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  • January 2010
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SOUND DOCTRINE (6): We Put Our Hope in God

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. – 1 Timothy 4:9-10

This is the second “trustworthy saying” (“faithful saying” in the KJV) we will consider. Elders are to hold fast to the “trustworthy message” (very similar to “trustworthy saying” in the Greek) so they can exhort and rebuke with sound doctrine (Titus 1:9). Hence, we are paying special attention to the five trustworthy sayings in Timothy and Titus to identify what Paul considered vital as sound doctrine.

Where Is Your Hope?

Paul said he had put his hope in the living God. Where is mine?

Early in his life, Saul of Tarsus had his hope in the Torah and the Traditions of his Fathers. He was zealous for the Torah as interpreted by the Traditions. He was so zealous for the Torah that he persecuted to the death any who left following Torah to follow Jesus – and this was even before Gentiles (other than proselytes) had become followers of the Way. This is another way of saying that Saul put his hope and trust in religion. Many still trust religion more than they hope in God.

The Rich Young Ruler of Mark 10:17-22 hoped in his wealth. He said he had kept all of the commandments of the Law, but still yearned for eternal life. When Jesus told him to sell what he had, give it to the poor, and come follow Him, he demurred. He loved his wealth more than he desired eternal life –at least more than he trusted Jesus. He would not put his hope in Jesus if it cost him his wealth. Many of his tribe still live today.

Hope in Self-Righteousness

Job’s “friend” Eliphaz told him,

Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope? Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? – Job 4:6-7

The only problem was, that is what Job thought as well! Though his friends accused him of great wrong-doing, they did so without evidence. The only evidence they had of Job’s sinfulness was his suffering. In Job 31, Job describes the righteousness of his life, and declares,

Let God weigh me in honest scales and He will know that I am blameless. – Job 31:6.

God did know Job was blameless and upright. What Job could not comprehend was that his righteousness was causing him to suffer. God allowed Satan to afflict Job to demon­strate that Job served God from the heart, not because God rewarded him with health and wealth.

Job’s patience is proverbial – but when you read the book, you realize just how fragile Job’s faithfulness was at the height of his suffering. He did not understand – and challenged God to meet with him face to face. Why did he accuse God of being unfair? He put his hope in his piety, so he was as certain God was being unjust as his friends were certain Job was guilty of great wickedness. When God finally come to him in the tornado, Job learned to trust God – and thus to put his hope in God.

The problem of hoping in one’s own righteousness continued in the New Testament era as well. Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else” (Luke 18:9). This Pharisee thanked God he was not like the Tax Collector – whom Jesus said went down to his home justified by God. The Tax Collector put his hope in the living God. The Pharisee, like many today, thought God was fortunate to have him on His side! Many still put their hope in themselves and their own righteousness more than in God.

Hope in a System of Discipline

Just before Paul gave this “trustworthy saying,” he wrote:

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

This is a trustworthy saying…that we have put our hope in the living God…. – 1 Timothy 4:7-10

What do godless myths, old wives’ tales and physical training have to do with godliness and putting your hope in the living God? Even earlier in this 4th chapter, Paul spoke of deceptive spirits and demons that forbid things God has created to be received with gratitude. It appears to me that the godless myths and old wives’ tales are at least similar to the deceitful teaching from the spirits and doctrine of demons. These were a form of asceticism.

It also seems likely that the “physical training” (“bodily exercise” in the KJV) is not the training you get at the gym – but a system of physical discipline through rules and regulations that were supposed to make you godly. Thayer says the word for “physical training” here is “characteristic of ascetics and consists in abstinence from matrimony and certain kinds of food.”  Paul said such things have some value – but it is obvious he did not put much trust in them. Actually, such things are another way of putting hope in your own doing instead of God’s doing. Paul chose to put his hope in the living God.

How Do You Hope in God?

Hope involves two things: desire and confident expectation. Our modern usage of the word robs hope of its power and reduces it to a mere wish. In fact, many times when we say we hope for something, we have absolutely no expectation of receiving it.

To put your hope in God, you must have both of those things. You must desire Him and you must trust Him. If you do not want to be with God or to receive what God offers, you cannot place your hope in Him. If you do not trust God to do what He says He will do or to keep His promises to you, you cannot hope in Him.

Ultimately, our hope in God for our salvation –“both for the present life and the life to come” – depends on our trusting Him to do what He says He will do. We must be sons of Abraham’s faith. Abraham looked to God as one who could give life to the dead – so he had his son on the altar and a knife at Isaac’s throat when God stopped him. He did this because he trusted God would keep His promise of giving him descendants through Isaac.

God has promised us eternal life in His Son. Do I trust Him to keep His promise? Do I trust Him to give me a new life now in Jesus? Do I reckon myself to have died to sin that He might raise me to newness of life now, not just in the sweet bye and bye? Do I live my life as of no value to me because my life is hidden with Christ in God? Do I yearn daily for His coming and for the final redemption of all things?

If so, then my hope must be in God, not in myself. My obedience is imperfect – except as God makes it perfect in Christ. My faith is imperfect, as is my knowledge. I dare not trust myself for my salvation through any of these. None but God can save me in Christ.

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty. “What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’” – Zechariah 4:6-7

Regardless of what challenges confront us, when God is our hope, we will overcome – as Paul said, “whether it be by life or by death.” We will overcome, but the victory belongs to the LORD.

NEXT: SOUND DOCTRINE (7) – We Will Live With Him

PREVIOUS: SOUND DOCTRINE (5) – Christ Came To Save Sinners

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