Chapter 38 The God Of Hope

The God of hope fill you … that ye may abound in hope (Romans 15:13).

The apostle has traced human history from the first man’s sin and rebellion through many generations, and then comes to Christ. The long history of failure finds its terminal at the cross and from that terminal rises a new beginning. Hope springs up at the cross. Sin brought in despair and death, and the only way God could bring any hope to a fallen race was through the cross and death of His beloved Son. That cross is not a cross of despair but of hope. That is God’s way of bringing in hope. God’s answer to our desperate state is the cross.

The Answer to Ruined Nature

Man is not what God made him. Sin came in and man became a corrupt and guilty creature. It came in because man trod the one and only command of prohibition under his feet. Born as we are with a corrupt nature from that first man, it is vain to think we can live a spotless and holy life. Wicked nature draws us from the straight and narrow path. There is not a single hour when we have stood blameless before God. That is a condition God never intended for man.

Thus, what is of human nature cannot please God. It can never purify itself. A clean thing can never come out of an unclean. So there is a certain hopelessness attached to this unclean state. It can never be other. But what God requires, and what He demands, is a life clear as crystal. Only the cross—that is, the blood of the cross, can wipe the pollution out of us and give hope of a pure life. Only the cross can subdue sin—quiet boisterous passions—becalm fiery lusts—make miry places clean.

The Answer to Human Wisdom

Human wisdom is corrupt. It is placarded before our eyes in the scribes and wise men of Israel. Their interpretation of Divine things was grossly wrong. What they devised as a form of religion did nothing for man except impose upon him an intolerable burden. It brought man into bondage to rules and regulations which the scribes themselves could not keep. With all their religious schooling in the Word of God they could not get beyond their own traditions and settled interpretations which never did rightly or fully interpret God’s mind and thought. Self-will is at the root of human wisdom in devising means of redemption. Men imagine that their devised means is best suited to the dignity of man. Thus man places his puny reason above the counsels of God. He turns from God’s revealed will to grope in the darkness of his own conceits.

All this so-called wisdom must be set aside, and only the cross of Christ can do that! It took the wisdom of God to devise a means whereby God could pardon and receive sinful men on the basis of righteousness. How can any man pay his debt to justice when he has nothing of his own but sin? But Jesus pays—pays in a death which no mind can ever reckon. Justice then rejoices. The truth of God denounces every sin and so bars heaven’s gate to every sinner. But Jesus drinks the cup of vengeance and the truth of God requires no more. The holiness of God recoils from every approach of sin. But Jesus dies, and a stream of blood flows which washes out the crimson dye. This is the wisdom of God. “Christ crucified … the wisdom of God.”

The Answer to Enforced Legalism

The Law can only bring sinners into bondage. It is a terror to sinful men. Darkness envelops it and out of the thick darkness it has an angry roar. The hand of the law shakes terror over a transgressing world. The hands of man cannot erect a tower of safety against the law. Can a poor cripple run?—the withered tree bear fruit?—the sentenced criminal break his chains?—the dead rise and walk? How then can corrupt man keep a perfect law of God? Israel had the law but could not keep it, so it could not derive life and power from it. The law can never bestow life. It can only condemn those who breach it in any one point.

The cross is the answer to all legalism and stands over against it. The things of God are not the tyranny of the law but the manifestation of grace. And that is liberty, not bondage. We are released by the cross from all ceremonial forms which never can change the condition of man. The cross opens a door to the fullness of life, and in that fullness there is freedom. To try by religious forms and ceremonies to gain that life is simply to gender human bondage. The cross is God’s reaction against that! It makes a way for the bestowment of eternal life, and in that life is the delight to do and the power to keep God’s holy law.

A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on,
My person and offering to bring.

The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Saviour’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.

My name on the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart, it remains
In marks of indelible grace.

Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure
The souls of the blessed in heaven.

—Augustus H. Toplady