Sunday, 16 August 2009

"Without hope" vs "hope in Christ"

a) Before we became Christians, we were without hope:
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men) – remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:11-13).

Without hope – what a perilous state to live in. Those who are dead in their transgressions today are without hope. Apart from the grace of God at work in my life I would still be without hope today. Let us pray for those who are without hope today that God would have mercy on them and work His grace into their lives.

b) Now that we are Christians, our hope is in God and Christ Jesus:

“This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labour and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe” (1 Tim 4:9-10)
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Tim 1:1)
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:11-12).

What an amazing transformation, to go from being without hope, to being a people who have put our hope in the living God! This transformation can only be achieved by the work of God Himself, it cannot be conjured up by human effort alone. There cannot be a greater dichotomy than travelling from no hope, to hoping in Christ. There is no greater hope than that available in Christ, trusting in who He is, what He has done, and what He will yet do.

c) The Gentiles are included with the Jews in this hope:

“Isaiah says ;The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him’. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:12-13).
“I have become its servant [the gospel] by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:25-27).

It cannot be overstated how important this revelation was, repeated also in Eph 3:6, that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel. The indwelling of Christ in the Gentile believers through the Holy Spirit, providing them with the hope of future glorification, was so hard for the Jewish people to comprehend that when Paul told the crowd in Jerusalem that Jesus had sent him to the Gentiles, they tried to kill him (Acts 22:21-22). Yet we can clearly see how this is the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him (see Gal 3:14).

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