The Christian Hope

Romans

The Christian Hope

February 6th, 1955

Romans 15:4-13

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
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THE CHRISTIAN HOPE

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Romans 15:4-13

2-6-55    10:50 a.m.

 

 

You’re listening to the services of the downtown First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Christian Hope, the God of Hope; and the reading of the text is in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Romans, the fourth and the thirteenth verses:

"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope" [Romans 15:4].  And the thirteenth verse: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit" [Romans 15:13].  And I repeat the last verse: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit" [Romans 15:13].

The most precious and priceless possession of any human heart or life is this: that we have hope.  However dark or dreary, however hard and implacable our way, if there can just be the tomorrow – the someday, this other hour – it’ll come; and with it, it will bring the joy of another day, of a new opportunity.  It will bring surcease from sorrow.  It will bring freedom from this burden.  It will bring liberty to this intolerable captivity.  However it may be now in body, soul, heart, or life, if we have a hope, anything can be endured.

But anything becomes unendurable and the whole earth is filled with darkness and despair when hope dies away [Proverbs 13:12]. There’s not any better tomorrow. There’s not any liberty. There’s not any freedom. There’s not any surcease. There’s not any light. There’s not any blessing.  It is hopeless, and the light dies away.

Zeno, the founder and first philosopher of the Stoics preaching courage and moral fortitude; and his philosophy, though he started it over 300 years before Christ, is a tremendous philosophy today.  His very system is an adjective in our language.  A Stoic: meeting trial and privation like a Stoic with great indomitable fortitude – Stoicism.  But Zeno the Stoic took his own life and died a suicide.

Seneca, the moral philosopher of the first century, a contemporary of the apostle Paul, whose aphorisms are read wherever literature is known – Seneca took his own life and died a suicide.

Petronius, the Roman satirist, who also was a contemporary of both Seneca and the apostle Paul, who scoffed and laughed and ridiculed at all of the virtues and values of life – Petronius also died a suicide taking his own life.

That’s the reason that science could never conquer religion – never – because beyond matter and beyond time and beyond philosophy and beyond materialism, religion takes hold of things that are accessible only to faith and to hope and to trust and belief.  It sees things that are invisible [Hebrews 11:1].  It is moved by powers that are untouchable.  It conquers the impossible [Romans 4:16-22; Hebrews 11:1-40], and it reaches out beyond what a man’s grasp could ever seize.  That’s the reason, in Titus 2:13, the apostle Paul speaks of that glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ as "the blessed hope." 

"This life, however it is, there is a better life," says the Christian [2 Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 3:7-9].  "This body, however it may be racked in pain, grows senile and feeble and, finally, decay.  There is," says the Christian, "a better body" [1 Corinthians 15:50-57; 2 Corinthians 4:16]  And however our wealth, our affluence, our riches, or our poverty in this life, there is an enduring, abiding, gift and reward from the hands of God in an upper and a better world that is to come [Philippians 3:7-9; 1 Timothy 3:17].

I submit to you there is nothing sublimer in poetry or prose or in literature or in philosophy or any book by any man in this earth who ever lived.  There is nothing sublimer than this:

                                                     

We’re troubled on ever side, but we’re not distressed; we are perplexed

– don’t understand –

but we’re not in despair;

We’re persecuted, but not forsaken; we’re cast down, but not destroyed.

[2 Corinthians 4:8-9]

That’s the reason we faint not.  For though our outward man perish, yet the inward man never dies, renewed day by day.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal reward of glory,

While we look not at the things which are seen

– They discourage us.  They plunge us into despair, I know –

But we look not at things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporal; the things which are not seen are eternal.

[2 Corinthians 4:16-18]

 

And then he goes on, and I haven’t time for it.

 

For we know that if the house, this earthly house of this tabernacle, be dissolved,

– that’s not the end of it –

we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

[2 Corinthians 5:1]

 

And, oh, does that rush out of the soul of the inspired apostle of God: the Christian hope, the Christian hope.  We’re not children of despondency.  We’re not children of depression and distress.  We’re not spiritual hypochondriacs.  We’re the children of the King.  We’re the sons of God; and in our hearts is a melody, and in our souls is a song [Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16].  We’re Christians, and there’s a hope undying in our souls [Romans 12:12; 15:13].  It flames.  It burns.  It never quiesces out there.  Just beyond there’s victory, there’s triumph.  There’s glory just over the way just beyond the tomorrow.  Why, it makes life sweet however the burden to bear.

Streetcar going down the tracks in a big city: fellow on the inside seated there in the streetcar reading his paper.  Streetcar came to a halt. On the outside, a childish, treble voice: "Hey, Mister! Streetcar Conductor, wait up!  Wait up.  Wait for me.  Wait for me!"

The man put down his paper, looked at the door, and in climbed a boy. Oh, his legs were withered!  No doctor could ever heal him.  The little boy, smiling brightly, said, "Thank you, Mr. Conductor, for waiting up for me.  You see, I can’t go very fast."

Sat down by the man who’s reading his paper.  The man looked at him.  He was so bright.  He said, "Son, you seem happy."

"Yes, sir," he said, "Yes, sir."

Well, the man just ventured – He said, "How are you happy when you can’t walk and you have to have crutches?"

"Oh," said the little boy to the stranger – "Oh," he said, "My Daddy says to me that God always does what is best for us.  My Daddy says God says this is best for me, and don’t you think, Mister, I ought to be happy with what is best?"

Well, the man was dumbfounded.  He said, "I guess you’re right, son.  I guess that’s right."

And then the boy added, "You know, my Daddy says that some of these days, some of these days, my legs won’t be like this.  Some of these days, my legs are going to be strong and well, and God’s going to give me another body – a new one."

Man never had heard anything like that before.  You see, the boy was a Christian.  His daddy, whoever he was, was a Christian daddy, and he placed on the heart, inside the heart of that boy, the Christian hope; and with it always comes a song.  That’s the Christian faith.  That’s it.

The psalmist, long ago, sang: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul?  And why art thou disquieted within me?  Hope thou in God . . . For He is the help of thy countenance" [Psalm 43:5].  However it is on the outside, what does it matter?  The storm clouds lower and pestilence stalks through land; and the day is as dark as the night, and the night has no dawning.  However it is in this world and in this life, listen to the psalmist as he’ll sing of the confidence we have in God.

 

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him will I trust."

Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler and from the noise of pestilence.

He shall cover thee with His feathers . . .

[Psalm 91:1-4]

 

Do you ever think about the Bible as you read it?  For a little while, I lived on the farm, and my dear blessed mother had some chickens.  And I was just a little boy, and the chickens – and the old mother hen hatched out a whole bunch of little chickens.  And in the evening, I’d go out and there watch those little bitty, fluffy things – those little chickens.  And in the evening, the mother would spread her wings, and those little ol’ chickens would: "Peep, peep, peep, peep, peep" and get underneath those wings and underneath those feathers.  And it just looked like the warmest, safest place in the world to me; it did – those little old peeping chickens underneath the feathers of that mother hen.

And when I read this, I always think of that: "He shall cover thee with His feathers" [Psalm 91:4].  And however it is on the outside, we just stay under the wings of the Lord and just "Peep, peep, peep, peep."  That’s all.  Yes, sir.

 

And under his wings shalt thou trust;

His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Thou shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by noonday.

[Psalm 91:4-5]

 

 

That’s that atomic bomb.  You don’t need to be afraid – not we.

 

Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; it’ll not come nigh thee . . .

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation;

There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

[Psalm 91:6-7, 9-10]

 

The Christian is in the hand of God, and there is he held [John 10:28-30]; and he abides under the wings, under the feathers, of the Almighty [Psalm 57:1; 61:4].  That’s the Christian hope.

Now let me go back to my text. Let me go back to my text.  Now you look at this text: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope" – that it may like a fountain spring up in your soul – "that you may abound in hope."  Now, look: "through the power of the Holy Spirit." [Romans 15:13]. 

We’re no blind optimists – not we, not we.  We’re no sentimental Pollyannas, not we, just going around saying, "Oh, everything’s going to be all right.  It’s it’s all right.  It’s gonna be all right.  Be better tomorrow.  Every day, you know, every day will be a little better."  We’re not that: just cheap, tawdry, thin veneer – just being sweet and nice and sentimental and saccharin and sugary.  No.  Not we.  Not we.

There’s a basis for the Christian hope and the Christian persuasion, and Paul says that it lies in the power of the Holy Spirit.  These things that we are persuaded of that are coming to pass, they’re not just sentiment and they’re not just little things that are sweet and pretty that we say; but Paul says that we have an assurance.  We have a basis for our Christian hope, and it lies in the power of the Holy Spirit [Romans 15:13].

Now, when you turn to the first chapter of the Book of Genesis: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" [Genesis 1:1], and whatever God made back yonder in the beginning was wondrously, gloriously, beautifully, and perfectly wrought.  As it came from His gracious, omnipotent hands, it was beautiful beyond any way to describe it.  Then something happened, and I think it was Lucifer who, in the pride of his heart, thought to take away the very throne of God [Isaiah 1:11-15; Ezekiel 28:11-19]; and the night came, and the war came [Revelation 12:3-10], and darkness came, and the earth and all creation was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep [Genesis 1:2].

Then what?  Then what?  In chaos and in ruin, in colossal despair – all of God’s creation brought to terrible darkness.  Then what?  "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" [Genesis 1:2].  And the Spirit of God brought out of death and darkness and destruction and waste and void and chaos – the Spirit of God wrought, and it fruited at the glorious, beautiful world of the Adamic day, of the Edenic innocence [Genesis 1:1-2:25].  The Spirit of God working brought forth that.

All right.  Once again.  The Spirit of God, the creative work of God, made the beautiful body of the Lord Jesus – wrought by the power of the Spirit, fashioned by the Holy Ghost of God:

 

And Mary said unto the angel, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?"

And Gabriel replied, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee; wherefore, also, that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."

[Luke 1:34-35]

 

The Holy Spirit wrought, conceived, the body of the Lord Jesus, and it was perfect.  They don’t say how He was, but His body was wrought by the Spirit of God: beautiful, strong, masculine – the perfect Son of Man and Son of God.

Then sin destroyed it.  Then iniquity and violence marred it!  Isaiah [52:14]:  "His visage was so marred, more than that of any man, and His body more than the sons of men."  They buffeted Him, and they beat Him! [Matthew 26:67, 27:30; Mark 14:65].  And they pressed upon His brow a crown of thorns [Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2].  They nailed Him to the cross [Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24-27; Luke 23:33; John 19:18].  They cut through His heart with a spear [John 19:34].  And bloody and dead, they wrapped Him in a winding sheet and laid Him in a tomb and rolled over its mouth a great stone [Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-41] and sealed it with a Roman [seal] [Matthew 27:62-66]:  thus the body of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Then the Holy Spirit brooded above it, and the power of God reached through that stolid, solid rock, and the Holy Ghost came upon Him.  And the third day, out of the grave, out of death, out of night, there was raised, the Bible says, by the power of the Spirit of God [Romans 1:4] – there was raised from the dead the body of the Lord Jesus Christ gloriously fashioned according to His glorious power, transfigured, immortalized, uncorruptible [Luke 24:1-3; John 20:11-29, 21:4-22; Acts 1:3-9]: the working of the Spirit of God.

Now, our world, marred by the entrance of Satan and evil and sin [Genesis 3:1-24], and our bodies marred [Genesis 3:16, 3:19; Romans 8:22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:53] – all of us, all of us.  There’s not any body among us that’s perfect; and our eyes grow dim, and our hearing grows dull, and our body lose their beauty, symmetry, loveliness, delicacy [Proverbs 31:30] – the fashioning of God.  And all of us are under that curse, and we grow old and wrinkled and senile [2 Corinthians 4:16].  And finally, if we live long enough – O God, forbid it – our minds, like a cathedral that falls in, our minds lose their equilibrium and you live in a shell; and your mind’s gone which is a living death.

It comes. It comes; and finally, death is triumphant [1 Corinthians 15:26], and in the dust of the ground and in the heart of the earth are we laid [Genesis 3:19].  Then what?  Then what?

The scientist says, "That’s what.  That’s what: back to the elements, back to the dust, back to death, back to the grave, back to the clod."

What does the faith say?  ‘"Through the power of the Holy Spirit – through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God,’ says the Holy Word of God."  And that’s the reason in my text it says here: "For these things are written that we through the patience and comforts of the Scriptures might have hope" [Romans 15:4]. 

The Holy Spirit of God shall brood over this earth.  There’s a treasure hid in its field [Matthew 13:44; 2 Corinthians 4:7].  And over our prostrate bodies, God’s Spirit shall brood.  And out of the dust of the ground and the heart of the earth shall be raised incorruptible the sons of God, the children of the King [1 Corinthians 15:51-56].  And with us – and with us, in that resurrection, in that regeneration – and with us, we shall carry all creation with us: all of it, every bit of it.  The whole thing shall be re-made.  The whole thing shall be re-done.  There shall be a new earth and a new heaven [Revelation 21:1-22:21], and we shall have new bodies and a new home and a new fellowship.

Well, let me read it.  Let God say it in His own words:

 

For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the manifestation

– the apocalypse, the unveiling –

of the sons of God.

For the creation was made subject to futility, not willingly, but because of sin and by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope

– God has a plan –

Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

[Romans 8:19-22]

 

The insects die.  The animals die.  Our dogs and cats grow old and die.  The flowers in the field perish.  Everything in this world dies and suffers pain! 

 

The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 

And not only they

– not all creation alone –

but ourselves, also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption

– the resurrection –

of our body.

For we’re saved by hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why does he hath hope for?

But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

[Romans 8:22-25]

 

Then he speaks of the power of the Spirit of God in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans [Romans 8:26-39].  The whole thing brooded over by the Holy Spirit of God and delivered into the glorious liberty of the children of the heavenly Father.  You see, power belongeth unto God.  Psalm 62:11: "God hath spoken once, and twice have I heard it: That power belongeth unto God."

Matter has no power in itself.  The rock and the clod, dull and lifeless, could never produce life.  But the Spirit of God is the quickening power of omnipotence; and the Lord God through the Holy Spirit, omnipotence shall touch this world and touch this time and touch this hour and touch our bodies [Romans 8:11] and touch our lives and shall deliver us into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  That is the basis of the Christian hope: the working of the power of the Spirit of God. 

Jesus said: "It is finished" [John 19:30].  His work was finished.  The Holy Spirit cannot say that.  The work of the Holy Spirit is to do and to do and to do and to work and to work and to work and to work [John 16:5-15] until, finally, we have that new day: that new heaven, that new earth, that new generation, a new body, a new home, a new house.  And the Spirit works, and He works and He works, and His task will never be finished until, finally, we are presented resurrected, unblemished, without spot or stain [Ephesians 5:27], in the likeness of the Son of God Himself [Romans 8:29], His brother and fellow heir in the kingdom and patience of Jesus [Hebrews 2:11].  And the Spirit works and He works and He works and He works, and He never ceases and He works.  He works in us the graces of the Christian virtues [Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Peter 1:3-8]. He touches the hard heart and sends him to Jesus and to us, and He guides His saints through the days and through the years of the life [John 16:13; Acts 16:6-10].

And finally, some day, without loss of a one [John 6:39], He presents us in the presence of the great King at His coming and His glorious appearing [Titus 2:13].  And not a one of us will be lost: not a one, not a one.  We’ll all be there: every one of us, every one of us, every one of us who has trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Every one of us, we’ll all be there: the feeblest, timerest little saint among us.  We’ll all be there: every one of us.  We’re all going to make it.

"Oh, but Preacher, how do you know?  Darkness may overwhelm us and evil may finally destroy us, and we may yet sink into the abyss of hell."

Ha! Oh, no!  Why?  The power of the Holy Spirit of God shall keep us and preserve us and present us at that glorious day, and you’re not going to fall, ultimately [Romans 8:37-39].  You’re not going to be lost ultimately.  The Spirit of God is going to keep you [1 Peter 1:1-5].  That’s the working of the Spirit in our hearts and in our lives, and we’ll all make it.  We’ll all make it.  We’ll all be there.  The least little one of us that has put his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – we all are going to make it.

And that’s my text written here: " . . . that through patience and comfort of the Bible you might have hope . . . And the God of hope fill you . . . that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost" [Romans 15:4, 13].

That’s the perseverance of the saints.  That’s the keeping of Almighty God.

Would you sing it?  Would you?  Everybody with me, would you sing it?

 

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith In His excellent word!

What more can He say than to you He hath said,

You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

["How Firm a Foundation," attributed to George Keith, R. Keen, c. 1787]

 

And do you remember your old mama?  Do you remember her singing the last stanza and the folks down at the church?

 

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,

I’ll never, no never desert to its foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake;

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

["How Firm a Foundation," attributed to George Keith, R. Keen, c. 1787]

 

Brother, when you trust in Jesus, you’re going to make it. You’re going to get there.  All right, sing it:

 

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,

I’ll never, no never desert to its foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake;

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

["How Firm a Foundation," attributed to George Keith, R. Keen, c. 1787]

 

And that’s the reason that the Christians of the first century when they were persecuted and placed in dungeons and when they were beheaded and their lives taken away would wave to one another and say, "Good night, I’ll see you in the morning."  It is always a sun rising.  It is always a dawning.  It is always a morning yet to come to the Christian who abounds in the hope of God [Psalm 30:5].

All right, let’s sing our song, sing our song.  And while we sing it, while we sing it, somebody you, give your heart to the Lord.  You come and stand by me.  Into the fellowship of His church, while we sing the song, you come and stand by me.  A family, or one somebody you, anywhere, as God shall make the appeal to your heart, you come.  You come while we stand and while we sing.