Even before the creation of the world (1 Peter 1:17–21), God appointed Christ and His perfect sacrifice as the basis for showing mercy to the Gentiles. Through Christ they could experience hope in spite of being strangers to Israel and not being recipients of God’s covenants with Israel (Ephesians 2:11–13). The apostle Paul understood this point very clearly and the Spirit of God led him to repeatedly write of its profound significance. One such occasion appears in Paul’s epistle to the Romans:
8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.”
10 And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
11 And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol him.”
12 And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:8–13 ESV)
Old Testament Roots for the Gentiles’ Messianic Hope
The Gentiles’ Messianic hope finds its source in the promise God gave to Eve long before the existence of the nation of Israel in Genesis 3:15,
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
This first glimmer of hope for fallen mankind became the expectation for all believing descendants of Adam. Lamech expressed this hope at the birth of his son Noah:
28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” (Genesis 5:28–29)
Then, when God tells Abraham to depart his homeland, He identifies the promised Deliverer as one of that patriarch’s descendants through whom every human being will be blessed:
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1–3)
Twice-Written Revelation about the Gentiles’ Messianic Hope
Now, let’s return to Romans 15:8–13. Paul writes that “Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:8–9). The first phrase that leaps off the page of Holy Writ involves “God’s truthfulness.” In other words, the integrity of Almighty God rests, in part, upon His fulfillment of His promise regarding a Messiah for all peoples—a promise given to “the patriarchs” prior to Israel’s existence. Paul points to Messiah’s servanthood with regard to Israel (“the circumcised”) as a key element in providing mercy for the Gentiles. Nowhere does Messiah’s servanthood stand out more clearly than in the Servant of Yahweh texts in the prophecies of Isaiah (see especially, Isaiah 52:13–53:12, but also read Isaiah 49:5–7).
In order to emphasize the prophetic clarity of God’s purpose in showing mercy to the Gentiles, in Romans 15:9 Paul quotes Psalm 18:49, which is also found in 2 Samuel 22:50. In other words, it is twice-written revelation. Why would God place in Scripture the same lengthy psalm in two different places?—to make certain that readers understand the significance of its teachings, especially its revelation concerning the Gentiles’ Messianic hope.
Thematic Confirmation of the Gentiles’ Messianic Hope
After citing the twice-written revelation from 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18, the apostle turns to three more texts from the Old Testament to establish the fact that God has woven the Gentiles’ Messianic hope into the very warp and woof of the whole Hebrew Bible. How does he accomplish this task?—by quoting a text from each of the three major sections of the Hebrew Bible.
Law = Torah: Deuteronomy 32:43 (Romans 15:10)
Writings = Ketuvim: Psalm 117:1 (Romans 15:11)
Prophets = Nevi’im: Isaiah 11:10 (Romans 15:12)
We must note that Jesus Himself employed this same practice (citing from all three major divisions of the Hebrew Bible) to direct His disciples’ attention to the Messianic texts found in the Old Testament:
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44, emphasis added)
When the Bible brings out this threefold development of a major theme, it also emphasizes divine integrity and the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. Paul makes it explicit in Romans 15:8 (“the truthfulness of God”). Another example occurs when Scripture repeats the prohibition of adding to or subtracting from God’s words in all three sections of the Old Testament as well as closing the New Testament with the same admonition: Deuteronomy 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Jeremiah 26:2; Revelation 22:18–19.
Therefore, God provides hope through the testimony of all Scripture:
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
In this way all believers can “abound in hope,” because the “God of hope” and “the power of the Holy Spirit” bring hope to full fruition together with “joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). Praise the Lord! He has promised and He has fulfilled His promise through Jesus Christ, the Messiah. In this world’s historical present there appears to be little hope for many people. However, the Gentiles’ Messianic hope promises a salvation that brings forgiveness, peace, and joy. We can depend on it, because the holy Lord of the universe Himself has declared it so.
A Summary of the Gentiles’ Messianic Hope
- The Gentiles’ Messianic hope results from the Scriptures teaching us to endure and to be encouraged (Romans 15:4).
- It includes God’s amazing mercy (Romans 15:9).
- It leads to praise (Romans 15:9, 11).
- It produces singing (Romans 15:9).
- It brings joy (Romans 15:10, 13).
- It offers peace (Romans 15:13).
- It itself is the result of the Holy Spirit’s power (Romans 15:13).
- It accompanies believing (Romans 15:13)—thus, absent in those who do not believe.
- It is the emphatic testimony of all of God’s written Word (Romans 15:4, 9–12).
- Its object is Jesus Christ, the Messiah (Romans 15:8, 12).
Let us, therefore, “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for the hope that is in [us],” speaking “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis added).