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In Galatians 5:5, why does Paul speak of "the hope of righteousness"?

Gal 5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

He usually speaks in terms of current justification:

Rom_5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

And why does he use that language in the current discussion of circumcision?

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  • What do you think one should interpret "justified by His blood" to mean?
    – user15733
    Aug 26, 2016 at 14:43

6 Answers 6

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In Rom. 8:24-25, the apostle Paul explains the significance of “hope,” stating,

24 For we are saved by hope, but hope seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, then we patiently wait for it.

ΚΔʹ τῇ γὰρ ἐλπίδι ἐσώθημεν ἐλπὶς δὲ βλεπομένη οὐκ ἔστιν ἐλπίς ὃ γὰρ βλέπει τίς ἐλπίζει ΚΕʹ εἰ δὲ ὃ οὐ βλέπομεν ἐλπίζομεν δι’ ὑπομονῆς ἀπεκδεχόμεθα NA28

Logically, then, if we hope for righteousness, then we currently do not “see” or manifestly possess righteousness. Therefore, we patiently wait for it. And yet, we are still accounted righteous by God by means of our faith, just as our father Abraham was accounted righteous by God by means of his faith.1

At the judgment, God the Father will judge all of humanity by His Son, to whom He has committed judgment,2 and then the righteousness of those who have faith will be manifested, for in Acts 17:31, it is written,

31 Because He appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He ordained; whereof, He has given assurance to all men, in that He raised him from the dead.

ΛΑʹ διότι ἔστησεν ἡμέραν ἐν ᾗ μέλλει κρίνειν τὴν οἰκουμένην ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ ἐν ἀνδρὶ ᾧ ὥρισεν πίστιν παρασχὼν πᾶσιν ἀναστήσας αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν TR, 1550

In summary, we are accounted righteous by God by means of faith in Christ, but righteousness is not something we manifestly possess until the judgment. Similarly, we are called “sons of God” by means of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,3 but the manifestation of the sons of God does not occur until the judgment and redemption of the body (i.e., resurrection of the dead).4


Footnotes

1 Rom. 4:3
2 John 5:22
3 Gal. 4:6
4 Rom. 8:18-25

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  • So are you saying that a believer is still a sinner until they obtain righteousness at the resurrection?
    – user10231
    Jun 26, 2016 at 22:46
  • @WoundedEgo: Objectively a sinner (one who has commited an act of sin), indeed, yet not accounted a sinner by God. Rather, because of their faith in Christ, believers are accounted innocent (δίκαιος) and do not merit punishment. Of course, you may ask, “So then a Christian can do anything he wants!?” And I would respond, “A Christian would only want to obey Christ.”
    – user862
    Jun 26, 2016 at 23:02
  • I don't agree with that view but maybe you could comment on why you think he introduces the "hope of" aspect at this particular juncture in his polemic. Thanks.
    – user10231
    Jun 26, 2016 at 23:15
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    @Simply-a-Christian: Well done. Very nearly what I thought, when I first read the OP. (+1) (Rom 8:24), Exact. Dec 26, 2016 at 2:49
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    Reading Gal 5:5 in English, it's a bit unclear to me whether "hope of righteousness" means "hope for righteousness" (as you seem to have interpreted it here) or "hope because of righteousness"/"hope stemming from righteousness." Does the Greek provide any more insight on perhaps ruling one of these out or does the same ambiguity exist in the Greek?
    – reirab
    Sep 24, 2017 at 4:29
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Being declared righteous by faith comes with hope: the hope of being resurrected and glorified when Christ returns. We need not try to be made perfect by the flesh (the works of the law) (Gal 3:2-3). We began in the Spirit by faith; now we wait through the Spirit by faith, at no time resorting to the works of the law (the flesh) to be perfected. In short, the righteousness we have by faith is already perfect; we received the Spirit through faith, we walk in the Spirit through faith, and through the Spirit, we wait right in here in the righteousness we already have by faith, that we may be found in Him, not having our own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith.

Compare Galatians 3:2-3 with Galatians 5:4-5 and also Philippians 3:3-9 and this should be much more clear.

Bottom line, we're not waiting for righteousness; we're waiting for the fruits of the righteousness we've already been given. We have the firstfruits now, and as we wait through the Spirit rather than striving through the flesh, we will be found in Him and obtain what it is we are hoping for.

The whole book of Galatians is a command to continue in the Spirit, which means continuing to boast/rejoice/glory only in Christ and the Cross and having no confidence in the flesh (any means of righteousness other than the cross)(Gal 3:2-3, 6:14, Phi 3:3-9).

Notice how the phrase "hope of" is used here:

"In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;" Colossians 1:22-23

The hope of the Gospel does not refer to waiting for the Gospel. It's waiting to be presented holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight, which is the result of being not moved away from the Gospel. In Colossians 1:22-23, Paul is actually saying the exact same thing he's saying in Galatians 5:5. Don't be moved away from the faith by resorting back to the works of the law. Continue in the faith, rest in the righteousness you've already been given, and you will eventually be presented holy in God's sight.

You were declared righteous when you died to the law by the body of Christ. When this happened, you received the Spirit of Life (as Life only comes through death) and the Spirit began perfecting you. Rest there in that perfect righteousness, rely on your having been crucified with Christ and having received Christ in you, the hope of glory, and you will one day receive the hope of righteousness: being fully conformed into the image of Christ (1 John 3:2, 1 Cor 13:12, 2 Cor 3:18, Rom 8:24,29).

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1) Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2) By Whom also we have access by faith into the grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

In this passage to the Church of Rome, Paul connect our current justification with our future hope in God for His glory to be put upon us. We must remember that: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
For as believers we are now justified by faith, but yet our true hope lies in the 2nd Coming of Christ: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto Salvation. Hebrews 9:28
Looking for that blessed Hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Titus 2:13

So that we see Paul while discussing the liberty we have in Christ, (in this case speaking of circumcision) but he reminds the Christian believers that yes we are justified by faith, for in Galatians chapter 3 and 4 Paul stresses to the Galatians they are saved by faith, but he also start to stress that we are not under bondage to the law especially in chapter 4 and 5 of Galatians.

Paul states this just before Galatians 5:5--Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace Galatians 5:4
So that Paul is stating if you have accepted the law to be justified you are the thorny ground on which the Word of God has fallen; Luke 8:7;14 and Hebrews 6:4-8.

For we as Christians are saved, but we don't fully understand what God plans for us, nor will we till we see Jesus face to face: 1) Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. 2) Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. I John 3:1-2

Paul also refers to this Glorious Hope in Romans 8:18-24; and Philippians 3:20-21.

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  • So are you saying that the "hope of righteousness" does not refer to the "hope of being counted righteous" but rather "hope for good things that accompany righteousness"?
    – user10231
    Jun 24, 2016 at 13:47
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Gal 5:5 - For we, through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. (NASB)

Is it possible that hope comes from righteousness? We are not awaiting righteousness, but rather something we are hoping for?

And what are we hoping for? The redemption of our bodies:

Rom 8:23 ...we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved.

So... we hope as we wait. We wait for our hope.

A similar construct is in Romans 4:13... righteousness of faith

Rom 4:13 For the promise ... that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.(NASB)

Phil 3:9 confirms we are righteous now... we are not waiting to be righteous. (I admit, I have some uncertainty in this... we sin so we are not "righteous" from a law-keeping perspective... but the righteous live by faith, and Jesus blood continually cleanses us)

Phil 3:9 not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

To summarize

  • righteousness comes from faith (Rom 4:13) "righteousness of faith"
  • hope comes from righteousness (Gal 5:5) "hope of righteousness"
  • the "hope of righteousness" is adoption/redemption (Rom 8:23)

We wait for the object of our hope - redemption.

I'm certainly no expert in Greek, so I'd welcome critique on this interpretation.

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  • We don't hope for hope, but for its content. It is objective genitive, not possessive. It relates to the righteousness of the previous verse, "you who want to be found righteous/justified by law". The righteousness is the full and perfect (acc to Alford commentary).
    – Michael16
    Jun 14, 2022 at 15:36
  • Agree. We don't hope for hope. We wait for our hope. What is our hope? Redemption. We wait for our redemption. This hope stems from our being declared righteous in Christ. I've edited my original comment significantly to clarify.
    – andrew g
    Jun 24, 2022 at 14:51
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Galatians 5:1 NIV

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Which kind of slavery Paul was talking about? Then Paul answered his own argument in verse 3, "Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law". Paul declared those who chose to be circumcised were in slavery of the Law. And Paul emphasized here, "The whole Law", not "The Law", for nobody can conform to the whole Law. James said that very clearly, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" 2:10 NIV. Therefore Paul deducted the consequence to those who chose to be circumcised, bound by the Law, would be "fallen away from grace" Galatians 5:4 NIV. Then came verse 5:5.

Galatians 5:5

For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. NIV

For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. KJV

Did Galatians (or we) get the righteousness? Not yet. Were those who chose to be circumcised, bound by the Law get the righteousness? Never had a chance, for Paul said they were fallen away from grace. Then who can get the righteousness? Paul replied "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" Galatians 5:6 NIV. When will we get the righteousness? Paul said "after a good race" Galatians 5:7 NIV.

Our final righteousness is something in the future, that required us to live a good life (a good race) and conform to Jesus' teaching. It is not an easy race, but we have the Spirit helping us, and we have faith, and we have hope, to see what is coming in the future. That is our hope of righteousness, a grace from God.

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For we, through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.

This has nothing to do with circumcision, only to juxtapose the two ways of life - one via the law, which leads to death, and one via grace, which brings life eternal.

It does however point out that the righteousness any have now is conferred only through Christ Jesus. We are sanctified, but not yet righteous as Jesus is. This will come when ‘reborn from above’ at Jesus’ return.

Only once we have entered the kingdom - when Jesus inaugurates it at his return, will we be fully righteous in our own immortal bodies and not simply having a righteousness by faith. It is this that we wait in hope for!

We do not hope for what we already have. This reality is echoed by having a deposit of Holy Spirit in this age. A guarantee of something not yet received as Paul expresses.

Which (the holy spirit) is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. Eph 1:14

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day 2Tim 4:8

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