BY THEODORE VANDERGROE
First, he who truly knows the Lord Jesus to be his savior has been convicted by the Holy Spirit of his sins, misery, and wretchedness. He has learned to know himself as one who is an utterly unholy, ungodly, abominable, and hell-worthy sinner, who is fully subject to the wrath of God, to the curse of the law, and to the power and dominion of sin and Satan. He is greatly concerned, troubled, perplexed, and distraught due to this view and knowledge of his wretched state. He has acquired a lively knowledge and experience of his spiritual impotence. He has learned to see himself as utterly lost due to sin, being entirely “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). He consequently utterly despairs that there is any salvation to be found within himself, and being entirely perplexed and desirous of salvation, begins to cry out, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).
Whoever has not truly had such spiritual conviction of his wretched and utterly lost state (we are here not prescribing what the measure or time-frame should be, that is, how deep or long this should be, but we are only considering the essence of the matter) is yet entirely outside of the Lord Jesus, the savior of the world, and deceives himself in everything that he imagines or appropriates regarding Him and His salvation. Such have never been ready for the grace and salvation of the Lord Jesus, and have never, as a truly perplexed and diseased soul, looked unto this physician.
Second, he who truly knows the Lord Jesus to be his savior has, with the apostle, also seen Him—not with his physical eyes, but rather, with the spiritual eyes of his soul. The Lord Jesus, by His Word and Spirit, and thus by divine illumination, has made Himself known to his soul in His absolute necessity, complete all-sufficiency, and sweet willingness to save lost sinners—not only generally speaking, but also to save them in particular from their wretched condition and to save them from their sins. He has personally seen the Lord Jesus to be such a savior, and he can thus testify of Him and His salvation. The sun of righteousness has arisen upon him, and with the bright rays of His grace, He has begun to shine tenderly, sweetly, and warmly upon his darkened soul, and thereby he has “beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He then acknowledges that until now his soul was deprived of that blessed light and had always been completely disinterested in this most precious savior. He would therefore not have been able to know Him to all eternity, much less receive and embrace Him, if He, by His own light, had not displayed and revealed Himself in His beauty and most delightful glory. Therefore, whoever has not received such a spiritual revelation of the Lord Jesus in his soul (and again, we are focusing here on the root and essence of the matter, without prescribing a specific measure, time, or manner) cannot possibly have received by faith the Lord Jesus as his savior, and is therefore still utterly estranged from Him, His salvation, and His communion.
Third, he who knows the Lord Jesus to be His savior, having received and embraced Him by a true faith, no longer is able to sustain himself and find life within himself. He has fully and eternally dispensed with all his own wisdom, righteousness, and strength, and has come to the Lord Jesus as an entirely poor, blind, naked, destitute, lost, and impotent sinner. He has come as one who is utterly accursed and ungodly, and has cast himself fully and entirely upon Him as upon the only Rock of salvation and complete redemption. He, in all his wretchedness, hell-worthiness, and misery, has surrendered himself willingly, unconditionally, and eternally to the Lord Jesus to be delivered, saved, and sanctified by and through Him purely out of free and sovereign grace. All such have committed themselves eternally to the Lord Jesus to be His sole and exclusive property and have fully relinquished all claims to themselves.
Finally, he for whom it is true that the Lord Jesus is His savior also continually makes use of Him in order to be delivered from his sins. Having become a new creature in Christ, it is sin to which he is now most averse and utterly abhors. Since such a soul has learned experientially and continues to learn daily that the Lord Jesus saves His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21), and that He alone does so, he continually turns to the Lord Jesus with the burden of his sin. He longs for Him, waits upon Him, takes hold of Him, clings to Him, and follows Him, and does so commensurate with the measure of grace and strength bestowed upon him by the Lord. Yes, such a person greatly esteems the Lord Jesus as his savior, for “unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (1 Peter 2:7). Such a person has a very great reverence and esteem for Him, and by faith with complete willingness surrenders himself to His service. As he esteems the Lord Jesus, so he esteems His commandments, finding a great reward and salvation in the keeping of them. It is his heartfelt wish, delight, and desire to commit himself publicly to the Lord Jesus and to confess His name before the entire world. Therefore, when he finds himself to be in great bondage to the fear of men, it is a matter of inner grief and sorrow for him. He aligns himself publicly with the Lord Jesus, and desires to join himself to His true people. He has acquired an inward love and esteem for them, for they are the temples of the Lord Jesus in whom He dwells with His image, love, grace, light, and Spirit, and to whom He has also revealed Himself.
Source: The Christian's Only Comfort in Life and Death: An Exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism by Theodore VanderGroe