Law & Gospel

My pilgrimage from ‘Lordship’ to Law/Gospel (part 3): assurance

Mike Abendroth

In part 2 of this series, we considered the case of the rich young ruler. In this final instalment, let us consider one of the most important passages in this debate: Romans 2:13.

Advantage #4 – Giving assurance to believers

Lordship Salvation (LS) regularly calls into question a person’s profession of faith. Bluntly, it wrecks assurance. How? In the LS model, what if the professing Christian shows a lack of true submission and struggles with obedience? How much commitment is needed before someone questions his/her own salvation? How much disobedience is allowed before the professing believer wonders about their own salvation?

During an intense bout of Covid-19-induced pneumonia, my health was not improving. The doctor said three words which are difficult to forget, “acute respiratory failure”. Although never put on a ventilator, I did require “Hi Flow” oxygen delivered at the rate of 60 litres per minute for many days. During the darkest times of the sixteen lonely days of “Covid isolation”, my mind wandered to my possible impending death and what would happen after my last breath. I knew I was a sinner and that God the Creator was holy and righteous. I understood that payment must be made for my sins one way or another (on me or a Substitute). With all that my sick and oxygen-deprived mind could muster, I mentally traversed all possible options of surviving Judgment Day: civil goodness, religious deeds, sincere worship and more, but I knew those options were worthless. God required perfection. God requires perfection.

Questions bombarded my weary mind. My thoughts were interrogating me with inquires that I did not seem to ask. I felt like the trial had begun.

  • Did I surrender to the Lord enough?
  • Did I obey God enough?
  • Am I yielding to God enough?
  • What if I am deceived?
  • What if I have a false faith?
  • What if…?

I had no answers, but only thoughts such as, “Eternity is a long time.” “My sin deserves punishment.” “I have earned judgment.” “Now what?”

Finally, a biblical thought flashed through my mind, “My only hope is sola fide. There is no other way I can stand before the Lord. I need an Advocate and Mediator. I need perfect righteousness from Another.” I said to the Lord, “Lord, I know I am tainted by sin and have fallen short of your standards, but Jesus said that if I simply trust Him, I will have eternal life. I trust you and I trust Him. I believe Jesus literally lived for me and died for every one of my sins. I believe Jesus conquered death and is literally returning. I want to live and see my family again, but I submit to your good and right plan. Thank you.” I fell asleep.

Experiences such as mine are more common than we might realize. Many ask such eternal questions, not only on their deathbed, but while they are alive and are in their “right mind”. Eternity is a long time. Hell is real. Heaven is holy. If holy living was the ground of people’s salvation, and therefore their assurance was dependent upon righteous living, would Paul, the mature Apostle, question his faith because of his statements in Romans 7? Paul did not do what he wanted, but he did the very thing he hated (Romans 7:15). Should we question Paul’s profession knowing he wrote, “the evil I do not want is what I keep doing?” Was Paul questioning his own salvation in Romans 7? Of course not.

Sadly, Christians sin. Mature Christians rebel. Even Apostles of Jesus Christ fall short of God’s glory and disobey. The issue should not be, “how can you call yourself a Christian because you still sin against a holy God?” Rather, “When you sin against God, are you saddened? Do you desire to please Him? Obey Him?” Christians then answer, “Yes, yes and yes!”

If I were to ask, “who put the desire to obey and to hate sinning in your heart?” would they respond with, “CNN” or “Satan?”

Although some sins are instantly dealt with at initial salvation, other sin patterns linger. I have been a believer for more than 30 years, and I still struggle with a variety of sins. Do you? The popular adage is true, “Jesus paid for the believer’s penalty of sin, the power of sin is vanquished, but the presence of sin in the believer will exist until glorification.”

We never want to be sin apologists, but we do want to be realists. And with that, we trust in God’s sanctifying work so that it is our desire to respond to the Father with quicker remorse and less of a lag time regarding repentance. Out of gratitude, we want to obey the Lord Jesus for being such a wonderful Savior. Since this article is on The Heidelblog, I am compelled to quote the Heidelberg Catechism. How do these questions (and answers) fit into the mold of LS?

114. Can those who are converted to God keep these commandments perfectly?

No, but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with earnest purpose they begin to live not only according to some, but according to all the Commandments of God.

115. Why then does God so strictly enjoin the Ten Commandments upon us, since in this life no one can keep them?

First, that as long as we are alive, we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and so the more earnestly seek forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ; second, that without ceasing we diligently ask God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we be renewed more and more after the image of God, until we attain the goal of perfection after this life.

Christians still, regrettably, sin. But are not the sins of Christians paid for by the Lord Jesus Christ? Yes, they are forgiven! No wonder Martin Luther used the Latin phrase, “simul iustus et peccator” (simultaneously justified and sinner). Christians are declared righteous but still sin and will sin all the way until glory. Christians are both justified and sinful at the same time.

Read the full article on The Heidelblog

Click here to read Part 1