Calvin on Faith and Hope and the Christian Life
How should we define faith and hope? What is the difference between them? How do the two concepts shape the Christian life? Calvin answers all of the above in his book Instructions in Faith (1537). My soul is lifted when I read Calvin articulate the inseparable, symbiotic relationship between “faith” and “hope.” He takes two seemingly independent melodies (faith and hope) played by separate instruments and weaves them together to create one harmonious, orchestral chorus. He writes:
If faith is a sure persuasion of the truth of God which can neither lie nor deceive us and be neither vain nor false, those who have conceived this certainty surely expect likewise that God will accomplish His promises which, according to their conviction, cannot but be true.
So that, in sum, hope is nothing else than the expectation of the things that faith has believed to be truly promised by God. Thus Faith believes God to be truthful: Hope expects that He will show His veracity at the opportune time.
Hope is nothing else than the expectation of the things that faith has believed to be promised by God. Faith believes God tells the truth; Hope expects God will demonstrate his truthfulness at the opportune time. Faith believes God to be our Father; Hope expects He will always act as such toward us. Faith believes eternal life to be given to us; Hope expects that it shall be revealed at some time. Faith is the foundation on which Hope rests; Hope nourishes and maintains Faith. Because no one can expect and hope anything from God, except he or she will have first believed his promises. On the other hand, it is necessary that our feeble faith be sustained (lest we grow weary and fail). So patient hope and expectation keep faith.