God of Hope

Paul concludes his discussion of weak and strong in the church with a benediction: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

God is “God of hope” because He gives hope through the Spirit. He is “God of hope” because He expands the hope of Israel to include the Gentiles (Romans 15:12). The God of hope is the source and object of hope.

Can we say more? Is hope an aspect of God’s own life? I think the answer is Yes. Consider:

God is love (1 John 4:8). Since Augustine, Christians have recognized this as a Trinitarian statement. God is love because the Father, Son, and Spirit are an eternal communion of love. The Father loves in the Son in the Spirit, and the Son loves the Father with the same Spiritual Love.

Can we say the same about the other “theological virtues”? If God is love, is He also faith and hope?

Start with faith. Jesus, the incarnate Son, is the origin and perfector of faith (Hebrew 12:1-2). He goes to the cross trusting His Father to save Him from death. The Father, in His turn, entrusts the saving mission to the Son.

Does faith characterize the eternal relations of the Triune Persons? Remember that faith isn’t always soteriological. Faith is fundamentally trust, loyalty, and allegiance. In these senses, the Triune communion is a communion of faith. The Father is eternally loyal to the Son in the Spirit, and the Son is eternally loyal to His Father.

Hope is more difficult. Hope is an expectation of future good. We hope for things we don’t yet see. God isn’t uncertain about the future. Since God isn’t bound by time, it doesn’t seem He lives in hope.

Then we read 1 Corinthians 13:7: Love hopes all things. If God is Love, and if love is hopeful, shouldn’t He be Hope? I suggest we answer Yes.

There’s no interval of time within the Trinity’s eternal life, but there are intervals of personal distinction. The processions – the begetting of the Son and the process of the Spirit – are the uncreated sources of created time. Within God, there is origin and end, first and last, beginning, middle, and completion.

Thus, we might say: The Father eternally gives the Spirit of glory to the Son in hope that the Son will return glory. So too the Son glorifies the Father in the Spirit in hope that the Father will glorify Him. God’s life is “hope for glory” (cf. Colossians 1:27).

This has many implications, but let me isolate one: If God is Himself Hope, then our hope is an overglow of God’s dwelling in and among us.

We don’t stoke up hope by looking on the bright side or ignoring evil. We are firm in hope, and form communities of hope, as we remain in communion with the Spirit of hope, the Spirit of the God who is Hope.

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