Paul said, “And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). On two other occasions Paul mentions these three together. In 1 Thessalonians 1:3, he wrote, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Again in 5:8 Paul said, “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.” It is significant to note that Paul said our helmet, the thing which protects our most vital part, the head, is the hope of salvation. Hope provides us with great protection against the temptations and snares of the devil. It is our “patience of hope” that motivates us to continue working in the Lord’s vineyard.
It is no wonder that Paul repeatedly connected hope with faith and love. As Christians, hope is necessary to our spiritual well being. It is hope that motivates us to endure in spite of temptation, persecution, and indifference. It is our hope of heaven that helps us to patiently labor despite all of life’s setbacks. The Hebrew writer said, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. . . ” (Heb. 6:19). Our hope is Christ. He is the anchor that holds us secure in life’s troubled waters.
We need to understand that there is a vast difference between hope and wishful thinking. Hope is desire plus expectation. When we truly desire something and have a reasonable expectation of receiving it, then we joyously hope for it.
Without Christ, we would have no hope of heaven. All men sin and separate themselves from God (Rom. 3:23). All are lost and unworthy of heaven (Rom. 6:23). But God sent His Son to die that through Him we might have the hope of everlasting life. Paul told the Colossians that it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Christ is the anchor of the soul in stormy seas. We desire to live in heaven and because Christ died on the cross we can fully expect to enjoy eternal life, that being, if we keep His commandments (Heb. 5:8,9).
While hope is a powerful weapon in our arsenal for quenching the fiery darts of Satan, we must understand the basis of hope. There is only one hope (Eph. 4:4). Only those who obey the truth have that hope. John wrote, “And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure” (1 Jn. 3:3). We purify ourselves, as John explained, by keeping God’s commandments, by doing righteousness. He said, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
Peter taught, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth . . .” (1 Pet. 1:22). Those who have the one hope of which Paul spoke have obeyed the gospel of Christ and are continuing to do righteousness by continuing in His word. These are the ones who have been made free from sin (Jn. 8:32). Others may hope to live in heaven while rejecting the truth, but they have confused hope with wishful thinking. The desire may be there, but they have no right to expect to live in heaven. By refusing to obey God’s word, the basis of hope is gone. As Paul wrote concerning Israel, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom 10:1-3).
Paul wrote of those outside of Christ as those “which have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). Truly, the most horrifying statement in the Bible is Paul’s description of man without Christ. “That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). The hopelessness of those who reject God’s word is mirrored in the account of the rich man in Luke 16:19-31. He rejected God’s pleading while he was alive, his opportunity to obey God had passed and only eternal agony remained in his future.
This earth is not our permanent home. We hope for citizenship in heaven (Philip 3:20). Hope enables us to patiently endure, to overcome temptation that we might one day enjoy the mansions prepared for us in heaven. Each new year is a new beginning for many setting resolutions to do better in their life. Those who have died in their sins have no hope. Those who presently live have a hope to gain eternal life. If they truly want more than a Happy New Year, though many have had many New Years already, they will need to take advantage of the one hope they have through Jesus Christ. They must not delay, for the Master will come at an inopportune time, like a thief in the night (1 Thess 5:2). Today is the day of salvation if we will not harden not our hearts (2 Cor 6:2 f; Heb 3:7,8). Therefore, I wish for every person a Hopeful Eternal Life based upon our one hope of salvation, and our obedience to the one gospel of Christ.