Advent: Hope Titus 1:1-3; Ephesians 1:16-21
12/12/2018 4:52:52 AM
December 1, 2018
Rev. David Williams
Scripture: Titus 1:1-3; Ephesians 1:16-21
Megan is really excited about Christmas! She’s 5 years old and last year Christmas was really big for her. This year she’s even more excited. She’s really hopeful about what she’s going to get!
Let me ask, what are you hopeful for? Not necessarily at Christmas, but in general, what do you hope for? Some hope to get married, some hope to have kids or grandkids. Others hope to get a degree, or a particular job. What are some things you hope for in life? (Ask people to raise hands)
All of these are good things to hope for. They’re not bad to hope for. But they are not our Christian hope. Some Christians hope that Jesus will make their lives easier. Or they hope that Jesus will keep them feeling good or feel close to them all the time. These are not Christian hope either, even though they are hopes Christians have!
1 Peter 3:15, speaking about times of persecution, or being mistreated for your faith… “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….”
What is the hope we have? What is the hope we have as Christians? This is the 1st week of Advent, the week of HOPE. We will explore what hope means for Christians.
Faith, hope and love form an important triad in the NT and early Christianity. [Gordon Fee, 1 Cor, p. 650]. Paul refers to them as “the well known three” and in the NT they are often linked. For the early church they formed a summary of Christian existence. Hope is important in Christianity!
Two passages in Paul, early in their respective letters. Often missed or glossed over as part of Paul’s “introduction.” Many scholars are too busy comparing the different introductions in Paul’s different letters and miss the theological significance of what Paul says about hope!
What It Says
Paul identifies himself in Titus as a servant or slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Being a slave implies ownership, belonging to someone else, an obligation. But it wasn’t always a bad position! In this case, it indicates a special relationship with God. In the OT, Abraham, Moses and the prophets were identified as the slaves of God! A slave commissioned to speak, for instance as an apostle, carries with him the authority of his master! So being a slave and apostle indicates that Paul has an obligation to God, but also an authority from God to speak to Titus and the church Titus was leading on Crete.
What is Paul’s purpose as a slave and apostle? The faith of God’s elect and knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. God’s elect are God’s chosen people, like Israel in the Old Testament. Take note that the faith and knowledge of God’s people have a purpose- not just for information, not just mental assent! They lead to godliness! Faith and knowledge that do not lead us to be more like Jesus are ineffective faith and knowledge! There is a goal, a trajectory to our faith and knowledge other than just salvation when we die. That trajectory includes becoming godly, more like Jesus in this life too.
Our faith and knowledge rest on our hope for eternal life. So there’s this trajectory towards godliness, the end result of which is eternal life. Life in the Bible is not just existence. It involves a deep relationship with God. So our trajectory is to become godly in this life through faith and knowledge. This lays the groundwork for an eternal life in deep relationship with God! This is our hope!
Our hope is an eternal life in deep relationship with God. In an Alpha video, one comment is made that for one man this life has not been very good, why would he want eternal life? We must remember, as Christians, eternal life is about eternal intimacy with God, who is love, who made us and loves us- very different from this life! It’s not eternal existence, but eternal relationship with God.
Now notice what Paul says about our eternal life: it was promised by God before the beginning of time!
That means before creation began, God’s goal was for us to have eternal life in deep relationship with him! Eternal life in deep relationship with God was God’s purpose for us even before creation!
Remember, this is the foundation of our hope! That God, who does not lie, has had since the beginning the goal of living with us in deep relationship for eternity! This is so much bigger than anything else we hope for in this life! Bigger than success, pleasure, ease, relief, even closeness with God in this life- all pale in comparison with God’s goal for us in making us- eternal, deep relationship with him!
At the appointed season refers to the coming of Christ- our Saviour. This is Advent! Christmas marks the point in time in which God brought his word to light about the triumphal good news of God’s plan for us.
Now consider Ephesians 1. This is Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Ephesus- giving thanks, asking God that they receive wisdom and revelation to know God better! Again- there is a purpose in our wisdom and revelation- intimacy with God!
2nd he prays that the eyes of our heart enlightened to know the hope we are called to. The Old Testament gave hope for the future in terms of the coming of light into a world in darkness and opening the eyes of the blind. So when Paul prays that the eyes of our heart be enlightened, he is drawing on this old idea of light! Our hearts are naturally blind through sin, so they need to be opened.
What is the goal of this enlightenment? To know the hope to which God has called us! Along with, or described by his glorious inheritance and incomparable power. Our glorious inheritance is to be God’s people, in his presence forever. Again, eternal life is our future inheritance. God’s power is that same power that raised Christ from the dead! And not only raised him from death, but glorified him too.
The power Paul wants us to know experientially is the power that raised Christ from the dead. That is the power we have to look forward to! That is the power Paul is praying we will begin to experience now in being made godly. That is the power that will glorify us as God’s adopted children inheriting along with Jesus the glory he received
At the end, Paul says that Christ has been seated above all rule, authority, power, dominion and title from this age and the age to come.
What It Means
What doe it all mean? Our hope is spectacular. We are not called to some “vague and wistful longing for the triumph of goodness” [WMF Scott, in Foulkes, Eph, p. 69] Our hope is specific and spectacular: we get to be transformed to be godly in character. We get to be transformed physically to have bodies like the resurrected Jesus. We get to be glorified as sons and daughters, inheriting from God the blessings he has given to the Son Jesus.
Our hope is grounded on the historical even of Christ’s resurrection. The same power that raised Christ is what we experience when the HS dwells within us, transforms us, renews our hearts and makes us more like Jesus. That power will resurrect us and transform us like Jesus was!
Put the two texts together. From Titus we see that God’s promise for our hope is from before time began. Ephesians tells us that the our inheritance includes experiencing the power that has given Christ position above all things in this age and the age to come. Our hope is eternal life with God in a state of being without sin or evil; that is, with God’s complete rule. This is the Kingdom of God (KoG) which we pray for in the Lord’s prayer- the complete authority of God on earth and in our hearts.
This is our diagram that I hope is becoming familiar. Whenever you read in the Bible “age to come” or “kingdom of God” I want this diagram to pop into your head!
On the left, there’s a wrinkle. I’ve added “Creation” and “fall” to the diagram. Why? Because we are talking about the fact that our hope is actually founded on a promise God made before time began- before creation itself! Things went wrong at the fall, which God totally anticipated. Our hope is so spectacular! In part because it is the hope of God’s original plan for creation from before he even started.
And our Christian hope becomes clear with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The life of Jesus on earth began with Advent! That is, “arrival”
In the OT, even during Jesus’ earthly ministry, people didn’t understand the scope of their hope. They hoped for an earthly ruler, a political saviour. They had no idea how spectacular their hope really was! On the other side, we know because we know about the resurrection. Although we are still in the “trough” we are in the part that overlaps with the KoG. We live in the 2 ages and have some sense of the KoG.
What does this all matter? We are coming to Christmas. There are lots of distractions like family, gifts, materialism, etc. As believers, we want to keep sight of the fact that Christmas is about Jesus. Yes, Jesus’ birth- but also about why he came. Why was his birth significant? Because of what he did with his life!
As we prepare for Christmas, we must keep in mind our hope. Yes, keep in mind the birth of Jesus. Yes, tell the nativity story. Keep Christ in Christmas for sure!
BUT let me challenge you further, which may actually help you keep Christ in Christmas- to remember the purpose for which he came. Keep in mind the hope to which he has called us. When we sing songs about hope at Christmas, don’t let it be some “vague or wistful longing for the triumph of goodness.” Rather, let it be the specific, concrete hope of our own resurrection like that of Jesus when he returns!
Our hope is not just for good things, but for the best thing that God promised from before time began. At Christmas we hope for many things. Many of them are good things to hope for. Some may not be. (We fall into greed so easily!) But at Christmas we must train our hearts to hope for the best thing! We are called to set our minds on things above- like our Christian hope! That hope is made possible through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
At Christmas we celebrate his birth- his entry into this world to carry out the plan laid before time began. As you decorate your tree, as you buy gifts for people, as you make plans to gather with friends and family, as you have conversations about Christmas, keep in mind this spectacular hope we have in Jesus. Take opportunities with your kids, with your spouse, with your friend or family to turn the conversation to why Jesus came in the first place. Turn the conversation to our hope!
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