Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 5:5a “And hope maketh not ashamed;”
In other words, Christian hope will never disappoint us; not now, not in death, not in judgment. Our confidence for the future is never in vain. Few things discourage men worse than disappointment. One of the things that makes divorce so distasteful is that it is the essence of disappointment. Everyone goes into marriage with such high hopes; divorce dashes these hopes to pieces and taunts them.
One of the most common phrases in our language is, “Don’t get your hopes up.” We know how painful disappointment is. Men yearn for the dependable. Is there a place where we can turn with absolute assurance? yes, to Jesus. In Him you will never be let down, or ultimately disappointed.
Once an infidel lecturer traversed England charging three-pence per person to hear him speak on “Something Better than Jesus.” After one of his tirades against Christianity, he asked if anyone wanted to reply to his words. An elderly lady immediately made her way to the platform and said, I paid three pence to hear of something better than Jesus Christ, and I have not heard it. Now let me tell you what religion has done for me, and then tell me something better, or else you have cheated me out of the three pence I paid to come in. I have been a widow for 40 years, and I had ten children, and I trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ in the depth of poverty, and He appeared for me and comforted me, and helped me to bring up my children so that they have grown up and turned out respectable. I was often very sore pressed, but my prayers were heard by my Father in Heaven, and I was always delivered. . . .
And when I lay very sick, I thought I was dying, and my heart was ready to break at leaving my poor fatherless little ones, and there was nothing kept me up, but the thought of Jesus and his faithful love to my poor soul, and you tell me it was all a mistake. Now, tell me something better.
The infidel responded that since the old woman was so happy in her deception, he hated to undeceive her. But she immediately quipped, “No, that won’t do. Facts are facts. Jesus has been all this to me. . . . I have tried and proved Him, and that’s more than you have.”
Christ will not disappoint you. In fact, you will fine more in Him than you ever dreamed imaginable. Israel wanted water; God gave them a river from the rock. When they cried for food, God gave them manna six days a week for 40 years. A widow cried unto Elisha that she might not have to sell her sons into slavery to pay her creditors. God gave her oil to pay the debts plus more to live on (2K 4:1-7). A little boy gave Jesus five loaves and two fishes. In return, he received twelve baskets full of food. The lame man asked for alms; instead, God healed his legs (AC 3:1-11). Cornelius sent for Simon Peter expecting to hear a sermon (AC 10:33). Instead, the Holy Spirit came upon him in fullness.
It does not take the believer long to confess, “He giveth and giveth and giveth again.” Our hope–Christian hope–will not disappoint. Yea, it will secure us even in the dark valley of death. Richard Roberts was a minister of God who died of consumption at the age of 36. As the end approached, he had deep peace about everything. He knew that when he died he would be with his beloved Jesus. As long as he lived, he would enjoy time with his wife and friends. He wrote, “Thus I lay in sweet suspense, as it were, between earth and heaven.” What infidel or unbeliever could call dying “sweet suspense”? The atheist can only claim, “I shall die like a dog. When I am dead, that’s the end of me.” But believers have a better hope.
As John Knox, the great Scottish Reformer, hovered near death, a friend asked, “Hast thou hope?” Knox was too weak to answer with words, but pointed his finger upward. Yes, we have hope, a hope that maketh not ashamed. It will not disappoint. But how can we be so sure? What gives such confidence?
Romans 5:5b “. . .because the love of God is shed abroad
in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is
given unto us.”
The foundation of our assurance is not the strength of our resolve or the result of positive thinking. Rather, our confidence is rooted in God’s love for us.
In this passage, the Holy Spirit is mentioned for the first time in this epistle. He is introduced as the One who is always inwardly persuading us that we are the objects of God’s love. His love for us is not only something we read about or experience in certain events in life, but also something which we sense in our hearts.
As you sense God’s love, you are more and more assured that your hopes are more than mere fantasies or wishful thinking. You will know there is no delusion in Christian hope when you come to realize how much God loves you.
In the locks of a canal, a vessel rises as the water pours in. Even so it is with our hope. It is buoyed upon the waves of love. As love floods our consciousness, hope is borne up and up ever higher and higher. Since this is true, there should be an abundance of hope within us, because the love of God is being “shed abroad” in our hearts. This means it is being poured out. It carries the idea of torrents gushing forth. His love is a flood which courses through the heart, filling every part until it overflows.
This means there should be absolutely no doubt in our hearts about His love for us. We should have full conviction and absolute assurance that we are the objects of divine love.
The Spirit constantly pours forth the love, but we erect dams and barriers so that the tide of that love is stifled and checked in our consciousness. The love is there, but we do not dwell upon it and enjoy it often enough.
We are too busy being religious to take time to be holy. We are so engrossed in Christian living that we are too busy to bask in Christ’s love for us. We should regularly be still and meditate upon his love.
I want to sense this love, to know it in my consciousness. “O Holy Spirit, vibrate the cords of love within me until I actually sense the love pulsating within me. Shed the love abroad until I can hear the waves crashing against the wall of my heart.” In this regard, Thomas Goodwin, the great Puritan, challenged his people, “Sue Him for it! Sue Him for it! Ask Him for it! Don’t give up!”
Hope springs from the sense of being loved, and that sense springs from the Holy Spirit’s flooding of our hearts. Henry Venn was a godly Church of England vicar who died in 1797. His wife had died young, leaving him five little children to raise. The brokenhearted minister found strength in a visit he later made to one of his widowed parishioners. This poor sick lady had been left with two helpless children. They had suffered destitution for years, and were literally all alone. But Venn found peace and assurance pervading their cottage. As the conversation turned to God, Venn learned the lady’s source of strength. She said, “I feel. . .Him so full of love to me, that I am happy. . . . By being alone as I am, I can enjoy the love and presence of the Lord more abundantly.”
There is the key: sensing the love. Once you have that, nothing will shake your confidence. Not even death’s sullen and clammy hand can shake it. You can be sure that love is not going to allow its object to fall in the dust.
We know the divine Lover of our souls wants His beloveds with Him. He desires that there be no separation between Him and them. “Death’s bony fingers can untie all true lovers’ knots but one; and they fumble at that one in vain. God will not lose His child in the grave” (Maclaren).
Conclusion: I need that kind of confidence. I need to sense His love. “Let it be, O Holy Spirit.”