Pride is sneaky and subtle.
When a man is humbled and broken, pride raises a small voice that whispers, “you are doing well to be so humbled. How good you are…” When a heart is weak, pride suggests, “You are strong and able…” When an obvious grace from God has been received, pride ponders, “how worthy I must be to receive such a great gift…” When salvation is granted, pride proposes, “Let us add our own good works to God’s good grace…” (as if those two goods are equal in weight and effect).
This was the essence of the Galatian sin — they had hearts humble enough to recognize their necessary dependence on Christ for salvation, but still had enough residual pride to suggest that meritorious works might be added to that gracious work of God (3:1-3).
Is there hope in such a life? Paul assertively answers, “No!”
“For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness” (5:5).
In this section, Paul is warning the Galatians of the dangers of prideful legalism — if you will add law to grace your salvation will be dependent on your ability to keep the whole Law (5:3; cf. Mt. 5:48). Where is the hope in that impossibility? There is none!
Rather, the man walking by the Spirit and living by faith is the one who looks to the confident hope of a righteousness found in Christ alone (5:5).
David, writing in the Psalms a thousand years earlier, had the same anticipation:
And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in You.
Deliver me from all my transgressions;
Make me not the reproach of the foolish. (39:7-8)
A man’s hope for salvation — for liberation from sin, for the escape from God’s wrath, for the ability to see God is always and only rooted in the hope (confidence) that God alone is our rescue.
Where then is pride? There is none.
In the same manner of thought, John Newton wrote:
If you are most unworthy of mercy, and destitute of every plea, should you not be glad to hear that the Lord does not expect worthiness in those whom he saves, but that he himself has provided the only plea which he will accept, and a plea which cannot be overruled, the righteousness and mediation of his well-beloved Son? [quoted in Beyond Amazing Grace.]
Biblical hope is a direct contrast to pride, for when we are sinfully proud, we have hope and confidence in ourselves, but when we are humble, we have hope and confidence only in Christ our redeemer. This is the humble hope that the Galatians were missing and that Paul and David embraced and that you and I need to live in the Spirit and by faith each day.
Lord, make me to embrace my humility so I might see the fulness of the hope of Christ’s righteousness imputed to me.