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Assurance of Faith


Reformed View

Joel Beeke, Personal Assurance of Faith: English Puritanism and the Dutch “Nadere Reformatte”: From Westminister to Alexander Comrie (1640-1760). Ph.D. Dissertation. Westminister Seminary, 1988.

Joel Beeke.  Assurance of Faith: Calvin, English Puritanism, and the Dutch Second Reformation. New York: Peter Lang, 1991.

L. Berkhof, The Assurance of Faith. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939.

Cunningham, William. The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1979. Orig. pub. 1862. Pp. 616

Shaw, Robert. An Exposition of the Westminister Confession of Faith. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Board of Publication, 1846.  360 pp.

Grace View

M. Charles Bell. Calvin and Scottish Theology. Edinburgh: The Handsel Press, 1985

Joseph Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings. 2nd ed. Hayesville, NC: Schoettle Publications, 1993..

R. T. Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinsim to 1649. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Erwin Lutzer. How You Can Be Sure That You Will Spend Eternity With God. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996.

Zane Hodges, Absolutely Free

Bob Wilkin,

Reformed View of Assurance

I feel like a misquito in a nudist colony, I am not sure where to begin



Experimental Predestinarian



John Duncan was born in 1796 in Aberdeen, Scotland, the son of a shoemaker.[1]  Although not well known, his influence upon Jewish missions was great.  He was affectionately called "Rabbi" Duncan because of his immense knowledge of Hebrew literature and his espousal of the cause of the Jews.  In fact, when he applied for the Chair of Oriental Languages in the University of Glasgow, there was no one who was qualified to examine him.  He read fluently in Syriac, Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindustani, and Mahratti, as well as Latin, German, French, Hebrew, and Greek!

While studying in Budapest, he met a brilliant Jewish scholar, whom he led to Christ.  This man was later to become the most learned writer on the life of Christ in the nineteenth century, Alfred Edersheim.

Becoming a Christian was not easy for Rabbi Duncan, and believing that he was saved was even harder.  He struggled so desperately with doubt concern­ing his salvation that on one occasion, at a prayer meeting of professors and stu­dents, Duncan, who was presiding, broke down and wept, saying that God had forsaken him.[2]

In his quest to find subjective assurance that he was truly born again, Dun­can turned repeatedly to Caesar Malan, through whom he was converted.  Malan was ordained to the ministry in Geneva and apparently preached with great power and evangelical zeal.  Malan's pastoral method of helping Duncan find as­surance was through the use of a practical syllogism.  He asked Duncan to con­sider the following logic:

Major Premise:          He that believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God

Minor Premise:          But I believe that Jesus is the Christ

Conclusion:    Therefore, I am born of God.

As the implications of this reasoning dawned upon his consciousness, Duncan said he sat still for hours, without moving, as many sermons he had preached came to his memory.  The contemplation of the syllogism transformed his life, for a while.  His new joy lasted for only two years and was followed by a time of terrible darkness.  He says he prayed for the Holy Spirit and tried vainly to believe in Christ but could not.  He then quarreled with God for not giving him His Holy Spirit and then rebuked himself for doing this.  He thought that perhaps he was reprobate.  He asked that the following words be published after his death:

I can't put a negative upon my regeneration.  I don't say I can put a positive.  Sometimes hope abounds, and at the worst I have never been able dogmatically to pronounce myself unregenerate . . . Some­times I have strongly thought that what is formed between Christ and me shall last forever.  At other times I fear I may be in hell yet.  But if I can't affirm my regeneration, I can't deny it; my self-examination can go no further.[3]

He pursued another version of the syllogism.  He reasoned that those who are born of God will produce the fruits of regeneration.

Major Premise:          Those who are born again will necessarily produce the fruits of regeneration in their lives.

Minor Premise:          I have the fruits of regeneration

Conclusion:    I am born again.

Duncan's problem was with the minor premise.  He simply could not be convinced that there was sufficient evidence of the fruits of regeneration in his life for him to draw the necessary conclusion that he was indeed born of God.

He wrote one more time to his spiritual mentor, Caesar Malan.  Once again he told Duncan to reflect upon his faith and scolded him for not believing the promises of the gospel.  He told him that the fruits of regeneration can only come after we have received assurance.

This did not help Duncan at all, and his struggles remained with him until his deathbed.  In fact, his doubts were renewed with terrifying intensity.  "I was in a terrible agony last night at the thought of a Christless state, and that I might be in it.  The fear of it exhausted my faculties."[4]  No doubt Duncan's healthy fear of taking the grace of God for granted (antinomianism) contributed to his emo­tional state, but the methods employed to secure confidence are foreign to the New Testament.  Nowhere are we commanded to look to faith or to fruits to find out if we are born again.  We look only to Christ for that kind of assurance.

The incident highlights two things about the Experimental Predestinarian view of assurance.  First, in order to know whether or not you are saved, you must employ what they called the practical syllogism.  It went something like this:

Major Premise:          All who have believed and who have the fruits of regen­eration are saved.

Minor Premise:          I have believed and have some fruits.

Conclusion:    Therefore, I am saved.

The actual implementation of the syllogism occurred during what they called the reflex act of faith, where the soul reflects upon its belief and fruits and concludes that it is among God's elect.  This was in contrast to the so-called direct act of faith where the man trusts in Christ for justification.

Second, faith and assurance are separate acts of grace.  Assurance is not part of saving faith but a reflex act of faith which comes later.  Even though they bear the name of Calvin, they have completely departed not only from him in their view of faith and assurance but, in our opinion, from the New Testament as well. 

It is possible that for many within the Experimental Predestinarian posi­tion this will be the most important discussion in this book.  It would not be sur­prising if the previous and following chapters were skipped over in the search for the answer to the question, What does the author say about assurance?  For the Puritans and their modern followers assurance of salvation is their magnificent obsession, their life verse, and the practical syllogism their chief prac­tice.  When Peter wrote, "Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure," he unwittingly gave them a basis for four hundred years of introspection.  Indeed, this verse could aptly be used to summarize the roughly one hundred years between the Reformation and the Westminster Confession (1649).[5]

If God has elected some to salvation and passed over others, how can we be sure we are among the elect?  Our churches today are full of people who claim to be Christians.  In fact, according to a Gallup Survey over fifty million people in the United States believe they are born again.  In view of the seeming lack of in­fluence or cultural relevance of all these people as far as the gospel is concerned, one naturally asks, Are they really saved?  It would be a terrible tragedy to "give assurance"[6] to someone who is not truly justified.  We would then be assuring a man that all is well with his soul, when in fact he is on the high road to hell.  It is this concern which seems to motivate the modern heirs of the Puritan tradition.

The period leading up to the assembly at Westminster produced many no­table theologians in both England and Scotland.  The contributions of several of these key figures reveal that the Preacher was right, "There is nothing new under the sun."  The same struggles with assurance and perseverance which are present today were clearly manifested in their writings.

Historical Development of the Reformed View

John Calvin (1509-1564)

Calvin’s Definition of Faith

We shall now have a full definition of faith if we say that it is a firm and sure knowledge of the divine favour toward us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds, and sealed on our hearts, by the Holy Spirit.[7]

We note two things

faith is assurance and persuasion  - not as McArthur says, “a determination of the will to obey.”

No subsequent works are necessary to verify the presence of genuine faith

Basis of Assurance

Not works

Therefore, I thus retort the argument, If you look to yourself damnation is certain:[8]

Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith.[9]

However, this examination is not to find out whether or not we are Christians, rather it is to insure that we are grounding our assurance in Christ and not our works.

When we so examine ourselves, however, it is not to see whether our holiness, our works, or the fruit of the Spirit in our lives warrant assur­ance of salvation.  Rather, it is to determine that such assurance rests on the proper foundation of God's mercy in Christ.  Because of the phenomenon of temporary faith, we see that our feelings are an unre­liable test of our standing with God.  Therefore, if we are to be sure of our salvation, we must always direct our gaze to Christ, in whose face we see the love of God for us fully displayed.[10]

Carnal Security

What is a carnal security?

Paul does not dissuade Christians from security simply, but from careless, carnal security, which is accompanied with pride, arrogance, and contempt of others, which extinguishes humility and reverence for God, and produces a forgetfulness of grace received (Rom. 11:20). For he is addressing the Gentiles, and showing them that they ought not to exult proudly and cruelly over the Jews, in consequence of whose rejection they had been substituted in their stead.[11]

Calvin’s view of “carnal security” is not what contemporary writers imagine.  For him it is not the false pretentious of non-Christians who are mere professors, but is the security which is accompanied by pride, arrogance, contempt of others and which derives its source from an examination of works instead of Christ.  A security grounded in works may have a tendency to lead to pride.

 Doubtless, if we are to determine by our works in what way the Lord stands affected towards us, I admit that we cannot even get the length of a feeble conjecture: but since faith should accord with the free and simple promise, there is no room left for ambiguity.  With what kind of confidence, pray, shall we be armed if we reason in this way--God is propitious to us, provided we deserve it by the purity of our lives?[12]

Should they begin to estimate it [assurance of their salvation] by their good works, nothing will be weaker or more uncertain; works, when estimated by themselves, no less proving the divine displeasure by their imperfection, than His good-will by their incipient purity.[13]

But by looking to Christ

But if we have been chosen in Him, we shall not find assurance of our election in ourselves; and not even in God the Father, if we conceive Him as severed from His Son.  Christ, then, is the mirror wherein we must, and without self-deception may, contemplate our own elec­tion.[14]

Our good works give a "subsidiary aid to its confirmation."[15]  Love is an inferior aid, a prop for our faith.  But even with this concession he insists that we must never "look to our works for our assurance to be firm."[16]  If we want to know if we are elect, we must be "persuaded" that Christ died for us.  We know this by a direct act of faith.  We do not look for testimonies of good works in our lives.  Thus, Calvin affirms: "If Pighius asks how I know I am elect, I answer that Christ is more than a thousand testimonies to me."[17]

Calvin emphasized the ministry of the Holy Spirit at this point. As the believer looks to Christ, the HS bears witness of his adoption.

The Spirit gives us scuh a testimony, that when he our guide and teacher our spirit is made sure of the adoption of God, for our mind of itself, without the testimony of the Spirit could not convey to us this assurance. (Romans 8:16)

This seems clean and clear.

However, Calvin opened the door for the later Puritian modification with his doctrine of Temporary Faith.

Temporary Faith

Calvin taught three kinds of grace.  Common grace enabled a man to do physics, produce a Summa Theologica, a Mass in B Minor, a painting, or a Ham­let.  This is due to the general grace of God.[18]  Effectual grace is that ministry of the Holy Spirit whereby the unregenerate are infallibly acted upon and inclined to believe and be saved.  Ineffectual grace (the writer's term) is due to the min­istry of the Spirit in imparting "transitory" faith or temporary faith.[19]  Calvin ar­gues this from Scripture on the basis of Heb. 6:4-5:[20]

I know that to attribute faith to the reprobate seems hard to some, when Paul declares it (faith) to be the result of election.  This difficulty is easily solved.  For . . . experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected by almost the same feeling as the elect, so that even in their own judgment they do not in any way differ from the elect.

Calvin argued this on the basis of Heb 6:4-5

Kendall observes:

And if the reprobate may experience `almost the same feeling as the elect', there is no way to know finally what the reprobate experiences.  Furthermore, if the reprobate may believe that God is merciful to­wards them, how can we be sure our believing the same thing is any different from theirs?  How can we be so sure that our `beginning of faith' is saving and is not the `beginning of faith' which the reprobate seem to have?[21]

Thus, when Calvin bases his doctrine on an inner assurance given by the Spirit and then affirms that the reprobate can have a similar sensation, he ruins his argument.

Calvin has said that the reprobate cannot discern the difference between their experience and that of a born-again Christian.  They believe God to be pro­pitious to them and to have given them the gift of reconciliation.  Since both the reprobate and the saved can have these feelings, how can one know if he is saved?  Calvin seems to be saying that the unsaved man has these feelings, but they are more intense in the elect and enable them to say, "Abba, Father." 

He feels, however, that the differences between the reprobate and the elect are more important than the similarities.  The primary difference is that the faith of the reprobate is temporary.  Eventually it fails and they fall away.  The true believer is sustained.[22]  A second difference is that the reprobate never enjoy a "living feeling" of firm assurance.[23]

In the final analysis Calvin has thrown away the possibility of assurance, at least until the final hour.  When he grants that the only certain difference be­tween the faith of the elect and the faith of the reprobate is that the faith of the former perseveres to the end, he makes assurance now virtually impossible.  As Shank has insisted:

Obviously, it can be known only as one finally perseveres (or fails to persevere) in faith.  There is no valid assurance of election and final salvation for any man, apart from deliberate perseverance in faith.[24]

Those who bear Calvin's name in the Reformed faith have, of course, come to a similar conclusion.  Charles Hodge, for example, says:[25]

Election, calling, justification, and salvation are indissolubly united; and, therefore, he who has clear evidence of his being called has the same evidence of his election and final salvation . . . The only evi­dence of election is effectual calling, that is, the production of holi­ness.  And the only evidence of the genuineness of this call and the certainty of our perseverance, is a patient continuance in well doing.

In other words, the only real evidence of election is perseverance, and our only assurance of the certainty of persevering is--to persevere!  So on this ground there is no assurance at all!  As John Murray put it, "The perseverance of the saints reminds us very forcefully that only those who persevere to the end are truly saints."

Theodore Beza (1519-1605)

Calvin grounded assurance in the death of Christ and included it in saving faith itself.  However, Calvin's successor at Geneva, Theodore Beza (1519-1605), departed from Calvin and grounded assurance in evidences of fruit in the life.  Beza's starting point was his doctrine of limited atonement.  Calvin, according to Kendall, held to unlimited atonement.[26]  If Christ died for all, Beza argued, then all would be saved.

This doctrine led to the division between assurance and faith that dif­fered from Calvin.  For Calvin, Christ was the "mirror" in whom we contemplated our election.  By this he meant we look to Christ for assurance and not ourselves.  But for Beza we have no certainty that we are elected because we do not know for sure that we are one of those for whom Christ died.  If Christ died for all, then we could know that we are elect, but if He died only for the elect, it is presump­tuous for us to trust in Christ's death, if not dangerous:

We could be putting our trust in One who did not die for us and therefore be damned.  Thus we can no more trust Christ's death by a direct act of faith than we can infallibly project that we are among the number chosen from eternity: for the number of the elect and the number for whom Christ died are one and the same.  The ground of assurance, then, must be sought elsewhere than in Christ.[27]

Beza, knowing this, suggests that we should look within ourselves for the evidence that Christ died for us.  We cannot comprehend God's eternal decrees, but we can see if He is at work in our lives.  "Beza directs us not to Christ but to ourselves; we do not begin with Him but with the effects, which points us back, as it were, to the decree of election.  Thus, while Calvin thinks looking to ourselves leads to anxiety, or sure damnation, Beza thinks otherwise.  Sanctification, or good works, is the infallible proof of saving faith."[28]

Beza put it this way,

“When Satan puts us in doubt of our election, we may not search first the resolution in the eternal counsel of God, ….. but on the contrary we must begin at the sanctification which we feel in ourselves … for asmuch as our sanctification, from whence proceeds good works, is a certain effect of …Jesus Christ dwelling in  us by faith.”

Cited by Beeke, p. 82 original in Dutch

Beza and Calvin may have been much more similar than Kendall maintains.  Beeke observes that the difference emerged in how to counsel the believer who was uncertain he was elect and who does not feel any internal witness of the Spirit. Calvin called him to look to Christ, the mirror of his election and trust the Spirit of adoption, working through that looking to bring assurance to the senses.  Beze told him to look to the practical syllogism. Beeke p. 83.  Also, Calvin kept works as secondary while Beza seems to equalize all three means, promise, spirit, and works, Beeke p. 84.

Beza's doctrine requires the use of the practical syllogism in order for one to be persuaded he is one of those for whom Christ died.  Conversion includes two works of grace: faith and then sanctification.  The first, however, is invalid if not ratified by the second.

He also taught the doctrine of Beza; temporary faith which is contradictory to a theology which grounds assurance in works.  He says that the unregenerate may receive an ineffectual calling.  The reprobate may have the appearance of virtue, called moral virtue, but such are different from the works of the children of God governed by the Spirit of regeneration.  According to Kendall, Beza does not state what these differences are.  We might justly fear that our good works are simply the moral virtues of the unregenerate.  Thus, contradictory to his state­ment that sanctification yields assurance, our sanctification can yield little com­fort.  Even the reprobate can have the evidences of life.  So what is the solution?  Ultimately, Beza says the only true evidence that Christ died for you is if you per­severe in holiness.  He turns to 2 Pet. 1:10 and argues that assurance of election is based on a good conscience.  We make our election sure by good works.  These works, he says, are a testimony to our conscience that Christ lives in us, and thus we cannot perish, being elected to salvation.


Perhaps you’re wondering—especially if you’re a new believer—whether it’s only in looking back on a life of faithfulness that you can have an absolute sense of assurance and security. What about now in the thick of life? Rest easy: Our Heavenly Father wants His children to be assured of their eternal security throughout their pilgrimage on earth.

What you need to do is trust in His promise to sovereignly preserve you. Just as you exercised faith in God’s saving work when you first came to Christ, you now need to exercise faith in His preserving work.

But how can we trust Him to preserve us unless we already know we are Christians.

John MacArthur, Saved Without A Doubt, (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books) 1992.v “Persevering through it all

Explanation of the Reformed View

Westminister Confession of Faith

Section 1

Although hypocrites, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God and estate of salvation;(1) which hope of theirs shall perish;(2) yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace,(3) and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; which hope shall never make them ashamed.(4)

Section 2

This certainly is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope;(5) but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,(6) the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,(7) the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God:(8) which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.(9)

(1) Job 8:13,14; Mic. 3:11; Deut. 29:19; John 8:41. (2) Matt. 7:22,23. (3) 1 John 2:3; 3:14,18,19,21,24; 5:13. (4) Rom. 5:2,5. (5) Heb. 6:11,19. (6) Heb. 6:17,18. (7) 2 Pet. 1:4,5,10,11; 1 John 2:3; 3:14; 2 Cor. 1:12. (8) Rom. 8:15, 16. (9) Eph. 1:13,14; 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:21,22.

This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it:a yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.b And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure,c that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience,d the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.e

a.         1 John 5:13; Isa. 1:10; Mark 9:24; Ps. 88; 77:1–12.

b.         1 Cor. 2:12; 1 John 4:13; Heb. 6:11–12; Eph. 3:17–19.

c.         2 Pet. 1:10.

d.         Rom. 5:1–2, 5; 14:17; 15:13; Eph. 1:3–4; Ps. 4:6–7; Ps. 119:32.

e.         1 John 2:1–2; Rom. 6:1–2; Tit. 2:11–12, 14; 2 Cor. 7:1; Rom. 8:1, 12; 1 John 3:2–3; Ps. 130:4; 1 John 1:6–7.

Church of Rome said no man could have assurance except by an extraordinary Revelation. This is directed against this.  The made a lot of money off this uncertainty by the absoloutions of the priests and the merits of the saints and martyrs.  This issue was at the core of what started  the Reformation


“a coin in the coffer rings and a soul from purgatory springs”

Luther went ballistic and nailed his 95 thesis to the door

Shaw, p 209  - “Arminians, in consistency with their denial of the certainty of the saints final perseverance, hold that it is not possible for any man to attain a greater certainty than this, that , if he shall persevere in the fiath to the end, he shall be saved.”

In actuallity is is all the Reformed are saying as well. Since know one can know if he will persevere unless he does, and since perseverance is the proof of the reality of the faith, then the Reformed end up saying the same thing.  The man who does no persevere is going to go to hell whether Westminister or Arminius says it. The only difference is the theoretical explanation behind the fact.

Shaw, p. 209 says the assurance, according to the Confession, comes without any special or immediate revelation, in the due use of ordinary means – this will result in a full and certain assurance and not just a probable one. 

Saying it is so does not make it so.  No one, according to Calvin, could have full assurance if he was directed to his works as proof.

Two views

1.                  Assurance is not founded on any of these by themselves, but as they are combined.  Shaw, p. 211

2.                  Beeke, primary = promises of salvation and secondary is works and witness

Beeke, p. 152 with no proof divides the WCF Chapter 18 into primary and secondary.  My read is that Shaw is correct when he says in the WCF and in Puritanism in general, all three have equal value.  In experience, not matter what Beeke wants to believe, that averaage Puritan looks to works and was taught to look there because they argued from election and not from Christ.

Founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,

17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. Hebrews 6:17-18

Shaw, p. 211- The promises of salvation furnish us with the distinguishing characteristics of true Christians and infallibly assure us that all in whom these characteristics are found shall be saved.

Now the promises of salvation do nothing of the kind, they say nothing about the distinguishing characteristics of true Christians, - He merges the first and second points of the confession because in his mind the second is as important as the first or even more important.  It may be to Shaw because believing in limited atonement would leave one with nothing to look to but works. You could not look to the promises because they may not apply to you.

He understands the promises of salvation to go only to those who have believed in Christ and who have given evidence of that belief in works.

He can’t even leave works out of the first condition.  He has to get it in here as well although the context of the Confession clearly limits this first condition only to faith in the Gospel promises and say nothing about the kind to people who whom this promise is made.

The inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made

4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,

10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:4,5,10,11

3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.(1 John 2:3)

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.(1 John 3:14)

12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you. 2 Corinthians 1:12

Shaw, p. 211- The inward evidence of grace assures us that we possess these characteristics.  This is done by means of the practical syllogism

Major Premise:  Whosoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ is in a state of Grace and shall be saved.

Minor Premise:  I believe in him

Conclusion: I am saved.

Shaw, p. 211 – “All the difficulty respects the second, viz.c Whether we truly believe in Christ.  For it cannot be denied, that a man may think himself to be something when he is nothing, and so deceive himself.”

Beeke, p. 160 says two syllogisms were used here

The Practical Syllogism

Major Premise:  According to Scripture, only those who possess saving faith will receive the Spirit’s testimony that their lives manifest fruits of sanctification and good works.

Minor Premise: I cannot deny that by the Grace of God I have received the Spirit’s testimony that I may manifest fruits of sanctification and good works

Conclusion:  I may be assured that I am a partaker of saving faith

Now, the major premise is contradicted by the parallel claim of Temporary faith in which God supposedly works the same graces in the non-elect that he does in the elect.  The minor premise is confusing experientially and leads the believer into a hopeless analysis of his inner life.

The Mystical Syllogism

Major Premise:  According to Scripture, only those who possess saving faith will experience the Spirit’s testimony confirming inward grace and godliness, such that self will decrease and Christ will increase

Minor Premise:  I cannot deny that by the grace of God I may experience the Spirit’s testimony confirming inward grace and godliness such that self decreases and Christ increases.

Conclusion:  Consequently, I may be assured that I am a partaker of saving faith.

The problem with both of these is that the quest for signs are often hard to know and be convinced of. Are they there in sufficient magnitude and multiplicity to calm the claims of conscience?  Beeke answers this way

He quotes a Puritan writer who says, “So that if a man cannot find all, yet if he discover some, yea, but one, he may assuredly gather all the rest are there”  Beeke, p. 163

So, a grape or a glimmer will do!  One sign is enough!  But the non-elect, according to their views of Heb 6 also have these grapes and glimmers.  How do I know that my experience is genuine, and theirs is false?

The testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God

15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Romans 8:15-16

All of the difficulty, says Shaw, is in the minor premise “How do I know if I have truly believed?”

p. 212  “It is not sufficient that a man is conscious of certain acts, as of faith, repentance, love to God and all his saints. In order to reach the heights of holy assurance, he must be satisfied as to the specific nature of these acts, that they are unfeigned and not hypocritical. But how can he attain to this, without the assistance of the Holy Spirit is inconceivable.”

He never directs me outward to Christ, he tells them only to look at their works and then ask the Spirit of God for a subjective revelation as to whether or not the works are truly sincere, etc.  This can only lead to the sure damnation which Calvin spoke of. 

Shaw believes this because he says, it is possible to belive in Christ and not be conscious that you has truly believed.. P. 212.  This seems to contradict common consciousness. He wants to separate faith and assurance.

He says that even though the early church seemed to evidence  faith and assurance in the same act, no inference can be drawn from this to us today because “Much larger measures of grace seem then to have been given, and give to all, than are given in general, and since that time.”

He confuses initial faith and subsequent doubt and struggle.

Two questions

Does the Spirit witness “with” or “to” our spirit – dative, singular

tw'/ pneuvmati hJmw'n

The divines who wrote the WCF were divided upon the meaning of this. Three views, Beeke, p. 170ff

1.                  Both 8:15 and 8:16 refer to the practical syllogism, ie. The Spirit witnesses by means of the practical syllogism that we are elect

2.                  The syllogism under the guidance of the Spirit gives us the freedom to approach God as a father and the direct impression of the Spirit in 8:16 tells us we are his child

3.                  There is no reference to the syllogism at all, only a direct suggestion to the human Spirit saying “You are a child of God.”

1.      Dative of association = “the Spirit testifies along side of our spirit”

Thus there are two testimonies. One from our spirit and one from the HS.

This is rejected by Wallace and Cranfield because they ask, “What does the human spirit have to say in the matter”  Wallace, p. 160

2.      Dative of direct object = “the Spirit testifies to our Spirit”

But the more important issue is

What does the Holy Spirit say?

1.                  “look at your works, see, you are saved!”  - Edwards, - elsewhere the Spirit is said to testify to works – i.e. use the practical syllogism

Chalmers “It is he who worketh a work of grace in our soul, and that work may become manifest to our own consciences.  We may read the lineaments of our own renovated character, ….”  Shaw, p. 215

But this is adding something to the text about works.  All we have here is a communication about a witness to our Spirit – implies an inner subjective impression and confirmation.  No inference here at all of pointing the person to external works.

Edwards and Shaw p. 214 – point to places where witness means to hold forth evidence that a thing is true. Heb. 2:4- it points to evidence or proofs.  Granted this is a use but in Romans it is not used that way.

Rom 2:15

15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them

Romans 9:1

I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,

2.                  “I am confirming to your heart that you are born again”

Thus the spirit witnesses by immediate inward suggestion.

The Spirit is witnessing that we are his Children pointing back to Abba Father in the preceding verse. 

Vs. 15 preceeds vs. 13-14 and gives the basis.  The reason we put to death the deeds of the body, are led by the Spirit, is because God is our Father and operating in the firm assurance of that fact we can go to war.  How do we know that God is our father, because v. 16 the Spirit tells us directly by direct suggestion.

Objective and Subjective Assurance

Objective assurance belongs to the essence of faith, subjective assurance does not – it comes later through the reflex act of faith.  Shaw, p. 217

  Objective Subjective
Object  Faithfulness of God and the Gospel promise Existence of God’s work in the soul
Source  What is contained in the Word His work within us as well as his Word. outside
Subject  That Christ is presently giving salvation to men That Christ and salvation are already ours in real possession and enjoyment
Relation to Saving Faith Inseparable separable

Crenshaw, p. 112

Objective assurance = “a persuasion that the promises of the Gospel are true”

Subjective assurance = “refers to one knowing that he3 personally is a Christian.”

He says that the Reformed have always taught that objective assurance was part of the essence of saving faith.  “… one may be persuaded that he is a sinner and that Jesus is a great Savior (objective) and yet not be persuaded that he has been born again (subjective).”

Shaw says, “Whoever rest upon a person fir doing a certain thing in his favour, must have a persuasion, or assurance, that he will do that thing for him.  In deed, assurance is so essential to faith, that without it, there can be no faith, human or divine.. To believe a report, is to be persuaded or assured of the truth of the report; to believe a promise is to be persuaded or assured that the promiser will do as he has said..  In like manner, to believe in Christ, for salvation, is to be persuaded or assured that we shall be saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  P. 218

In the above, he calls this Objective assurance.  Subjective assurance is assurance “that Christ and his salvation are already ours”  - but if we have “a persuasion, or assurance, that he will do that thing for him” how can the believer not have assurance that he has done it at the point of salving faith?  Shaw’s who presentation is theological hair splitting and very confusing.

Biblical, and Theological Basis

Passages which say salvation, inheritance, and eternal life can be earned

Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

James 1:12

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Now I want you to keep in mind an important distinction. Endurance does not earn eternal life, but it is the proof of true faith and love, and that is rewarded by eternal life.

In the world of ancient Greece, the word translated “crown” (stephanos) often referred to the wreath put around the head of a victor in an athletic event, such as the original Olympic games. In the spiritual arena, the Lord will reward with eternal life those who demonstrate with the perseverance of a victorious athlete that they were truly saved. [29]

John MacArthur, Saved Without A Doubt, (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books) 1992.

Thus it is not a reward which is something merited in the games but something all Christians get anyway.

Since salvation is by grace, these must be descriptions of saved people and not conditions for salvation. Therefore all saved people manifest a life of holiness

Passages which seem to demand self examination

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; (2 Peter 1:10)

In this category, the Experimental Predestinarians also put the warnings.

Either viewed as they are all addressed to professors and not necessarily possessors of justification

1.      challenge and motivation to the believer to evaulate whether or not his faith is genuine

As Martin Lloyd-Jones put it,

"The primary purpose of the warning passages is to test our profession of faith in order that we may know whether it is true or spurious.  They are given to warn us against the terrible dan­ger of having a false profession."[30]

It makes God to be a liar.  If God has decreed that His elect will finally persevere in holiness and if warnings are a means He uses to secure that perse­verance, then God is threatening His elect with a destiny He knows will never be­fall them.  He is telling them they might lose their salvation in order to motivate them by fear (read " healthy tension" or "wholesome fear") to persevere.  How can a God of truth use lies to accomplish His purpose of holiness in His elect?

Consider how Calvin interprets Paul's famous warning to the Romans:

Behold the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off ( NASB).

In his commentary on Romans 11 he says:

We understand now in what sense Paul threatens those with excision whom he has already asserted to have been grafted into the hope of life through God's election.  For, first, though this cannot happen to the elect, they have yet need of such warnings, in order to subdue the pride of the flesh; which being strongly opposed to their salvation, needs to be terrified with the dread of perdition.  As far then, as Chris­tians are illuminated by faith, they hear, for their assurance, that the calling of God is without repentance; but as far as they carry about them the flesh which wantonly resists the grace of God, they are taught humility by this warning, "Take heed lest thou too be cut off."[31]

Calvin's "interpretation" here is not only empty, but borders on blasphemy!  He is saying that, even though God knows the sinning Christian is elect and therefore saved, God terrifies him with "the dread of perdition" to teach him hu­mility!  Lest this be considered simply an aberration of the sixteenth century, lis­ten to Andrew Fuller as quoted approvingly by Arthur Pink:

It is necessary for those whom the Lord may know to be heirs of sal­vation, in certain circumstances, to be threatened with damnation, as a means of preserving them from it.[32]

So God, on the one hand, knows this Christian will never go to hell, but, on the other hand, He tells him he might go to hell if he does not respond to the warning!  Thus, God is lying to this Christian, telling him something God Himself knows to be false!  Experimental Predestinarians sometimes reply, "Well, God threatens the world with damnation, knowing that the elect will never experience it.  Is this a lie?"  The answer is that God has never promised eternal life to a man who has not accepted Christ.  And the elect, prior to their acceptance of Christ, are subject to damnation.  But once a man has become a child of God, born into His family, and promised that he can never lose his salvation, an entirely different ethical situation is present.  Prior to becoming a Christian, the elect are damned, but after becoming Christians, they are not!  It is therefore one thing to warn a non-Christian (even if he is elect) that, if he does not believe, he will perish.  That is a true statement.  But it is another thing for God to tell that same man, now that he is saved, that, if he does not obey, he will be damned, when God knows this man is now justified and will never be damned for his disobedience.  It is true that the elect, if they do not believe (even though they surely will), will be damned.  It is not true that the regenerate, if they do not obey, will be damned.

But not only do Calvin and Pink have God telling lies (in order to main­tain their doctrine of perseverance), they have the poor Christian in contradictory states of mind.  As far as we are "illuminated by faith," we know that the calling of God is without repentance.  But in our struggle with the flesh we are to fear going to hell.  So, on the one hand, we are to have a consciousness that we are eternally secure, and, on the other hand, because of our flesh we are to have a conscious­ness that we might go to hell.  How can a person hold these two contradictory states in his mind at the same time?  A consciousness of either logically and sub­jectively excludes the other.  In psychology there is a term for the ability to main­tain two different states of mind at the same time.  This used to be called schizophrenia.  Now it is called the Reformed doctrine of perseverance!

“The Tests of Life” in 1 John

Purpose is tests of fellowship -  1 John 1:3

Passages which say that Justification and Sanctification are organically linked

e.g. James 2

if they in fact organically linked then a person who does not evidence sanctification obviously does not have the salavation to which sanctification is organically linked, and he is therefore not a Christian

Historical context

Agustine spoke of the assurance of faith derived from the “direct evidences of his own senses.”  (On Catechising of the Uninstructed,” Schaff, 3:239. Cited by Beeke12.  He felt that it was impossible to derive certainty by this means and therefore concluded that the best way to have assurance was an active participation in the church and her sacrements. This is the best sign that you are in a state of grace. Beeke, p. 13

Thomas Acquinus (1225-1274) assumed that God’s predestinating grace lies beyond the spehre of human projection. He felt we could only arrive at a conjectural certainty based upon works. Beeke, p. 14

This whole tradition was given credal form at the Council of Trent. The Tridentine formulation (Chapter 12) reads

No one, moreover, so long as he is in this mortal life, ought so far to presume as regards the secret mystery of divine predestination, as to determine for certain that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; as if it were true, that he that is justified, either cannot sin any more, or if he do sin, that he ought to promise himself an assured repentance; for except  by special revelation, it can not be know whom God hath chose unto everlasting life. 

Beeke, p. 15

1.      assurance is possible in only rare cases and through special revelations

2.      for the average believer, the maximum level of certaintly is only probability

3.      even if assurance was possible, it would not be desirable because doubt is necessary to maintain humility and restraint on evil passions

This, by the way, is a statement made by many reformed today.

4.      result is that people are dependendant upon the church

This is what the reformers bolted on. The issue was the authority of the church vs. scripture. Do you derive your assurance from the church or from your bible.

Catholics held thousands in bondage with their assertion that assurance could only be found in the Roman Church.  The reformers stongly asserted that you needed only faith and with faith came assurance and that the sacremetns of the church were irrelevant.

Objections to the Reformed View

The Bible Never Commands Self Examination for Salvation

Only for fellowship

No logical assurance until the final hour

The Experimental Predestinarian cannot really ever offer security and is, in fact, teaching a flat contradiction in this regard, as can be seen by the follow­ing:

Proposition A:           It is possible for a man to have assurance before the end of life that he will go to heaven when he dies.

Yet the following syllogism leads to proposition B:

Major premise:          I am saved now if I persevere in faith to the end of life.

Minor premise:          It is possible that I will not persevere to the end of life

Conclusion:    I may not be saved now

This inevitably leads to:

Proposition B:            It is not possible for man to have assurance before the end of life that he will go to heaven when he dies.

Since A cannot equal non-A, since both proposition A and proposition B cannot be true at the same time, the Calvinist system flatly contradicts itself.  Some Calvinists might reply, "This is not a contradiction, only a healthy ten­sion."[33]  The word "healthy" is used to imply that there is value in wondering whether or not one is saved.  His doubts and resultant fears may motivate him to live a godly life.  The word "tension" is simply a circumlocution for a blatant con­tradiction.

Yet Paul had assurance and scripture says we can to. Indeed, the WCF inconsistently says we can have it now, Shaw p. 210-211.  But how can you know if you will persevere unless you have persevered?

Grounds assurance is the vicissitudes of emotion

Yes, they acknowledge that  there are three grounds, promise, works, and spirit but in practice, they tend to give works more prominence than Scripture does.

Calvin objects,

Should they begin to estimate it [assurance of their salvation] by their good works, nothing will be weaker or more uncertain; works, when estimated by themselves, no less proving the divine displeasure by their imperfection, than His good-will by their incipient purity.[34]



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Can never be certain because no amount of work will satisfy the sensitive soul.

This is viewed as a healthy tension by some in the Reformed camp.

Maurice Roberts, for example, exhorts his readers to hold two contradic­tory notions in their minds at the same time: "We may cling tenaciously to the doctrine of Final Perseverance and yet at the same time we may legitimately view our own personal profession of faith with something akin to uncertainty."[35]  So we are to believe in the Reformed doctrine of perseverance in a general sense but doubt that we in particular are necessarily saved!  Roberts finds justification for this travesty of grace in the apostle Paul's statement that he worries that he him­self should be a castaway. However, the word translated "castaway" (Gk. adokimos) does not mean final rejection to hell but to be disqualified for the prize, to forfeit reward.[36]  But then Roberts makes it worse.  "More positively we may say that this fear of being adokimos or castaway is one of the great hallmarks of those who are elect and who finally do persevere.  All who lack it are possessed of a sickly presumption which needs correcting from the pulpit or which--may God forbid--they will have to unlearn by the sad experi­ence of falling."[37] 

Berkof objects,

“And even some Reformed Christians chime in with them and sing the praises of doubt.  … They often regard a state of constant doubt, not only as wholesome, but also as a mark of true piety.  …  It would be well for them to reflect for a moment on the fact that in their praise of doubt they join hands with Roman Catholics and Arminians, i.e., with those who are not inclined to seek their salvation entirely without themselves in Jesus Christ, but depend at least in part on their good works. This might open their eyes to the probably that, not those who glory in their assurance, but they themselves are guilty of self-righteousness.”[38]

Martin Lloyd-Jones rests assurance totally on evi­dences of fruit in the life.  He even goes so far as to say that our certainty of salva­tion is increased according to the number of tests we pass.[39]

His tests are:

1.   My outlook on life will be spiritual (1 Cor. 2:12).

2.   I will love the brethren.

3.   I will seek God's Glory: "A man who is led by the Spirit of God, is, by definition, a man who desires to live to God's glory."

4.   A man led by the Spirit always has a desire within him for greater knowledge of God, and a greater knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

5.   Anyone led by the Spirit is always concerned about his lack of love for God and for the Lord.

6.   Anyone led by the Spirit has an increasing awareness of sin within.

7.   A man led of the Spirit is increasingly sensitive to every approach of sin and evil and to temptation.

8.   Are we putting to death the deeds of the body?

9.   He is aware in himself of desires for righteousness and holiness.  Do you long to be holy?[40]

10. Are we manifesting the fruit of the Spirit? (Gal 5).  [But that only happens to those whose walk which is not automatic.  He actually considers this as nine additional tests!  How much joy do you have?  How much peace do you have, etc., he asks?]

Lloyd-Jones asks, "Are we testing ourselves as we should?"  Then he be­gins to qualify.  "I am not asking whether you are perfect with respect to anyone of the questions.  I am simply asking - and I do so to encourage you - Do you find in yourself any evidence of these things?  If you do, you are Christian.  If there is but little, a mere trace, you are a very small infant and you have perhaps only just been formed.  That is a beginning. . . . If there are but glimmerings of life in you, it is sufficient."[41]  So apparently, only a "little" evidence, even a "trace," is all that is necessary.  Of course, traces are found in the reprobate with their temporary faith and in disobedient Christians as well.  Therefore, Lloyd-Jones's assurance gives no basis for distinguishing one's faith from that of the non-elect.  In other words, his excruciating introspection will yield no assurance at all.

This is the problem: how much evidence do you need?  How much is "any evidence"?  How much is a "glimmering"?  A man might be very carnal for life and have glimmerings and some evidence.  If that is all he means, then how is his regeneration to be validated?[42]

?  Dabney feels that, if there is "little" evidence, this would not be sufficient.[43]

John MacArthur says

In John 15, Jesus likened His followers to branches that bear fruit but need pruning now and then. There is no such thing as a fruitless Christian. Everyone bears some fruit. You may have to look hard to find even a small grape, but if you look close enough, you will find something.

John MacArthur, Saved Without A Doubt, (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books) 1992.

So here he says a “grape” or two will do it.

Latter he adds eleven tests

Have You Enjoyed Fellowship with Christ and the Father? (1 John 1:2-3)

Are You Sensitive to Sin? (1 John 1:6)

Do You Obey God’s Word? (1 John 2:3)

Do You Reject This Evil World? ( 1 John 2:15)

Do You Eagerly Await Christ’s Return? (1 John 3:2-3)

Do You See a Decreasing Pattern of Sin in Your Life? (1 John 3:4-10)

Do You Love Other Christians? (1 John 3:10)

Do You Experience Answered Prayer? (1 John 3:22)

Do You Experience the Ministry of the Holy Spirit? (1 John 4:13)

Can You Discern between Spiritual Truth and Error? (1 John 4:1-3)

Have You Suffered Rejection Because of Your Faith? (1 John 3:13)

These are tests of fellowship.  However, as the believer reflects upon them, and sees this in his life, he certainly knows he is in fellowship with the father and this bings a secondary subjective assurance to the heart.

The Fallacy of the Beard

Crenshaw,  p 114

“if you cannot tell me how many whiskers it takes to make a beard, then there can be no beards.  We can intuitively see that this is bad logic. We cannot state how many whiskers it takes to make a beard and yet it is obviously that some men have them and other do not. … Likewise, it is obvious that some people are Christians and some are not while with others it is difficult to tell.”


Calvin said, neither a glimmer, more than a little, or a grape are relevant to the quest for faith. Rather than a grape of works, he says a “drop” of faith will do the job.[44]

Grace View of Assurance

Explanation of the Grace View

Primary Basis:  Promise

Christ is the mirror in which we may safely contemplate our election

Spurgeon is quoted as saying that he was so sure of his salvation that he could grab on to a cornstalk and swing  out over the files of hell, look into the face of the devil, and sin, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!”

An old Scottish lady was visited by a very young minister who was short on experience.  He was skeptical of any Christian having full assurance of their ultimate arrival in heaven. He asked ,”But just suppose that after all God would let you sink into hell?”   She with firm faith to the minister, “He would lose more than I.  All I would lose would be my own soul, but He would lose His good name.”

John 5:24

24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

1 John 5:11-13

11 And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.


13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.

Romans 8:31-39

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies;34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 Just as it is written,

“For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long;

We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Secondary Confirmation

 Evidences of Grace in the Life

Testimony of the Holy Spirit

Now there are many in the Reformed camp who would express it exactly this way, e.g. Joel Beeke’s understanding of Westminister  p138

The difference is that I would say (1)Perseverance in Holiness is not inevitable and that (2) the absence of works is not necessarily proof that the person is not born again

Reformed say the absence of works is proof you are not a Christian, this is a point in which we would differ.

Objections to the Grace View

Grace View Leads to Antinomianism

Antinomiansim does not equal moral license, historically, but against the law.

To the contrary, it is the reformed view that leads to moral license.


told they cannot lose salvation

told proof of salvation is graces in life.

The man reasons, I say grace at dinner, go to church and even attend a bible study once and a while. Therefore I am saved.  We are not talking here about the man who claims to be a Christian and who is in complete rebellion but the more common problem of the church attendee who is lethargic and nominal.

told the warnings such as Heb 6 only apply to those who profess faith and not to those who posses it. Therefore, for him there is no danger.  He is not in rebellion, there is no doubt that he is a believer because he has these evidences

told that heaven is like the superbowl  - you may not be on the 50 yard line with Jesus and Paul, but at least you are in the bleachers.

Hall, David D.  The Antinomian Controversy, 1636-1638: A Documentary History. 2nd ed. Durham and London, 1990: Duke University Press, 453 pp.

The controversy took place in the 17 months between October 1636 and March 1638 in Massachusetts.  She was an ardent admirer of the famous Puritan preacher, John Cotton.  Cotton fled to New England to avoid imprisonment for this non-conformist views and Ann Hutchinson followed in May of 1934.

She claimed to have the gift of prophecy and although she was very adept at answering her critics scripturally, she finally appealed to the authority of prophetic inspiration against the minister who criticized her.  This was her undoing.  Hall argues we must not confuse the hysteria about heresy with what really happened. 

Her critics charged that she was recklessly disrupting the civil order.  This was largely because she called the maintainers of this order, the puritan ministers, advocates of a covenant of works and did not respect their authority.  Heresy hunters were quick to accuse their enemies of holding all kinds of bad ideas.  However she was not a libertine and did not advocate sexual license as she has been accused.  Curtis Crenshaw associates me with killing babies, etc etc  - nothing has changed.

Hall says, “I argued in 1968 and would argue again, that assurance of salvation was the central issue in the controversy.” P. xiv.  Most of the ministers did not think assurance came at once but that it was developed over a period of time.  They had concluded this on the basis of Christian experience in which they could see the variability of many of their parishioners.  When the parisionhers were perplexed with doubt, they counseled that the practical syllogism be used

Major premise:  he that repenteth and believeth the Gospel shall be saved

Minor premise: But I repent and believe the Gospel

Conclusion: Therefore I shall be saved   p. xv

John Cotton also felt that assurance should come in fullness and not arrive in bits and pieces.  He correctly argued, “should people reason that first assurance stems from moral behavior, it will unavoidably follow that our works are the grounds and causes of our first assurance.” P. xvi

The Synod of 1637 pulled together 82 errors.  However Stepehn Foster has argued that they are a classic example of excess deriving more from tradition of heresy-hunting and from real life antinomians in New Engliand.

Ann began to hold meetings in her home in which the Sunday sermons was discussed. –became very popular. – 60 per week crowded into  the Hutchinson home to hear Ann comment on the sermons not only of Cotton but of other ministers.  Cotton was her pastor in England and the family follwed him to the Colonies.  Anne complained that the other ministers were legalists who said there was a necessary connection between a man’s own works and his salvation.  P. 6

They said that outward evidence of sanctification meant that the person was justified. And disagreed with Anne’s interpretation of their preaching. 

On January 19, 1936 the ministers met with Cotton to find out if he was the source of Anne’s teaching.  Here Cotton warned that sanctification could not be taken as an evidence of sanctification or this was a “Covenant of Works.” P. 7

The governor of the Colony, Henry Vane, sided with Ann and blamed the ministers. A fast was declared but it only deepened the divisions.  Finally John Wheelwright was asked by Cotton to preach in the Boston Church.  He attacked those who say that sanctification is and evidence of justification as preaching a covenant of works and called them antichrists.  This did not help the situation.  

Much animosity was thus stirred up against the authority of the ministers.

Basically the antinomian in this controversy was a title they held in honor. Unlike the ministers, the antinomians were “against legalism” and that is all the term meant.  Neither their opponents  nor the antinomians themselves in any way advocated an optional holiness or libertinism.  The issue was whether sanctification was a valid way to judge justification.  The problem was not doctrines which promoted liscense, but the challenge to the authority of the ministers, particularly by a woman.p xviiff

Grace View is Inconsistent

Initial evidence needed

Partaker = initial evidence

Experimental Predestinarian = a life of good works

Crenshaw, p. 113

“How much change must one have before he can be sure he is a Christian…. Logic defies how these statements could be construed as meaning anything except that one cannot have assurance without fruit so that the problem he accuses the Reformed of having is his also.”


Assurance is not based upon fruit.  Even if some initial fruit is a necessary result of salvation, a person can be assured of salvation by looking to Christ and not to fruit.  The fact that some initial fruit is necessary does not mean we base our assurance upon it or eve that we can perceive its presence as different from what the unregenerate have.

The Fruit may not even be consciously evident to the new Christian or to others

The kind of fruit we are talking about is passive, not active.  Eps require a life of works.  We are only speaking of the general openness to God that comes with saving faith in its initial act.

Introspection included


Self Examination in Scripture

2 Cor. 13:5

2 Corinthians 13:1-6

This will be the third time I am coming to you. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.”2 I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare—3 since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.4 For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.6 But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.

two views

Are you really a Christian

Perry Brown, “What is the meaning of ‘Examine Yourselves” in 2 Corinthians 13:5?” in Bibliotheca Sacra 154(April-June 1997), pp. 175-188.

in the faith = are you Christians or not.  Of course Paul and they know they are. Since they are, then they are the best  proof possible of Paul’s authority

Christ is in you unless you fail the test = in you in the sense of regeneration.  Of course you will not fail the test, because you are truly believers.

Paul fully expects the Corinthians to answer “yes”  He assumed they were Christians and assumed that they would claim they were Christians.    The phrase “unless you fail the test” is not considered by Paul to be a real possibility.

Paul views their disqualification and unthinkable, that is not the issue. Because it is unthinkable, because they are Christians, then of course they will pass the test. Paul is using irony. It is no more likely that they will

Since you are not reprobates, you know that Jesus Christ is in you.

If the Corinthians believed they were in Christ, and they were, it was foolishness to doubt that man who got them there was does not  have authority.  They are proof of his ministry and hence his authority.

If they are in fact believers, then Christ is certainly speaking in Paul and his authority should not be challenged.

Are you walking in fellowship?

The exhortation to " examine yourselves" has found a prominent place in the theology texts of the Experimental Predestinarians:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test ().

Here the apostle tells his readers that a self-examination can result in knowledge as to whether or not one is "in the faith."  A failure of this test is proof that Christ Jesus is not "in you."  If having Christ "in you" refers to salvation, then this passage would seem to lend credence to the idea that we should examine our lives to find out if there are sufficient evidences present to establish to our con­sciences that we are in fact among the elect.  However, it does not mean this.

"Yourselves" is first in the sentence; it is emphatic.  He is referring back to v. 3.  They wanted proof that Christ was speaking "in me."  Paul now turns it around on them.  "You, yourselves, should test yourselves to see if he is really speaking in you." 

The object of this examination is not to find out if they are Christians but to find out if they are "in the faith."  Why do some assume that being "in the faith" is the same thing as being regenerate?  In other uses of this phrase it refers to living according to what we believe.  For example, in the LXX it is found in 1 Chr. 9:31:

And Mattithiah . . . was entrusted with the responsibility [Gk. en te pistei, "in the faith"] for baking the offering bread.

The verse could be translated something like, "And Mattithiah was in the faith for baking the offering bread.  To be "in the faith" in this verse is to have responsibility for something. 

In Paul says, "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong."  Being "in the faith" here seems to mean something like "live consistently with what you believe."  Paul spoke of fellow Christians who are "weak in the faith" ().  Doesn't this mean something like "weak in living according to what one believes"?  Paul wants believers to be "sound in the faith" (), and Peter urges the Christians to be strong in resisting the devil, "steadfast in the faith" ().  In each case, being "in the faith" refers to consistency in the Christian life, not possession of it.

Christ "in me" in v. 3 does not refer to salvation but to demonstration of powerful speech and deeds.  Similarly, the test they are to perform to find out if Christ is "in them" is not to discover if they are saved but whether or not Christ is manifesting Himself in their words and deeds.  Paul, of course, doubts that Christ is in them in this sense.  Salvation is not in view at all.

Christ is in them, unless they fail the test, i.e., unless they are adokimos, unapproved.  This word is used seven times in the New Testament.  It is found in the often quoted passage in where the apostle himself fears he might become adokimosIts basic meaning is "not standing the test, re­jected."[45]  According to Eric Sauer, it "is the technical term for a runner not standing the test before the master of the games and therefore being excluded at the prize-giving."[46]  The meaning of adokimos is simply "to fail the test."  It is used of Christians four times (1 Cor. 9:27; 2 Cor. 13:5-6; Heb. 6:8).  The result of their failure is determined by the context.  In 1 Cor. 9:27 the message is not loss of salvation but loss of reward in the Isthmian games.  In it is used of the unfruitful believer.  He is a worthless field because he yields thorns and thistles and is close to being cursed.

Surely Leon Morris is correct:[47]

"Castaway" is too strong for adokimos.  The word means "which has not stood the test," and in this context refers to disqualification.  Paul's fear was not that he might lose his salvation, but that he might lose his crown through failing to satisfy his Lord (cf. 3:15).

In 2 Cor. 13:5 to "fail the test" is to fail the test that Christ is mighty in them in the sense of mighty words and deeds.  This was their charge against Paul in 2 Cor. 13:3.  He now turns it around on them.

2 Peter 1:10

Partnership With God (2 Peter 1:3-11)

A.        The Promise of Partnership (1:3-

What then does it mean to be a “partner of the Divine Nature?”  As all the lexicons will attest, fusis can have a variety of meanings.  While the common sense of  “the nature of something as the result of its natural development or condition - ‘nature,”[48] is noted, it has another common meaning,  “species, being, creature” etc.,  which interests us here.  James 3:7 speaks of  every “species” (Gk. fusis) of beasts and birds has been tamed by the human “race” (Gk. fusis) and Peter uses fusis in the same way when he refers to  “creatures of instinct”(KJV translation of  adjective fusika; in 2 Peter 2:12).[49]  Louw-Nida say that a possible translation of 2 Peter 1:4 would be “to share in what God is like,” understanding the term “divine nature” as equivalent to “divine being.”[50] The equation of fusis with deity was found in Greek thought.[51]  In fact, the educated authors of classical and Hellenistic Greek  liked the term and often use the impersonal qeia fusis for God.[52]  In a tour de force Wolters has demonstrated that the correct translation should be “partners of the Deity” or simply “partners of God.”[53]  This translation is quite common in Philo.  For example he speaks of “the immutable, happy and thrice-blessed divine Being” (Gk. qeia" fusew")[54] and quoting Deut. 14:1 he substitutes “the fusis” for the Biblical words “the Lord your God.”[55]  Even though Kelly translates the phrase as “sharers of the divine nature”, nevertheless he captures the idea involved when he explains that it refers to “fellowship with God.”[56]

No doubt Peter, writing in his “Grand style” simply reverted to the Hebrew tendency to avoid using the word “God” and instead used a periphrases, a circumlocution. For parallels in 2 Peter many have noted that the Majestic Glory in 1:17 and divine power in 1:3 are simply roundabout ways of referring to God.[57]

The Process of Partnership (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Two destinies


The Potential of Partnership (1:8-11)

A Fruitful Life (1:9)

Problem is not they the are not Christians, but they are forgetful

A Firm Life (1:10)

Because of (1) our equipping (v. 3); (2) our invitation to the divine partnership (v. 4); (3) the danger of blindness (v. 9); and (4) our cleansing from former sins, therefore, says Peter, be even more diligent to maker you call and election sure.  A firm life is the second benefit Peter cites for those who will cultivate the virtues of v. 5-7.

The interpretation of this verse has been the occasion of much controversy.  Generally four views have been suggested.  (1)  The Puritans  and many Reformed theologians today[58] feel that it was a call to subjectively satisfy the claims of conscience that one is saved.   The basis of our assurance was to be found in contemplation of our works.  This is done by the practical syllogism which goes like this:

Major Premise:  All who have believed and who manifest a life of good works, are saved.

Minor Premise:  After examining my faith and my works my conscience is satisfied that I have both believed truly and have evidence of that belief in good works.

Conclusion:  I am saved.[59]

(2)  Arminians see it as an exhortation to guarantee that we do not fall finally and lose our salvation.[60]   (3)  John Calvin denied that this verse referred to conscience as a means of discerning whether or not he is saved.[61] Rather, to Calvin this verse provided not the basis of our assurance, but a secondary confirmation of our salvation.   The basis of our assurance was to be found only in contemplation of Christ.[62]  (4) Some feel Peter is speaking of a confirmation of our salvation to others, a view that Calvin would share in part.  (5) Others do not connect the verse with assurance or confirmation at all, but with the strengthening of one’s Christian life.[63]

The interpretation hinges on the meaning of  call and election  and  make .. sure.  To what does call and election refer?  The nouns or related words are combined elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g. Mat. 22:14;  20:16;  Romans 8:28-30,  foreknown and called; 1 Cor. 1:26 f; 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 17:14).  It is, of course, possible that call (Gk. klhsis) means our effectual call to salvation as it often does in Paul (cf.  Rom 11:29; 1 Cor. 1:26-28;  Ep. 1:18, etc) and Peter (1 Peter 2:9).  In 1 Peter 2:9, where call follows election, the call  is the effectual call and the election an election to eternal life.   Normally when the election precedes call, an effectual call and then election are meant (Rom. 8:28-30;  1 Peter 2:9).   However,  here the order is reversed and it is most unusual to contemplate being called to salvation when you have not yet be elected to it.  This reversal in word order argues against all views of this phrase which apply it to justification.  Both Paul and Peter, however, sometimes refer to a call to a holy life (1 Tim 1:9; Phil 3:14; 1 Peter 1:15;  2:21; 3:9).  In 1 Peter 3:9 we are called to render a blessing in order to inherit a blessing, future reward.  This fits the context of 2 Peter 1 well where we are called to manifest the virtues (v. 5-7) in order that we might be God’s partners (v.4) and obtain and “abundant” entrance into the everlasting kingdom (v. 11). 

That Peter may have this meaning in mind for call is confirmed when we consider that the word was used this way by his Master.  There are only two other places in the New Testament (Majority Text) where the same words, call and election occur together and in which a sequence is implied, call then election, Matt :22:14 and Matt. 20:16.  There we find the phrase “many are called, but few are chosen.”  The word “call” there is manifestly “invited,”  or as Strachan puts it, “bid to a feast.”[64]  The Lord has invited many to attended the Messianic wedding banquet.[65]  However only those believers (i.e., “servants, friends”) who do good works, as in 2 Peter 1:5-7, will be those chosen (Gk. eklectoi) to attend.  All Christians are invited (Gk kalew) to the wedding feast, but not all are chosen.  Those chosen are not just “those who have become true partakers of God’s salvation”[66] but, as the context demands, those Christians who are properly attired with wedding garments (22:11), i.e.,  “the righteous acts of the saints”(Rev. 19:8).  In Matt 20:16 the phrase seems to relate to rankings within the kingdom because it explains “for the first will be last and the last will be first,”  a theme on Peter’s heart in 2 Peter 1.  Remember too that Peter is thinking of His Lord’s words here.  Shortly he will describe the transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-18), and this environment of ideas naturally reminds him of the Lord’s teaching that all Christian’s are invited to attend the wedding banquet, but only those who are faithful will be chosen to do. 

Possibly the meaning of “the one who called us”  in 1:3 is related to the meaning of calling here.  If 1:3 implies that we are called to  honor him and to live virtuous lives, then the calling here may be to life a godly life and the election is the choice of those who live such a life for “abundant entrance.”   If in fact Peter is using the formal decree, the call there was to the choice seats, the place of honor.  This would suggest that the call here is the call to participate in the messianic partnership and receive full reward or as Peter puts in vs. 11  “to an abundant entrance.”  However, only those who meet the conditions are elected or chosen to participate.

It should be noted that the phrase call and election in Greek involves two words united under the same article.  Kistemacher states that “the two nouns are synonymous, for in the Greek they share one definite article.”[67]  This is, however, the most unlikely interpretation based upon the Greek grammar.  Wallace can find only one other instance in the New Testament where two singular nouns united under one article are identical.[68]  Much more likely is the possibility that the second term is a subset of the first.[69]  This is how the Lord clearly meant it in Matt. 22:14, many are “called, and few are chosen.”  Nevertheless, the construction may have merismic tendencies in that it seems to be looking at the Christian life as a totality by using words which signify the beginning and the end of the process.[70]  The phrase “calling and election” then is a merism for the Christian life.  It is a life in which we are invited (called) to join the messianic partnership and if we add to our faith the virtues of 5-7 we will be selected (chosen) to participate (v. 4)  and will be richly rewarded in the coming Kingdom (v.11).

We are, according to Peter, to make (Gk. poiew)  our Christian lives sure (Gk. bebaios).  The present middle infinitive suggests that we are to continually to do this and that it is in our “vested interest” to do so.   The word can mean  either “firm, steadfast”(2 Cor. 2:17,  or “binding” (Heb. 9:17; Rom 4:16).  The latter sense, of a legal guarantee is found in the papyri.[71]  However, the word does not bear any legal sense here.  The fact that the cognate bebaiwsis  refers to a legal guarantee does not require that  make sure means to make a legal guarantee[72] and does not, therefore, provide any substantive basis for taking bebaios to mean “confirm.”  This is manifest from the fact that no believer by means of good works can produce a legal guarantee that he is saved. It is God who makes the legal guarantees of salvation to the believer in all places where the word carries this sense (Heb. 9:17; Rom 4:16).  The verbal form means either “to confirm” (Rom 15:8; Heb. 2:3) or “to strengthen” (Col. 2:7, Heb. 13:9, NIV). 

Because they understand “call and election” to refer to eternal predestination, the Puritans needed to translate make sure as “to confirm” and translated, “confirm to your conscience that you are truly elect.”[73]  Since the calling and election have already taken place and are grounded in the eternal predestination of God, how can they be made more sure?[74]  John Brown answers, “The making sure refers not to the existence but to the evidence that he has been called and elected.”[75]Also implicit in this view was the teaching that Peter views his readers as only professing, not possessing eternal life. This inference must be rejected because Peter has already made clear that he considers his readers to be saved people.  The absence of the virtues of v. 5-7 does not call into question their salvation, but their memory.  They have forgotten their cleansing from their former sins (v. 9).  These people already have faith (v.5) and have been given “all things that pertain for life and godliness” (v. 3). Furthermore, as suggested above, “call and election” does not refer to our eternal predestination, hence our salvation,  but to the totality of our Christian lives. 

Calvin understood this to mean that we are to confirm our election, not  to ourselves by means of works, as many of his followers teach,  but to others.  He notes, “The assurance of which Peter speaks should not, in my opinion, be referred to conscience, as though the faithful acknowledged themselves before God to be elect and called.  I take it simply of the fact itself, that calling is shown to be confirmed by a holy life.”[76]    The election itself is already firm it only needs to be confirmed by a holy life to others.  For him the primary means of confirmation to our conscience came through looking at Christ whom he regarded the mirror of our election, i.e., the mirror in which we could look and see the face the elect person.[77]   Hodges, arguing from the fact that Peter elsewhere tells his readers to be a testimony to the Gentiles (1 Peter 2:11; 12; 3:15,16), suggests that Peter means we are to confirm to others our salvation by means of good works.[78]  This interpretation might find support in the usage of bebaios in 1:19 where Peter speaks of the prophetic word being “more sure.” It could be argued that “more sure” is not a good translation because Peter’s point is not to suggest that the prophetic word can become more sure but only more fully demonstrated or externally confirmed.  But against this we argue (1) bebaios should be translated “more sure” in 1:19, consistent with 1:10 (see notes on 1:19).   (2) Even if it could be rendered “more fully demonstrated” in 1:19, the immediate context of 1:10 casts bebaios in opposition to stumbling, not confirmation and hence “more sure” is preferable in 1:19 and “sure” in the sense of “steadfast” is better in 1:10.  And (3) there is nothing in the context of 2 Peter 1 that alludes to testimony to others.

In view of the our discussion above that “call and election” refers to our “Christian lives” it seems preferable to say that Peter’s meaning is “make your Christian lives strong.”  How do you do this? by adding the virtues (v. 5-7).  This has ample support in the overall theme of the letter.  In 3:17 he is concerned that they might “fall “ from their “own steadfastness.”  Indeed, some have already done so  (2:18-22).  For Peter the “steadfastness”  (Gk. sthrigmos, “steadfastness”) of 3:17 is a nominal synonym for the adjective   bebaios in 1:10.  He  does not want them to fall (Gk. ekpiptw),  a close synonym for “stumble” (Gk. ptaiw)  in 1:11.   Furthermore, as mentioned above, it seems necessary to define bebaios as “steadfast” rather than “sure” or “valid” because the action of “making steadfast” is required by its opposite in the following phrase, if you do these things, you will never stumble.  The opposite of stumbling is not “confirmation” but “steadfastness,” and it is falling into sin that concerns Peter (e.g. 2:18-22), not confirming  either to oneself or to others that one is saved.  A precise parallel may be found in Pauline thought, “rooted and built up in him, strengthened (Gk.  bebaioo) in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Col 2:7).[79]  In exhorting them to strengthen their Christian lives, Peter is fulfilling the Lord’s command to him that he “strengthen” the brothers (Luke 22:32).

How encouraging to know that we can by means of character building come to a point that we will never stumble.  Technically, this verb is a subjunctive of emphatic negation.  It is the most decisive way of saying that even the potential idea of falling is impossible.[80]  There is no point in watering down the word stumble(Gk. ptaiw).  It is unlikely that it means “to sin” in this context.  Then Peter would be saying, “if you live a virtuous life you will not sin” or “if you do not sin, you will not fall into sin.”  A profound thought!  Elsewhere it is clear that all Christians stumble in the sense of sin (e.g. James 3:2).  What Peter has in view here is ruin.  What he wants them to avoid is the disaster which has already fallen upon some of the new believers there whose lives have been ruined by the teaching of the false prophets,  and who are now wallowing in the mire (2:22).  This has no reference to loss of salvation,[81] as both Bauckham[82] and Bigg[83] suggest, but to loss of fruitfulness and effectiveness (1:8).  The word can simply mean, “suffer a reverse, misfortune.”[84]  To apply it to loss of salvation introduces a thought not found in the context and propounds the theological error of saying our salvation is obtained initially by faith but is maintained by works. This thought is far removed from the theology of the New Testament, and the explicit promise of Peter’s Master (John 6:39-40).  What is in danger is ruin in time (1:8; 2:22) and failure to become God’s partner (1:4) and hence loss of a “rich” entrance into the kingdom (1:11).

A Future Reward (1:11)

Assurance is Necessary for our Eternal Significance

The Need for Assurance

Necessary for Fellowship(1 John 5:12-13)

If we are not assured we are in his family, we cannot claim the forgiveness of sins for daily fellowship

According to Luther, one day the devil approached him and tried to persuade him of his fallibility and destroy his assurance.  He presented the Reformer with a long list of sins of which he was guilty.  When he had finished reading, Luther said to Satan, “Think a little harder, you must have forgotten some.”  The devil thought for awhile did and added other sins to the list. At the conclusion of the is exchange, Martin Luther simply said, “That’s fine. Now write across that list in red ink,  “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son, cleanses us from all sin’”

Necessary for Knowing God’s Love (1 John 4:19; 2 Cor. 5:14)

We must be able to give thanks from a greatful heart

What shall I render to the Lord

For all his benefits to me?

How shall my soul by grace restored

Give worthy thanks, O Lord, to Thee?

Berkhof, p. 82 comments

“But that question will hardly arise, if he is not certain that he has been redeemed, that his sins are pardoned and that he has been accepted as a child of God.  He will not feel constrained to give thanks to God for that of which he is not sure that of which  he is not sure that he has received it.”

Necessary for Endurance in Trials

During the first part of the construction of the Golden gate bridge in San Francisco, no safety device were used, and 23 men fell to their deaths.  For the last part of the project however, a large net which cost $100,000 was employed.  At least 10 men fell into it and were saved. But an interesting sidelight is the fact that 25% for work was accomplished when the men were assured of their safety.

See Bekhof p. 83

We are in a war and when a soldier goes to battle he needs a full arsenal of wheapons.  Eapecially, he needs the assurance that his is a member of the family for which he is fighting, God’s family.  A man whose heart is filled with doubts, who is constantly seeking assurance is like a soldier who spends all his time gathering more armour and loses sight of the oncoming enemy

As we face trails, if we are not confident we are a child of God we not only lose strenght, we not only wonder about God’s favor but even his existence. Furthermore we cannot see the difficulties as chastisements of a loving father, he may not be our father.  He cannot say with Paul, “I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are no worthy to be compared with the glory which shall berevealed to us.” It might not be revealed!  Without assurance, our hearts are so filled with doubt about what is happening to us that we lose all strengthy to persevere.

Necessary for Pursuit of Rewards

Apart from assurance, rewards becomes legalism.  A man is doing work, not for reward, but to assure himself he is in God’s family.  – to assure himself that he is accepted by God.  But the man moving forward in assurance of the Father’s unconditional love, firmly in the family, is free to pursue rewards on a platform of unconditional acceptance.

Berkhof, speaks of the this being necessary for the joy of salvation – p. 85

Shaw, p. 219 – the apostles  uniformly say it is a motive to holiness

Romans 13:11-14

11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

1 Corinthians 15:58

58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

1 John 3:2-3

2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Paul rejoiced in the fact that his death was merely a birthday into a better life.  The assured man looks back his past live and future home with a sense of joy and can say”I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.  There is …..”

The Outcome of an Assured Life

            Winding up his final appeal, the aged Paul now pens some of the most moving words ever written.  All that he has asked Timothy to do, he can illustrate from his life.  There is no theory here, only the completion of a life well lived.  He knows that the end is near.  In fact, he was beheaded by Nero shortly after this epistle was written.

This verse is a strong statement of assurance of Salvation – he knows he will be with the Lord.

Assurance is attainable by believers

The Final Release (4:6)

            4:6       Paul notes that  the time of my departure is at hand.  The Greek word translated  "departure" was used in various ways in the first century.  It was a sailor's word,  used of loosening the ropes which bound the ship to the dock so it could begin its last journey. The Apostle is about to set sail on his last voyage.  It was a sacrificial word.  When pagan worshippers left the table to offer sacrifices it was said that they "departed."   The apostle is on his way to his final sacrifice, the giving of this life for the Savior whom he dearly loved and faithfully followed.  It was a soldier's word.   When the battle was over and the victory won, the weary soldiers would "strike the tents," i.e., pack them up and depart from the field of battle. Paul's battle is over.  His ministry is being passed on to Timothy. He has lived victoriously.  He has won. He is now striking his tent for the journey home.  It was a philosopher's word,  used for the unraveling of knotty philosophical problems.  There are so many things we do not now understand.  The apostle himself acknowledge that now we see in a mirror dimly. How grand it will be to have all our questions answered.  Paul is about to find the answers when he meets the King, face to face.  Finally, it was a prisoner's word.  When the chains were removed, they were said to be "loosed."  They had departed.  Those chains which bound him to the walls of the Mammertine prison are about to be removed forever.

The Finished Course (4:7)

            4:7       As he surveys his life and reflects on what he has lived for, three things come to mind.  First he has been a fighting soldier .  I have fought a good fight.  Those who have invested their lives faithfully for the King need to remember this. It is a good thing they have done, and one day the King will acknowledge that.  Paul knows he has invested his life wisely.  The battle to live for Him and to serve Him is not only good, it is the best possible investment of a life.  Secondly, he has been a focused athlete.  I have finished my course.  The phrase refers, no doubt, to the foot race (called the dromos), a 200 yard run in the athletic games.  Paul often compared the Christian life to the life of the athlete.  Both require discipline. Both require focus on the goal. Both will be rewarded.  The goal of the foot race was a square pillar that the runner kept in view to redouble his exertion  He alludes to this in 1 Cor. 9:25, when he says he did not run aimlessly (cf. Heb 12:1; Phil 3:14, 2 Tim 2:5, 1 Tim. 4:7).  Paul has lived life with a central purpose (see Acts. 20:24).  Now at the end, he can say he has done it!  What a tremendous thing to be able to say.

Finally, he can say, I have kept the faith.  The Greek perfect tense could be rendered, “I believed at a point in time in the past I have kept on believing up to this final hour.”  Is Paul using this in an subjective or objectively? Is he saying "I have kept on believing" or "I have preserved the faith," i.e., faithfully maintained the truth.   Since his "course" and his "struggle" are  subjective experiences, perhaps it is best to see this as the subjective experience of "believing" as well.  However, Paul has challenged Timothy elsewhere to guard the treasure (1:14), and to handle accurately the word of truth and in the immediate context has warned about those who will turn away from the truth (4:3-4).  So he does use “keeping” in the sense of “faithfully maintaining” and, perhaps that idea is involved here.  At any rate, he must keep on believing if he is to guard the faith.

These are Paul's trophies.  He never mentions the churches he founded, the movement he launched, the apostolic status he was given,  or his prestige among the churches.  He summarizes his life achievements with these three things, each of which signify in different ways that the ultimate purpose of life is only found in faithfulness to the King. How different from the desires of the wise and mighty.  They strive to be remembered for the buildings they have built, the impact they have had, the titles they have achieved, the wealth they have accumulated, the battles they have fought, the books they have written, and the worldly accolades they have received. 

The Future Reward (4:8)

4:8.      Knowing that he has lived well, he is confident he will receive a crown of righteousness.  There were two Greek words for “crown.”  One “diadema” referred to a king’s crown, it was given by royal right.  The other, and the word used here, was the “stephanos,”  a crown merited in the athletic contest or won on the field of battle.  For several reasons it is unlikely that the phrase should be rendered  “the crown which is righteousness, ”  making the “crown” equal to the gift of justification.  (1) First in no other place is righteousness used as an equivalent for heaven.  Furthermore, (2) that kind of righteousness is the possession of the believer now on the basis of faith.   (3) Elsewhere in the pastorals, “righteousness” is “right conduct,” and not heaven or the forensic righteousness of Christ (2 Tim 3:16, 2:20).  Finally, (4) the crown (Greek “stephanos”) is always a merited reward in the games.  Since we are in an athletic context here (note references to the  "course", the "crown", and the “athlete”  2 Tim 2:6),  that is likely the meaning.  The crown will be a "given," (Gr. “apodosei”),  which means "to pay out wages, to reward."  It is not the word Paul would have used if he intended to imply this crown was given freely on the grounds of justification alone. A “merited reward” is not a good description of the freely imparted gift of heaven.  It is quite natural to understand the phrase “of righteousness” as a descriptive phrase, clarifying what kind of crown is meant. This is a "righteous crown” or righteous reward.  It is, a reward that is (a) fair, just, deserving, and conforming to God's standards for service which Paul has met; and (b) in contrast to the unfair, unjust, and undeserving reward the secular judges have meted out to Paul, incarceration and death for the service of Christ (cf. 2 Thess. 1:6,7; Rom. 2:26).  This crown of "righteousness" will be given by the "righteous judge" in contrast to the reward he is now being given by the unrighteous judges  who have condemned him. It is the merited, just reward which declares that Paul was right in the way he lived his life, Rome was wrong.  Everything he believed in, trusted in and ultimately gave his life for, will be shown to be correct when he receives this merited honor.

Yet the Lord, the righteous judge, in contrast to the unrighteous judges before whom he stood, will not overlook the significance of his faithful life.  Indeed He will honor all that love His appearing.  The condition for receiving the “crown of right conduct” is to “live rightly by living in view of his return.”  Some Christians live life with the end of life in view, some do not.

Shortly after writing these words, the old warrior went to his death.  He had been  imprisoned with serious criminals in the Mammertine Prison, adjacent to the Roman Forum     It was an obnoxious dungeon, 4 meters underground and 3 meters by 6 meters long, reached only by a rope or ladder let through a hole in the floor above. Here his body could only rest on rough stones.  The air was foul and sanitation was nonexistent.   It is cold, damp, and he is lonely.  All of his associates in Asia have deserted him. There are 26 exhortations in the epistle, and only one of them is repeated three times, "Come see me before winter."  It is  over. He has endured incredible hardship in the service of the gospel: he was beaten with rods, whipped, stoned, shipwrecked at sea for three days; he endured many all night travels on cold dusty roads.  Now this is what it has all come to, imprisonment and execution.  Yet he confidently asserts that "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have entrusted to him for that day."  At the end he notes, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."  The end had come and it appeared that his life work had come to nothing. Persecution was breaking out, the Christians were being imprisoned, and now their leader, unnoticed, deserted, and incarcerated in a lonely cell, was about to be beheaded.  Yes, from a human perspective it was over for Paul, Rome had won!

According to Gaius, Paul was beheaded by the sword.  Eusebius places his death in 67 and Jerome says 68.  The persecutions of Nero began in 64.  According to the The Acts of Paul,  he was sentenced to death for treason by the Roman senate.   It occurred three miles from Rome near the Ostian Way in a little pineword in a glade  called The Three Fountains, which are said to have miraculously gushed forth from the blood of the apostolic martyr.  They had marched him here the day before, and he spent the night  in a tiny cell.  If Luke was allowed to stay by his window or if Timothy and Mark had reached Rome in time, the sounds of the night vigil would not be those of weeping, but of singing.  He himself said  he was "sorrowful yet always rejoicing, and as dying and, behold, we live." 

When the dawn came the soldiers took Paul to a pillar.  The executioner stood ready, stark naked.  The soldiers stripped Paul to the waist and tied him, kneeling upright, to the low pillar which left his neck free.  He was beaten with rods as a prelude.  Then, mercifully, the executioner's sword fell.  A rich Roman lady named Lucina is said to have buried him on her land near the place of execution in a sand grave. 

Here ends the final course of the greatest of the Apostles and the greatest missionary in the history of the church.  It was the heroic career of a warrior, who lived for his King and for winning others to obedient service for Him.  He had labored more abundantly than them all and yet he sincerely believed himself to be "the least of the apostles."  A few years earlier he had  confessed, "I am the least of all the saints,"  and shortly before his death: "I am the chief of sinners.  His humility grew as he learned more of God's grace and as he ripened for heaven.

“Paul had passed through life as an insignificant player on Rome's pretentious stage.  He died unnoticed by the mighty and wise of his age.  Yet how infinitely more noble, beneficial and enduring was his life and work than the dazzling march of military conquerors like Alexander and Napoleon, who prompted by ambition, absorbed millions of treasure and a myriad of lives only to die at last in a drunken fit at Babylon, or of a broken heart on the rocks of St. Helena.    Their empires have long since crumbled to dust.”[85]    Yet,  that lonely old man had launched a movement which would change the course of history.  Rome is no more! 


[1]This historical information is from John E. Marshall, "'Rabbi Duncan and the Problem of Assurance (I)," The Banner of Truth 201 (June 1980): 16-27.

[2]John E. Marshall, "Rabbi Duncan and the Problem of Assurance (II)," The Banner of Truth 202 (July 1980): 27.

[3]Cited by Marshall, p. 27.

[4]Ibid., p. 28.

[5]This writer is indebted to R. T. Kendall for discussion of the development of this theme among the English Puritans in Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979) and in Scotland to Mr. Charles Bell, Calvin and Scottish Theology: The Doctrine of As­surance (Edinburgh: Handsel, 1985).  Their contributions to this chapter are gratefully acknowl­edged.

[6]One of the great errors of the Experimental Predestinarian is that he seems to think he has either the responsibility or the right to pronounce upon another man's eternal destiny.  Better is the attitude of the apostle Paul, "Do not go on passing judgment before the time" (.i."46*1 Cor. 4:5"; NASB).

[7]John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 3.2.7.

[8] Institutes, 2:16:24

[9] Institutes, 3.2.11

[10]Bell, Scottish Theology, p. 30.

[11] Institutes, 3.24.7

[12]Institutes, 3.2.38.


[14]Calvin, Commentary, Eph. 1:4.

[15]Calvin, Commentary, Josh. 3:10.

[16]Calvin, Commentary, 1 Jn. 3:19.

[17]John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, 1961, p. 130.

[18]Institutes, 2.2.16.

[19]Ibid., 3.2.11.


[21]Kendall, English Calvinism, p. 24.  (Emphasis is in the original.)

[22]Institutes, 3.2.17-18.

[23]Calvin, Commentary, Mt. 13:20.

[24]Robert Shank, Life in The Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance (Springfield, MO: Westcott, 1961), p. 293.

[25]Charles Hodge, St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, (1860; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950), p. 212, on Rom. 8:29-30.

[26]See Kendall, English Calvinism, pp. 13-18.  He cites Institutes, 3.1.1; Commentary on Isa­iah, 53:12; Commentary on Hebrews, 9:28.  In both places Rom. 5:15 is referred to, and Calvin says "many" = "all."  In his commentary on Mark at 14:24 Calvin says, "The word `many,' does not mean a part of the world only, but the whole human race."  In Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p. 148, he says, it is "incontestable that Christ came for the expiation of the sins of the whole world."  In his commentary on Jn. 1:29 he observes, "And when he says the sin of the world he ex­tends this kindness indiscriminately to the whole human race." "For God commends to us the salva­tion of all men without exception, even as Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world" (Sermons on Isaiah's Prophecy, p. 141).  See also the extensive comment on this point in Bell, Scottish Theol­ogy, pp. 13-19, where he negatively critiques Paul Helm's response to Kendall in Paul Helm, "Article Review: Calvin, English Calvinism and the Logic of Doctrinal Development" in Scottish Journal of Theology 34.2 (1981).

[27]Kendall, p. 32.

[28]Ibid., p. 33.

[29] John MacArthur, Saved Without A Doubt, (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books) 1992., Chapt 9, “Peservering Through It All.”

[30]D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 8:17-39, The Final Persever­ance of the Saints (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), p. 307.

[31]Calvin, Commentary, Romans.

[32]Arthur Pink, An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1953), p. 88.

[33]Berkouwer uses the word "tension" as a substitute for the more obvious word "contradiction."  See C. G. Berkouwer, Faith and Perseverance (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958), p. 110.


[35]Maurice Roberts, "Final Perseverance," The Banner of Truth Trust 265 (October 1985): 10.

[36]See verses under 1 Cor. 9:26-27 in index.

[37]Roberts, p. 11.

[38] Berkhof, The Assurance of Faith, p.81.

[39]D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, The Sons of God, Exposition of Romans 8 (Grand Rapids: Zon­dervan, 1973), pp. 185-92.

[40]He misquotes the Beatitudes here, which apply to rewards for perseverance and not tests of holiness.

[41]Lloyd-Jones, p. 193.

[42]Rosscup seems trapped in the same ambiguity which he tries to overcome by forceful as­sertion rather than logic (James E. Rosscup, "The Overcomers of the Apocalypse," GTJ 3 [Fall 1982]: 261-286).  He says the demonstration of regeneration must be "in some vital degree" (p. 268), or as he later qualifies, "at least in some degree" (p. 273).  So he has re­duced the qualifications from a "vital" degree to only "some" degree.  But this helps the sensitive soul not at all.  What degree is "vital"?  What degree is "some"?  "He follows in the direction of faith toward God in the thrust of his life" (p. 268).  These statements are not only not found in Scripture but give little help.  How much following "in the direction of faith toward God" is necessary to es­tablish that the "thrust of his life" is one of "following."  Rosscup acknowledges that believers can die in carnal rebellion but then contradicts himself and says, "The truly saved ones are the brand of peo­ple who, when they sin, confess, seek God's forgiveness and cleansing, and desire to live in the light with God" (p. 270).  Certainly the saved believer who dies in carnal rebellion like the regenerate Solomon did would not fit in this category.

[43]Robert Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), p. 708.

[44] Institutes, 3.2.19-21

[45]AS, p. 10.

[46]Eric Sauer, In The Arena (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), p. 162.

[47]Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, TNTC, p. 140.

[48] Louw-Nida, s.v. “fusis"

[49] Ibid., where they render it simply as “animals.”

[50] Ibid.  See also the references in 3 Macc. 2:9; 4 Macc. 5:8-9 where fusis  may be a circumlocution for God.

[51]Kittel, Gerhard, and Friedrich, Gerhard, Editors, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 1985, s.v. “Physis”

[52]H. Kleinknecht, “qeios” in Kittel, Gerhard, and Friedrich, Gerhard, Editors, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965):3:122-123.

[53] Wolters, Al, “’Partners of the Deity”: A Covenantal Reading of 2 Peter 1:4” in Calvin Theological Journal 25(1, 90), p. 28-44.

[54] Special Laws 3.178  in The Works of Philo, (New York: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.) 1995.

[55] For such men will lay claim to a more venerable and sacred kind of relationship; (318) and the law confirms my assertion, where it says that those who do what is pleasing to nature and virtuous are the sons of God, for it says, “Ye are the sons of the Lord your God,” Special Laws” 1.318.

[56] Kelly, p. 303.

[57] Bigg, Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude,  in The International Critical Commentary(Edinburgh: T& T. Clark, 1901), p. 235, 253.

[58] L. Berkhof, The Assurance of Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939), p. 77. “The Apostle desires that they shall make their calling and election sure for their own consciousness, and also, as far as possible, in the estimation of their fellow-Christians.”

[59] William Perkins, The Works of that Famous and Worthy Ministyr of Christ in the University of Cambridge, Mr. William Perkins, 3 vols.(Cambridge:n. p., 1608-1609), 1:115, cited by R.T. Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 72.

[60] For example, R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude(Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1966), p. 277.

[61] John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews and the First and Second Epistles of St. Peter, trans. W.B. Johnston, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, ed. David W. and Thomas F. Torrance(Reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), p. 334.

[62] E.g. John Calvin, Commentary on Ephesians, Eph. 1:4 ,  “we shall not find assurance of our election in ourselves …. Christ then, is the mirror wherein we must, and without self-deception may, contemplate our own election.”.  See John Calvin, Commentary on Second Peter,  2  Peter 1:10 and M. Charles Bell, Calvin and Scottish Theology: The Doctrine of Assurance(Edinburgh: The Handsel Press, 1985), pp. 1-39.

[63] This seems to be the view of Schlier, TWNT, 1:601, “to make firm and valid the calling and election already present,” in the development of the areth, v. 5-7.

[64] Strachan, Second Peter, 5:128

[65] In the LXX it is sometimes used for an invitation to a meal (1 Kings 1:41,49) - “Now Adonijah and all the guests (oiJ klhtoi) who were with him heard it as they finished eating.”

[66] Strachan, Second Peter, 5:128

[67] Kistemacher, p. 256.

[68] Wallace, p. 288.

[69] E.g. as in Matt. 24:36, perit de ths hmeras ekeinhs kai wras oudeis oiden, “the day and the hour”; Luke 6:17,  pashs ths Ioudaias kai Ierousalhm.

[70] For explanation of merism see A. H. Honeyman, “Merisms in Biblical Literature,” Journal of Biblical Literature 71(1952):11.

[71] Diessman, Bible Studies, p. 104f.  He discusses not bebaios but bebaiwsis and cites many parallels where the latter means “legal confirmation” or guarantee.  Moulton and Milligan  conclude that bebaiwsis must always be read with this technical legal sense in mind, p. 108.

[72] Contra Strachan, 5:128.

[73] John Brown, Parting Counsels: An Exposition of 2 Peter 1(Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1980. Org. Pub. 1856), p. 53. “Seek diligently to make it evident, both to yourselves and others, that you are indeed called and elected.”

[74] Brown, p. 53; John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews and The First and Second Epistles of St. Peter in Calvin’s Commentaries. Trans. William B. Johnson. Eds. Torrance and Torrance(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), p. 334.

[75] Brown, p. 53.

[76] John Calvin,  p. 334.

[77] E.g. Calvin, Commentary, Ep. 1:4,  Institutes, 3.24.5

[78] Zane Hodges, Absolutely Free(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989), p. 175.

[79] As in 1 Peter 1:10, this strengthening is to prevent a negative in Col 2:8, being deceived by false teachers.

[80] Wallace, p. 468.

[81] BAG, s.v. “ptaiw”. 

[82] Bauckham, p. 191.

[83] Bigg, p. 261.

[84] TDNT, 6:884.

[85] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 8 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1910), 1:331.

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