NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson V)
French theologian Frederic Godet makes this claim concerning the power of Christian hope: “When, finally, the believer has experienced the divine force with which faith fills him in the midst of suffering, he feels his hope rise. Nothing which can happen him in the future any longer frightens him. The prospect of glory opens up to him nearer and more brilliant. How many Christians have declared that they never knew the gladness of faith, or lively hope, till they gained it by means of tribulation! With this word ‘hope’ the Apostle has returned to the end of verse 2; and as there are deceitful hopes, he adds that the one of which he speaks (the hope of glory, verse 2) runs no risk of being proven wrong by circumstances.”1
And Charles Ellicott writes that experience is the quality of being tried and proven. He says: “The result of patient endurance is to test, confirm, and refine the better elements of faith. Out of this, in its turn, grows hope. Hope began and ends the circle. It is the knowledge of what is in store for him that, in the first instance, urges the Christian to endure; and that endurance gives him the steady, calm assurance no longer of the novice but of the veteran.”2
Verse 5: And this hope will never let us down. We know this because God has poured out His love to fill our hearts through the Holy Spirit He gave us.
So hope, then, cannot disappoint because it is based on faith and trust in God. And as long as God is alive, hope will be alive. This certainly was Paul’s assurance to the Philippians: “I am full of hope and feel sure I will not have any reason to be ashamed. I am certain I will continue to have the same boldness to speak freely that I always have. I will let God use my life to bring more honor to Christ.”3
Therefore, it is quite understandable that Paul was able to say to the Thessalonians: “We pray that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father will comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say. God loved us and gave us through His grace a wonderful hope and comfort that has no end.”4
Paul was so sure of his faith, trust, and hope in God, that he told young Timothy: “I know the One I have put my trust in. And I am sure that He is able to protect what I have put into His care until that Day.5”6 And Paul was able to say that because, as he says here to the Romans, God put that assurance in his heart and mind by filling him with His Holy Spirit. In his commentary on this verse, early English Methodist preacher Joseph Benson says: “As a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, the Holy Spirit enables us to discern God’s love for us; and as a Spirit of holiness and comfort, He enables us to delight ourselves daily in Him, though for the present He appoints us trials which may seem rigorous and severe.”7
In writing to the Corinthians, Paul points this out by telling them that God is the one who makes you strong in Christ. God is also the One who chose us for His work. He put His mark on us to show that we are His. Yes, He filled us with His Spirit.8 And because of His Spirit residing in us, we are given the privilege of calling Him Father by a special and endearing term. Paul uses the Aramaic word, “Abba,” which in today’s English would be the same as “Daddy.”9 But we were endowed with the Holy Spirit for more than that. As good and obedient children we are to do the will of our Heavenly Father, and Paul says that such actions are the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit working in us.10
Having the Holy Spirit as a positive force within them was so important to the Apostle Paul, that he wrote to the Ephesians: “I ask the Father with His great glory to give you the power to be strong in your spirits. He will give you that strength through His Spirit. I pray that Christ will live in your hearts because of your faith. I pray that your life will be strong in love and be built on love.”11 And that is why he later warned them not to cause the Holy Spirit to grieve by being uncooperative and disobedience to the Spirit’s will.12
So, for the Apostle Paul, it was never a case of asking, “Where is God when I need Him?” but to know with certainty that He is always with us, during good times and bad. That’s why, when troubles do come we should not feel ashamed, or think that He wasn’t watching. Certainly, Paul was aware of what David said in his song: “Our ancestors trusted You. Yes, they trusted You, and You saved them. They called to You for help and escaped their enemies. They trusted You and were not disappointed!”13
Here is the message God sent to His people through the prophet Jeremiah: “Those who trust in the Lord will be blessed. They know that the Lord will do what He says. They will be strong like trees planted near a stream that send out roots to the water. They have nothing to fear when the days get hot. Their leaves are always green. They never worry, even in a year that has no rain. They always produce fruit.”14 This fruit for the Christian believer, is the fruit of the Spirit that Paul talked about in his letter to the Galatians.15
Early church scholar Pelagius makes this point: “The hope of things to come casts out all confusion. This is why the man who is dismayed by Christ’s warnings lacks hope. The greatness of God’s benefits arouses in us greatness of love, which does not know fear or dismay because it is complete.16 We also learn how God loves us, because He has not only forgiven us our sins through the death of His Son but also given us the Holy Spirit, who already shows us the glory of things to come.”17
Then, medieval church scholar Bede had this to say: “The Law was indeed given through Moses, and there it was determined by a heavenly rule what was to be done and what was to be avoided, but what it commanded was completed only by the grace of Christ. On the one hand, that law was able to point out sin, teaching justice, and showing transgressors what they are charged with. On the other hand, the grace of Christ, poured out in the hearts of the faithful through the spirit of charity, brings it about that what the law commanded may be fulfilled.”18
On this subject, John Calvin writes: “It therefore appears, that the Lord tries us by adversities for this end, — that our salvation may thereby be gradually advanced. Those evils then cannot render us miserable, which do in a manner promote our happiness. And thus is proved what he had said, that the godly have reasons for glorying in the midst of their afflictions.”19 He goes on to say: “Seeing all things must serve the will of the Creator, who, according to His paternal favor towards us, overrules all the trials of the cross for our salvation, this knowledge of divine love towards us is instilled into our hearts by the Spirit of God; for the good things which God has prepared for His servants are hid from the ears and the eyes and the minds of men, and the Spirit alone is He who can reveal them.”20
John Bengel states that hope affords us the greatest reason to have blessed assurance, and will not deceive us; hope will become fact. That’s because God’s love for us is the ground of our hope; for it is an everlasting love. That’s why even when afflictions seem to overwhelm us, we do not cease to perceive God’s love towards us; which is a much richer consolation than prosperity would be. The reason for this perception in our hearts is because it indicates that the Holy Spirit Himself is in the believer’s heart. Therefore, the reason He is there in the present, is to provide the security of our future.21
Adam Clarke makes this point: “A hope that is not rationally founded will have its expectation cut off; and then shame and confusion will be the portion of its possessor. But our hope is of a different kind; it is founded on the goodness and truth of God; and our religious experience shows us that we have not misapplied it; nor exercised it on wrong or improper objects.”22 He goes on to explain: “This love is the spring of all our actions; it is the motive of our obedience; the principle through which we love God, we love Him because He first loved us; and we love Him with a love worthy of Himself, because it springs from Him: it is His own; and every flame that rises from this pure and vigorous fire must be pleasing in His sight: it consumes what is unholy; refines every passion and appetite; sublimes the whole, and assimilates all to itself.”23
Joseph Benson says this hope is the fruit of faith, patience, and experience, namely, the full assurance of hope. Therefore, such hope will not shame or confuse us with disappointment, but we shall certainly obtain the right things hoped for. Benson writes: “We know it cannot shame or disappoint us because we have already within ourselves the very beginning of that heaven to which it aspires. For the love of God — That is, love to God, arising from a manifestation of His love to us, even that love which constitutes us at once both holy and happy, and is therefore an earnest of our future inheritance in our hearts; that love, in the perfection of which the blessedness of that celestial world consists; is shed abroad, is poured out; into our hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us — The efficient cause of all these present blessings, and the earnest of those to come. As a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, the Holy Ghost enables us to discern God’s love to us; and as a Spirit of holiness and consolation, he enables us to delight ourselves daily in him, though for the present he appoint us trials which may seem rigorous and severe.”24
1 Frederic Louis Godet: On Romans, loc. cit.
2 Charles Ellicott: On Romans, loc. cit.
3 Philippians 1:20
4 2 Thessalonians 2:16
5 This term, “that Day” is always a reference to the Day of Resurrection when we will all be gathered to Christ and taken into heaven. It is also used to indicate the Day of Judgment.
6 2 Timothy 1:12
7 Joseph Benson’s Commentary of the Old and New Testaments: loc. cit.
8 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22; Cf. Ephesians 1:13
9 Galatians 4:6
10 Ibid. 5:22-23
11 Ephesians 3:16-17
12 Ibid. 4:30
13 Psalm 22:4-5
14 Jeremiah 17:7-8
15 Galatians 5:22–23
16 1 John 4:18
17 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
18 Bede: Homilies on the Gospels 1.2
19 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
20 Calvin: ibid.
21 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 255-256
22 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
23 Clarke: ibid.
24 Joseph Benson: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.