I said there were not three things, but here are three things in this verse about hope. First, hope has a very present effect. That is the word “because”. Second, the hope is certain: it is laid up in heaven. Third, the hope marks goal, the end of our pilgrimage. Our hope is laid up in heaven.
First we are going to consider the effect of hope. I want you to notice something about. In 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul writes that, “faith, hope and love” now abide. Here is a triad which lies at heart of being a Christian: we cannot be a Christian without faith hope and love. Paul mentions these three in our text:
4since we heard of your faith [there is faith] in Christ Jesus and the love [there is love] which you have for all the saints;
5because of the hope [there is hope] laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel
Notice also that the hope comes about from hearing “the word of truth, the gospel”. So there is a chain of events here:
First there was hearing the word of truth. We will think about what is that word of truth in moment. For right now, just notice that hope did not come their imagination or their experience or anything else. Hope came from hearing “the word of truth”.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:5 Paul describes what happened to that church:
“for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and full of conviction”
There is the pattern which is throughout the Scripture — and demonstrated over and again in the history of the Church. Believers, the church of Jesus Christ are created by Word of God and the Spirit of God. The Word of God comes to people and comes in the power of the Holy Spirit. It presses down upon the elect and they believe and are transformed.
Now understand this about true, saving faith: it is not just some sort of historical calculation. For instance, I believe George Washington was the first president of the United States. But that belief is just an idea, it’s just an exercise of thought.
Saving faith is different, it is not just an idea. It comes with power, with conviction, it changes. When true faith comes, it comes with hope. In Romans 4:18, Paul describes Abraham’s saving faith like this, “In hope again he hope he believed.” And in Romans 8:24, Paul writes, “For in hope we have been saved”.
Faith and hope are very close together; and in saving faith, it comes with hope. We believe we are now saved, and we believe we will be saved. We believe we will be justified on the day of judgment, we believe we will be resurrected, we believe we will be forever with the Lord. But notice that all of that belief entails hope:
For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Rom. 8:24-25. And conversely, we could not possibly hope for something we did not believe to be true and real and ahead of us. No one could hope for something he did not sincerely believe was true.
Now consider this also: faith and hope strengthen one another. As we believe, we can more easily and clearly hope: as we hope, our faith gains strength and vigor.
Let’s do a little thought experiment. Let us assume that the story gets around that Tom is feeling generous today and that he is taking every out to lunch. And so we all hope and believe that Tom is going to bring around limos and we will all be ferried down to Gladstones at the ocean and we will have lunch and be brought back to church in time for evening service.
But after our initial rush of hope and belief, we start to think about this. We begin to realize that taking a couple of hundred people in limos to lunch at the ocean might be unrealistic for Tom. Tom probably doesn’t have ten thousand dollars to spend on our lunch. And so, our belief begins to wane. And as our belief wanes, our hope wanes. And by the time noon comes around, our faith and hope in Tom’s wonderful lunch surprise goes away.
Faith and hope need one another to survive.
Here is a point of application. We must keep our faith and our hope well and in good strength. When we becomes hopeless, when we begin to falter in our hope, our faith will decline. In fact, I would surmise that for most people it is their hope which falters first, and then their faith. The Devil would not easily get you to deny the Incarnation — but if he can discourage you, if he can distract your hope and draw it on to other things, you faith will fail. Faith cannot stand without hope. To keep faith without hope is like keeping a roof without walls. Faith and the roof will fall to the ground.
But Paul also draws love into this equation look again
4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;
5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel
The love which the Colossians experience and exhibit is “because of the hope”. Their hope gives rise to their love. Some of the commentators are puzzled by this connection. Since love is a very generous affection, it seems odd to connect with one’s hope. How can hoping make one more able and willing to love?
Let us think of the greatest act of love in the history of humanity: without question, it is the love Jesus showed to us when he went to the cross. Jesus himself said that giving one’s life for another was the greatest act of love. Jesus abounded in love, when he went to the cross.
Now I want you to consider Hebrews 12:2, “Jesus … who for the joy set before him endured the cross”. Jesus’ love toward us was itself grounded in hope. Jesus died for us to glorify his name, to glorify the Father — and for us, he made atonement for sin. Jesus gave himself in love, but Jesus also gave himself in hope.
Because Jesus knew his work would be successful does not mean that Jesus did not hope. Hope does not mean an uncertain a foolish desire. Hope can be quite certain, as we will see. The security of the hope does not mean that it is not hope. Hope is desire for something which is not now present.
Hope is means of enjoying something in the future now. It is taking possession of something just beyond our grasp.
Jesus’ love and Jesus’ hope were in perfect agreement and were both fulfilled together.
Love is a generous affection. Hope is also generous. A hope of acceptance and love from God, makes us wealthy — it makes love and generosity wise. Hope fixes our eyes upon Christ (and that is a whole other thing which we cannot fully consider) — and as it fixes our eyes upon Christ, it makes us like Christ:
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB95)
18But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
Our hope transforms us by fixing our gaze upon our Lord. And in so doing, our hope transforms us into those who love. We could never love without hope. We love in hope that our love will be received and will work good in the beloved.
If our gaze could never go beyond the confines of this life and this world, then the full generous love God commands, to love our neighbor as ourself would be insane, it would be dangerous and foolish. To love as God calls us to love is a sucker’s game if there is no heaven calling us: if there is no life beyond this life, then as Paul writes, we are most to be pitied.
But hope gives room and promise and purpose to Christian love. As Paul also says, our labor will not be in vain.
When we are filled with hope, then faith and love will grow themselves. And here is the amazing thing: When we have these three, they each make the other grow. When we have love and faith, it grows hope. When we have hope and love it grows faith. Love fulfills the law, love is obedience to Christ. And in Hebrews 5:14, we learn that obedience — which will necessarily require love — makes us fit and able to learn more of God, to increase the scope and depth of our faith and hope, because it gives more range for faith and hope act.
What produces hope? The Word of God brought to bear by the Spirit of God, the word of God believed produces hope. And what does hope produce: faith and love. If you see you faith flagging look to your hope. If you love has grown cold, look to hope. If you hope is weak, look to your faith.
If you feel yourself wander, discouraged, fallen into sin and tempted with despair, come back to the fountain, come back to the place you lost your way. Come back to the start, to the Word of God, pick up the trail in faith; your flagging hope will stir and that will set you going in the correct direction.