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Gaining True Assurance

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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February 2, 2023 12:01 am

Gaining True Assurance

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 2, 2023 12:01 am

How can we know that our assurance of salvation isn't false assurance? Today, R.C. Sproul carefully examines the Bible's instructions for making our calling and our election sure.

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2 Peter chapter 1 instructs us to confirm our calling and election.

It is so important that I be diligent in making my calling and my election sure, because if I'm sure about my being numbered among the elect, then I can be certain with respect to my salvation, not only today but in the future as well. But how do we know that the assurance we have isn't false assurance? How can we as Christians really know that we're saved? Hello and welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this Thursday.

I'm Lee Webb. If those questions have haunted you, if you've ever thought that it's impossible to know for sure that you're saved, R.C. Sproul invites you to think again. I'm going to continue now with our study of the question of the assurance of salvation. We've spent quite some time already examining false and counterfeit methods of assurance, and we've seen that one of the most critical problems that we face with respect to false assurance is having a false understanding of salvation and its requirements. And so now we're going to turn our attention to how can we actually gain a true and sound basis for our assurance of salvation.

And I think the first place that we have to look again is at theology. Again, in our day and age, people tend to downplay the importance of theology, but when we examine Peter's charge that we be diligent in making our election and our calling sure in order that we might grow and produce the fruit of our sanctification, we see there in his thinking the close relationship that exists between election and assurance. Now we need to understand the proper biblical doctrine of election, and we need to understand the proper biblical doctrine of salvation because those two concepts are inseparably related.

We can distinguish between election and salvation, but we can never tear them apart. Now some people think that after we are saved, that becomes the grounds of our election. So in a certain sense, salvation precedes election. Those who hold the view of election that we call a prescient view or a foreknowledge view of election are those who believe that God elects to salvation those people whom He knows from eternity from His perspective of foreknowledge.

He looks down the corridor of time, and He knows in advance who will respond positively to the offer of the gospel and who will not. And on the basis of His prior knowledge of what people do in response to the gospel, He makes His decree or decision of election. So when He sees people exercising faith and entering into a state of salvation, on that basis He elects them. But that view of election I don't think is a biblical view.

I don't think that it explains election. I think it fundamentally denies the biblical view of election. And unfortunately, it is a doctrine of election that in the final analysis makes the deciding factor rooted and grounded in something that we do rather than purely on the grace and mercy of God.

And I think people that take that view of election are of the same group basically that struggle inevitably with their assurance because their assurance is tied to their performance as it were. But as I understand the Scripture, election is unto salvation so that if you are elect, you are saved. And if you are saved, that's the clearest sign that you are numbered among the elect.

Now let's state it another way. None of those who are saved are not elect. And none of those who are elect fail to be saved. Salvation flows out of election. So if I want to be sure of my salvation, the first thing I need to know is am I numbered among the elect? So I see there in Peter's teaching why it is so important that I be diligent in making my calling and my election sure because if I'm sure about my being numbered among the elect, then I can be certain with respect to my salvation, not only today but in the future as well. Because election is not simply to make salvation possible, but the purpose of God in election is to save the elect.

And that purpose is not frustrated. Let me read a passage that's not usually mentioned in this regard, but one that I take great comfort in. It's found in the seventeenth chapter of the gospel according to Saint John, which is in the middle of Jesus' high priestly prayer for His disciples and for those who believe after them. And this is a passage of great encouragement for the whole church of all time.

But in verse 6, Jesus says in His prayer, I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. And now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words that You have given Me, and they received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.

I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.

Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me, I have kept. None of them is lost except the son of perdition that the Scripture may be fulfilled. Now this idea that Jesus expresses in this prayer is that the Father gives the gifts of people of the redeemed to the Son. And all that the Father gives to the Son, Jesus says earlier in John's Gospel, come to Me. And all that come to Him are kept by Him. And so this refers back to the elect who are the ones whom the Father gives to the Son, and the elect that the Father gives to the Son are preserved by the Son.

And the basis of our assurance is not to be a confidence in our ability to persevere. We talk about the perseverance of the saints, and I believe that the saints do in fact persevere, but the reason why they persevere is because they are preserved. And so it's better to speak of the preservation of the saints than the perseverance of the saints.

And so we hear in this chapter Jesus' appeal to the Father that those who have been given to Him may be kept. Now when we look further at this whole relationship between election and salvation, we need to be concerned with what we call in theology the ordo salutis, which is just a fancy way of describing, what we say in English, the order of salvation. And when we talk about the order of salvation, we're talking about a sequence of things or actions or events that take place that are the discrete aspects of all that's involved in our salvation. But also when we talk about the order of salvation, we're talking about what we call a logical order rather than a temporal order.

Now here's what I mean by that distinction. We say and we believe that we are justified by faith alone. Now the question is, how long after we possess true saving faith are we justified?

Is it five minutes, five months, five years, five seconds? No, we would say that justification and faith are coterminous with respect to time. The very moment we have true faith in that same instant, God receives us as justified people. But we still say that faith comes before justification, not justification before faith. Even though they occur at the same time, one precedes the other one logically by a logical priority. Now what we mean by logical priority is this, that since our justification depends upon and rests upon faith, faith is the prerequisite, the necessary condition that has to be present for justification to take place. So faith is logically necessary for justification. It precedes justification not in time but in terms of logical necessity.

So when we're talking about the order of salvation, keep in mind that what we have in view here are distinctions with respect to prerequisites to logical necessity. Now with that in mind, let's turn our attention briefly to the so-called golden chain in Romans chapter 8. In Romans chapter 8, we have one of the most famous and beloved verses in all of the New Testament in verse 28. We read, and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Now let me just pause for a second and say notice that this promise that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are described here as the ones who are the called according to His purpose.

So that's a special kind of calling. The Bible speaks about the call of the gospel that goes out to everybody, what we call the outer call or the external call, and not everybody that hears the gospel with their ears, not everybody who hears the outer call is saved. But we also speak of the inner call, the call of God in the person, in the heart that is a work of God the Holy Spirit, which call is effectual. That is the call by which the Holy Spirit opens the ears of the believer and the eyes of the believer, the heart of the believer working within us to bring about the purpose of God.

So that this is just another phrase or another descriptive term for the elect. All of the elect receive this inner call. All of the elect receive the purposive call of God, and all who receive this inner call of God are numbered among the elect. And I think that becomes very clear in the verses that follow from this.

Let's look at it. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. Now Paul is talking here about the purposes of God with respect to salvation, and he begins by mentioning God's foreknowledge. And those whom He foreknew, He predestined to what? What was the goal of the predestination?

To be conformed to the image of Christ so that our election is in Christ. Now here comes in verse 29 what is called in theology the golden chain, I'm sorry verse 30. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called. Whom He called, He also justified.

Whom He justified, He also glorified. Now this is an abbreviated version of what we call the order of salvation. There are other aspects to the order of salvation besides what are mentioned here.

This hits the highlights. Notice that sanctification is not in this list. But what is in this list include the following items. First of all foreknowledge. Second of all predestination. Third what?

Calling. Fourth justification. Fifth glorification. Now there is an order here that is a logical order that is followed. And it's very important to our understanding of assurance of salvation to grasp what is going on here in this order of salvation. It starts with foreknowledge. Now the reason why that prescient view of election that I mentioned earlier is so popular is that because people come to this text and they say, wow, the first step is foreknowledge. Haha, therefore that means that election or predestination is based upon something that God knows about people in advance.

Now the text doesn't say that. In fact as Paul elaborates this in Romans 9, I think he precludes that possibility. But because foreknowledge is mentioned first, people make the assumption that it is on the basis of foreknowledge that predestination takes place. But from a Reformed understanding of election, let's understand this, that people who are elect in God's decrees and according to God's purposes are not nameless ciphers. From all eternity God elects Abraham.

From all eternity God elects Jacob. But for Him to elect somebody, He has to have some idea of who it is He's electing. So obviously foreknowledge must precede predestination because God is predestinating somebody, people. And so He has to know those people before He predestines them. So obviously the first thing is foreknowledge. The second thing is predestination.

But notice the elliptical structure of this passage, that is there are things unstated that are clearly implied. And what goes on in here is that those whom He foreknew that He also predestinate, those whom He predestinated He also call, those whom He called that He also justified, those whom He justified that He also glorified. What is clearly understood here is that all who are in the category of the foreknown are predestined. Now again, God's foreknowledge in general includes all people, not just the elect. But here He's speaking about that foreknowledge that He has of His elect because all whom He foreknows in the sense that He foreknows them here are predestined and all who are predestined what? Are called.

Now the critical point is this, don't miss it. All who are called are justified. So if all who are called are justified, this can't possibly refer to the external call. It has to refer to the internal call because all who receive this particular call receive justification just as all who are justified are glorified. So if I want to know if I am glorified, if I'm going to be glorified, if I'm going to be saved in the final analysis, if I can determine whether I'm justified, I know I'm going to be glorified.

If I'm justified now I have nothing to worry about. That He who has begun a good work in me is going to finish it to the end, and we'll look further at that in our next lecture. But now we want to ask the question where calling fits in to my assurance. If this calling has reference to the operation of the Holy Ghost on the soul that prepares us for faith and justification, then if I know that I have been called, then I know that I'm elect.

Well, how do I know if I'm called? Well, let's go quickly to Ephesians chapter 2. Chapter 2 of Ephesians begins in verse 1 with these words, And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sin, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the Spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved, raised us up together, made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace and His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that, and the antecedent of that is faith, is not of yourselves, it's the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. In this brief summary, what Paul is focusing on is the work of the Holy Spirit that he describes in terms of quickening, which means being made alive, which we understand in theological categories to refer to our rebirth, to our regeneration, that which Jesus told Nicodemus was a prerequisite for anyone's even seeing the kingdom, let alone entering the kingdom of God.

And that is tied to this internal calling. And so my basic question as I seek assurance is this, am I a regenerate person? If I'm a regenerate person, then I know I'm numbered among the elect, because without election this work of the Holy Ghost will never take place in your soul. So all who are elect will become at some point in this life regenerate of the Holy Spirit, and all who are regenerate are numbered among the elect. So if you can be sure of your regeneration, you can be sure of your election.

If you're sure of your election, you're sure of your salvation. Now again, what is critical is that we understand what regeneration is. There is massive confusion out there in the Christian world about the nature of regeneration. And people who call themselves evangelicals in America walk around believing very, very different things about what happens to a person in the case of the Holy Spirit's quickening them or regenerating them from spiritual death to spiritual life. And that's why again I say having a sound doctrine of regeneration is critical to having the full assurance of our state of grace and our relationship to God.

That's R.C. Sproul from his series The Assurance of Salvation, and you're listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Thursday. Thank you for being with us.

Today R.C. has helped us see what assurance is and how we can have it. If this week's messages have caused you to think more deeply about your own salvation, I hope you'll contact us today and request this full six-part series. We'll send it to you when you give a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries, and we will add the digital copy of the study guide for the series as well. Our number is 800-435-4343.

If you prefer, though, you can give your gift and make your request online at Our goal here at Ligonier Ministries is to equip you to understand what you believe, why you believe it, how to live it, and how to share it. We do that through daily messages that reveal the glory of God against the backdrop of culture, philosophy, apologetics, ethics, and church history. You'll find an archive of Renewing Your Mind programs, plus articles, videos, and daily Bible studies when you download our free app.

Just search for Ligonier in your app store. Speaking of church history, that will be our focus tomorrow as we feature a conversation with my colleagues Nathan W. Bingham and Dr. Stephen Nichols in the city of Rome, where they were immersed in the history of the early church. It's a fascinating conversation, and we hope you'll join us for that tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-02 06:24:29 / 2023-02-02 06:32:20 / 8

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