How Do We Know We Are Saved? How do we Confirm Our Calling and Election? #142
Hello friends and happy Tuesday to you! Today in central California we are just about to enter into our 9th week of sheltering in place. Are you going stir crazy yet? I know that my family is struggling with that quite a bit. We endeavor to get out and walk/hike/play in the sunshine every day, but sometimes it is difficult to get everybody on board with a daily adventure. The shelter in place order kind of lulls you into a sort of stay at home lethargy that isn’t very healthy for us. I hope and pray this breaks soon, and I’m sure you do too!
Today’s Bible readings include Numbers 28, Psalms 72, Isaiah 19-20 and 2nd Peter 1. Our focus remains in the New Testament, though I promise I tried to come up with a good Old Testament topic today! Our question is a bit of a theological one, at least on the surface, but it has very strong spiritual implications for our walk with Christ, so I thought it would be good to tackle it. There is quite an interesting command in 2 Peter 1:10:
10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble.
Today’s question is HOW do we confirm our calling and election, considering that it is God who does the calling and election?! So first, before we endeavor to answer the question at hand, let’s talk about what exactly calling and election refers to, because this is not a passage about telephones nor politics.
Calling is from the Greek word κλῆσις klēsis and it signifies a calling in the sense of an invitation – perhaps to a feast, or to salvation, in this context. Consider 2 Timothy 1:9
9 He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.
The word ‘calling,’ then is a word that demonstrates that God has called or invited one to salvation. The word election signifies a similar concept, but with more detail. It comes from the Greek word ἐκλογή eklogḗ and means to choose. Let’s turn to theopedia for a good understanding of election:
In Christian theology, election refers to God’s choosing of individuals or peoples to be the objects of his grace or to otherwise fulfill his purposes. Most often God’s election is associated with his choice of individuals unto salvation. The Calvinist view of election (also known as unconditional election) teaches that in eternity God chose some individuals from the mass of fallen humanity unto salvation without regard to any merit or foreseen faith in them, but solely based on His sovereign intentions.
Election and predestination are very similar concepts to the point that the terms can sometimes be used interchangeably. However, there is a difference in the emphasis of the two terms. Election primarily has in view God’s sovereign selection, whereas predestination accents the purpose or goal of His election. Scripture clearly teaches both election and predestination; however, there are a variety of views as to who, when, why, and how God does so.
Calling and election in a biblical sense is all about God’s choosing to call to salvation and elect to salvation some people, and hence we get to the perplexing nature of our command. If salvation is initiated and begun by God’s sovereign choice – and I wholeheartedly believe it is – then HOW in the world can WE HUMANS confirm our calling and election?! What does that even mean?
I believe we get some information on this in a Pauline passage, 2nd Corinthians 13:5
5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test.
As we have gone through this recent coronavirus pandemic, I have been testing myself quite a bit lately – but, unfortunately, not in the Pauline sense here. I’ve not been testing myself to see if I was in the faith, but testing myself to see if the Coronavirus was in me! I’ve taken my temp more than normal, and if a child or my wife coughs, I go get the scanning thermometer, and check on them. They think it is the greatest and most endearing thing in the world! (Ok, I’m sorry…they actually find it annoying, as you might expect.) Paul isn’t talking here about neurotically and excessively testing yourself constantly to see if you are a Christian like some have done with the coronavirus, but he is writing from the same heart that Peter is – wanting to ensure that those who are PROFESSING Jesus with their mouths are actually walking with Jesus in their lives and actions. As Jesus strongly warns in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” Our calling and election therefore are NOT confirmed by the words of our mouth, or our own self-identification. If not that, then what? I think Jesus answers that question a few verses earlier in Matthew 7:
17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit.18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit.19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.
I believe it is the fruit of our lives – the impact of our lives and the Holy Spirit producing His fruit/traits in us – that demonstrates whether or not we are a good tree rooted in the vine of Jesus (see John 15:1-8) or a bad tree that is rooted in the soil of ourselves. Let me be clear: we are not saved by the fruit of our lives or by good works, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but it is the fruit of our lives that demonstrate whether or not our salvation is sure. In other words, it is the fruit of our life that demonstrates whether or not our calling and election is confirmed; the fruit of our lives which shows whether or not Christ is in us. In other words, I believe that Paul and Peter are both exhorting us to the same thing: making sure that we are not merely Christians in name only, but that we are truly saved by Jesus as demonstrated by Jesus living in us, the Holy Spirit producing fruit/God’s character traits in our lives, and our lives themselves producing the fruit and impact of a follower of Jesus. I feel like i’m not doing the greatest job in the world explaining this question, so let me tag in Dr. R.C. Sproul to provide some additional and helpful clarity. In this excerpt from his book Doubt and Assurance, Dr. Sproul is answering the question how we can make our calling and election sure – which is the same question as how can we know that we are really and truly saved by Jesus?
The assurance we need most is the assurance of salvation. Though we are loathe to think much about it or contemplate it deeply, we know, if only intuitively, that the worst catastrophe that could ever befall us is to be visited by God’s final punitive wrath. Our insecurity is worsened by the certainty that we deserve it.
Many believe that assurance of eternal salvation is neither possible or even to be sought. To claim such assurance is considered a mask of supreme arrogance, the nadir of self-conceit.
Yet, if God declares that it is possible to have full assurance of salvation and even commands that we seek after it, then it would be supremely arrogant to deny our need or neglect the search.
In fact, God does command us to make our election and calling sure: Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall” (2 Pet. 1:10).
This command admits of no justifiable neglect. It addresses a crucial matter. The question, “Am I saved?” is one of the most important I can ever ask myself. I need to know the answer; I must know the answer. This is not a trifle. Without the assurance of salvation the Christian life is unstable, vulnerable to the debilitating rigors of mood changes. Basing assurance on changing emotions allows the wolf of heresy to camp on the doorstep. Progress in sanctification requires a firm foundation in faith. Assurance is the cement of that foundation. Without it the foundation crumbles.
How, then, do we receive assurance? The Scripture declares that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. This inner testimony of the Holy Spirit is as vital as it is complex. It can be subjected to severe distortions, being confused with subjectivism and self-delusion…
To have sound assurance [of salvation] we must understand that our salvation rests upon the merit of Christ alone, which is appropriated to us when we embrace him by genuine faith. If we understand that, the remaining question is, “Do I have the genuine faith necessary for salvation?”
To answer that question two more things must be understood and analyzed properly. The first is doctrinal. We need a clear understanding of what constitutes genuine saving faith. If we conceive of saving faith as a faith that exists in a vacuum, never yielding the fruit of works of obedience, we have confused saving faith with dead faith, which cannot save anyone.
The second requirement involves a sober analysis of our own lives. We must examine ourselves to see if the fruit of regeneration is apparent in us. Do we have a real affection for the biblical Christ? Only the regenerate person possesses real love for the real Jesus. Next we must ask the tough question, “Does my life manifest the fruit of sanctification?” I test my faith by my works.
I call this last question the tough question for various reasons. We can lose assurance if we think perfect obedience is the test. Every sin we commit after conversion can cast doubt upon our assurance. That doubt is exacerbated by Satan’s assault of accusation against us. Satan delights in shaking the true Christian’s assurance.
Or we can delude ourselves by looking at our own works with an exalted view of our goodness, seeing virtue in ourselves when there is none. Here we quake in terror before our Lord’s warning: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matt. 7:22–23).
Real assurance rests on a sound understanding of salvation, a sound understanding of justification, a sound understanding of sanctification, and a sound understanding of ourselves. In all these matters we have the comfort and assistance of the Holy Spirit who illumines the text of Scripture for us, who works in us to yield the fruit of sanctification, and who bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.