Romans 15:13

‘Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.’
(Romans 15:13)

This verse ties together some key themes mentioned immediately beforehand. However, in many ways it forms a concluding remark and summary statement for the whole of this ‘letter’ from the apostle Paul to the first century Christians of Rome, the bulk of which reads more like a theological treatise, with applications.

After opening like a letter, it then describes the hopeless state of mankind, followed by the hope that can be found through belief/faith/trust in the gospel, which brings peace (with God) and joy. Next it covers how this becomes a lived reality, through the power of the Holy Spirit, including with regards to Christian unity (i.e. peace with each other – notably between Jewish and Gentile Christians in the original context). Then comes this summary verse/prayer, before some further remarks that read more like a letter.

So first the hopeless state of mankind, ‘fools… who exchanged the truth of God for a lie… filled with all unrighteousness… worthy of death’(Romans 1:22-32), which therefore comes to us all, since we’re all ingrained with this corruption, ‘all under sin’(Romans 3:9ff.), as good as ‘dead’(Romans 8:10) already! Even worse can follow, ‘the second death’(Revelation 20:14)!

But there’s hope. Our gracious ‘God of hope’ has a plan, disclosed through the Bible, so that ‘through… the Scriptures we might have hope’(Romans 15:4), as Paul puts it earlier in this passage, before quoting Isaiah’s Old Testament prophesy that even ‘“the Gentiles will hope”’(Romans 15:12), so not just Jews – it’s hope for the whole ‘“world”’(John 3:16).

Paul’s letter to the Romans is a high point in the Bible’s revelation of this hope, making this summary verse perhaps the summit? – certainly a peak. All of Paul’s letters range high in this regard though, that we might ‘know what is the hope of His [God’s] calling, and… the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints’(Ephesians 1:18), ‘the hope of eternal life’(Titus 3:7), ‘the hope which is laid up… in the heavens’(Colossians 1:5), etc.

So how do we inherit this eternal hope in the heavens, rather than stumble from death into even worse? Amazingly it’s summed up here as simply ‘believing’, or faith/trust as other translations have it. Paul describes this earlier as ‘the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to… all those who believe’(Romans 3:22ff.). We can be declared fit for eternity by believing ‘in Him who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead, who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification’(Romans 4:24-25). Basically ‘Christ died for us’(Romans 5:8) so that ‘justified by His blood… saved from God’s wrath through Him’(Romans 5:9) we might ‘rejoice in hope of the glory of God’(Romans 5:2) – the ‘joy’ here, because being ‘justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’(Romans 5:1) – the ‘peace’.

That’s one aspect of this peace, again as prophesied by Isaiah: ‘He was pierced for our transgressions… The punishment that brought our peace was on Him’(Isaiah:53:5), as Peter points out too, the ‘“good news of peace by Jesus Christ… the prophets testify about Him… everyone who believes in Him will receive remission of sins”’(Acts 10:36-43). However, Peter also taught that we can share our concerns with God ‘because He cares’(1 Peter 5:7), which brings another sort of peace, which Paul taught about as well, peace that comes through ‘prayer… the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding’(Philippians 4:6-7). There’s also this peace with each other that Paul was keen to promote amongst his readers, ‘things which make for peace’(Romans 14:19) between believers, as we stand gazing heavenwards together, even attempting ‘peace with all’(Romans 12:18).

Rightly grasping these truths should make us ‘rejoice greatly with joy’(1 Peter 1:8ff.), which is partly anticipatory, tasted in the present, but also includes joy from living wholesome Christians lives now, ‘righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit’(Romans 14:17).

The Holy Spirit is key, and how all of this comes to us, ‘in the power of the Holy Spirit’ as Paul puts it here, ‘the Spirit of God… of Christ’(Romans 8:9ff.). It’s through Him that we’re made ‘alive’(Romans 8:10ff.; Ephesians 2:5ff.) spiritually, to receive these truths, ‘the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit’(Titus 3:5), then enabled to live out this ‘joy, peace’(Galatians 5:22ff.) etc., as we ‘live by the Spirit… walk by the Spirit’(Galatians 5:25). Experiencing this reality brings great assurance as well, ‘the first fruits of the Spirit’(Romans 8:23ff.), ‘a pledge of our inheritance’(Ephesians 1:14), making us ‘abound in hope’ all the more.

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