Connections 07.24.2016: Hope Called and Love Answered

Connections_MA16_350_c

Romans 5:1-11

I remember an old Gospel song: “Justice Called and Mercy Answered.”

Were I to write a song based on Romans 5:1-11, I’d call it “Hope Called and Love Answered.”

Romans 5 is about good news. “Since we are justified by faith,” it begins, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand” (vv. 1-2a). “We are justified.” “We have peace.” “We have obtained access to grace.” These are all things that have happened and that are presently the case.

It’s all good. It’s all now. It’s all realized.

Then, though, Paul says something about what we don’t yet have: “We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God” (v. 2b). We don’t yet have the glory of God. Now, that’s a fact. We won’t share in the glory of God in the way Paul means it until we are resurrected and our salvation is complete (see Rom 8:18-25). So for now, we have to wait for it. We have to hope for it.

In a Winnie the Pooh comic strip, Pooh and Piglet are standing beside a wishing well. Piglet says, “Sir Brian says we shouldn’t wish for things we don’t have.” To which Pooh replies, “I don’t see why not. We already have everything else.”

We tend to use “hope” and “wish” synonymously. To us, “I hope it rains” and “I wish it would rain” mean the same thing. But biblically speaking, hope is not wishful thinking. It is assurance based in God’s promises.

Still, we hope for what we don’t have. It makes sense. We already have everything else. We already have faith, peace, and grace. We already have access to God.

Here’s the thing, though: our hope can get shaky. Maybe it shouldn’t—after all, we can trust in God’s promises. But “shouldn’t” isn’t “doesn’t.” So our hope can waver. And the fact of the matter is that we’re not going to share in God’s glory until we share in God’s glory. “Hope that is seen is not hope” (Rom 8:24), and we can’t see or experience God’s glory yet.

But then Paul says, “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given us” (v. 5) and “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (v. 8). God’s love that is revealed through the Holy Spirit validates our hope. God’s love that is revealed in the death of Christ validates our hope.

God’s love validates our hope.

Our hope may waver, but God’s love doesn’t. And all we have to do to be assured that God loves us is to remember that Christ died for us and to stay in contact with the Holy Spirit who dwells within and among us.

We need hope. God gives us love.

Hope called. Love answered.

I think I’ll write it in the key of G. You know, for glory….

Discussion

1. How do you think God sharing God’s love with us validates our hope to share in God’s glory?
2. Paul names three things we boast in (vv. 2, 3, 11). How do those three boasts fit into his discussion? What do you find surprising about what he says we boast in?
3. How do our present state of “being reconciled” and our future state of “being saved” (v. 10) work together to assure us that God will indeed cause us to share in God’s glory?
4. According to Paul, what role does suffering play in a Christian’s life? Does his teaching help you deal with suffering? If so, how?

Reference Shelf

This boasting (so correctly NRSV; RSV—rejoicing) is twofold. On the one hand, Christians boast “in our hope of sharing the glory of God” (v. 2b). On the other hand, believers boast (rejoice) both in our sufferings (v. 3a) and in our life in God (v. 11). The one is a future hope (our hope of glory); the other is a present experience (our suffering and our life in God). The unit, 5:1-11, is organized around these two occasions of boasting and their bases. The believers’ boasting in our hope of sharing the glory of God (v. 2b; cf. 8:30) is based on the one hand on God’s acts in Christ’s death (vv. 6-10) and on the other on the character developed through suffering that is confirmed by the gift of the Spirit in believers’ hearts (v. 5). The boasting in suffering (v. 3a) is based on the benefits accruing to those who suffer (vv. 3b-4). The boasting about our life in God is based on the reconciliation received through Christ (v. 11b). 


Paul’s Bible contrasted two types of boasting: self-boasting and boasting in God. The former was viewed negatively and regarded as a characteristic of the foolish and ungodly (Ps 52:1; 74:4) who attempted to be self-sufficient over-against God. Psalm 49:6 and Jeremiah 9:23, for example, equate boasting about one’s wealth with trusting in it. The latter, boasting in God, was viewed positively (Jer 9:24). It was regarded as the equivalent of trusting in God (Ps 5:11-12) and could be used synonymously for rejoicing in God (1 Chr 16:28-31). Paul shared this perspective about boasting. Boasting in one’s self, a negative, he saw as an attempt at self-reliance over-against God (Phil 3:7-10; Rom 3:27; 4:1-2), a trust in the flesh (Phil 3:3). Faith implies an end to all self-boasting (Gal 6:13). True boasting is in Christ (Phil 3:3; Gal 6:14) and God (Rom 5:11). This boasting is the equivalent of trusting and rejoicing in God. In Romans 5:1-11, therefore, for Paul to boast in God or in his hope for the future or in his sufferings was an 
expression of trust in the God whose saving activity Christians had experienced.

Charles H. Talbert, Romans, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2002) 133-34.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra and father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin). A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. You can visit and communicate with him at MichaelRuffin.com. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

*****

For further resources, subscribe to the Connections Teaching Guide and Commentary.

Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson. To purchase the volume quoted in today’s Reference Shelf, please click Here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email