Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Assurance of Election.

I have been asking a question to those who believe in Limited Atonement. "How, if Jesus did not die for every person, do you know you are died for?" The answers are numerous but all involve some type of inward peering. A fellow Lutheran reminded me of an article contained in the Canons of Dordt which shows this inward peering to be quite consistent.

Article 12: The Assurance of Election
Assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God's Word-- such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.

The problem with all this turning into oneself for assurance is that oneself is where the problem sits. Either one will notice the absence of the above mentioned fruits of election and be cast into despair worse than before. On the other hand a person may notice these things or set about to work them up and be filled with pride and arrogance toward others who have not worked up these items. What a dreadful place to look since we are such dismal failures that we need saving by another. Why should we look to ourselves for any assurance?

Mark 7:20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” ESV

We see in the above statements of Jesus inward peering is the last thing we should be doing. Deceit and pride come out of the heart of a sinner. This is why we must always be looking outside ourselves for salvation and assurance of the same.

This is where Jesus points us for assurance:

John 6:52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread [3] the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus [4] said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. ESV

We see here a tangible way in which Jesus comes to us for the forgiveness of sin. Receiving the true body and blood of our Lord gives us the assurance we are forgiven and have eternal life and will be raised on the last day. In these promises we have Jesus located to bring the fruits of his life, death, burial and resurrection. Coming totally from outside us. No maudlin or prideful peering inwards to do spiritual measuring which are never accurate due to our sinfulness.

Lord may your body and your blood be for my soul the highest good! Amen. †


Anonymous said...


That is the BEST summary of the very problem. That hellish loop of inward turning was exactly where I was for years. I kept waiting, praying, trying harder 24/7 for that ever elusive "Assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure".

It goes all the way back to the subtle but CRITICAL difference between Luther and Calvin which is, and I know many hate to hear this, but is in fact two seperate religions and one is false no matter how much it attempts to patch things up otherwise.

The assurance of election as Dordt articulates makes logical sense in a system where the Gospel funamentally serves the Law. Where the real problem is my boundage to sin (primarily the outwardly bad sin list) and forgiveness is at BEST tangental to this, and my bondage is to that and I need a "grace" to free me (which is really a return to Rome's infused grace, just not through the sacraments, but through that secret operation of the Spirit unto election). Rather than for Luther my sin problem is that I NEED FORGIVENESS FOR MY SIN, all that I am, good and bad and NOTHING else. The Law serves the Gospel.

That's why Luther said, "Where there is forgiveness of sin there is also salvation and life". Calvin/calvinism says, "Where there is life and salvation there is forgiveness of sin".

I mean it is clear as day these are two seperate religions point blank and their own confessions own up to it.

You brought out one thing that I'd never formerly considered before by quoting Dort here. It does say we are not to search assurance out by "comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God". That gives Calvinism a false plausable deniability that its not seeking the hidden God. On the surface it appears to not be a theology of glory and looks like it agrees with Luther. But then it reveals its theology of glory when it turns inward to, "but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God's Word".

The connection is this, both the looking to the hidden things of God and the inward noticing are theologies of glory for they look outside the Word for this assurance not TO the Word (Sacraments). It is a rank turning away from the Word with one toe hold on it so you can say when called out on it, "No see I still have my toe on the Word".



PS: Tonight I'll link your article up on my blog if that's OK. Great article!!!

Steve said...


Did you ever hit that one out of the park!

We ARE the problem! Looking to ourselves is an utter and fruitless waste of time. Worse than that, it can lead us to hell.

I'll stick to Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper for my tangible assurance.

Thanks you, St. David!

Steve said...

And thank you, Larry, for the heads-up!

(I always add an 's' to thank you. I'm a bad typist)

Steve said...


I too, have posted it to my blog.

I knew you wouldn't mind :D

Maximum exposure for this one will be a good thing.


- Steve

J. K. Jones said...

As a 'Presbyterian-flavored' Calvinst, I know Christ died for me because of God's promise to me. I trust Christ and what He did on the cross to pay for my sins.

How else would one know? A sacrement that I might or might not even remmember? Faith in his own faith?

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting this, St. Dave. It is always good to be reminded where our assurance is. Praise Him.

Andrew said...

Does the term 'circular reasoning' apply to inward looking for assurance of salvation? Isn't subjective assurance of salvation called Budhism?

Anonymous said...

J.K. Jones, but how do you know? To what do you turn for assurance of the promise that you indeed know, that you trust, or that you truly "believe in Jesus"? What token of pledge have you been given by the promise-giver, other than to look in you own visceral/rational construction? When Christ says in baptism for the remission of sins, is he untrustworthy? When he says take and eat/drink, given and shed for you right here, right now, for the forgiveness of your sins, is that not trustworthy? I think you must have great faith in your faith.

J. K. Jones said...

Where do I turn for assurance? The incarnation of Christ that shows us the Father and gives us the fulfilment of the Hebrew Scriptures, the miracles of Christ the Bible declares, the clear promises of Christ as recorded in the Bible, the crucifiction of Christ as interpreted in the Bible, the ressurection of Christ that the Bible says showed His victory, the Ascension of Christ that the Bible records to show God's approval of Christ's sacrifice, and the doctrines of Scripture which teach us to interpret all of this.

In short, the Bible.

Tokens? The signs and seals of the covenant in The Lord's supper and baptism and everything else above as all of it is ouside of me and my efforts.

I look outside of me to Christ, and that very act shows my faith.

David Cochrane said...


Yes I too look to the Bible for this assurance. This is where God has presented not only the Crucified and risen Lord but how he comes to us as well.

God is very comfortable with matter. After all he created it. He became human and in so doing the attributes of divinity is shared fully with the humanity, In this way we can fully believe in Jesus words " this is my body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sin."

This strong promise, as well as baptism and the preached word, is how the fruits of the cross of Jesus are delivered to us.

Thank you for reading my humble blog and taking the time to post your comments.

God's peace. †