“For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith” (Gal 5:5).
I’ve written about similar Pauline expressions—the hope of eternal life and the hope of salvation—in recent blogs. What about the hope of righteousness by faith?
That’s an odd expression. It doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t sound like something Paul would write.
I wrote the commentary on Galatians in The Grace New Testament Commentary. But I can’t remember what I said about this expression. I remember that I asked Zane Hodges to explain a particular verse, and he shocked me by saying, “I can’t remember how I understand that. I’ll have to check what I’ve written.” Well, now I understand. It is possible to forget how you’ve taken a verse.
Before looking at my commentary, I can tell you that by speaking of eagerly waiting, Paul was talking about the soon return of Christ and what we will gain at that time. Since we already have righteousness by faith regarding our position in Christ, Paul is speaking here of righteousness by faith regarding our experience. When Christ returns, the righteousness we now have by faith will become fully realized in our experience.
Now, I turn to my commentary.
Well, I was on the right track in what I just wrote. But I like what I wrote in the commentary better:
5:5. Some, or possibly many, of the believers in Galatia sought to be justified by the Law. Paul and his coworkers were, by contrast, “through the Spirit by faith eagerly awaiting the hope of righteousness” (author’s translation). In Greek the words by faith precede both the verb (awaiting) and the object (hope of righteousness). Paul and his co-workers were not eagerly awaiting justification by faith, as the NKJV translation implies. They were by faith eagerly awaiting the hope of righteousness, the time when righteousness will flow on earth during Jesus’ righteous reign (cf. 1 John 3:2) (“Galatians,” p. 846).
I wonder whether Paul’s point is that by faith we are eagerly awaiting the righteous kingdom–which is what I say in the commentary–or personal experiential righteousness, as I said in my off-the-cuff comment above. Or might he mean both? I think that makes the most sense. There is a time when we and everyone else will be completely righteous in our experience (Revelation 21-22). That will be a glorious experience.