by Mike Ratliff
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:1-11)
After God dragged me from my former Arminian doctrinal beliefs into the truth of Reformed Theology, my assurance of my salvation did not suffer at all. In fact, it deepened as the profundity of our salvation by grace and justification by faith became apparent to me. I no longer had a fractured picture of God’s eternal plan. It all came into focus as I studied the “Ordo Solutis” from Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:3-12. However, some I have attempted to teach these truths to have virulently resisted. One of the questions these “resistors of the truth” always ask is, “How could you ever have assurance believing that?”
That question puzzles me. My assurance is rooted deep within God’s promises to His people from Sacred Scripture. God is sovereign and He never changes. My assurance is a product of my faith coupled with my devotion to my Lord. Interestingly, those who question the veracity of what I teach always come from the direction of the believer having to “do something” in order to be saved. They may say that God saved them and they know they are saved, but that assurance comes from knowing they made the right decision. My assurance comes from my ever-increasing knowledge of scripture, and, therefore, my Lord, combined with believing the promises found there. I know my Lord. He has revealed to me, from scripture, what one of His elect will be like. From the Word I have learned that those in Christ are new creations. (2 Corinthians 5:17) That means the Holy Spirit has regenerated them so he or she can believe and be saved. Because of this radical rebirth or resurrection from being dead in trespasses and sins, certain attributes will become apparent in the heart of the maturing believer.
The believer who doubts his or her salvation because of the fear that they are not one of the Elect is not well grounded in the Word of God. There may be Baby Christian issues in their lives resulting in little fruitfulness in the Kingdom of God. The Baby or Adolescent Christian will nearly always have little assurance unless they base it on the wrong thing, which is, of course, their own initial “decision for Christ” in the past. If there is little fruitfulness evident in their lives then they desperately point to that “experience” in their past and state, “that was what saved me.” It does not help that many preachers and teachers tell them that is all they need to do is “rely” on that decision.
For the more mature believer this should never be an issue. As I stated earlier, their fruitfulness in the Kingdom of God, plus their knowledge of God and His Word are strong evidences of salvation. Also, these believers walk closer with God than an immature believer. This gives them a added blessing of their Spirit bearing witness with the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:16; Romans 9:1) However, for the new believer, doubt can still threaten their assurance. How can we know if we are truly Elect? The answer to that is for the new believer to develop the same trust in the promises of God from His Word that the mature believer has along with faith building devotion to the Lord.
Let’s look at some Biblical truths that reveal the evidences of our regenerated hearts. The first evidence that we are Elect is a sense that our sinfulness and lack of righteousness has offended our Holy and Just Creator. If we read the following passage and know that it describes us along with a sense that God would be perfectly Just in destroying us, then we know that God has touched and regenerated our hearts.
as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.", "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:10-18)
If anyone reads that passage while still having the following attitude, is not regenerated, “I’m not that bad, and that’s just being judgmental!” Sadly, I hear that from many people these days, but it should never come from someone who claims to be a Christian. In fact, the penitent believer should look at their sin as King David did in Psalm 51.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. (Psalms 51:1-4)
This penitent attitude should also be investigative in nature. That means, motivated by a deep sense of God’s deep displeasure with one’s sin, it should seek the root cause of sin and seek to mortify it. With this sense ever before them, the believer becomes deeply aware that God is not pleased with their continued disobedience. Passages like the two following will lead to brokenness before the Lord.
but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. (Isaiah 59:2-3)
Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)
On the other hand, if a “believer” has the attitude that God loves them and does not really care about the sin in their life then that is evidence of not being regenerated. If sin brings a pall of death into ones realization then the opposite is true.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
If a believer can read the passage above and know deep within them that it describes them outside of God’s grace then God has indeed touched his or her heart. As the believer reads Romans 8:5-8 below he or she should do an immediate self-examination. Do things of the flesh dominate their life? If so then they are living according to the flesh. If this type of lifestyle dominates a professing believer’s life with little or no resultant sense of guilt and pending condemnation then that is evidence of one not being regenerate. However, if reading it leads to deep repentance and a desire to be “right with God” then rejoice because God has touched that heart.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)
Many believe their good works is what is saving them or that their profession of faith by “deciding for Christ” plus their good works guarantees them eternal life. The professing believer who is counting on these things to save them will not listen to what the Bible says about genuine salvation then his or her heart probably has not been touched by the grace of God. However, if a believer is perfectly aware that no “good works” are able to wash away their sins then he or she is probably regenerate.
"With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" (Micah 6:6-7)
For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgressing, and denying the LORD, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. (Isaiah 59:12-14)
The sense of sin and its horrible consequence of separating us is an indication that God has worked in our hearts. Without His grace touching our hearts, that sense of sinfulness will not be there. Along with knowledge of the dreadfulness of sin, a regenerated believer will also know that God has provided a way of escape from His wrath against all sin.
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7)
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, (Colossians 2:13)
Assurance comes to believers from above. God knows we need it. However, he will remove any sense of it from believers who do not take their sin seriously. Along with that, a regenerated Elect believer will know that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ. A regenerated believer will not only KNOW that Jesus is the only way to salvation, but he our she will have also become united to Christ by a faith that was a gift from God. As a result of this wonderful miracle of spiritual rebirth the believer’s sins are fully paid for. Their sins are completely forgiven. God has imputed Jesus Christ’s Righteousness to them. They are now declared Righteous by God.
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:16, 20)
If this is what we believe, fully understanding that God saves His people from their sins then we will have assurance to burn. However, if we hang onto our “works” as necessary for salvation then God will not give His assurance to us.
Lastly, part of our salvation is adoption into God’s family. If we doubt that or sense that God would never accept us unless we EARN it then grace may not have touched our hearts. However, if we KNOW that because of our repentance and belief by God’s grace and through the faith He gave us and we are adopted as Jesus’ brothers and sisters, then God has regenerated our hearts.
If we believe these truths then we are believing the gospel of Jesus Christ. The elect believe these things because God has enabled them to do so by regenerating their hearts. The elect of God do not focus on their election, but rather they focus on Christ their savior. They see their election as completely undeserved, and it is.
We cannot allow ourselves to become hung up on election because that is salvation from God’s side. Our side must be focused on our savior and His gospel. Think of election as the foundation of a house. The foundation is there, but we cannot see it. How do we enter a house? We do not enter it via the foundation. We enter via a door. Jesus Christ is the door. To enter God’s Kingdom sinners must enter through Him.
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9)
We make our calling and election sure by living in the faith that our God, having promised to do for those who believe in Jesus Christ, will also do those things for us.
(Romans 8:28-39; Galatians 2:20; 1 Timothy 1:15)
The elect are empowered or enabled to believe the truth of the gospel, live by its promises, and keep on believing them. On the other hand, false professors, the non-elect, will invent all sorts of “works” to ‘earn” salvation and are, therefore, depending on those things for assurance.
How can we know if we are elect? Keep on believing the gospel and all of God’s promises to His elect. He will give us the assurance we need.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.