Hope as Confidence in God

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” (Romans 4:13–18 ESV)

“In hope he believed against hope” (Romans 4:18). In his commentary on Romans, James Dunn argues that Paul, in Romans 4:18, is contrasting two views of hope: a traditional Greco/Roman view and a Jewish view informed by the Old Testament. Hope as experienced and expressed in the Greco/Roman world was one “which regularly means simply ‘expectation,’ with [hope] often used in the sense of fearing evil. [. . .] In the OT, however, hope is something different from fear, hope as expectation of good. It is thus closely allied to trust, trustful hope, hope as confidence in God.”

In other words, Abraham’s hope was not a visceral response against fear, against the knot in his stomach. No, instead Abraham’s hope was a trust and confidence in God. This hope, which finds its origin not in our circumstances but in our confidence in God, is a consistent hope. Therefore, hope is not an emotion to be relied on only in times of trouble, but it is a constant state of confidence in God regardless if our circumstances are positive or negative, whether we are feeling joy or fear. It is a hope that comes, as Peter states in 1 Peter 3:15, by setting apart Christ as Lord! This Lent, may each of us find a hope that is not precepted out of desperation but rather out of confidence in God, for this is the hope that comes by faith.