Please Don’t Rob My Assurance

This is why the doctrine of imputation is so precious to me. I still remember the day when it clicked as I was raking leaves and listening to R.C. Sproul. A huge weight that I had been carrying for years rolled off my soul. The covenant of works that I had been laboring to fulfill my whole life was perfectly satisfied by Christ. Therefore, God can declare me righteous based solely on His work, and I receive that by faith.

 

The majority of my Christian life, 40 years to be precise, was steeped in a form of deeper life/early Keswick/two-tiered salvation. I have friends and family who are still part of this movement whom I love, but I would respectfully but still strongly disagree with their theology. The preachers who taught this view made it abundantly clear that Christ got us in the door, but the rest was up to us. Failure to make the grade, in our particular circle, resulted in not being raptured and enduring outer darkness during the kingdom age. According to author D.M. Panton (1870-1955), the rapture was God’s judgment of both believers and nonbelievers. Thus Christians will be left behind if they aren’t spiritual enough. Here’s a quote from Panton’s book as evidence:

For it is the bride, and not the bridegroom, that contributes the trousseau of marriage readiness, and as she provides it out of the resources of her father, so “His wife hath made herself READY: and it was given unto her” – from the inexhaustible reservoirs of grace on which she can draw – “that she should array herself” her active application of grace to her own heart and conduct – “in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts” – the holy behaviour, the sanctification and not the justification – “of the saints” (Rev. xix.8). As Dean Alford observes: – “here the white robe is not Christ’s righteousness imputed or put on, but the saints’ righteousness by virtue of being washed in His blood: it is their own inherent not imputed : but their own by their part in and union to Him.”1

Quite a tall order to fill. Impossible, in fact. I may not have fully grasped God’s holiness, but deep down as a Christian, I knew I fell far short of the perfect standard – Christ. Even with the “reservoirs of grace,” the burden rested on my shoulders to draw from them and achieve a level of inherent righteousness before I died. (Sounds like Rome.) As I’ve written before, you wind up being deluded about your spiritual state or you fall into despair. I landed on the despair side and lived in fear that I would not measure up at the end.

This is why the doctrine of imputation is so precious to me. I still remember the day when it clicked as I was raking leaves and listening to R.C. Sproul. A huge weight that I had been carrying for years rolled off my soul. The covenant of works that I had been laboring to fulfill my whole life was perfectly satisfied by Christ. Therefore, God can declare me righteous based solely on His work, and I receive that by faith.

Thus the sola fide debate hits close to home because it’s like theological deja vu. It grieves me that someone, namely John Piper, who had a profound influence on my life when I was beginning to grasp the 5 points, appears to be teaching two-tiered salvation.2 So I say this with respect – You may be a beloved family member, friend, or a famous preacher, but if you tell me I need to add something to get to heaven on top of what Christ has done, I think you’re wrong. If there are additional requirements that I must do, then Jesus didn’t do enough. Is this what you are saying? Because that’s what it sounds like. I lived without assurance for a very long time, but now that I have tasted the sweetness of resting in Christ alone, don’t rob me of it again. But more importantly, please don’t rob yourself.

“yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.” London Baptist Confession 1689, 18.1 On Assurance of Grace and Salvation

1. Rapture, D.M. Panton, Schoettle Publishing, 1988, pg. 64. (The italics, caps, and strange punctuation are original.)
2. Was Piper teaching this all along? The main doctrine that drew me to Calvinism was the sovereignty of God. Because Piper and other reformed teachers got that “right,” combined with cage-stage-itis, did I assume that this doctrine guaranteed that they were right on everything else? Given that many new Calvinists came out of Arminianism, we didn’t have a frame of reference (the historical creeds and confessions) with which to assess teaching. Perhaps this is why ESS slipped under the radar too.

Persis Lorenti is an ordinary Christian. You can find her at Tried With Fire and Out of the OrdinaryThis article appeared on her blog and is used with permission.

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