Posts Tagged ‘Assurance’
On a follow-up post from the previous post, I wanted to address the issue of false conversions. I first heard of this term when I first became familiar with Ray Comfort. Comfort preached hard about false converts and how so many people in the visible church were not truly saved. He said that false conversions are the result of a faulty gospel message. I looked around and I agreed. So many people in the Church seemed to have been through a ritual whether prayer or baptism or church membership but their lives were marked with sin and lack of faith in God. They showed no zeal for the Lord, no passion for God, no hunger in prayer or for God’s Word, and lived in rebellion against God. They said they loved Jesus but they showed through their lives that they really hated God (Titus 1:16).
I do believe there are many in the Church, whether Arminians or Calvinists, who do not know Christ as Lord. They believe they are saved. They would confess that they are saved but their lives show that they are lost (1 John 2:3-6). Their life of sin shows that they are still in rebellion against God (1 John 3:6-9).
The key difference I would have with Ray Comfort would be over apostasy. Brother Ray would say that a true child of God is saved forever and if a person falls away from the faith, they were never saved to begin with. His teaching is that true children of God will persevere in the faith. Those who do not prove they were not regenerated by the Spirit (1 John 2:19). He would point to people such as Judas as proof or the false disciples of John 6:60-71. Another example could be Simon in Acts 8:18-24.
The Arminian reply is that while there are false converts, this does not negate the fact that there are warning passages given to believers. The entire book of Hebrews would be a case in point. Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:6-19; 4:1-20; 5:8-9; 6:4-20; 10:19-39; 11:13-16; 12:1-29 – all these warn believers. One must stretch to prove that the writer is not writing to believers in Christ. Of course there are many more than the book of Hebrews but my point is that we must do something with the warning passages. I believe they are there to warn us of a real possibility of personal apostasy so that we might avoid this (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). 1 John 2:24-25 (NKJV) says:
24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.
Eternal life is found in Christ Jesus. None dispute this point. I would argue that the gift of eternal life is given to us in Christ Jesus and only in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23). To be outside of Christ is to be lost (John 15:1-11). Jesus is our salvation from beginning to end (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Our salvation and our security are found in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:38-39).
So the final verdict would be that yes there are certainly those among us Arminians who are not saved. I don’t doubt that. This is true of all Christendom. Yet I would also preach that true Christians must be on guard and must remain focused on Christ alone for our salvation. I would preach that our eyes must remain fixed on Christ alone to save us (Hebrews 12:1-2) and not our good works nor our own wisdom. Christ is our life (Colossians 3:1-4). Remain in Jesus by faith (1 Peter 1:5) and make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11). Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
The issue of assurance has never been a major issue among any of the Arminians that I associate with nor with any of the Arminian churches that I have attended on a regular basis (and Arminian churches are all I have been to on a regular basis since the Lord saved me in 1992). I have heard a few teachings on it but very few Arminians that I know struggle with the assurance of our salvation.
And why is that? In fact, in the history of Calvinism there has even been an assurance controversy. Hyper-Calvinists have often said that one cannot know that one has assurance of their salvation. None can actually know they are the elect until the day of judgment. One can seek to have assurance and one should look for evidence of assurance but it is possible for a person to live their entire life believing they are the elect of God but then die and be cast aside because they were in fact non-elect (Matthew 7:21-23).
Arminianism has always placed great emphasis on the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is our salvation and Arminianism has always stressed that the work of Christ alone accomplishes our salvation. Further, we maintain that a person is justified through faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9) and that our salvation is found only in Jesus (John 14:6; 15:1-11). To be outside of Christ is to be lost. There is only one way to eternal life and that is in Jesus Christ, through loving Him and blessing Him and being faithful to Him (Colossians 1:21-23). The Arminian then takes the Word of God about salvation (that Jesus shed His blood for all) and applies that to all who place their total faith in Him (1 Timothy 4:10). Those who reject His blood are lost and condemned for their own sins (John 3:14-18). The believers hope lies not in their election but in the elected one, the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life so that we might have life in Him. We recognize that eternal life is found only in Jesus and this life begins the moment of salvation and continues only in Christ (John 8:51).
This is why Arminians don’t struggle with our assurance. We know we are the elect of God through faith in Christ. We know that Jesus shed His blood for us. We don’t doubt for one minute that Jesus didn’t die for us (1 John 2:2). We trust the Word of God that says that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). That would be me. I am saved not by my works but through the grace of God given to me in Christ Jesus. I have done the work of God for salvation (John 6:29; Romans 4:5). My hope, my assurance, my reward is Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)! I realize that apart from Him, I am lost (Romans 6:23). I know that I cannot overcome sin by my power but only in Christ Jesus (Galatians 5:16-17). I recognize that if I sow to my flesh, I will reap destruction (Galatians 6:7-9). My entire life is focused on the Lord Jesus alone. He only is my defense (1 John 2:1).
XXI. ON THE PERSEVERANCE OF SAINTS
1. QUERIES. — Is it possible for true believers to fall away totally and finally:
2. Do some of them, in reality, totally and finally fall from the faith?
3. The opinion which denies “that true believers and regenerate persons are either capable of falling away or actually do fall away from the faith totally and finally,” was never, from the very times of the apostles down to the present day, accounted by the church as a catholic doctrine. Neither has that which affirms the contrary ever been reckoned as a ; nay, that which affirms it possible for believers to fall away from the faith, has always had more supporters in the church of Christ, than that which denies its possibility of it’s actually occurring.
XXII. ON THE ASSURANCE OF SALVATION
1. QUERIES. — Is it possible for any believer, without a special revelation, to be certain or assured that he will not decline or fall away from the faith,
2. Are those who have faith, bound to believe that they will not decline from the faith?
3. The affirmative of either of these questions was never accounted in the church of Christ as a catholic doctrine; and the denial of either of them has never been adjudged by universal as a heresy.
4. The persuasion by which any believer assuredly persuades himself that it is impossible for him to decline from the faith, or that, at least, he will not decline from the faith, does not conduce so much to consolation against despair or against the doubting that is adverse to faith and hope, as it contributes to security, a thing directly opposed to that most with which we are commanded to work out our salvation, and which is exceedingly necessary in this scene of temptations.
5. He who is of opinion that it is possible for him to decline from the faith, and who, therefore, is afraid lest he should decline, is neither destitute of necessary consolation, nor is he on this account, tormented with anxiety of mind. For it suffices to inspire consolation and to exclude anxiety, when he knows that he will decline from the faith through no force of Satan, of sin, or of the world, and through no inclination or weakness of his own flesh, unless he willingly and of his own accord, yield to temptation, and neglect to work out his salvation in a conscientious manner.