l. Basis For Assurance. 2.
Scripture Teaching. 3. Conclusion.
1. BASIS FOR ASSURANCE
ALL true Christians may and should know that
they are among those who have been predestinated to eternal life. Since faith
in Christ, which is a gift from God, is the means of salvation, and since this
is not given to any but the elect only, the person who knows that he has this
faith can be assured that he is among the elect. The mere presence of faith,
no matter how weak it may be, provided it is real faith, is a proof of
salvation. "As many as were ordained to eternal life (and they only)
believed," Acts 13:48. Faith is a miracle of grace within those who have
already been saved — a spiritual token that their salvation was "finished" on
the cross, and certified on the resurrection morn. The truly saved know that
the love of God has been shed abroad in their hearts and that their sins have
been forgiven. In Pilgrim's Progress we read that when Christian's sins were
forgiven a heavy burden rolled from his shoulders and that he experienced a
great relief. Every converted man should know that he is among the elect, for
the Holy Spirit renews only those who are chosen by the Father and redeemed by
the Son. "It is folly to fancy that a sincere lover of Jesus Christ who trusts
in Him as his Saviour and lovingly obeys Him as his Lord, can possibly lack
the election of God. It is only because he is one of God's elect that he can
believe in Christ for the salvation of his soul, and follow after Christ in
the conduct of his life.... It is impossible, that a believer in Christ should
not be elected of God, because it is only by the election of God that one
becomes a believer in Christ.... We need not, we must not, seek elsewhere for
the proof of our election. If we believe Christ and obey Him, we are His elect
Every person who loves God and has a true
desire for salvation in Christ is among the elect, for the non-elect never
have this love or this desire. Instead, they love evil and hate righteousness
in accordance with their sinful natures. "Does a man do his duty to God and
his neighbor? Is he honest, just, charitable, pure? If he is, and if he is
conscious of the power to continue so, so far as he can depend on this
consciousness, so far he may reasonably believe himself to be predestined to
"We know that we have passed out of death
into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death,"
I John 3:14. "He that is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed
abideth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God," I John 3:9.
That is, it is against his inner principles to commit sin. When he thinks
deeply and soberly about it, sin is repulsive to him and he hates it. Just as
a good American citizen does nothing which will be detrimental to his country,
so the true believer does nothing which injures the kingdom of God. As a
matter of practice, no one in this world lives a perfectly sinless life; yet
this is the ideal standard which he seeks to reach.
Says Dr. Warfield, "Peter exhorts us, II
Peter 1:10, to make our 'calling and election sure' precisely by diligence in
good works. He does not mean that by good works we may secure from God a
decree of election in our behalf. He means that by expanding the germ of
spiritual life which we have received from God into its full efflorescence, by
'working out' our salvation, of course not without Christ but in Christ, we
can make ourselves sure that we have really received the election to which we
make claim.... Good works become thus the mark and test of election, and when
taken in the comprehensive sense in which Peter is here thinking of them, they
are the only marks and tests of election. We can never know that we are
elected of God to eternal life except by manifesting in our lives the fruits
of election — faith and virtue, knowledge and temperance, patience and
godliness, love of brethren.... It is idle to seek assurance of election
outside of holiness of life. Precisely what God chose His people to before the
foundation of the world was that they should be holy. Holiness, because it is
the necessary product, is therefore the sure sign of election."
As Toplady says, "A person who is at all
conversant with the spiritual life knows as certainly whether he indeed enjoys
the light of God's countenance, or whether he walks in darkness, as a traveler
knows whether he travels in sunshine or in rain."
How may I know that I am among the elect?
One may as well ask, How do I know that I am a loyal American citizen, or how
shall I distinguish between white and black, or between sweet and bitter?
Every one knows instinctively what his attitude is toward his country, and the
Scriptures and conscience give as clear evidence of whether or not we are
among God's people as white and black do of their color, or sweet and bitter
do of their taste. Every person who is already a child of God should be fully
conscious of the fact. Paul exhorted the Corinthians, "Try your own selves,
whether ye are of the faith; prove your own selves," II Cor. 13:5.
2. SCRIPTURE TEACHING
We have the assurance that "The Spirit
Himself bearer witness with our spirit, that we are children of God," Rom.
8:16. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him," I John
5:10. "And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this
life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the
Son of God hath not the life. These things have I written unto you, that ye
may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of
the Son of God," I John 5:11-13. The born-again Christian welcomes the Gospel
in his heart, but the unregenerate push it off: "We are of God: He that
knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth us not. By this we know
the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error," I John 4:6. "And hereby we know
that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He gave us," I John 3:24. "Because
ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying,
'Abba, Father,' " Gal. 4:6. The regenerated person instinctively recognizes
God as his Father. "We know that we have passed out of death into life,
because we love the brethren," I John 3:14. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is
the Christ is born of God," I John 5:1, — this means all who confess Him as
Lord — what blessed assurance! "Ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness
is born of Him," I John 2:29. Those who hear and welcome the Gospel are
actuated by this inner saving principle.
"He that believeth on the Son hath eternal
life; but he that obeyeth not the Son hath not life, but the wrath of God
abideth on him," John 3:36. "No man speaking in the Spirit of God saith, Jesus
is anathema; and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit," I Cor.
12:3. By this we are taught that a truly saved person cannot cast Jesus off
and revile Him, and that anyone who looks to Jesus as the Lord and his Lord,
has been regenerated and is among the elect. This, then, is a proof of his
salvation. Each person knows what his attitude toward Jesus is; and knowing
this, he is able to judge whether or not he is saved. Let each one ask himself
this question, What is my attitude toward Christ? Would I be glad for Him to
appear and talk personally to me this moment? Would I welcome Him as my
Friend, or would I shrink from meeting Him? Those who look forward with joy to
the coming of Christ may know that they are saved.
Since these certain marks of salvation are
laid down in Scripture, a person, by honestly examining himself, may know
whether or not he is among God's people. And by the same rule he may with
caution judge of others; for if we see the external fruits of election in them
and are convinced of their sincerity, we may reasonably conclude that they are
elect. Paul had assurance concerning the Christians at Thessalonica, for he
wrote, "Knowing, brethren, beloved of God, your election, how that our Gospel
came not to you in words only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and
in much assurance," I Thess. 1:4, 5. He also knew that God had chosen the
Ephesians in Christ, for he wrote to them: "He chose us in Him before the
foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before Him
in love; having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ
unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will," Eph. 1:4, 5.
But on the other hand we should not
pronounce any living person to be non-elect, no matter how sinful he may be at
present; for even the vilest person may, so far as we know, yet be brought to
faith and repentance by the Holy Spirit. The conversion of many of the elect
is still future. Hence no one has a right to declare positively that he or any
other person is among the non-elect, for he does not know what God may have in
store for him or them. We can, however, say that those who die impenitent are
certainly lost, for the Scriptures are explicit on that.
We cannot say that every true Christian has
this assurance; for it can only properly arise from a knowledge of one's own
moral resources and strength, and the one who underestimates himself may
innocently be without it. The Christian may at times become very discouraged
because of weak faith, but this does not prove him to be among the non-elect.
When faith is strengthened and erroneous views of salvation are cleared up, it
is the privilege and duty of every Christian to know himself saved, and to
escape that fear of apostasy which must constantly haunt every consistent
Arminian so long as he continues in this life. Hence, while assurance is
desirable and easily obtainable for any one who has made some progress in the
Christian way, it cannot always be made the test of a true Christian.
Through the Scriptures God repeatedly gives
us the promises that those who come to Him in Christ shall in no wise be cast
out, that whosoever will may take of the water of life without money and
without price, and that he who asks shall receive. The grounds for our
assurance, then, are both within us and without us. If, therefore, any true
believer lacks the assurance that he is forever safe among God's people, the
fault is in himself and not in the plan of salvation, or in the Scriptures.