Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
The sense of a passage is clearer if the connection with the context be ascertained. The Revised Version, by translating the same root-word in the same manner, enables the reader to take up the thread of thought from the twelfth verse. Guests introduced to the same host are placed on terms of fellowship with each other. So Jew and Gentile had been received by Jesus Christ, in whom the veracity of God towards the Jews had been confirmed, and his mercy displayed towards the Gentiles. Thus both could unite in praising God, as had been predicted by the Law, the Psalms, and the prophets. "In him shall the Gentiles hope. And this leads the apostle to utter the supplication of the text.
I. THE TITLE GIVEN TO GOD. The God of hope." The names of God in the Scriptures emphasize his personality and close relationship with his creatures more than any designations in philosophy or mythology. He has established a plan of salvation which is the substantial warrant for hope, and, besides this objective provision, does himself inspire hope subjectively in his people. The bestowment of every grace is attributed to him. Naturally does the apostle, in his anxiety for the hopefulness of Christians, invoke a blessing from the God of hope. Our prayers are fashioned according to our conception of the Hearer of prayer. Hope concerns two things - what we desire, and what we anticipate. When either of these characteristics is absent, hope fails. And we are not to imagine that hope belongs only to us limited beings; for though to the omniscient eye the future is visible, God, like ourselves, cherishes confident expectations. He, too, welcomes the era when his fair dominions shall not he defiled with sin. He is as much delighted with the prospect of triumphant grace as any of us can be. If we wonder why the period is not hastened, the solution is to be found in the nature of man. Forcibly to overcome man's power of resistance would be to destroy the plant in the moment of its flowering, or to crush the drowning in the very act of rescue. The trophies of redemption are to be monuments of moral suasion. The kingdom spreads not by sword and garments rolled in blood, but by the kindling of the fuel of love in the heart of man. What an idea of the patience of the Almighty is presented in the myriad ages through which this earth has been slowly prepared for the residence of man! We are like children, who cannot wait cheerfully for the coming feast; we lose heart if the chariot delays.
II. THE PRAYER. "Fill you with all joy and peace in believing." We may lawfully seek, not only to obey the precepts, but to enjoy the comforts of the gospel. True, the gospel ideal is blessedness rather than happiness; yet its intent is to bring present serenity and gladness, not to leave us all our life trembling in doubt. It is a remedy for present ills, a foretaste of coming bliss. Peace and joy are virtues; there is no merit attached to disquiet and mournfulness. Faith is the ground of peace and joy, or the instrument through which God communicates these blessings. "In believing" is put for the whole of Christian conduct. Expect peace and joy whilst you hold fast to the message which imparted glad tranquillity at the first, whilst you remember the obligations and partake of the privileges of the gospel. Without faith, joy and peace can no more enter the soul than hunger and thirst can be relieved without eating and drinking. Faith grows by exercise, mounts aloft on experience like the vine on the trellis. It is not honourable to be for ever questioning the credibility of Christ. Faith knocks at the door and gains admittance into the mansion of light and song; unbelief examines the door, and questions the resources of the palace. When our right to our inheritance is challenged, we may examine again the title-deeds; but it is not in the law courts that we learn to prize our possessions. The prayer of the text teaches not to rest content with meagre supplies. How exuberant the apostle's language! "Fill you with all peace," etc. There is joy of every kind arising from service and communion - joy intellectual and emotional; joy in our own advance and in the widening bounds of the kingdom of Christ. We are too apt to sink to a certain level of monotony. Our course is circular, too seldom spiral reaching upwards.
III. THE END IN VIEW. "That ye may abound in hope." Here again see the spiritual vehemence of the apostle. He knew that every Gentile believer cherished hope; but he would have this hope to abound in every season, under every circumstance. Some Christians, like birds in an eclipse of the sun, are sure that the shades betoken night. Now, the Christian who is rich in peace and joy cannot help reasoning from the present to the future; his ecstasy tints every cloud with roseate hues. He is youthful in spirit, lives in a
"... boyhood of wonder and hope,
Present promise and wealth of the future beyond the eye's scope." Hope is imprinted on his countenance, radiates from every action. Advancing age brings him nearer the westering sun; there is a rich ripeness of harvest glory. Two old men, alike in everything else but in the possession of this buoyant expectancy, are really wide as the poles asunder. The one laments that he has seen the best of his days; the other has something better than the best to prepare for. Christian hope is set on an excellent object, rests on a stable foundation, works a purifying, elevating gladness. The hope desired for the Romans was a collective hope, to be fostered as a common solace and strength. Only by dwelling in harmony could it produce its proper fruits. There should be no panic amongst the followers of Christ - hence the importance of the prayer.
IV. THE CONDITION EXPRESSED. "Through the power of the Holy Ghost." The human condition was "believing;" the Divine is the energy of the Spirit. And since he dwells in believers, his aid may surely be reckoned on. This hope, therefore, is neither painted in water nor written in dust. It is not made so much dependent on our reasonings or struggles as on that life from God which is the answer to all man's pleas and excuses. He says, "I am weak, I cannot." God says, "I will pour my Spirit upon you." How vast the difference between the dull, timid disciples and the same when "filled with the Spirit " - enthusiastic, vigorous, ready to preach and to take joyfully the spoiling of their persons and property! Let our cry be, "Come, Holy Sprat, come. Breathe about our wintry chills, scatter our darkness, raise our plane of thought and feeling! - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.