Why does Romans 8:24 say believers are saved by hope instead of grace?  By Jack Kettler


“For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hopes for?” (Romans 8:24)


How does the believer understand this text? In other passages from Scripture, the Apostle Paul teaches the believer is saved by grace alone in Ephesians 2:8-9.


Why does Romans 8:24 not contradict Ephesians 2:8-9:


Romans 8:24 states, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he can see?” Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”


These verses do not contradict each other because Romans 8:24 refers to believer’s hope in spiritual salvation, while Ephesians 2:8-9 refers to grace, which is the means by which believers are saved. In Romans 8:24, Paul says that the believer's hope for salvation is not based on what he can see but is based on faith in God and His promises. In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul is saying that faith in God is necessary to receive salvation, and it is a gift God gives as the result of grace rather than works. Both passages talk about salvation but from different perspectives.


Next, two commentary entries will support this.


First, from the Pulpit Commentary:


“Verses 24, 25. - For by (or, in) hope we were saved; not are saved, as in the Authorized Version. The aorist ἐσώθημεν, like ἐλάβετε in ver. 15, points to the time of conversion. The dative ἐλπίδι, which has no preposition before it, seems here, to have a modal rather than medial sense; for faith, not hope, is that whereby we are ever said to be saved. The meaning is that when the state of salvation was entered upon, hope was an essential element in its appropriation. A condition, not of attainment, but of hope, is therefore the normal condition of the regenerate now; and so, after shortly pointing out the very meaning of hope, the apostle enforces his previous conclusion, that they must be content at present to wait with patience. But hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Now comes in a further thought, and a very interesting one. Romans 8:24.” (1) (underlining emphasis mine)


As seen from the original Greek, the important point is, “in hope we were saved; not are saved.” 


Next, from the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:


“24. For we are saved] Lit., and better, we were saved; at the time of our deliverance from darkness into light.”


“by hope] “Hope” has the article in the Gr.—If our English Version is retained, the meaning will be that our conversion was effected, in one sense, by the discovery of “the hope laid up in heaven” for the justified. But the connexion of salvation with faith is so marked and careful in N. T. doctrine that it seems far more likely that the true version (equally proper in grammar) is, we were saved in hope; i.e. when we believed we accepted a salvation whose realization was future, and could therefore be enjoyed only in the hope we felt in view of it.—“Salvation” here is used (as e.g. 1 Peter 1:5,) for the crown of the saving process; final glory.”


“hope that is seen] i.e. “the hoped-for object, once seen, (as present,) ceases ipso facto to be hoped for.” (2)


The Strong’s Lexicon supports the above two commentators:


we were saved;”

ἐσώθημεν (esōthēmen)

“Verb - Aorist Indicative Passive - 1st Person Plural”

“Strong's Greek 4982: To save, heal, preserve, rescue. From a primary sos; to save, i.e. Deliver or protect.”


At the beginning, it was asked why does Romans 8:24 say believers are saved by hope instead of grace?


Romans 8:24 says believers are saved by hope because hope is essential to faith. It is through hope that believers know the promises of God will be fulfilled and through faith that believers accept God’s grace as the means of salvation. In other words, it is through faith in God’s promise to save them through grace that believers are saved. Without hope, believers have nothing to rely upon for their salvation. As seen above, a better translation from Greek that captures the tense better is “we were saved in hope,” a completed action.


Moreover, hope is an essential factor in faith because it provides assurance that, even if believers cannot see the answer to prayers or the fulfillment of wishes in the present, the believer can trust that God will provide in the future. Believers hope in faith that God will be faithful to accomplish His promises, no matter how impossible they may seem. Therefore, believers can confidently rely on God and His promises, knowing He will provide beyond the believer’s expectations.


In closing:


From J. C. Philpot's Daily Portions May 17:


We are saved by hope.” Romans 8:24


“What is the meaning of being saved by hope? It does not mean saved ‘actually,’ but ‘instrumentally’; not saved as regards our eternal security, but as regards our ‘experience of salvation.’ By hope we are instrumentally saved from despair, saved from turning our backs upon Christ and the gospel, saved from looking to any other Savior, or any other salvation; and especially saved from making this world and this life our happiness and home, as waiting patiently for what we see not, even the redemption of our body.

Now it is by hope that we hang upon and cleave to the Lord Jesus, and thus by this grace we abide in him. It is therefore spoken of as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, and which enters into that which is within the veil. What holds the ship firm in the storm, and prevents it falling upon the rocks? The anchor! The ship abides firm as long as the anchor holds. So, by hope the soul abides in Christ. He is within the veil; we are outside, and, it may be, tossed up and down on a sea of doubt and fear, distress and anxiety, and yet there is a bond of union between him and us firmer than the Atlantic Cable.

NOTE: “Atlantic Cable”: A transatlantic telecommunications cable is a submarine communications cable connecting one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, each cable was a single wire.”


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)




1.      H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Romans, Vol. 18., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 211.

2.      Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, by H. C. G. Moule, Romans, (Cambridge University Press, 1898), e-Sword version


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife, Marea, attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of 15 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at Amazon