The Process Whereby Affliction is Transformed in the Believer Into Hope
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”(Romans 5:3–5 ESV)
I take from an old commentary by Godet the title of this post: “The process whereby affliction becomes transformed in the believer into hope.” Additionally throughout his commentary was helpful to this meditation on the text.
The stage that is set is that of suffering. It is brought up after speaking of having peace with God as a result of justification by faith. The apostle then deals with the objection: What about suffering? Do we have peace then? That’s the idea.
The apostle argues: yes. We know this joyfully speaking because the process is as follows:
First, suffering gives rise to endurance or constancy. The word “endurance” speaks of staying, or bearing up under a burden, blows, etc.
Second, the constancy gives rise to character or better put “approval.” The word speaks of being a proved Christian, one who has shown what he is. “The faith of the believer has held good in suffering, has shown itself real and effective, the gold which has come forth purified from the furnace” (Godet).
Third, this proven-ness now gives rise to hope. Constancy rises out of Suffering, Proven-ness rises out of Constancy; and lastly Hope rises out of Proven-ness. Nothing which happens to the believer now frightens him because of the hope that has been “rendered brighter by sufferings” (Ibid.) which has its source in the revelation of God and His love. And note that the source of that which has given a resurrection to endurance, character, and hope is that of the perfect love of God, not our love for him.
The words “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” are in the perfect, meaning out of God’s heart his love has come and it has not been withdrawn (Ibid.). The whole resulting state of the process producing endurance, character, and hope “leaves a permanent impression of the love which God has” for us (Ibid.). This came about when “heaven was opened to the believer, and the objective and perfectly real character of this inward revelation” was actually experienced on the basis of the objective fact of what Christ has done for us (cf. Romans 5:6–11). Thus the ultimate cause for the resurrection of endurance, approval, and hope is that of the cross of Jesus Christ. What power!