Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 3 Study # 10
Thesis: Salvation is "by" hope.
Introduction: When we have to deal with things we do not want to have messing with our experience, the attitude we take is critical. We have seen in our study so far that "groaning" is an inescapable aspect of experience in a fallen world. No one can do anything to make this reality "go away". Though an enormous amount of energy and resources are expended in efforts to make things "go away"; and though that energy often does have a desirable impact; it is yet true that no sooner does one fire come under control than another one breaks out. Thus, as regenerated believers, we must have some way of accepting this reality that does not consist of either anger or despair.
There are at least two factors that enter into the picture at this point. One is God. He is always at the center of "command and control" in the lives of every single one of His creatures; so, nothing happens without either His instigation or His permission. Both of these issues -- instigation and permission -- are crucial considerations. But, there is also at least a second factor that has to also be considered: the attitude we take under the reality of His instigation/permission.
It is this issue -- the attitude we take -- that concerns Paul the most in Romans 8. There is, after all, nothing that anyone of the creatures of God can do about the reality of God's centrality in command and control. This is an immutable "given" in the creation of a Creator. Therefore, we have to deal with the thing(s) that we can do something about. And, ultimately, that boils down to "the attitude we take".
So, this evening we are going to look into Paul's declaration regarding "salvation by hope" so that we may make any corrections that we may need to make to handle the "groaning" in legitimate ways.
December 18, 2007
- I. The First Issue: "In" or "By"?
- A. Grammar is a morass (a soft, wet area of low-lying land that sinks underfoot -- The Sage).
- 1. It is particularly problematical when there is a minimum of helpful indicators.
- 2. Paul simply used the dative of the definite article and the word for "hope".
- a. This is the least definitive way of expressing one's meaning (it's like responding to a question about the location of a certain place or thing with a vague waving of the hand in a general direction).
- b. But this means, in a sense, that Paul deliberately injected a bit of "groaning" into our process of understanding him.
- 1) According to Paul's basic way of looking at life, growth comes out of effort.
- 2) Thus, tossing a deliberately vague phrase into his argument is, in a sense, his way of forcing a bit of effort if understanding is a real objective (this is a very mild way of dividing the sheep from the goats).
- B. Context is our "wide flat board" that keeps us from sinking into the morass.
- 1. Paul has been seriously interested in his readers' understanding of the principles of actual living.
- 2. One of those principles is "dealing effectively with frustration".
- 3. Thus, there is a contextual indication that Paul is dealing with "means" more than "setting" (though, obviously, both are involved -- "setting" is what causes "groaning" and "means" is what we decide to do in the face of it).
- II. The Second Issue: "Hope".
- A. Paul's Roman theology of hope (what he teaches in Romans about hope).
- 1. The first time we run into "hope" as an actual verbal expression in Romans is 4:18.
- a. This is in an absolutely critical context.
- 1) In Romans 4 Paul is setting Abram up as the prototype of what it means to be a "believer" who gets "justified" for "believing".
- a) 4:16 says he was to be "the father of us all" (the prototype).
- b) 4:22 says "wherefore it (his believing) was reckoned unto him for righteousness".
- 2) Being "justified by faith" is how one escapes the wrath of God and becomes an heir of the glory that is to come.
- 3) This is exactly what is in Paul's mind in our present text (8:24) because he is, both here and in chapter 4, dealing with the mechanics of being "saved".
- b. In this context Paul makes a subtle but crucial distinction between "faith" and "hope".
- 1) In 4:18 Paul lays out his "theology of hope".
- a) He sets it in an historical setting in which Abraham had alternatives in the matter of what he would believe.
- b) He expresses the Abrahamic thought process in terms of "hope", with two deliberate and separate issues.
- i. There is his long-developed (99 years) experience of how the physical universe operates and what that means for his body, Sarah's womb, and his desire and groanings.
- ii. There is a shorter-developed (perhaps 25 years) experience of whether God has enough integrity to be trusted in terms of His promises.
- c) He says Abraham "believed" in an "against hope"/"upon hope" setting.
- i. What the long-developed experience said was "old people who have always been barren do not have children": this was the "hope" rooted in physical experience "against which" Abraham acted.
- ii. What the shorter-term development of experience said was "God is not only 'theoretically' trustworthy; He has shown Himself to be 'historically' trustworthy": this was the "hope" rooted in the promise-words of God "upon which" Abraham acted.
- d) This means that, for Paul, "hope" precedes "faith".
- i. But this is, in at least one way, problematical: one must "believe" in order to have "hope".
- ii. And this is, in this context, enormously illuminating in respect to the distinctiveness between "faith" and "hope".
- (a) Paul does not use the word "faith" to indicate "strength of conviction": that is the domain of "hope".
- (b) Paul uses the word "faith" to indicate "actionable risk" that is taken upon a foundation of "strength of conviction".
- (c) In other words, no one has "believed" who is unwilling to put himself at risk by taking action in harmony with the thing "believed" no matter what his "hope" may be.
- (d) Thus, the difference between "hope" and "faith" is this: "hope" is a developed conviction of what is true based upon experience; and "faith" is the taking of actionable risk based upon that developed conviction.
- 2. The second time we run into "hope" in Romans is 5:1-5 where Paul actually describes the very reality that we have just studied: Hope is a "developed from experience" conviction that stands under the actual "risk-taking" that is called "faith".
- B. Paul's Declaration in Romans 8:24.
- 1. He says "we were saved" (aorist) by hope.
- 2. He does not intend to contradict his "being justified by faith" thesis in either Romans 4, or Romans 5.
- 3. But he does intend to tell us that it is absolutely critical to our current salvation to have learned from the experience of our past salvation.
- a. Our "past" salvation -- the point of our entrance into a living relationship with God -- occurred when we switched from every "hope" that is rooted in experiences that do not take God's words into account and acted upon the "hope" that is rooted in the promises of God.
- b. Thus, in the face of experiences of "groaning", we shall be spared that aspect of the "groaning" that is caused by our own sins as we remember how "salvation" has already proven to work: it takes God's words into account and "risks" on the basis of them.
- c. Thus, the attitude we take in the face of our frustrations will be determined by whether we have learned from our "salvation" history rather than our "Adamic history".