the difference between faith and hope

John Bunyan (author of the Pilgrim’s Progress and other classics) wrote a treatise on the text in the Psalms which calls on its readers to ‘hope in the Lord.’ Here I’m quoting an excerpt from right at the start of the book, where he differentiates between faith and hope, two graces which are in some ways quite similar.

“[In the text in question (‘Let Israel hope in the Lord,’ Psalm 130: 7)] that which is preadmitted is Faith. For when we speak properly of Hope, and put others distinctly to the duty of hoping, we conclude that such have faith already; for, no faith, no hope. To hope without faith is to see without eyes, or to expect without a ground: for ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for,’ as well with respect to the grace [of faith] as to the doctrine of faith. … He that never believed, never hoped in the Lord. Wherefore when he saith, ‘Let Israel hope in the Lord,’ he presupposeth faith, and signifieth that he speaketh to believers.

“That which is … [implied] [in the text] is, that Hope has in it an excellent quality to support Israel in all his troubles. Faith has his excellency in this, Hope in that, and Love in another thing. Faith will do that which Hope cannot do; Hope can do that which Faith doth not do; and Love can do things distinct from both their doings. Faith goes in the van, Hope in the main body, and Love brings up the rear; and thus now abideth Faith, Hope, and Charity.

“Faith is the mother-grace, for hope is born of her; but Charity floweth from them both. But now we are upon Faith and Hope distinctly, to let you see a little. Faith comes by hearing, hope by experience. Faith comes by hearing the word of God; hope by the credit that faith has given to it. Faith believeth in the truth of the word; hope waiteth for the fulfilling of it. Faith looks through the word to God in Christ; hope looks through faith, beyond the world, to glory.

“Faith lays hold of that end of the promise that is next to us, to wit, as it is in the Bible; hope lays hold of that end of the promise that is fastened to the mercy-seat. For the promise is like a mighty cable, that is fastened by one end to a ship, and by the other to the anchor. The soul is the ship where faith is, and to which the hither end of the cable is fastened; but hope is the anchor that is at the other end of the cable, ‘and which entereth in to that within the veil.’ Thus faith and hope getting hold of both ends of the promise, they carry it safely all away.

“Faith looks to Christ as dead, buried, and ascended; and hope looks for his second coming. Faith looks to him for justification; hope for glory. Faith fights for doctrine; hope for reward: faith for what is in the bible; hope for what is in heaven. Faith purifies the heart from bad principles; hope from bad manners, 2 Peter 2: 11, 14.

“Faith sets hope on work; hope sets patience on work. Faith says to hope, ‘Look for what is promised;’ hope says to faith, ‘So I do, and will wait for it too.’

“Thus faith saves, and thus hope saves. Faith saves by laying hold of God by Christ. Hope saves by prevailing with the soul to suffer all troubles, afflictions, ans adversities that it meets with betwixt this [world] and the world to come, for the sake thereof [ie for the sake of the world to come]. … Hope has a thick skin, that will endure many a blow; it will put on patience as a vestment, it will wade through a sea of blood, it will endure all things, if it be of the right kind, for the joy that is set before it.”

John Bunyan, Israel’s Hope Encouraged, excerpt from the first section.

10 thoughts on “the difference between faith and hope

  1. I cannot put it in writing how much am greatful for Mr John Bunyan for this article.
    Last sunday i taught in our church sunday school that hope preceeds faith. I wasn’t very convinced about the whole topic so i decided to research it and i found this.
    Good God, how this is an eye opener i must go back next sunday, hand on my chest and admit i made a mistake and correct it immediately.
    May God richly give you all wisdom and all benefits of loving and serving Him.

    Thanks again



  2. I can’t remember how many times I’ve read something that Mr Bunyan said that enlightened me or put some fuzzy idea into just the right words :)

    Of course sometimes it might be the case that if someone spent a long time being concerned about their sin and the salvation of their soul before actually coming to put their faith in Christ, it is possible that they had some glimmer of “hope” from the possibility that they *could* perhaps be saved, before they actually were saved. I don’t know if that makes sense. But even in that case, I think it would be safer to make a distinction between speaking casually about “hoping” for something that might or might not happen, and speaking more directly about the scriptural Hope that is a firm and complete conviction that such-and-such a thing will certainly come about, because you have God’s own word for it in the scriptures.


  3. Matthew Henry sees the relation between faith and hope in the same way, in his commentary on Galatians 5:5 (“through the Spirit we wait for the hope of righteousness by faith”)

    “Here we may observe,
    1. What it is that Christians are waiting for: it is the hope of righteousness, by which we are chiefly to understand the happiness of the other world. This is called the hope of Christians, as it is the great object of their hope, which they are above every thing else desiring and pursuing; and the hope of righteousness, as their hopes of it are founded on righteousness, not their own, but that of our Lord Jesus: for, though a life of righteousness is the way that leads to this happiness, yet it is the righteousness of Christ alone which has procured it for us, and on account of which we can expect to be brought to the possession of it.
    2. How they hope to obtain this happiness, namely, by faith, that is, in our Lord Jesus Christ, not by the works of the law, or any thing they can do to deserve it, but only by faith, receiving and relying upon him as the Lord our righteousness. It is in this way only that they expect either to be entitled to it here or possessed of it hereafter.
    And, 3. Whence it is that they are thus waiting for the hope of righteousness: it is through the Spirit. Herein they act under the direction and influence of the Holy Spirit; it is under his conduct, and by his assistance, that they are both persuaded and enabled to believe on Christ, and to look for the hope of righteousness through him.”


  4. Hello Sir, John Bunyan i m very much happy about your wonderful teaching based on Faith and Hope.

    Pls send me the Definition of Faith plus Hope

    I need 2 no more

    I Luv this words Faith and Hope

    Thank u.


  5. Faith accepts the word of God when it presents Christ Jesus as the Son of God who came to the world to save sinners – knowing that you are a sinner in the Bible’s terms, you accept and rely on Christ alone for salvation, as he is offered in the Bible.

    Hope looks forward to the future when believers will receive and enjoy in full the promises which the Bible associates with believing in Christ.

    To find out more, may I direct you back to the Bible itself? Perhaps Romans gives the clearest presentation of what faith is and why it is necessary. You could look it up in in the translation of your choice:


  6. I like Bunyan’s meditation on the difference between faith and hope. It’s very useful. However, I’m still unsure about how patience fits into the picture because according to Bunyan, hope yields patience, or perseverance; however, according to Paul, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).


  7. Interesting point. I think probably Bunyan should be allowed a little creative licence, and at the same time I don’t think Paul is speaking about hope in exactly the same way as Bunyan. Ie, the “faith, hope, and love” which Bunyan is distinguishing are all created in the soul at the same time, and actually at the same time as all the graces. I wouldn’t think that Paul is particularly saying that a Christian takes some time to acquire the grace of hope, but (i think) more describing how the graces are ordinarily strengthened through experience. (Ie, the justified soul which is under discussion in Rom 5 will persevere regardless of what sufferings they undergo – the grace of patience is inextricably linked with justification – so the grace of hope is equally inextricably linked with justification, although it can be and is strengthened through the experiences that the believer undergoes.)

    Don’t know if that’s what you were after (and sorry for the delayed reply – haven’t been online for several days) – it’s off the top of my head, so further discussion welcome!


  8. It was a question raised during Dipping deep yesterday and I was not satisfied with the contribution I gave. It was not convincing to me talk less of my brethren neither was I satisfied by the answer given by our leader. So, I told myself that I will google it today.

    This is a great insight, thanks nad God bless.


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