What a grand theme Paul is developing here in these two chapters in his epistle to the Romans. It is the theme of the unity of the elect Jews and Gentiles, as they are constituted one new man in Christ. The enmity consisting in commandments and ordinances is once and for all wiped away! For the righteousness of God in Christ is such that now it is for both Jew and Gentile. Christ has become the minister of the circumcision for the establishing of the truth of God, in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy! Romans 15:7-8. And this is the great plan and purpose of God.
This is not simply the teaching of some isolated Scripture passage but it is the truth, the very marrow of all the Scriptures. Thus is the clear and indisputable teaching of Moses, the Psalms and all the Prophets. And, as we might notice in many Scripture passages, all through the Old Testament the hope of Israel, the very quintessence of her existence, is that the Gentiles may come to her light. Salvation is out of the Jews! John 4:22.
For in these Scriptures we do not merely have the word of holy men, uttering their pious wishes and aspirations, but we have the Word of God, the Word which God Himself utters through the prophets. Do we not read in Hebrews 1:1 that very ponderous and beautiful utterance, which is the end of all contradiction: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers through the prophets . . .”? It was God who spoke unto the fathers of hope and joy and peace in Him who was to come! He did this in divers manners and at sundry times, yet always it wasHe who infallibly spoke to us His sure Word of prophecy unto which the church gave heed as unto a light shining in a dark place—until the day dawned and the day-star arose in her heart!
Small wonder that Paul, after having quoted all these infallible, clear and perspicuous Scriptures from Psalm 18:49, Deut. 32:34, Psalm 117:1 and Isaiah 11:1 and Isaiah 11:10, speaks of God as the “God of the hope”! And, again, is it not wholly within our “reasonable worship” (Romans 12:2) that this God of the hope alone can fill us with “all joy and peace in believing, in order that we abound in the hope in power of the Holy Spirit”?!
And does He not do this by means of the Scriptures?
And are these Scriptures not God-inspired, “Godbreathed,” so that the Holy Spirit speaks to us in these Scriptures, filling our hearts with patience and consolation? Romans 15:4. Well may and does Paul utter this prayer in our text here in Romans 15:13: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope in power of the Holy Ghost”.
Let us take notice of the various elements in this beautiful prayer.
There is first of all the designation “the God of theHope” which should receive our attention.
Since in the Greek the definite article is used with the term hope (elpidos) we believe that Paul is here referring to the definitely known and revealed hope of the Scriptures which he had just quoted, and to which Scripture passages we have given some special attention in former essays in this rubric. The “hope” is the great objective salvation and blessedness which God has thought out, purposed and realized in Christ Jesus, His Son! In and through Christ’s death and resurrection this “hope” is realized. And this great and glorious work of God in Christ, as the God of our salvation, shall finally be revealed in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this sense of the objective hope, the things hoped for, the things which eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard, and which have never entered into the heart of man, Scripture speaks repeatedly in various contexts. In Cal. 1:4-5 we read: “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints for (because of) the hope which is laid up for you in heaven,, whereof ye heard before in the word of truth of the gospel.” And, again, we read in Ephesians 1:18: “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened: that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power . . . which he wrought in Christ . . .” !
It is quite clear from these Scripture passages that the “hope” is, indeed, the things which God has prepared for His people and for Himself in Christ Jesus. And this “inheritance in the saints,” of course, is that which the church now longs and hopes for. Is this not the very scene portrayed in Isaiah 11:6: “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together . . . .”? And, again, in verse 9: “And they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain . . .”?!
The hope is, therefore, first of all the objective hope laid away for us in heaven. It is the inheritance, incorruptible, undefilable and that which fadeth not away! And it is ready to be revealed in the last day (I Peter 1:3-4).
But “hope” is also something very subjective within us, according to Holy Writ. It is the new life of regeneration bursting forth in glad and joyful and certain anticipation of entering into the final rest. It is in this (‘hope” that we are patient.
That God is called “the God of the hope” in this passage is very meaningful. Three times Paul employs this kind of description, of God in this chapter. In verse 5 he calls Him “The God of the patience” and in verse 33 it is “The God of the peace.” Here it is “the God of hope”! We refer those who wish to study this construction a bit more to such passages as Romans 16:20, II Cor. 13:11, Phil. 4:9, and I Thess. 5:23.
Surely that God is the God of peace, of patience, ofhope, indicates, first of all, that God is the fountain of all these virtues. This expression does not indicate primarily what God does, but it refers first of all to what God is. God is His virtues, and all His virtues are one in Him. Hence, God is wholly a God of love, of grace, of patience, of hope, of peace! That He is in each instance as the Infinite One. There is no end to his being the God of hope and of peace and consolation. Hence, Paul turns his heart and mind toward the infinite God in this prayer.
Of course, such an Infinite One, when He works peace, joy and hope for and in His people, is the Summum Bonum! There is no end to His glorious perfections. And that, too, is expressed here in this passage. And, we may add, it is for this reason that God is “the God of the hope” that He will surely be able and willing to perform this prayer. He takes great pleasure in granting His people hope in their hearts. That is His glory!
Paul prays that this God fill the saints with all “joy and peace.”
Of both of these ‘concepts we will presently have just a few remarks to make. However, we will first call attention to what the apostle writes in the latter part of this thirteenth verse, “that ye may abound in hope in the power of the Holy Ghost.”
There is certainly no hope in our hearts apart from the almighty operation of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit here spoken of is certainly the same Spirit that “rests” upon Christ as the Head of the church. He is the third person of the Divine Trinity, co-equal with the Father and with the Son. His is the “power,” the ability to make alive, and to grant each member in the church from the fullness of Christ, as He wills. He is the Spirit of life. There is hope in our hearts only because of the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. Romans 5:4.
The question is: What does it mean to abound in hope? The word abound in Greek really means tooverflow. The idea is that the hope in our hearts is such that it causes us to rejoice in the perfect salvation, reaching out for it in earnest and great expectation. Hope then is the well-spring of all that we think and do. And, in relation to the particular situation here in the church at, Rome, it would mean that the believers will look for the final realization of the church, both Jew and Greek, when with one mind and in one voice they shall perfectly praise and glorify God.
But shall this be a reality— this abundant and overflowing hope in the hearts—then there is a spiritual-psychological reality which must be the portion of the saints. And this spiritual-psychological reality is that God must then fill our hearts with “joy and peace”! We may, therefore, say that this “joy and peace” is a spiritual-psychological requisite of abounding in hope. It belongs, so to speak, to the very fabric of hope. Hope is in its very nature joy and peace. And all are the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
But what, then, is this joy and peace?
Joy is really a little bit of heaven, on earth. It is the deep, genuine contentment and blessedness of the man who is created after the image of God, in, true knowledge, righteousness and holiness. Joy is only possible when man attains to the end unto which God has created him. There is no joy in sin, guilt and unrighteousness. Christ often speaks of this joy to His disciples. Says He in John 15:11: “These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might be in you, and that your joy may be made full”! Joy is, therefore, the joy which is peculiarly Christ’s, as He came to fulfill the law for us and in us. And we have joy in Christ’s saving us.
Often “joy” is associated in Scripture with the final salvation in Christ, as a fruit of His sorrow. Thus we read in John 16:20: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice . . . ye shall sorrow, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” And, again, “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come, But when she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish for joy that a man is born into the world!’ (John 16:22). And, finally, in the sacerdotal prayer Jesus says, “But I come to thee: and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13).
From these passages it is abundantly evident that this “joy” is not earthly, but is basically heavenly in its origin and nature. It is from above. It is, in fact, the “joy” which Christ Himself received and merited for Himself and for all His own. Do we not read in Hebrews 12:2: “Looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross and despised the shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
This joy is possibly basically “eternal life”!
When our fathers in the Heidelberg Catechism explain what really constitutes eternal life they speak as follows: “since I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, after this life I shall inherit perfect salvation . . .” Question 58. And in Question 90, speaking of the putting on of the new man in Christ, this is said to consist in “a sincere joy of heart in God through Christ.”
Such “joy” certainly is a requisite of hope. For hope is really the joy, in the present, of the future blessedness of heaven. Hope is the life of the Christian as it rises to its own level, that is, the heavenly.
But there is also more that is required in us. And also this the Holy Spirit alone can, and does give us.
It is the gift of peace. Both joy and peace are gifts of the Holy Spirit. Do we not read in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control, against such there is no law.”
What a gift of grace this peace is. Especially when we are full of all joy and peace! When this joy and peace are in us then we live at peace with the brother and sister in the Lord. Then we shall be longsuffering and patient in hope. And the law will not condemn us. We will walk at liberty. We shall be truly free.
Of this we must be made full from the fountain— God!
He is the God of the hope. He is the God of the peace. He is the God of the patience. When He fills us by His Spirit He fills our heart, our mind, our soul, our strength. There are various facets to this peace and joy in life. There are as many as there are relationships to God and man, and to the creature about us.
When we are tilled with joy it is from the heart that we love and are at peace! And thus also with our soul and strength. Thus doing shall the saints at Rome truly receive each other. They shall not judge in meat and drink any longer, but shall see that all is the Lord’s. Then in hope and faith and joy of the Holy Spirit, whether we eat or drink, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
Thus shall we, with one mind and out of .one mouth, glorify God for His mercy!