Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Safe & Secure?


 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble...(2 Peter 1:10)
In the Bible verse above we are admonished by the Apostle Peter to diligently pursue the assurance of our own personal salvation. The Christian is instructed to know with certainty the answer to this one all-important question, “Am I truly saved?” Can you, dear reader, answer this question with certainty? Do you know beyond any doubt that you are in fact saved?

Louis Berkhof in his little book, The Assurance of Faith, observes: “There are comparatively few Christians today, who really glory in the assurance of salvation.” He wrote this in 1939 and I suspect, as Christians persist to doctrinally drift, that his words have only increased, and will continue to increase, in relevance. Berkhof himself surmises,

[W]e also meet with some professing Christians today--and it is to be feared that their number is on the increase--who apparently do not think about the matter of assurance, or who, if they do, fail to take it seriously. They simply seem to take it for granted, and speak of it as a matter of course. They assert their assurance in an off-handed way, but leave the impression that they hardly know what it means...the matter of personal assurance has not gripped their souls. Their spiritual life moves on the surface and is utterly lacking in real depth.
I’ve met many Christians who fit the description offered above by Berkhof. One gentleman stands out in particular. If I could ask him today, “Are you truly saved?” I’ve no idea what his reply would be. But I can tell you, at one time he would have answered, “Oh, yes, I am saved.” I can’t tell you what his answer would be now, because he couldn’t give me an answer for now, back then. In other words, even when he thought he was saved, he had no assurance.

This poor Christian once said to me, “I believe I am saved right now, but if I pulled onto the highway and was hit by a truck and died, if I said a bad word just before impact; I would be lost.” Before me was a man who had no biblical concept of salvation, no understanding of justification by grace through faith, and who, therefore had no ground or basis for assurance whatsoever.    

Assurance of salvation has nothing to do with man-centered thinking such as, “I am saved today and I hope I can somehow keep myself saved tomorrow.” How can one be confident today while doubting tomorrow? How can one be confident in the ability of man? “With men this is impossible...” (Matt. 19:26a).

However, the one who meditates upon or contemplates the joyous doctrine that he is saved and kept by the power of Almighty God,  has no room for doubt: “...but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26b). Granted, our assurance of salvation is not perfect, in the sense that even the most devout among us can battle confusion, discouragement, depression, fear, and yes, even doubt or anxiety. But this is not the normal or persistent mental and spiritual state of God’s elect.

The elect of God can be, and are admonished to be, assured that they are in the state of grace and that they are kept in that state of grace by grace; i.e. We are saved and we are kept saved by the power of God.  This saving and keeping power of God is spoken of in the Apostle Peter’s first epistle when he writes to the elect that they are “...kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1:5).

Subsequently, we are encouraged in Peter’s second epistle to make our “call and election sure.” How should we go about doing this? How can we have certainty instead of conjecture? To begin, we must start with that which is objective rather than subjective, viz. The promises of God in the scripture. The promises of God in scripture are foundational to the believer’s assurance of salvation.

In looking to the promises of scripture, we are also beholding the Christ of scripture. Christ is our perfect Savior who saves perfectly. "This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day...And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My Father‘s hand" (John 6:39;10:26).

We also read in the scripture that the believer should be assured of salvation due to the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, who “Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). Here, Berkhof quotes from the Canons of Dort: “This assurance, however, is not produced by any peculiar revelation contrary to, or independent of the Word of God, but springs from faith in God’s promises, which He has most abundantly revealed in His Word.”

Along with the promises of God and the perfect Christ of scripture, and with the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, we must also consider the testimony of the Christian graces, the fruits of salvation, in our own lives. The Apostle John speaks of the believer’s assurance of salvation in ethical terms.
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments...Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us  (1John 2:3; 3:24).
Because we are saved, kept, and transformed by God’s power, let us live in holy, humble assurance.

4 comments:

  1. I've always been encouraged in this doctrine by Phil. 1:6, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (ESV)

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  2. Amen.
    Salvation, start to finish, is the work of God. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. There will be no ambiguity in it, if we attend to what our former remarks ought to have made clear—viz. that there are two species of calling: for there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation. Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts. Sometimes, however, he communicates it also to those whom he enlightens only for a time, and whom afterwards, in just punishment for their ingratitude, he abandons and smites with greater blindness.

    Institutes 3.24.8

    You might think you're saved, but maybe God is just having you on.

    It seems here that Calvin has a slight touch of libertarian freedom though, because surely if God is abandoning certain persons because of their ingratitude Calvin is implying that those people could have, in fact, responded with gratitude, that is that their gratitude or ingratitude was not pre-ordained by God, but an action of their own will.

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    Replies
    1. It's a common mistake to selectively quote Calvin (or the Bible) and from that cherry picked proof-text construct a straw-man.

      One cannot even begin to understand the whole when one only erroneously "knows" a part.

      I assure you, neither Calvin nor the Bible denies the believers' assurance of salvation.

      Romans 8:15-16, "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God."

      And neither Calvin nor the Bible has a "slight touch" of "libertarian freedom."

      Thank you for reading!

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