Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Word About Assurance

In most things I stand in agreement with my brothers in the Protestant Reformed tradition. On the issue of assurance of salvation I do not agree. I'd like to briefly share my point of disagreement with my brothers.

Luther and Calvin believed, and the Protestant tradition believes, that a person is completely righteous and blameless before God through nothing but faith alone in Christ alone and not by any good works that a person does. They also believed that the proof that one was righteous through faith was that his moral behavior was improved (I say improved, because no one is sinless). This improved moral behavior is not the persons righteousness before God. It just proves the person is a believer, but righteousness before God is fully obtained by faith alone apart from any good works whatsoever.

I also believe that righteousness before God is through faith alone in Christ alone apart from any good works that we do, but I disagree with the Reformers that we prove we are believers by improved moral behavior. I see the Scriptures teaching that we prove we are believers, not by improved moral behavior, but by the words of our mouth (since we speak spiritual things that non-Christians cannot speak: Matt. 12:33-37,1 Cor. 2:13, 12:3, etc.), and by our love of the brethren, which, according to John, is our non-Cainishness (1 John 3:12), meaning that we do not hate a person for being a disciple of Jesus (i.e. for believing and speaking the truth about God's righteousness: that all people are unrighteous and that righteousness is obtained only through faith alone in Christ alone. The world hates Christians for this). Through these clear manifestations of faith we can understand who is a Christian and who is not. Improved moral behavior is not a good indicator of who is and is not a Christian because moral improvement is not automatic for Christians, since they are exhorted in Scripture to pursue it diligently. I believe that improved moral behavior actually depends upon assurance of salvation, since love, joy, peace and thanksgiving make up the fertile ground in which true good works grow. The source of our good works should be love for God, whom we can only love when we are at rest in His salvation. Therefore I believe that it is more Biblical and accurate to say that our assurance is not based upon our good works, but that our good works are based upon our assurance.

Just to put this into perspective: Mormonism, on the other hand, disagrees with both me and the Reformers, since it rejects the idea of righteousness through faith alone altogether. In Mormonism, a person is righteous before God only insofar as that person is righteous by his moral behavior. Thus Mormonism fails to understand the mystery of the Gospel of Christ found in the Bible, which both I and the Reformers embrace. This difference of views on assurance is an in-house debate among Protestants, who understand the mystery of the Gospel.

I write this to clarify my main point of disagreement with my brothers. There are other factors that play a part in this discussion, but the overarching issue has to do with the question of assurance. In my opinion there is a glaring lack of clarity in this area.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

Hello Eli. My name is Thomas. I am a 34 yr old married father of 1. I have been saved through faith in Jesus but still struggle with sin, some habitual, and I've struggled with assurance of my salvation for the better part of 20 years. It is stumbling block for me and a stronghold. I read your post and had the same questions about Brother Martin Luther when I actually read his 99 thesis. I still felt like there was an emphasis on works as proof. Indeed, I believe James in his epistle, and also John (in 1 John) spoke about how we can identify that we are saved by the works of our lives, our obedience (per John) and good works, faith without works is dead (per James). I am finding it hard to reconcile those passages with what Paul stated (I know what is good, but I don't do it) and what you write here. Can you please help me? God bless.