Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Meaning of "Hope"

The English sense of hope (as read in translated Scripture) is different than what is conveyed in the Greek. Timothy Keller explains why this is important in his notes on Galatians 5:1-15:

3. Why do you think Paul would say we hope for righteousness (v.5) when in 3:6 and elsewhere he says we have righteousness? How can we wait for it practically?

Why does he tell us to hope and wait?

The Biblical word elpida translated “hope” does not have the much weaker connotations that it has in English. Cf. Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” In the Bible, “hope” does not mean “hope so.” It means a powerful assurance and certainty of something. This is a major problem for the reader of the English Bible. The very word that means “assurance” in Greek means “not so sure” in English! It is hard then to understand many passages.

The true sense of the word “hope” is indicated in the very verse we have in front of us, because Paul says that we simply “await”for this righteousness. We don’t work or strive for it. We know it is coming, on its way. In fact, we eagerly await it, not anxiously. What is it that we await? Righteousness means more than goodness, but rather, a completely right record and right relationship with God. Paul is saying that we can live today in light of our certain, guaranteed future glorification and welcome by God into his arms. He already said it in 4:7: “Since you are a son, God has made you an heir.” No one else, no secular person, no adherent of any other religion, can look at their future like this! Irreligious people have no idea where they will be a million years from now, and religious people without the gospel are anxiously striving for it and cannot relax nor eagerly await it. (We do not say this to put others down, but to give our own hearts a due sense of our privilege.) The certainty of our future with God is a fruit of the gospel. (Note: See why this does not comport well with the idea that we can lose our salvation if we don’t “keep up” our Christians lives?)

By referring to the future, Paul turns our imaginations to what it will mean to be radiant, glorious, beautiful and perfect. Elsewhere Paul says that Jesus lives to present us to himself “…radiant… without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph.4:27). We know that this is guaranteed, and therefore, is essentially true now. What Paul is saying in v.5 he says eloquently in Colossians 1:22. “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” We are to live today knowing we are, and always will be, an absolute beauty in the eyes of God. Put another way, we are as loved and honored by God now as we will be when we are perfectly radiant in heaven (Paul's Letter to the Galatians, 134-135).

1 comment:

HikoBills said...

Simply Amazing. Thanks for that one.