Personal Assurance That One is Among The Elect
All true Christians may and should know that they are among those who have been predestinated to eternal life. Since faith in Christ, which is a gift from God, is the means of salvation, and since this is not given to any but the elect only, the person who knows that he has this faith can be assured that he is among the elect. The mere presence of faith, no matter how weak it may be, provided it is real faith, is a proof of salvation. "As many as were ordained to eternal life (and they only) believed," Acts 13:48. Faith is a miracle of grace within those who have already been saved — a spiritual token that their salvation was "finished" on the cross, and certified on the resurrection morn. The truly saved know that the love of God has been shed abroad in their hearts and that their sins have been forgiven. In Pilgrim's Progress we read that when Christian's sins were forgiven a heavy burden rolled from his shoulders and that he experienced a great relief. Every converted man should know that he is among the elect, for the Holy Spirit renews only those who are chosen by the Father and redeemed by the Son. "It is folly to fancy that a sincere lover of Jesus Christ who trusts in Him as his Saviour and lovingly obeys Him as his Lord, can possibly lack the election of God. It is only because he is one of God's elect that he can believe in Christ for the salvation of his soul, and follow after Christ in the conduct of his life.... It is impossible, that a believer in Christ should not be elected of God, because it is only by the election of God that one becomes a believer in Christ.... We need not, we must not, seek elsewhere for the proof of our election. If we believe Christ and obey Him, we are His elect children." 1
Every person who loves God and has a true desire for salvation in Christ is among the elect, for the non-elect never have this love or this desire. Instead, they love evil and hate righteousness in accordance with their sinful natures. "Does a man do his duty to God and his neighbor? Is he honest, just, charitable, pure? If he is, and if he is conscious of the power to continue so, so far as he can depend on this consciousness, so far he may reasonably believe himself to be predestined to future happiness." 2
"We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death," 1 John 3:14. "He that is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God," 1 John 3:9. That is, it is against his inner principles to commit sin. When he thinks deeply and soberly about it, sin is repulsive to him and he hates it. Just as a good American citizen does nothing which will be detrimental to his country, so the true believer does nothing which injures the kingdom of God. As a matter of practice, no one in this world lives a perfectly sinless life; yet this is the ideal standard which he seeks to reach.
Says Dr. Warfield, "Peter exhorts us, 2 Peter 1:10, to make our 'calling and election sure' precisely by diligence in good works. He does not mean that by good works we may secure from God a decree of election in our behalf. He means that by expanding the germ of spiritual life which we have received from God into its full efflorescence, by 'working out' our salvation, of course not without Christ but in Christ, we can make ourselves sure that we have really received the election to which we make claim.... Good works become thus the mark and test of election, and when taken in the comprehensive sense in which Peter is here thinking of them, they are the only marks and tests of election. We can never know that we are elected of God to eternal life except by manifesting in our lives the fruits of election — faith and virtue, knowledge and temperance, patience and godliness, love of brethren.... It is idle to seek assurance of election outside of holiness of life. Precisely what God chose His people to before the foundation of the world was that they should be holy. Holiness, because it is the necessary product, is therefore the sure sign of election." 3
As Toplady says, "A person who is at all conversant with the spiritual life knows as certainly whether he indeed enjoys the light of God's countenance, or whether he walks in darkness, as a traveler knows whether he travels in sunshine or in rain."
How may I know that I am among the elect? One may as well ask, How do I know that I am a loyal American citizen, or how shall I distinguish between white and black, or between sweet and bitter? Every one knows instinctively what his attitude is toward his country, and the Scriptures and conscience give as clear evidence of whether or not we are among God's people as white and black do of their color, or sweet and bitter do of their taste. Every person who is already a child of God should be fully conscious of the fact. Paul exhorted the Corinthians, "Try your own selves, whether ye are of the faith; prove your own selves," 2 Corinthians 13:5.
We have the assurance that "The Spirit Himself bearer witness with our spirit, that we are children of God," Romans 8:16. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him," 1 John 5:10. "And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life. These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God," 1 John 5:11-13. The born-again Christian welcomes the Gospel in his heart, but the unregenerate push it off: "We are of God: He that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error," 1 John 4:6. "And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He gave us," 1 John 3:24. "Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba, Father,' " Galatians 4:6. The regenerated person instinctively recognizes God as his Father. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren," 1 John 3:14. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God," 1 John 5:1, — this means all who confess Him as Lord — what blessed assurance! "Ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness is born of Him," 1 John 2:29. Those who hear and welcome the Gospel are actuated by this inner saving principle.
"He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son hath not life, but the wrath of God abideth on him," John 3:36. "No man speaking in the Spirit of God saith, Jesus is anathema; and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit," 1 Corinthians 12:3. By this we are taught that a truly saved person cannot cast Jesus off and revile Him, and that anyone who looks to Jesus as the Lord and his Lord, has been regenerated and is among the elect. This, then, is a proof of his salvation. Each person knows what his attitude toward Jesus is; and knowing this, he is able to judge whether or not he is saved. Let each one ask himself this question, What is my attitude toward Christ? Would I be glad for Him to appear and talk personally to me this moment? Would I welcome Him as my Friend, or would I shrink from meeting Him? Those who look forward with joy to the coming of Christ may know that they are saved.
Since these certain marks of salvation are laid down in Scripture, a person, by honestly examining himself, may know whether or not he is among God's people. And by the same rule he may with caution judge of others; for if we see the external fruits of election in them and are convinced of their sincerity, we may reasonably conclude that they are elect. Paul had assurance concerning the Christians at Thessalonica, for he wrote, "Knowing, brethren, beloved of God, your election, how that our Gospel came not to you in words only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance," 1 Thessalonians 1: 4, 5. He also knew that God had chosen the Ephesians in Christ, for he wrote to them: "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love; having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will," Ephesians 1: 4, 5.
But on the other hand we should not pronounce any living person to be non-elect, no matter how sinful he may be at present; for even the vilest person may, so far as we know, yet be brought to faith and repentance by the Holy Spirit. The conversion of many of the elect is still future. Hence no one has a right to declare positively that he or any other person is among the non-elect, for he does not know what God may have in store for him or them. We can, however, say that those who die impenitent are certainly lost, for the Scriptures are explicit on that.
We cannot say that every true Christian has this assurance; for it can only properly arise from a knowledge of one's own moral resources and strength, and the one who underestimates himself may innocently be without it. The Christian may at times become very discouraged because of weak faith, but this does not prove him to be among the non-elect. When faith is strengthened and erroneous views of salvation are cleared up, it is the privilege and duty of every Christian to know himself saved, and to escape that fear of apostasy which must constantly haunt every consistent Arminian so long as he continues in this life. Hence, while assurance is desirable and easily obtainable for any one who has made some progress in the Christian way, it cannot always be made the test of a true Christian.
Through the Scriptures God repeatedly gives us the promises that those who come to Him in Christ shall in no wise be cast out, that whosoever will may take of the water of life without money and without price, and that he who asks shall receive. The grounds for our assurance, then, are both within us and without us. If, therefore, any true believer lacks the assurance that he is forever safe among God's people, the fault is in himself and not in the plan of salvation, or in the Scriptures.
1. Warfield, pamphlet, Election, p. 18.
2. Mozley, The Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination, p. 45.
3. Pamphlet, Election, pp. 17, 18.