How can we tell the difference between a surety of salvation that is genuine from that assurance of salvation that is false? Or let me ask it another way, how is it possible that somebody cannot be in a state of salvation and yet be sure that they are?
Well, that's a good question, and it's one that's been raised many times, and Dr. R.C. Sproul is going to address it today here on Renewing Your Mind. Thank you for being with us today.
I'm Lee Webb. In 2 Peter, the apostle addresses fellow believers, and in verse 10 he tells them to be even more diligent to make your call and election sure. Now some might read that or hear that verse and say, well, if I'm part of the elect, why do I need to worry about that? It's vital that we understand the context of Peter's exhortation.
So let's join Dr. Sproul now. Sproul, Jr. Peter has already spoken about the glorious majesty of the God who has called us and who has given us exceedingly great and precious promises. And then he goes on to say, for this very reason, because of what God has done for us, we ought to be giving all diligence as we look into the things of God. That is that our approach to learning of God is not to be done in a frivolous, a capricious, or a cavalier manner. It is to be done with earnest application, with careful study and inquiry by applying ourselves diligently to every word that has proceeded forth from His mouth. Now Peter comes to an extremely important teaching when he says, therefore, brethren, be even more diligent.
Now do you see what he's just said? He said, I want you to be diligent, industrious, careful, to apply yourselves to add to your faith virtue and perseverance and lovingkindness, brotherly love, all these things so that you won't be barren, so that you won't be fruitless. But there's something about which I want you to be even more diligent. Now if an apostle walked in here this evening and we had a chance to have him come up and lead a question and answer, and we would say to the apostle, be it Paul or Peter or John or whoever, and we said to them, tell us what our priorities should be.
What kinds of things should we be most diligent to learn? Would we not be a little bit surprised if the answer said you need to learn about the doctrine of election, but the doctrine of election or of predestination, not in the abstract but with respect to your own person? What would you say if that apostle said to you the most important question you could ever get answered in this lifetime is the question, am I numbered among the elect? Now I realize that there are multitudes of professing Christians out there that don't even worry about such questions because they don't believe in election in the first place. In fact, if there's one verse that people appeal to in all of sacred Scripture to try to deny the doctrine of election, it is a verse that we will examine later on in this same epistle, that verse that says God is not willing that any should perish. And if it's true that God is not willing that anybody should perish, then manifestly who needs to worry about election? You do because Peter is saying you need to be all the more diligent to make your calling and your election sure. Do you remember to whom the first epistle of Peter was addressed? To the elect. The doctrine of election permeates the epistles of Saint Peter. So we can't dismiss the doctrine of election simply to the machinations of the mind of the mind of the Apostle Paul or even to Jesus Himself.
It's everywhere on virtually every page. Now I want to ask two questions. What does Peter mean by making your calling and election sure? And what reason does he give for being especially diligent to do that?
Well, let's start with the first one. What does he mean when he says to be all the more diligent to make your calling and your election sure? You know, all kinds of people read this book and try to understand what the Apostle is saying, and some of them get degrees in biblical studies and write commentaries about it, and in their commentaries, frankly, do little more than expose the profundity of their ignorance. You can't believe how many commentators of this text say that what Peter means by making your calling and election sure is this, that from all eternity, in God's secret counsel, in His eternal decrees, He has elected to save certain people. But the election of those people is not certain until those people respond to the call of God, and unless or until they make such a response, that question of their election remains a matter of uncertainty.
I'm sitting on a stool right now, but for just one second, I have to get up and say, can you imagine that I have to do something to make an eternal decree do something to make an eternal decree of God sure? I hope that kind of thinking never gets in your skull, because when God from all eternity chooses to save somebody, that person's election is absolutely certain. It is certainly certain in the mind of God. God doesn't say, I will choose to save people on whom I have no idea who they might be, and I'll let that be decided by them. There's no election in there at all.
Those people are electing themselves. God is simply an impotent spectator. And certainly if God chooses to elect somebody, that election must needs be come to pass.
Nothing in heaven, nothing on earth can frustrate the sovereign will of God. When we argue about this sort of thing, all it does is expose how little we know about the nature and character of God. We tend to think of God the way we describe ourselves as creatures. We change our minds all the time.
We make decisions and then reverse them when we get new information that we didn't have before or when somebody tells us that the decisions that we made weren't so smart, and then we correct them. God's not like that. God doesn't make any foolish decisions that have to be corrected. Now obviously making your calling and election sure is not to be making what God has decreed to be a sure thing.
It's a sure thing already. And all of your diligence can never change a sure thing that has been decreed by God. Well, maybe what the text is doing is that what our job is, is to make it sure for God so that God will know for sure that we really are the elect.
Now I have just used an old-fashioned technique called reductio ad absurdum to disprove that. Obviously that's not what the text means. All right, what does it mean?
Does it mean? The question is, for whom is the question of calling and election to be made sure? Are you elect, Bill? Are you sure?
Oh, I am too. But it's important to be sure, isn't it? What if I say, are you elect?
And you look at me and you say, well, I don't know. I hope so. See, in this world we can never know for sure that we're not elect because even though we're not in faith at the present moment, we don't know what tomorrow will bring. We don't know that maybe on our deathbed God will bring us to faith, and we will have our election realized.
And so you can't know for sure in this world that you're not elect, but you can know for sure that you are elect. And so what Peter is talking about here is the question of the assurance of salvation or the assurance of your election. Now again in other contexts I've talked about this question of the assurance of salvation, and I've mentioned to you that there are four kinds of people with respect to the assurance of salvation.
I'm going to go over that again for you briefly. When we think about the assurance of salvation or the assurance of our election, there are four kinds of people. There are those who are not saved, and they know they're not saved. They're not in a state of salvation at this present time, and they know they're not in a state of salvation. There are people who are in a state of salvation, but they're not sure that they're saved. Then there's the third group. There are those who are saved who know that they are saved, just like Bill testified to here a moment ago.
Those three groups, let's go over. Those who aren't saved know they're not saved. Those who are saved but don't know that they're saved, those who are saved and know that they are saved, so far so good.
But the monkey wrench falls with the fourth category, which includes those who are not saved, who are sure that they are saved, so that if you're sure that you're saved, how do you know you're not in that group of people who are sure that they're saved but who aren't saved? You know the warning that Jesus brings, and we'll be looking at it on Sunday morning, God willing, in the weeks to come at where Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount, saying in that last day, many will come to me saying, Lord, Lord, didn't I do this in Your name? Didn't I do that in Your name? And Jesus is going to say, depart from me, you evildoers.
I never knew you. He's going to say to them, you thought you were saved. You were never saved.
You were never in My kingdom. So how can we tell the difference between a surety of salvation that is genuine from that assurance of salvation that is false? Or let me ask it another way. How is it possible that somebody cannot be in a state of salvation and yet be sure that they are?
Well, there are several ways that can happen. The first and most obvious way that people can be sure that they're saved when they're not saved is because they have a defective understanding of what is involved in salvation. I told you before of when my little boy was six years old, I said to him, if you were to die and stood before God and God said to you, why should I let you into heaven? He gave the answer to me like it was the stupidest question I could ever ask him. He said, well, I would say to God, because I'm dead. And what was the theological assumption that he was making in his doctrine of justification by death?
He believed at that age that everybody that dies goes to heaven. And so if you believe that, and if you believe that everybody is saved, so if you believe that, and if you believe that everybody is saved and that you're a buddy, then you can come to the resistless conclusion that you must therefore also be in a state of salvation. However, if everybody is not saved, then the fact that you're a buddy cannot give you any legitimate assurance of your salvation or one of the multitudes of people who earnestly believe that one is saved by trying to live a good life, who is resting on the fruit of their labors. I go to church. I teach Sunday school. I'm a deacon. I'm an elder. I'm a priest.
I'm a minister. I've done all these good things, and so I have the assurance that I will be saved. I haven't murdered anybody. I haven't committed adultery.
I'm a good man, and all good men go to heaven. I just forgot to read that by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. And so the assurance I have of my salvation is a false one.
Well, how else can you have a false sense of assurance? Well, in the first instance, by not really understanding how one enters into a state of salvation. And suppose you do have a sound doctrine of justification by faith alone. Suppose you do understand that the only way to heaven is by placing your trust in Christ, and you're sure you have done that, and the proof that you can give is, I went to an evangelistic meeting, and when the minister gave the altar call, I got up out of my seat, and I went to the front of the room, and I gave my life to Jesus. Or when the preacher said, anybody that wants to be saved, raise their hand. And I raised my hand, and the preacher said, I see that hand. Or somebody came to me and said, sign this card where you're going to commit your life to Jesus.
I signed that card. Or another evangelist came to me and said, pray the sinner's prayer, and you'll be saved. And he told me what the sinner's prayer was, and I prayed the sinner's prayer was, and I prayed the sinner's prayer. So I know that I'm saved.
And again, I say this probably until you get sick and tired of hearing it, that nobody has ever been saved by a profession of faith. You must possess it as well as profess it. And you can profess it all day long without ever possessing it.
How do you know if you possess it? Well, there are a couple of ways. I had a person ask me that once and said to me, how can I know if I'm a Christian? And I said, well, let me ask you a couple of questions. He said, do you love Jesus perfectly? I said, no. Do you love Jesus as much as you ought to love Him? Of course, that's just the same question repeated, isn't it? And he said, no. And now whatever assurance he had when he asked the question is starting to slip out of his fingers, and I finally asked him the third question. Do you love Jesus at all?
But I said, be careful. I'm not asking you about if you love the Jesus that was portrayed to you at a youth camp. I'm asking you if you love, have any affection in your heart for the biblical Jesus, for the Jesus whose person and work is set forth in the pages of the New Testament. Do you have any affection for Him?
And if that person says to me, yes, I do. I can tell what the disposition of my heart is. I know that I don't love Him as much as I ought to, but I know. I do love Him.
I want to see the consummation of His kingdom. I wish I didn't disobey Him as much as I do, but I know that I have affection in my heart for Him. And I said, well, okay, here's where your theology is so important. Because if you understand that the natural person, the unregenerate person, never has an ounce of affection in his heart for God, that it is impossible for anyone to have any love for Christ unless first the Holy Spirit has changed the disposition of your soul, because by nature not only do you not love Him, you cannot love Him. Only if you're born of the Spirit is a love for the biblical Christ awakened in your soul. I say, well, I have been born again, but maybe I'll lose it.
And I'll say, no, if you have it, you'll never lose it, and if you lose it, you never had it. Because I know this, that the only way you could be born again is that if God the Holy Spirit changed the disposition of your soul, and I also know that the only way that God the Holy Spirit changes the disposition of your heart is that if He calls you internally by the power of His might, and I know that the only way He will do that is if from the foundation of the world He elected you unto that calling and unto faith and unto justification. And since there are no flaws in God's eternal decrees, if now in time and space you have the slightest true affection for Jesus, and if the doctrine of election is true, then based upon your good theology, your assurance is solidified. So one of the best ways of gaining the assurance of salvation that you need to have is by understanding what salvation requires and of what it consists and how it comes to pass. That's where the learning of theology has such great practical implications.
If you do these things, that is, if you are diligent to make your call on election sure, if you do these things you will never stumble, and an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly and an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Dear friends, regeneration we say is monergistic. It's not a joint effort between you and God. You cannot cause yourself to be born again.
You are utterly, completely passive in that action. But from that moment until you die, the whole pilgrimage, the whole progress of your Christian life is a synergistic action, one that does involve a cooperation between you and God. Now what Peter is saying here is if you want to have a fruitful Christian life, if you want to grow in grace, if you want to move forward in your sanctification, one of the most important things that you can do is early on in your walk, make sure of your election. Our efforts don't earn us regeneration or righteousness, but amazingly God uses those efforts to keep us from falling away. If we're genuinely saved, we will not take advantage of God's grace and think we can continue sinning. Instead, we accept the fact that we are not saved.
Instead, we exercise our God-given faith to strive after holiness. Thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind. All week we have been pleased to share various messages from Dr. R.C. Sproul's vast archive of New Testament sermons. And today we want to offer you a valuable resource to help you in your own study.
It's Dr. Sproul's commentary on 1 and 2 Peter. It's a 265-page hardbound edition that will help you understand key theological themes and apply them to your life. Just give a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries, and we will send this to you. There are a couple of ways you can contact us to make your request. One is online at renewingyourmind.org, or you can call us with your gift.
Our number is 800-435-4343. When we talk about salvation and perseverance, it touches on the issues that many Christians struggle with. When we sin, many times we can feel defeated in our faith. Today's message was deeply encouraging for me, and I hope it was for you. And if it was, let me ask you to share it with family members or friends. When you go to renewingyourmind.org, you'll see a Share button next to today's edition. You can share via Facebook, Twitter, or email. Well, in the continent of Africa, it's reported that it costs anywhere from a half to a full month's stipend for a pastor to own a good study Bible.
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