Question: "What does it mean to abound in hope (Romans 15:13)?"
Answer: From the beginning, one of the Lord’s purposes for establishing the New Testament church was to bring together Jews and Gentiles into one unified body of Christ. In Romans 15:7–12, the apostle Paul encouraged Jewish believers in Rome to embrace this plan and welcome Gentiles into the family of God. He concluded with this peaceful benediction: “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 15:13, ESV).
The expression abound in hope refers to an overflowing measure of hope that is far beyond all human capacity to produce or describe. The original Greek verb translated “abound” means “to run over, be wealthy, have more than enough, transcending all boundaries.”
Paul understood that the idea he was suggesting—the peaceful coexistence between Jews and Gentiles—would challenge the early believers to their core. Breaking down long-established walls of racial and ethnic prejudice would require divine intervention. For the first time in history, people of Jewish and Gentile backgrounds were fellowshipping in their homes and partaking in meals together. If they were to have any hope of loving one another and living in joyful unity, they would need supernatural power supplied by the Holy Spirit to inundate their entire being.
Hope is defined as “the expectation that some desire will be fulfilled.” In Scripture, hope always focuses forward with confident expectation or firm belief in the fulfillment of God’s promises. It is not to be confused with wishful thinking. The believer’s hope is a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” of an “inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3–4). We abound in hope as we look forward “to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed” (Titus 2:13, NLT).
Paul’s particular hope for which he prayed in Romans 15:13 was hope for the salvation of people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. He wanted Christians to look forward to the time when Israel would be saved and the “full inclusion” or “full number of the Gentiles” would come into salvation (Romans 11:12, 25). He prayed the Roman believers would keep their hearts centered on the consummation of history and beyond to the glory of the new heavens and new earth that both Gentiles and Jews will inherit together.
Keeping our eyes trained forward and trusting in the Lord for a glorious future requires patient hope, which God supplies by the Holy Spirit from the moment of our salvation. Paul said, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:24–25).
Biblical hope is fixed and founded on God, who is “a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls” (Hebrews 6:19, NLT). There is no hope without God in our lives (Ephesians 2:12). But hope grounded firmly in God provides the inspiration and motivation to live the Christian life even in the face of difficulty and suffering (Psalm 42:5; 2 Corinthians 1:10; Job 13:15).
We can abound in hope by living with excited anticipation of all God has promised us in His Word (Isaiah 46:8–11; Jeremiah 29:11). The author of Hebrews encourages, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise” (Hebrews 10:23, NLT). The Scriptures themselves “give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled” (Romans 15:4, NLT).