Gospel, Law, and Redemptive History: “Trust and Obey” -- By: P. Andrew Sandlin

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 12:4 (Fall 2003)
Article: Gospel, Law, and Redemptive History: “Trust and Obey”
Author: P. Andrew Sandlin


Gospel, Law, and Redemptive History: “Trust and Obey”

P. Andrew Sandlin

When we walk with the Lord

In the light of His Word,

What a glory He sheds on our way!

While we do His good will

He abides with us still,

And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey—

For there’s no other way

To be happy in Jesus

But to trust and obey.

These are lyrics from the popular Victorian hymn, “Trust and Obey,” by John Sammis and Daniel Towner. They simply, but beautifully, portray the Biblical view of the unity of belief and ethics.

This article briefly addresses the picture the Bible gives us of the relation between faith, obedience and eternal life. We Protestants, for both historical and polemical, and not only exegetical and theological reasons, have often come to reduce this relation to the shorthand of “gospel-law.” This is understandable, given how the issues have developed historically. I suggest, however, that in the Bible itself, the relation between gospel and law is a subset of a more basic relation between

faith, obedience and eternal life.1 So, I will try first to take up this broader issue and deal subsequently with the gospel and law matter.

The Bible Trumps Tradition

The interpretation I offer swerves at points from certain traditional categories. This fact should not be unduly troubling. We Protestants affirm the Bible, not tradition, as the final authority for what we believe and teach and practice.

This does not mean that we may disparage tradition, which is a vital part of our faith.2 Tradition is, in any case, inescapable.3 Indeed, each of us should be a strong proponent of ancient catholic orthodoxy, an outline of the basic historical tenets of the faith enshrined in the early ecumenical creeds.4 As Protestants, we must preserve tradition, as long as it can be Biblically justified—this is just what the early Reformers believed (Here is a tradition we can hold onto!).5

It is easy, however, to read the Bible through the lens of 2000 years of subsequent interpretation. When we do this, categories that have become prominent in our minds as a result ...

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