earth where all things will be made new. What a wonderful hope this is! Praise God!