"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.V No.IV Pg.12-13
November 1942

A Reason For The Christian's Hope

Oscar Smith

In all ages of the world there have been but two classes of people--the righteous and the wicked. When Jehovah purposed in his heart to destroy the wicked by a flood, there were only eight righteous people in the world, and they were saved in the ark. When the Son of God appeared upon the earth during the reign of the Roman emperors, there were but two classes, the good and the bad, or children of God and the children of the devil. This doctrine is as ancient as the history of the human family. Today there are but two attitudes that one can assume in regard to his fellowmen--the attitude of a brother, or helper, and the attitude of a brute. I am persuaded that there is no middle ground.

A story has been told of a man in a country where they eat each other, defending his title to a piece of land on the ground that he ate the former owner. In this age there are people who have the erroneous idea that a nation stronger than some other nation has the right to go over and take charge of the other nation. That idea is based upon the doctrine that "might makes right."

The Bible uses the words "brutish" and "beasts" in describing certain human beings. David says, "O Lord, how great are thy works! And thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this." (Ps. 92:5, 6.) The prophet Jeremiah in referring to man and his idols declares that "man is brutish in his knowledge." (Jer. 10:14.) Another prophet said, "Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and establisheth a city by iniquity!" (Hab. 2:12.) That military leader who decides to disregard the rights of man, and who makes war upon a small nation because he can conquer it, instead of being highly civilized is headed directly toward the marshes of the dark ages.

When the Son of God came into the world he opened up what the Bible calls a "new and a living way." He died to establish an institution which he calls "my church." All who become members of the church of the Lord have their feet planted upon the divine foundation. They have a hope which the unbeliever or the skeptic does not have. While many people have the idea that there are many ways leading to eternal life, I desire to be understood as teaching by the authority of the sacred scriptures, that there are but two ways for men to travel--the narrow way which leads to life and the broad way which leads to destruction. There are but two great leaders in the world--Christ, who is leading the forces of righteousness, and Satan, who is leading the forces of evil. There are but two places for men to go after death--to heaven, the home of the righteous, and to Gehenna, the place of eternal punishment.

Many Christians during the first century were put to death for following the New Light which had sprung up in the land of Judea. They were stoned to death, some of them were thrown into the arena and were devoured by ravenous beasts. Some of them were burned at the stake, but as the blazen fagots leaped about their bodies they often breathed a prayer for their enemies. While they were being persecuted even unto death, the question went up, why do these feeble Christians continue to praise the name of the Galilean ? Others asked, upon what do they base their hope? The apostle Peter addressed a letter to some of the scattered saints in which he said, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." (1 Pet. 3:15.)

I believe that the Christian has a hope that the unbeliever does not have. What is the hope of the Christian?

The word "hope" is often erroneously used. We have heard the question asked, "Are you a Christian?" and the answer about as follows: "I hope I am." But if one is a Christian he does not hope that he is; he knows whether or not he is a child of God. For the Bible tells us what to do in order to become children of God, and we know whether or not we have done what it teaches us to do. Paul says, "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" (Rom. 8:24.) Again Paul says, "For the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." (Rom. 8:16.) The Bible says, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." (Rom. 8:2.) The Holy Spirit revealed the law for the cleansing of sin. He tells us plainly what we must do in order to be saved, and our spirits tell us whether or not we have obeyed. The Bible does not say that the Spirit bears witness to our spirit; it would have to read that way to fit modern theology. It says, the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit. One cannot become a child of God and not know it. Becoming a Christian is an intelligent matter. God addresses himself to man's understanding. Since the establishment of the church, there has not been a single person in God's kingdom who has not been taught. Isaiah in prophesying concerning the church declared that all should be taught of God. (Isa. 54:13.) Jesus, while here in person, quoted from Isaiah when he said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, "And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." (Jno. 6:44, 45.)

If a man is a Christian, he is a new creature in Christ. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor. 5:17.) Not only is he a new creature, but he is walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh. (See Rom. 8:1-4.) To determine whether or not we are walking after the Spirit is a very simple matter. Paul says, "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh... Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like." Then he tells us what it means to walk in the Spirit. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." (Gal. 5:16-25.)

The Bible plan of salvation is (1) preaching; (2) hearing; (3) believing; (4) confessing the name of Christ, and (5) baptism. The consummating act in entering the kingdom of God is baptism administered in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Paul Says, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Rom. 6:3, 4.) It might be suggested here that we become children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, which is absolutely correct. But how do we become children of God by faith? Hear Paul's answer, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Gal. 3:26, 27.) Thus we find that we are baptized into Christ. Hence, one cannot become a member of Christ's body, the church, and not know it. When one is saved by the power of God, he is delivered from the kingdom of darkness and is translated into the kingdom of Jesus Christ. "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." (Col. 1:12-14.) When a man becomes a Christian, he is in the kingdom of Christ; has redemption, and the forgiveness of sins. Becoming a child of God is as simple as our A-B-C's. We can trace every step intelligently.

But what are the elements of hope ? There are just three, viz,: forecast, expectation, and desire. If either of these elements is lacking there can be no hope. If you were to ask me the question, Do you hope to be the next governor of Texas? I would answer, I do not. Would you like to be the next Governor? Of course I would. Doesn't forecast declare that Texas will continue to have a Governor as long as she exists as a State? Certainly. But I do not expect to be the next Governor of Texas. Just one element of hope is lacking, and hence I have no hope with reference to the office of Governor of Texas.

Let me ask a question: Do you hope to be saved eternally? I have never met a person who did not expect some day to stand with the redeemed. Let me put the question in another form. If you were to die in your present condition, do you think the Lord would save you? "Well," you say, "I would have to straighten up some matters which at the present would keep me out of heaven." If that is true, you could not say that you have any hope in your present condition.

But here is a man who has been in the church for twenty-five years, but who has never done anything but warm a bench about one hour each week during the period of time that he has been in the church. If the Lord should suddenly come to "make up his jewels," do you believe that he would embrace you as his child? "Well, I will admit," says he, "that I have not been as faithful as I should have been." Most people in the church know whether or not they are living the Christian life. The Lord has issued a call for workers in his vineyard. If we are working harder for the Lord than we are for anything else in this world, we may be meeting with heaven's approval; if we are not, we are failures in the kingdom of God, and in our present condition, have no hope of a better life beyond this world.

The Bible talks about the hypocrite. Job says, "So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish." (Job 8:13.) Again: "For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?" (Job. 27:8.) I submit to you, that the hypocrite, according to Job, has no hope.

There is no hope for the wicked. "When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth." (Pro. 11:7.) There is no hope for the hypocrite; there is no hope for the wicked. Who then has a hope?

When Christ came into the world, the disciples who followed him during his Galilean ministry expected him to build a temporal kingdom like the one David established many centuries ago. There are still many people in the world who are expecting the Lord to return and establish such a kingdom, so materialistic are their views. When the Lord allowed his enemies to put him to death, the disciples went away from the scene of the crucifixion saying, `But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel." (Lk. 24:21.) They were a disappointed group of disciples. Their hope in him as their King died when he expired on the cross. But let us stand with the apostle Peter at the sunrise of the new tomb and hear what he has to say: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (1 Pet. 1:3.)

In studying the word "hope" as it is used in the Bible, there is but one class that can say, "If I were to die today, I would expect the Lord to take me to dwell with him," and that class is following the Lord faithfully. Relative to the future, forecast declares that the righteous shall be rewarded with everlasting life, a righteous man expects to be saved eternally, his desire for salvation is so strong that he obeys every command of the Lord. It doesn't get too cold for him to worship the Lord; it is never too hot; he goes right on doing what he knows he ought to do, and then, when he can no longer carry out the will of the Lord upon this earth, he falls asleep in the arms of his Redeemer to await the great day when all the righteous dead shall be called from their graves into the presence of their Lord, where they shall "dwell with him forever and ever."

The Christian's hope reaches far beyond this life. In Paul's discussion of the resurrection of the dead we find the following: "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (1 Cor. 16:19.) A vessel on the ocean has to have an anchor. When the storm arises, if the anchor holds securely the vessel overrides the storm. Paul says, "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." (Heb. 6:19, 20.) The veil was before the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and was typical of heaven. The Christian's hope therefore reaches into heaven where God and Christ are.

When does the Christian come into possession of eternal life? Near the end of his career as a preacher, Paul addressed a letter to the young evangelist Titus in which he said, "Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, . . . In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." (Titus 1:1, 2.) Again: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:11-13.) And again: "That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:7.)

We shall receive eternal life in the world to come. After the rich young ruler had refused to obey the Lord, as he walked away, "Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." (Mar. 10:28-30.) Christians have the promise of eternal life. "And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life." (1 Jno. 2:25.)

Eternal life comes after the fight of faith. "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses." (1 Tim. 6:12.) Paul was the veteran of a thousand battles. After having spent his life as a preacher of the gospel, and while spending his last days upon the earth in the prison at Rome, he said to his son, Timothy, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:6-8.)