Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1282
December 4, 2016 – Advent 2 Romans 15:4-13
Dr. Ed Pettus
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
"The God of Hope"
Written in Former Days
The season of Advent, by definition, calls us to live with hope. Our hope is grounded in promise and in testimony. The apostle Paul writes: "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." Part of the hope we have, we learn from the writings of the Old Testament! Paul would have been referring to the Old Testament writings and those writings were used to instruct Christians in order that they could endure the struggles of their time and find in those words encouragement with the end result of hope. The word of God teaches us all that we need to endure the troubles of this world. It serves to encourage us that we might have hope. We hope for a new future for God's people. We hope for the coming of Jesus Christ, the Second Advent. We hope for eternal life. We hope for the fulfillment of all God's promises. And because we have seen many promises already fulfilled we are encouraged and hopeful.
The church has consistently encouraged the study of the Old Testament because it has always served to instruct us in the meaning of hope, in the understanding of Jesus and the New Testament. It is why we go back to reading the scripture when hope seems lost. We go to scripture when we are discouraged. We go there because every negative feeling or circumstance can be overcome by the hope given us through Scripture.
This hope is a confident hope. The hope that Paul writes about is a concrete solid confidence. It is not a worldly optimism that simply trusts in positive thinking, but it is deeply rooted in God's promises. We know that there are a variety of people who may make promises and some can be trusted in greater confidence than others. With God, we have no doubt that His promises will be fulfilled.
Confident Hope - it is the future we imagine with God, founded in the promises of God. Confident Hope – it is the God of Hope who grants us hope. We hope in the promises of salvation, promises of new creation, of new heaven and new earth. Those things written long ago refer to God's great promises to Israel and Israel learned long ago of the reliability of God’s promise. In Joshua the promise of land was fulfilled and in Joshua 21:45 we read: “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”
This is the hope that is based deeply in Scripture as Paul demonstrates through the promises he lists:
8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”
Paul crafts these promises in such a way to show that the promises given long ago to the Jews will also give hope to the Gentiles. Verse 8 speaks if Christ coming to show Israel the promises to the patriarchs. He is the confirmation of hope found in God's word. In Christ those promises given to Israel are extended beyond the chosen Jews to every human being. The good news is for all people that all people might glorify God. Verses 9-11 quote the praise of Gentiles expressed to God and then verse 12 shows us why the Gentiles will have hope, because Jesus Christ will rule all people. In this promise we have the utmost confidence.
Generative Hope – word
The truth is that there is no reliable hope outside of the hope given us by God. The world cannot give us hope. Political speeches and promises cannot give us hope. Products of our consumer society cannot give us hope. God alone gives hope. Hope is the attitude of faith while we wait upon God. Hope is looking to the fulfillment of God's plans. Someone once said that hope is a close cousin of faith. It is confident expectancy in a faithful and loving God.
We focus on the hope we have in God for His Advent. That hope also gives us a sense of expectancy and anticipation. Hope expects miracles. Hope waits for a new future. Hope imagines possibilities when none seem possible. Hope generates joy and peace because hope knows God is faithful, God is steadfast, God is our comfort.
Some very amazing promises are written in the Old Testament. There is the promise that the wolf and the lamb will live together, the cow and the bear will graze in the same field. It is a hope for the re-creation of creation. Isaiah speaks of the hope of a shoot from the stump of Jesse and the spirit of the Lord will rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding. We have realized that promise, that hope, in the person of Jesus Christ. All these promises and others, those realized and those to come, are sure and thus our hope is sure.
Hope is a vital element in the Christian life. We do have the assurance that in Christ part of the promise is fulfilled today. In him is the confirmation that God's promises will meet with fulfillment. In Christ, all our hope for promise is given and all our confidence for the future with God is sure.
Paul writes in Romans 8: “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25). Hope transforms us. Without hope our lives would slip into despair. Hope transforms the impossible into the possible. This is the hope hat generates life and love and more hope.
Because of our hope, we know that what ever circumstance we face, this is not the end of our story. We know that in whatever crisis we find ourselves, something else is possible. Something better is coming. With that understanding, Paul prays,
5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God... 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." (Romans 15:5-7, 13).
First Paul prays for unity. He prays for the church to glorify God and to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us. Paul concludes this section of his letters to the Romans with the benediction: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." He prays to the God of hope. Certainly the God of hope is the one true living God! Only this God can give hope, in this case it is given through the joy and peace in believing and through the power of the Holy Spirit. When we think about these attributes that God has gifted to us, joy, belief, power, it is no doubt that we might have abundant hope.
The God of Hope
We serve the God of hope. We pray to the God of hope. We receive joy and peace and love from the God of hope. There is no hope anywhere else. We turn on the television and see the news of struggles, economic, political, terror, crime, poverty, starvation and disease, we do not see much hope for the future, according the world's standards. So many issues seem impossible to overcome! So the question with these kinds of crises is: Can we imagine a new thing? Can we hope for something more than the numbers and projectors of doom may forecast? "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
Every day we are faced with crises that would cause us to despair. Some come from within our own selves, some come from those close to us, and some come from circumstances beyond our control. We see sickness, broken relationships, anxiety about our lives. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
Our testimony of hope is found in the stories of the Bible, written that we might have hope. Our hope is grounded in the God of hope who promises to fill us with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Linked with hope is joy and peace in believing. They are intertwined, with hope comes joy and peace, and the fill of joy and peace brings great inexplicable hope.
Hope is gift...and without hope we have no possibilities. With hope we are always connected to the One who gives hope. There is a wonderful suggestion from the Jewish Rabbi Stephen D. Franklin who says:
"Although it might not stand up to careful linguistic scrutiny, an argument might be made (with at least Midrashic possibility) that the Hebrew word for 'hope,' (TIKVAH) contains and might be derived from the Hebrew word for 'line,' (KAV).
The derivation might lead one to see that, for the Hebrew thinker, hope is a line, a connecting link. Lines, or connecting links, in turn, make for meaning, the relatedness of things and ideas. In other words, what we do in one instance might be related to another, our life might be connected by line to that of others, our existence might be related to the universe. When we are in trouble, we might still have a connection to things which are not in trouble. A strong case might be made for the search of meaning, the drawing of lines of connection, as the means of giving hope" (Living Pulpit: Hope, p. 29).
What a tremendous image of a connecting line between us and things beyond our struggle. In Romans 15 Paul makes a connection between God and the Gentiles, that is, God and us. In Christ we shall become God’s people. In Christ we have become God’s people.
Now we are connected with the One who gives hope. Once we were not a people, now we are God’s people (1 Peter 2:10). That link will not be cut by any troubles we face. Herein lies the meaning of Advent, Advent points us to our sure hope, our sure link to the God of hope who fills us by the power of the Holy Spirit, our anticipation of things to come, all our possibilities not yet imagined.
Hope is revealed in us by our passion for God and for his promises. It is, as Soren Kierkegaard has said: “hope is the passion for the possible.” Hope is the passion for the possible. Hope is our passion for God’s promises, passion for God’s future, passion for God’s hope and faith and mercy. Hebrews 10:23 encourages us: “ Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” So we hold fast to our confession.
1 Peter 1:3 reveals our hope: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
During this Advent season we celebrate the living hope we have received as gift. It is hope that enables us to confess our faith. It is hope that fills us with joy and peace in believing. Let us sing of hope this Advent. Amen.