“Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecc 7:20; cf. 1 Kgs 8:46; Prov 20:9). With this truth in hand, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8; cf. Rom 3:23; Jas 3:2).
Clearly, everybody sins. And if sin leaves us as unrighteous men who will one day stand condemned before a righteous God, is there any hope that this dismal situation can be reversed?
Consider Paul’s hope from long ago: “We ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (Gal 5:5). In this statement, “hope” stands in apposition to “righteousness.” Paul’s sure expectation (“hope”) is “righteousness,” to be seen as righteous before God. He eagerly awaits what he knows will certainly be his—righteousness.
So, if Paul, who once called himself “the foremost” of sinners (cf. 1 Tim 1:15–16), can have certainty of being one day confirmed as righteous before God, how can you and I have this hope as well?
The greater context of Galatians obviously assumes the grounds of our hope—God declares us forgiven and righteous through His Son who paid the penalty for our sins and provides to us His own perfect obedience. This forgiveness and righteousness come to us by faith.
A look at the immediate context of Gal 5:5 provides us at least three answers concerning how you and I can have this hope. In Gal 5:5–6, Paul states, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”
First, we have this hope “through the Spirit” (Gal 5:5). As we believe, the Spirit is the agent whereby we are given certainty of one day being confirmed in righteousness. He moves within us to cry out to God with certainty that He is our Father (cf. Gal 4:6–7).
Second, we have this hope “by faith” (Gal 5:5). We are declared righteous by God when we believe, and the Spirit communicates to us that this righteous declaration is so. Knowing God has presently declared us righteous by our faith, we can have hope that this righteousness will be confirmed in the future when we one day stand in His presence.
Third, we have this hope by “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). While we are declared righteous by faith alone, this faith is never alone—it works itself out in acts of love towards others.
Spirit, faith, and love—these three give saved sinners hope. As we believe, the Spirit gives us certainty of righteousness before God and therefore our hope of being confirmed in this righteousness in time to come. And as we believe, this faith works itself out in love towards others. May we believe so that these inward and outward works of faith and the Spirit may give us hope as well!