by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 3 Study # 11 January 8, 2008 Lincolnton, N.C.
(370)Thesis:The invisibility of "hope" insists upon the exercise of biblical faith.
Introduction:In our last study of Romans, we looked into Paul's declaration that "we are saved by hope". In that study we saw that Paul has a crucial perception of two different kinds of hope -- one built off of experience and ignorance, and the other built off of experience and divine revelation. We also saw that Paul's grasp of "hope" is that it actually precedes and sets the stage for "faith". The conclusion that we drew from these facts is that there is a critical distinction between "hope" and "faith" that rests particularly on one issue: the action of taking the "risk" that is involved in "hope".
This evening we are going to add one more feature to our understanding of "hope": its invisibility. Paul, having said that our salvation was rooted in "hope" (though actuated by "faith"), goes on to say that hope is "not seen" -- that "seeing" signals the death of "hope" in the same way that fulfillment eliminates longing. So, we are going to ask why Paul raises this most obvious point.
I. The "Obvious" Point.
A. For clarification, Paul addresses the "visibility" issue.
1. It is true that "hope" rests upon the visible because, by its very nature, hope is an expectation that has arisen out of past experiences.
2. But, though it rests upon the visible, it is, fundamentally, expectation.
a. Paul says that "seeing" eliminates hope.
1) Seeing is a present phenomenon.
2) Expectation is a future phenomenon.
3) As soon as the present catches up to what was the future, that "what" ceases to be future and what was expected is now experienced.
4) Thus, just as fulfillment eliminates longing, the passing of time (that brings "visibility" to what was, at one time, the future) eliminates expectation: one does not "expect" what he has now received.
b. This means that when we talk of "hope", we are addressing two basic issues: expectation (with all of its variables) and the time frame we call the "future".
B. For what reason does Paul seek this clarification?
1. There is always a "Life" issue involved.
2. And "Life" issues always include three basic issues: Love, Faith, and a Cause/Effect Universe.
3. And "Death" always lurks in the shadows to attempt to distort what it can.
a. Nothing, and no one, can alter the Cause/Effect reality.
b. So "Death" always goes after either the "Love" issues or the "Faith" issues in order to twist them into their opposite.
II. Paul's Objective.
A. It is clear that Paul always has the Love, Faith, Cause/Effect Universe issues in mind.
B. It is clear that Paul is attempting to instill a most fundamental future reality in the minds of his readers.
1. He has been hammering on our expectation of the shared glory of Jesus.
a. He introduced this issue in 5:2 and immediately connected it to the reality that we have to deal with stuff we would just rather not have to face in 5:3.
b. He then reintroduced this issue in 8:17 and made it the theme of this present paragraph.
2. He has been exalting the worthiness of that glory for a position of critical consideration for us as we actively choose and do.
3. He has been addressing the issue of our "involuntary" subjection to the principles of this coming glory.
a. This, in a sense, is a "defensive" strategy to head off "rebellion" (we tend to rebel when we are involuntarily subjected to undesired experience).
b. But there is also an "offensive strategy" designed to motivate "voluntarism" (if the goal is sufficiently worthy, our effort will be sufficiently motivated).
C. It is also clear that Paul is attempting to make sure that his readers understand that the very fact that "hope" is invisible because it is yet future means that we, in the light of the glory, must be committed to enduring.
III. The Problems.
A. Endurance typically indicates a distasteful situation.
B. Distasteful situations have a way of becoming far more than distasteful.
C. The increase of pressure is designed from two opposite directions.
1. The adversary seeks to make us demean the glory so that we opt for the present relief.
2. The Spirit seeks to enhance our grasp of the glory so that we are "steeled" against the temptation to buckle.
D. The hope is "unseen" ... bringing into the picture a certain level of uncertainty.
1. Apart from divine revelation, the uncertainty is a constant because of man's discovery of the Law of Unintended Consequences.
a. The problem with this "Law" is not that the universe does not work in an orderly manner and in a consistent manner.
b. The problem is that man is unaware of many of the laws that govern how the universe is going to operate, so that he often applies known laws deliberately and unknown laws ignorantly so that the unknown creates the unexpected.
c. There is no escape from this problem except by omniscience.
2. By divine revelation, the uncertainty shrinks as our confidence in the integrity of God grows.
a. We have, in God, an Omniscient Partner.
b. We have, from God, a potent promise of wisdom.
3. By grace we have certain established, and inviolable, commitments from God that, minimally, underwrite our eventual participation in His glory to some degree, and that, maximally, provide the motivation to press for participation in that glory to a greater degree.