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Biblical Assurance: Part 3

June 18, 2009

Biblical Assurance: Part 3

                Last week we looked at the end of Romans 7 and talked of Paul’s struggle in sanctification. He seemed to struggle so much that he was despairing in his walk with Christ. How did Paul gain hope when he did the things he did not want to do (7:19) and as a result saw no hope in regards to fully succeeding in his obedience (vs. 24)? Paul saw his comfort in the doctrine of justification.

                Recall that sanctification is about our continual growth, with its ups and downs, of our spiritual life. And justification is the once-and-for-all act of God whereby He declares or pronounces a sinner as holy and with no sin to answer for. Justification means that our sin has forever been disposed of in God’s eyes. Do we still struggle against sin? Yes, but that is sanctification. Justification is my legal standing with God where I am and can no longer be condemned. Let’s see how Paul makes this change in thought and why it comforts him specifically.

                After ending with a sense of desperation in regards to his sanctification (vs 24), he sounds forth a note of hope in vs. 25: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Why is thankful? Romans 8:1 captures it all: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  There are a couple of things to note in this passage. First, the word condemnation is important. Sometimes the best way to think of a word is to see its opposite. The opposite of condemn is to pardon. The biblical term for that is justification. So to be ‘in Christ Jesus’ is to be ‘justified.’ Why is this so? We’ll see just in a moment.

                The second word is a common, everyday word that is easy to overlook when reading this verse.  “Now’ is a very strong focus word on this passage. What if it read “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Well, then it could mean you’re safe with God SO LONG as you keep it all together!  Or it could mean that you would have to wait till the final day of Judgement to know for sure that you were pardoned by God thereby destroying any hope for a PRESENT day assurance of salvation. We would all be walking around going, “I am wishful that on judgment day I will be shown to be justified and not condemned. But right NOW I don’t know.”

                But the glory of is that right NOW(!) we know we are not condemned. Why? Paul explains what the benefits are of being “in Christ” (vs. ) in vs. 2-4. So how are we NOW free from condemnation in Christ? The Holy Spirit has set us free (broke the power of) from grip of sin and its consequence death. We have had an inbreaking of God into our very lives. He has done for us something we could not do for ourselves.

                In vs. 3, the Law was weak. In what sense? In showing God’s standard? No, it perfectly reveals God’s character and righteous demands. So how is it weak? It’s weak in that it can only tell us what ‘ought’ to be, it never gives us the POWER we need to obey it! Again, compare Paul’s frustration in 7:14-24a.  So if we can’t fulfill the Law, how we can we not be condemned because breaking the Law brings condemnation? The wonderful answer is in vs. 3,4. God did for us in sending His own Son what we could not do for ourselves, that is keep the Law to avoid condemnation, so that we could have the credit and value of His perfect obedience to all the Law in thought, word, and deed put to our account. So when I am in Christ in God’s eyes, I have officially and legally obeyed ALL (and ALL means ALL!) the law. So if I’ve obeyed all the Law, then what can I NOW be condemned for (see 8:1)?

                How does this give me assurance? Because no matter how many times I miss the mark of obedience, no matter how many shortcomings I have, all my requirements for obedience and acceptance by God are already finished by Jesus Christ on my behalf. He obeyed for me and He was condemned for me so that I could go completely free!!! And this frees me from guilt and legalistic pressure to ‘keep’ all the rules!  When I get unassured about my salvation due to my failings in my sanctification, I MUST ALWAYS go back to my justification in Christ. Because it’s not what I’ve done for God that allows me to be assured that I am accepted by Him, but it’s what He has done for me in the crucified, risen Savior when He speaks over me and says, “You are clean!” (John 15:3)

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