v5 – I’m sure it won’t be new to you to hear that the word ‘hope’ as we use it in English is quite different from the meaning of the original Greek word here. We use it in sentences like “I hope it’s sunny tomorrow” – so it means “I would like this to happen, but not really sure it will”, whereas the Greek word conveys total assurance that it will happen. That’s really the point of this verse: we look forward with total assurance, eagerly, not anxiously, because our future is secured by Christ’s righteousness, which, through the Spirit, is ours by faith.
It’s through the Spirit – God working in us – producing faith in us, by which we rely on Christ for our salvation. God does it all for us. We don’t work for it, we wait for it.
v6 – It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t just say “circumcision doesn’t count for anything” – that would be enough to make the point that circumcision is unnecessary for salvation. But he actually says “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything”. Whether you’ve achieved that external level of religious behaviour or not – that’s not what counts in Christ. Paul’s not just reprimanding those who think their behaviour is worth something; he’s also encouraging those who aren’t circumcised – whose behaviour is not up to standard – who’ve failed – those who know they’re sinners. In Christ, your sin doesn’t count anymore.
Putting v5 and 6 together, the hope we’re waiting for is that on the day of judgement we’ll be counted righteous and enter heaven to spend eternity in a relationship with God that’s no longer hindered by sin.
What will count on the day of judgment? Circumcision won’t count for anything, but only faith working through love. Church attendance won’t count, baptism won’t count, daily Bible reading won’t count, saying prayers won’t count, evangelism won’t count. If we’re not doing those things, it probably indicates that there’s something wrong with our faith, but they’re not what will count on the day of judgement, so the solution isn’t to try to do those things to secure our salvation.
What counts – what we need – is faith working through love. Faith in Christ, faith that we really have been totally forgiven for no reason in ourselves but because God is gracious and chooses to demonstrate that on us, inevitably does something in our hearts; we begin to learn to love God, and other people as well. Faith works through love.