Good Works in Assurance and Perseverance

Posted by Bob Mattes

In comments late in this discussion, Federal Visionists are seen to confuse the doctrines of assurance and perseverance. Specifically, in discussing the doctrine of the perseverance (or preferably, preservation) of the saints, they introduced 2 Peter 1:10 as evidence that human works play a part in our preservation.

At issue is the difference between these two constructs eloquently delineated by Anne Ivy:

IOW, it’s not “those who persevere to the end will be saved”, but rather “those who are saved will persevere to the end.”

Big, big difference.

How right she is. The first phrase “those who persevere to the end will be saved” implies that we somehow contribute to our perseverance. Yet a Federal Visionist replied:

You are claiming that your calling and election are already sure, so there is a real conflict of doctrine here between you and Dort, not to mention the Lord. This is one of the things the FV is drawing your attention to – that you have to make your calling and election sure, not presume that that is the case already.

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

I assume that there’s some level of “covenantal faithfulness”, a continuing Federal Vision theme, embedded in that comment. Let’s put this verse in context. 2 Peter 2:8-11 says:

8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (ESV)

What are these verses about? Two things primarily: sanctification and assurance. Verses 8 and 9 clearly sum up the reasons for our display of the fruit of the Spirit listed in the preceding verses–that they are evidence of our sanctification. So Calvin says in his comments on verse 9:

This he also confirms by adding this reason, because such have forgotten that through the benefit of Christ they had been cleansed from sin, and yet this is the beginning of our Christianity. It then follows, that those who do not strive for a pure and holy life, do not understand even the first rudiments of faith.

But Peter takes this for granted, that they who were still rolling in the filth of the flesh had forgotten their own purgation. For the blood of Christ has not become a washing bath to us, that it may be fouled by our filth. He, therefore, calls them old sins, by which he means, that our life ought to be otherwise formed, because we have been cleansed from our sins; not that any one can be pure from every sin while he lives in this world, or that the cleansing we obtain through Christ consists of pardon only, but that we ought to differ from the unbelieving, as God has separated us for himself. Though, then, we daily sin, and God daily forgives us, and the blood of Christ cleanses us from our sins, yet sin ought not to rule in us, but the sanctification of the Spirit ought to prevail in us; for so Paul teaches us in1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you; but ye are washed,” etc. [my bold]

Thus Calvin confirms that the fruit of the Spirit are simply the evidence of our faith and ongoing sanctification in cooperation with the Spirit. It is in that light in which verse 10 appears. The Westminster Annotations comment on verse 10 says:

brethren] By regeneration and adoption, and union with Christ by faith, we are made the children of God, and brethren spiritually, Phil 4:1….Here it is used in the fourth sense for fellow Christians.

Thus the Divines and other Reformers saw 2 Peter as being written to those elected from before the foundation of the world, members of the invisible church, as Peter clearly says at the beginning of the letter:

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

That is an important distinction to keep in mind relative for this letter as we move on to the annotators further comments on 2 Peter 1:10:

to make your calling and election sure] To get good grounds to assure you that ye were elected before the world, and are called out of the world. For it is sure enough in itself, by God’s decree and immutability, 2 Tim 2.19. Mal. 3.6. John 6.40. and 13.1. Rom. 11.29.
for if you do these things] Continuance then is well doing, is the way to get and keep assurance of salvation.
ye shall never fall] Jude verse 4. Our life is likened to a race, 1 Cor.9.24. we must take heed lest we fall, and come short of the prize set before us. The children of God may fall into some sins by weakness; but never so as to lose the goal. verse 11. [my bold]

Clearly the Reformers saw these verses as models both for sanctification and assurance. None of the Federal Vision’s “morbid introspection” is necessary for assurance. Also embedded in the annotators last sentence is the glorious truth that assurance unto perseverance is solely by the grace of God. Our good works performed in cooperation with the Holy Spirit are evidence, not the cause, of our assurance of election and unto perseverance.

Driving yet another nail into the Federal Vision coffin, Calvin says about verse 10:

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence. He draws this conclusion, that it is one proof that we have been really elected, and not in vain called by the Lord, if a good conscience and integrity of life correspond with our profession of faith. And he infers, that there ought to be more labor and diligence, because he had said before, that faith ought not to be barren.

Some copies have, “by good works;” but these words make no change in the sense, for they are to be understood though not expressed.

He mentions calling first, though the last in order. The reason is, because election is of greater weight or importance; and it is a right arrangement of a sentence to subjoin what preponderates. The meaning then is, labor that you may have it really proved that you have not been called nor elected in vain. At the same time he speaks here of calling as the effect and evidence of election. If any one prefers to regard the two words as meaning the same thing, I do not object; for the Scripture sometimes merges the difference which exists between two terms. I have, however, stated what seems to me more probable. [my bold]

And what about Federal Vision’s “covenantal faithfulness”?

Now a question arises, Whether the stability of our calling and election depends on good works, for if it be so, it follows that it depends on us. But the whole Scripture teaches us, first, that God’s election is founded on his eternal purpose; and secondly, that calling begins and is completed through his gratuitous goodness. The Sophists, in order to transfer what is peculiar to God’s grace to ourselves, usually pervert this evidence. But their evasions may be easily refuted. For if any one thinks that calling is rendered sure by men, there is nothing absurd in that; we may however, go still farther, that every one confirms his calling by leading a holy and pious life. But it is very foolish to infer from this what the Sophists contend for; for this is a proof not taken from the cause, but on the contrary from the sign or the effect. Moreover, this does not prevent election from being gratuitous, nor does it shew that it is in our own hand or power to confirm election. For the matter stands thus, — God effectually calls whom he has preordained to life in his secret counsel before the foundation of the world; and he also carries on the perpetual course of calling through grace alone. But as he has chosen us, and calls us for this end, that we may be pure and spotless in his presence; purity of life is not improperly called the evidence and proof of election, by which the faithful may not only testify to others that they are the children of God, but also confirm themselves in this confidence, in such a manner, however, that they fix their solid foundation on something else.

Calvin could hardly be clearer that the perseverance of the saints relies on God’s grace alone. Again, our good works merely serve as evidence of our lively faith and hence provide us with confidence in and assurance of our election unto eternal life.

What about 2 Peter 1:11? According to the Westminster Annotations:

an entrance] A large passage into the Kingdom of glory in the life to come.
abundantly] John 10.10. If ye be full of good works, ye shall have abundant reward, 1 Cor. 9.9. and 15.58. 2 John verse 8.

Consistent with the rest of Scripture, we see here that our good works decide our reward, not our “final justification”, the latter being another Federal Vision theme.

Note, also, that the reprobate in the visible church are no where in view in this passage. The reprobate in the visible church have no assurance of salvation whatsoever, at any time or in any way. We’ve argued elsewhere on this site that baptism can only contribute to the assurance for the elect, the reprobate have no assurance from their baptism. Quite the contrary, it will be an instrument in their condemnation for trampling on the blood of Christ (Hebrews 6:4; 10:29).

I think that to offer the reprobate pew sitters any assurance, as Federal Visionists do with their mythical “objective covenant”, represents a massive pastoral failure on their part. As Scripture and the Westminster Standards clearly state, assurance of election can only ever belong to those elected to eternal life from before the foundation of the world. All others should be on their knees trembling, not feeling comfortable in pews and at pot lucks.

So, 2 Peter 1:10 clearly supports the orthodox Reformed statement that “those who are saved will persevere to the end” and not the other way around; not “in some sense” but absolutely. Our good works provide us with assurance of our election, but are excluded as a player in either our justification on the one end or our perseverance on the other. And that because our perseverance depends solely on God’s infinite grace and faithfulness, not by our “covenantal faithfulness” or anything else that we do or do not do. Anything else is not Good News.

Posted by Bob Mattes

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55 Comments

  1. January 1, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    [...] Works in Assurance and Perseverance I posted a new article over at GreenBagginses on the role of good works in the assurance of election and the perseverance of the saints. It takes [...]

  2. Tim Harris said,

    January 1, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Well I mean, in fairness, if we say, “one perseveres to the end if and only if one is save” then both
    p -> q
    adn
    q -> p
    where p is “one is saved” and q is “one perseveres to the end.”

  3. January 1, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Tim,

    You should read the rest of the FV comments. The rest of their words don’t imply your suggested equivalency.

  4. GLW Johnson said,

    January 2, 2008 at 7:41 am

    Bob
    Thanks so much for the post. This very same FV line of reasoning was used by Norman Shepherd back in the late 70’s and early 80’s at WTS in Phila. Shepherd was fond of quoting Heb.12:14 in connection with James 2:24 to make this exact point that final justification was based on works.One of the more outspoken opponents of Shepherd on the faculty at that time was visiting professor of Church History W. Standford Reid. Reid had a well deserved international reputation as an authority on the Reformation, particularly as a Calvin scholar, wrote an excellent article for the WTJ( then under the editorship of W. Robert Godfrey) ‘Justification By Faith According To John Calvin’ (vol.XLII, Spring 1980,No.2)- the followers of Shepherd – both then and now -have yet to respond to this.

  5. R. F. White said,

    January 2, 2008 at 11:24 am

    The only way for election, corporate or individual, to be revocable is for its basis to be something other than or in addition to Christ’s obedience.

  6. im.steve said,

    January 2, 2008 at 11:33 am

    It seems to me that while the precise distinction between assurance and perseverance serves well to explain things systematically (which this post has done well, btw), it also seems that the original statement as it was brought up in the previous discussion was geared more to how we are existentially to avoid extremes in the matter of assurance. It also appears that to leave matters undistinguished is not necessarily to confuse them. Many times, the Scripture texts cited come without distinguishing commentary, i.e., an introduction such as “regarding assurance.”

  7. January 2, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Dr. White,

    its basis to be something other than or in addition to Christ’s obedience

    Of course, this is exactly what Dr. Leithart stated here:

    It appears that the committee condemns the very view that WCF 33.1 articulates, since the Confession says explicitly that what we receive at the final judgment will be “according to what they have done,” which is clearly something other than the “perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone.” [emphasis original]

    I wrote a refutation here. It’s hard to take Federal Visionists’ protestations of assertions that they deny sola fide seriously when they do it so blatantly in their writings. Unless, perhaps, they mean sola fide “in some sense.” ;)

  8. January 2, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Steve,

    It seems to me that while the precise distinction between assurance and perseverance serves well to explain things systematically (which this post has done well, btw)

    Thank you for your kind assessment.

    it also seems that the original statement as it was brought up in the previous discussion was geared more to how we are existentially to avoid extremes in the matter of assurance

    I’m genuinely unclear on what you mean by this statement. Would you please elaborate for me? Thank you.

  9. January 2, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Gary,

    Do you know where I can find an electronic, perhaps pdf, copy of Reid’s article? It sounds very interesting.

  10. January 2, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    [...] January 2, 2008 in Covenant, Justification, Pastoral Ministry Tags: assurance, faith, federal vision, justification Bob Mattes at GB. [...]

  11. January 2, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    [...] Good Works, Assurance and Perseverence Posted January 2, 2008 Another good post over at GreenBaggins. [...]

  12. David Gadbois said,

    January 2, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    I’ve remarked before that one of FV’s main systemic errors is in conflating the epistemological issue with the metaphysical/ontological issue. Watch how this works.

    For example, Wilkins (in his response to his presbytery) brought up the epistemological challenge of identifying the status of individuals from a human perspective:

    God certainly knows (and has decreed) the difference between the elect and the non-elect, but from our creaturely, covenantal point of view there is often no perceptible difference (e.g., Saul and David were indistinguishable from one another to all outward appearances in the early phases of their careers; Judas looked like the other disciples for a time). It is only as history goes forward, as God’s plan unfolds, that we come to know who will persevere and who won’t. In the meanwhile, we are to view and treat all faithful members of the covenant community in the way we see them treated throughout the New Testament epistles — i.e., all covenant members are viewed and treated as elect, but also warned of the dangers of apostasy.

    Here is the illegitimate move FV makes from this: it goes from this epistemological issue to make a metaphysical conclusion – that NECMs must have some sort of quasi-salvific benefits or some nebulously-defined parallel ordo salutis benefits like ECMs do (“in some sense”, of course :) ). Keep in mind, in that quotation Wilkins was supposed to be answering his presbytery’s question to “distinguish between the benefits enjoyed by a (decretively) elect member of the visible Church and a reprobate member of the visible church who has not yet manifested his apostasy.” But Wilkins, in this answer, couldn’t identify the distinguishing benefits other than to say that there is a “qualitative difference” between the two.

    So they basically go from “gosh, it’s so hard to tell which individuals are decretally elect” to “well, NECMs must have benefits well-nigh indistinguishable from the salvific benefits ECMs have.” You will see some form of this error repeated again and again throughout FV writings. They’ve heaped up a whole system of theology on this simple blunder of logic.

  13. jared said,

    January 2, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Bob and Anne say,

    At issue is the difference between these two constructs eloquently delineated by Anne Ivy:

    IOW, it’s not “those who persevere to the end will be saved”, but rather “those who are saved will persevere to the end.”

    Big, big difference.

    How right she is. The first phrase “those who persevere to the end will be saved” implies that we somehow contribute to our perseverance.

    It’s actually both. Those who are saved will persevere to the end is just as right and true as saying those who persevere to the end will be saved. I don’t see any conflict here that is not superficial.

    David says,

    Here is the illegitimate move FV makes from this: it goes from this epistemological issue to make a metaphysical conclusion – that NECMs must have some sort of quasi-salvific benefits or some nebulously-defined parallel ordo salutis benefits like ECMs do (”in some sense”, of course ).

    How is it illegetimate to proceed from epistemological points to ontological/metaphysical points? How else should one proceed in constructing their metaphysical/ontological views if they are not to begin with what/how they know? Also, you aren’t making an argument here, just making (incorrect) assertions. Where is this “simple blunder of logic” that you speak of and seem to see so clearly?

  14. Machaira said,

    January 2, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    It’s actually both. Those who are saved will persevere to the end is just as right and true as saying those who persevere to the end will be saved. I don’t see any conflict here that is not superficial.

    That all depends on whether everyone is on the same page theologically or not. The first way of saying it, as listed in the quote above, clearly represents God as the cause of perseverance, whereas the second way can easily be misunderstood to mean that you and I are the cause of our own perseverance.

  15. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 2, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Jared (#13):

    Those who are saved will persevere to the end is just as right and true as saying those who persevere to the end will be saved. I don’t see any conflict here that is not superficial.

    Well, you’re right; if the set of those who persevere is the same as the set of those who are saved, then both are equally true — and they are.

    The conflict is not logical; it is rather a question of how salvation develops over time. The two slogans cited by AnneIvy are shorthand ways of expressing different answers to that question.

    Is the work of God within the person at the moment of faith a guarantee of a future inheritance? Is it a guarantee that whatever conditions are present will be met? Traditional Reformed theology says Yes — that those who are saved at time t0 will necessarily persevere to the end because of the nature of God’s work in them, guaranteed by the seal of the Holy Spirit. For the traditional Reformed view, the sealing of the Holy Spirit is an unconditional guarantee that all conditions related to salvation (such as Rom. 2.13) will be met. Thus: “all who are saved will persevere.”

    The Federal Vision states directly (Jordan) or flirts with (Wilkins) the idea that God does salvific work in some who nevertheless do not persevere. Thus, the seal of the Holy Spirit in Eph. 1.14 is an insufficient guarantee that the one so sealed will be saved. Why? Because the sealing of the Holy Spirit is a conditional guarantee; it is contingent on the continued faithfulness of the one so sealed. Thus: “all who persevere are saved.”

    What could cause someone to not continue in his faithfulness?

    Modern Arminians would say, “Because of the free choice of the person sealed.” This is a frank abandonment of monergism.

    For FV advocates, unlike Arminians, the answer is “God’s choice in election.”

    But then one must ask, “Does God not then forfeit His guarantee? He made a pledge to guarantee the inheritance of the ones sealed; but He did not fulfill that pledge.”

    So the problem is really the horns of a dilemma: if we abandon the traditional Reformed view, it seems we must either abandon monergism or else embrace incoherence.

    Jeff Cagle

  16. January 2, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    jared,

    It’s actually both. Those who are saved will persevere to the end is just as right and true as saying those who persevere to the end will be saved. I don’t see any conflict here that is not superficial.

    I explained this in the post, but perhaps not as clearly as possible. The first construct taken in plain English says that the result doesn’t depend on the actor. The second construct implies that the actor does something to affect the result. Also chronologically, we are saved at our justification, which precedes perseverance. The second construct implies that we are saved as a result of perseverance, that our salvation is somehow in question until the end. Since regeneration and justification are monergistic works of God, the outcome is never in doubt. We aren’t saved because we persevere, but we persevere because God saved us. That’s what Scripture says.

  17. Scott Bauer said,

    January 2, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Good Works In Assurance: – Direction of Causation and Epistemic Criteria

    The issue, herein discussed, is how salvation evidence is produced (by our works) and how our salvation is produced (by God’s works). Consider the following:

    Christians have a roll to play in producing, planting, and then presenting to ourselves the evidence of our regeneration while all the while prescinding from this fact in order not to be distracted by the planted, doctored, or tampered evidence (good fruits) of our salvation.

    Consider the following analogy:

    Suppose a tornado (the Holy Spirit) has obliterated your home (regenerating you). Even though you didn’t cause this tornado you work diligently to persuade yourself of this by staging the scene (your works) to look like a tornado byproduct (salvation). This planted evidence becomes your assurance of the tornado. You reason privately that If a tornado (salvation) did obliterate your house (regenerate) then it would look a lot like it did after you deliberately demolished the house yourself (good works) and thus you commence planting evidence to induce confidence.

    A Christians relation to the epistemic status (unlike our salvation) of our own good deeds is causative i.e., we cause/labor to create the evidence of another cause. We offer and accept the epistemic guarantee (good works) of our own salvation.

    Am I capturing the underpinning logic of salvation assurance as discussed herein?
    Scott
    P.S. Sorry if this sounds somewhat absurd but its the only way I can make some logical sense of it although it is morally repugnant to my intuitions.

  18. curate said,

    January 3, 2008 at 4:13 am

    The first construct taken in plain English says that the result doesn’t depend on the actor. The second construct implies that the actor does something to affect the result. Also chronologically, we are saved at our justification, which precedes perseverance. The second construct implies that we are saved as a result of perseverance, that our salvation is somehow in question until the end

    Bob, you are finding implications in my reference to 2 Peter 1.10 that do not exist. In reading my argument, please assume graciously that I am sincere, and not using Jesuitical evasion.

    1. The first construct taken in plain English says that the result doesn’t depend on the actor.

    While it is true that salvation in the full sense as you are using it is the work of the sovereign God working monergistically, your argument assumes a manner of working out the same salvation apart from the objects of salvation. IOW you are assuming that the working-out of our salvation is apart from our own works.

    On the last day no-one will be able to say that they saved themselves, but that the works that they did were God working within them both to will and to act. Also, no-one will say that they were saved because of the works that God did in and through them. The ultimate causes of our salvation are free grace and the cross and resurrection alone.

    Notwithstanding this, we cannot be saved apart from godliness. Do not be deceived, apart from godliness no-one will see the Lord.

    2. The second construct implies that the actor does something to affect the result. The result that I was addressing is assurance of calling and election. I am not saying that our works contribute to our justification, but to our assurance of our calling and election. Big difference.

    Are you seriously suggesting that Peter is saying that our works do not affect our assurance of calling and election? That is how your article reads.

    3. Also chronologically, we are saved at our justification, which precedes perseverance. The second construct implies that we are saved as a result of perseverance, that our salvation is somehow in question until the end.

    As I have said, this is a false inference. We are not saved because of perseverance, but by means of it, thanks to the gracious work of God in us. I am saying that we cannot be saved without perseverance or good works, which is something quite different.

    Nota bene, without and because are different things.

    4. … that our salvation is somehow in question until the end

    Again, a wrong inference. As long as one remains in Christ one’s salvation is completely secure. If one removes oneself from Christ then one’s damnation is completely certain.

    Your comments lead me to think that you mean that our perseverance in the faith is guaranteed. From the perspective of the decree it is certain that all of the elect will persevere to the end. However, from the perspective of the earth and present time it is impossible for you to say that you personally will persevere to the end, or that anyone else will. How could you possibly know? Only time will tell.

    So I would have to say that the perseverance of individuals as such cannot be foreseen or predicted.

    But I come back to the promise of God that as long as we remain in Christ we are utterly secure, but that if we fall away we will certainly be lost.

    5. Getting back to my original comments which you quoted in your article, they prove that our works result in our assurance of our calling and election, not that our works are a cause of preservation.

  19. GLW Johnson said,

    January 3, 2008 at 6:45 am

    Roger’s last comment would have raised the hair on the back of Calvin’s neck! Heck, this statement-” However,from the perspective of the earth and present time it is impossible for you to say that you personally will perservere to the end, or that anyone esle will. How could you possibly know? Only time will tell”.-would have made our fathers at Dort and the Westminster Divines wonder how in the world does this guy get by claiming to be even remotely ‘Reformed’. In the final analysis I can only conclude that to curate’s way of thinking ‘assurance’ of salvation can NEVER be had by anyone in this life- at best one can only hope ,based on a really morbid introspection of how well they are keeping pace on the performance treadmill, and that somehow and some way they can hang on to the end. Pastorally speaking this is cruel and heartless. It reminds me of Spurgeon’s little gem-“When I looked at Christ and Him crucified, the dove of peace flew into my heart. When I looked at the dove, it flew away”. Roger goes even farther than that. He ends up having us monkishly trying to find in our feeble efforts a very slight glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe we might be among the elect.

  20. curate said,

    January 3, 2008 at 7:48 am

    Ref. no. 19

    Gary, calm down. When you speak of assurance you really mean an absolute assurance, as opposed to a measured assurance. Nowhere does scripture hold out to us an absolute assurance in the way that you have described it.

    When I speak of assurance I am not speaking of absolute assurance. If we were already at that level of assurance there would be no need to be more diligent make our calling and election sure, would there? That is as obvious as daylight.

    According to your definition of assurance Peter is completely out of order in commanding us to be more diligent to make our calling and election sure, since we already possess total assurance.

    There are degrees of assurance, some lesser and some greater. In any instance they do not cease to be assurance, as you claim. Put another way there are degrees of assurance, as in sure, more sure, most sure.

    There are degrees of faith, from a strong faith to faith as small as a mustard seed. Does it cease to be faith because it is small? By no means. In the same way there are degrees of assurance, from small to great, and it does not cease to be assurance because it is weak!

    I am sure that I am saved and that I will be saved – provided that I endure and persevere to the end by God’s good grace. Therefore I pray for grace to finish the race and win the crown.

  21. January 3, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Roger, RE #18 & 20,

    I sincerely beg you to reconsider what you are saying:

    Your comments lead me to think that you mean that our perseverance in the faith is guaranteed.

    From WCF 17.1:

    They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

    WCF 18.2:

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

    Perseverance is absolutely a done deal in the elect and we surely can know it while on this earth. That’s a critical part of the Reformed faith. Otherwise the ‘P’ in TULIP means nothing to us in this life, which certainly isn’t the case in Reformed theology.

    From the perspective of the decree it is certain that all of the elect will persevere to the end. However, from the perspective of the earth and present time it is impossible for you to say that you personally will persevere to the end, or that anyone else will. How could you possibly know? Only time will tell.

    So I would have to say that the perseverance of individuals as such cannot be foreseen or predicted.

    From #20:

    I am sure that I am saved and that I will be saved – provided that I endure and persevere to the end by God’s good grace.

    That’s almost a direct paraphrase from the Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 13:

    He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved:-which gift cannot be derived from any other but Him, who is able to establish him who standeth that he stand perseveringly, and to restore him who falleth:-let no one herein promise himself any thing as certain with an absolute certainty; though all ought to place and repose a most firm hope in God’s help. [my bold]

    The first bolded section shows why Anne and I are concerned by the word ordering, as that for which you and others are arguing come straight from Trent. And the Council of Trent, Session 6, Canons 15 and 16:

    CANON XV.-If any one saith, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; let him be anathema.

    CANON XVI.-If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema.

    Hopefully you can see why we are concerned by your statements. It seems to me and others that you are virtually quoting the RCC at Trent and agreeing with them. Perhaps that will also give you additional perspective on Dr. Johnson’s #19.

  22. GLW Johnson said,

    January 3, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Here is another example of double-speak, where words take on an entirely different meaning in the hands of the Federal Visionists. In this case Roger impregnates the word ‘assurance’ with a shaded meaning, the end result is that it has to be qualified to the point of becoming something other than what it is and how it has been traditionally understood.

  23. GLW Johnson said,

    January 3, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Roger
    Did you know that both Johann Eck and Cardinal Bellarmine argued that THE issue for them in opposing the Reformation’s doctrine of ‘Sola Fide’ was that it gave people an unwavering confidence of the assurance of their salvation? I bet you didn’t know that. They would not have said that about your proposals.

  24. Machaira said,

    January 3, 2008 at 8:57 am

    When you speak of assurance you really mean an absolute assurance, as opposed to a measured assurance. Nowhere does scripture hold out to us an absolute assurance in the way that you have described it.

    It actually quite the contrary. Nowhere does scripture hold out to us any such distinction as you suggest. Your idea of “measured assurance” sounds alot like the Roman Catholic notion of “moral assurance.”

  25. Machaira said,

    January 3, 2008 at 8:58 am

    . . . or “moral certainty.”

  26. January 3, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Roger, RE #20,

    Nowhere does scripture hold out to us an absolute assurance in the way that you have described it.

    Phil 1:6; Rom 8, 1 Jn 2:3; 3:14, 18-19, 21, 24; and the granddaddy of them all at 1 Jn 5:13: “…that you may know that you have eternal life…”. And others, of course.

  27. R. F. White said,

    January 3, 2008 at 9:50 am

    A quasi-mnemonic device on assurance that has been helpful to some is to say that we attain assurance through the word of the Father, the work of the Son, the witness of the Spirit, and the works of the believer. That the believer’s works should be last in this presentation is significant.

  28. curate said,

    January 3, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Bob, I am willing to answer you point by point. However, you have not answered my initial point at all, but have by-passed it with points of your own. If we have the total assurance that you insist we have, why does Peter command his hearers to more diligently make their calling and election sure?

    If it is already as sure as you say it is, why bother? As R. F. White said, Peter does not teach us to assume our election and leave it at that, but to work diligently to make it sure.

    As soon as you have addressed this text I will move on to your concerns.

  29. R. F. White said,

    January 3, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Bob Mattes,

    I, as an FV critic, don’t disagree with your thesis at all, but it is fair to ask what you make of Jesus’ words, “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22; Matt 24:13 // Mark 13:13; cf. Heb 3:14). Perhaps I’ve missed a previous exchange where you have addressed that point.

  30. Andy Gilman said,

    January 3, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Having set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of those…

    Who teach that apart from a special revelation no one can have the assurance of future perseverance in this life.

    For by this teaching the well-founded consolation of true believers in this life is taken away and the doubting of the Romanists is reintroduced into the church. Holy Scripture, however, in many places derives the assurance not from a special and extraordinary revelation but from the marks peculiar to God’s children and from God’s completely reliable promises. So especially the apostle Paul: Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:39); and John: They who obey his commands remain in him and he in them. And this is how we know that he remains in us: by the Spirit he gave us (1 John 3:24).

  31. curate said,

    January 3, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Gary, I have an unwavering faith in God through Jesus Christ. That is not to say that I have a perfect faith. “Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief”.

    Let me relate this to the doctrine of faith. Assurance is an essential element of faith, as all of the Reformers argued. Faith without assurance is no faith at all. It is unfaith. But is there anyone bold and stupid enough to say that he has total faith? The only way to have total assurance is to have total faith, which none of us on this earth can ever attain to.

    Saying “Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief” is the same thing as saying “Lord I am sure of your promises. Help thou my lack of assurance”.

    Calvin and all of the others were clear that the best faith/trust/assurance we can muster is but a flickering flame and a smoking wick. How can you assert the contrary?

  32. GLW Johnson said,

    January 3, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Roger
    Dear brother , the comments you made earlier and this last one are contradictory-and the Reformers, especially Calvin’s understanding of assurance is simply no incongruent with your assertion that in this life we can have no certainty that we are among the elect-or as you concluded “only time will tell”.

  33. Gabe Martini said,

    January 3, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Post #29 hits the nail on the head. This entire discussion is rather unnecessary, in my humble opinion. God is sovereign, and man is responsible. This is Calvinism. This is Reformed theology. This is the theology of the Scriptures. You can say “I need to persevere” without saying “but God is behind it if I do,” and not be a heretic. You don’t always have to say everything about everything; to jump down a person’s case when they don’t is unloving and uncharitable. To make accusations because someone quotes Jesus Christ “those who endure will be saved” is just over the top. Let’s all step back, calm down, and love one another. This blog post is simply nit-picking, and for no good, wholesome purpose. Pursue peace, guys.

  34. GLW Johnson said,

    January 3, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Gabe
    You need to follow your own advice-accusing RC Sproul of slander at the PCA GA and posting a comment urging him to repent for opposing the FV- is most uncharitable and decidedly not the way tp pursue peace.

  35. Gabe Martini said,

    January 3, 2008 at 11:28 am

    GLW Johnson,

    I’m a little confused by how you’re defining charity. I don’t think saying someone should repent for public slander is uncharitable. In fact, I think it is pursuing Christian peace to do so.

  36. its.reed said,

    January 3, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Ref. #35:

    Gabe, the point is rather simple. You’ve accused RC Sproul of public slander. An accusation is not proof. It is not clear in the minds of many that the incident to which we think you are referring really constitutes an act of this egregious sin.

    You make, therefore, an unsubstantiated accusation. Calls for peace in this arena, given that behavior, seem disingenuous to many.

    P.S. no need for tit for tat, as in observing that “anti” FV’ers may be guilty of the same thing. Gary is making a simple point that your comment rings hollow in light of your own behavior.

  37. Mark T. said,

    January 3, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Gabe,

    I’m curious why your judgment of charity does not grant Dr. Sproul the presumption of innocence before you — speaking ex gabeedra — declare him guilty of slander.

  38. its.reed said,

    January 3, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Gentlemen, after Gabe has an opportunity to respond to no.s 36 and 37 (if he chooses to do so), may I suggest thatg we end this line of discussion? It clearly will move rather quickly off topic and into territory where it may be easier for our flesh to get the better of us.

    Thanks!

  39. Gabe Martini said,

    January 3, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Okay, well I’m sorry you feel that way. There’s not much I can do about that. He called men “accused” and implied they were denying Justification by Faith on the floor of GA. The very document being debated did no such thing, and in fact called them brothers in Christ. I don’t see how any of this is controversial, or even debatable.

  40. curate said,

    January 3, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Gary, you are hearing something different from what I am saying. I do not say “that in this life we can have no certainty that we are among the elect” (your words). I am saying that we do indeed have assurance, and a true measure of certainty, but that our assurance is partial and incomplete, and thus in need of improvement.

  41. GLW Johnson said,

    January 3, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Before moving on, I would like to point out to Gabe that the statement ” God is sovereign and man is responsible” is NOT distinctively a Calvinistic axiom. The Remonstrants at Dort affirmed this and John Wesley did as well. As a matter of fact even Mormons can amen that statement.Gabe, have you had ‘Calvinism 101?

  42. Sam Steinmann said,

    January 3, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Perseverance is absolutely a done deal in the elect and we surely can know [that we are elect] while on this earth. That’s a critical part of the Reformed faith.

    Bob,

    Is this generally agreed on? My impression had been that we CANNOT know whether we are elect until the end–there are people at the judgment asking, “But we did all these things in your name and by your power!” whom Jesus never knew.

  43. January 3, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Dr. White, RE #29,

    Between work, church meetings, and hospital visits, I can only post in sparse time slots. Somewhere in all that I missed the question.

    I, as an FV critic, don’t disagree with your thesis at all, but it is fair to ask what you make of Jesus’ words, “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22; Matt 24:13 // Mark 13:13; cf. Heb 3:14).

    Before I consider the context, here’s Calvin on Mat 10:22:

    This single promise ought sufficiently to support the minds of the godly, though the whole world should rise against them: for they are assured that the result will be prosperous and happy. If those who fight under earthly commanders, and are uncertain as to the issue of the battle, are carried forward even to death by steadiness of purpose, shall those who are certain of victory hesitate to abide by the cause of Christ to the very last? [my bold]

    This verse does not appear out of the blue, but is part of a long narrative about the persecution of believers for Christ’s sake, sometimes to the death, because both He and we are hated by the world. Calvin agrees with what I’ve already posted, that we are already assured of the victory in Christ and that fact will help us stand fast under persecution. Calvin does not add to this thought (i.e., no further comment added) under Mt 24:13/Mk 13:13, as these cover the same topic in the same way.

    Contrary to the Canons of Trent, Jesus in these verses doesn’t say that our perseverance is in any way in question, or that it depends on any way on us. He’s saying that because He has already won the victory and our salvation is certain, we can stand fast under hideous persecution, even to the death, by trusting Him. Those are very different statements.

    I hope that this provides an adequate answer to the earlier query. Thanks for reminding me.

  44. January 3, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Roger, RE #28,

    My whole post answered that question. You can disagree if you so choose, but you can hardly say I haven’t answered it.

  45. January 3, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Sam, #42,

    My impression had been that we CANNOT know whether we are elect until the end

    Please see #21. Against the Reformed position, Trent agrees with the above quoted statement. I cannot know if you are elect, but you can have assurance of your own status according to John and WCF 18, to name just two. Perhaps that’s where we are crossing wires.

    there are people at the judgment asking, “But we did all these things in your name and by your power!” whom Jesus never knew.

    Absolutely. These people delude themselves. I like Dr. White’s handy mnemonic in #27 as a handy reference. The people who delude themselves are missing one or more of those elements (see also WCF 17, and 18), yet feel that they will get by because they were “doing the right things.” The examples that Jesus gives of their arguments are all works-based, which provides further evidence that we cannot earn our perseverance through “covenantal faithfulness”.

    Mt 7:21-23 is part of the illustration of false prophets who Jesus compares to wolves in sheep’s clothing (Mt 7:15-20). He says that good trees produce good fruit, fruit that is impossible apart from God’s grace manifested by the inner working of the Holy Spirit. The other trees (by analogy, the false prophets) also produce fruit, but of a different kind, and their end is different as well.

    Context is critical.

  46. curate said,

    January 4, 2008 at 3:04 am

    Ref no. 44

    Maybe I am not being very bright Bob, and if so I ask you to patiently indulge me. I have read and reread your post no.21 and I can find no reference there to
    2 Peter 1:10:   

    Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble

    and no direct response to this question:

    If we have the total assurance that you insist we have, why does Peter command his hearers to more diligently make their calling and election sure?

  47. January 4, 2008 at 7:18 am

    Roger, RE #46,

    Not comment #21, but the original post. The whole post is about.2 Pet 1:10, its context, and its connection to assurance. From the last paragraph of my post: “Our good works provide us with an important evidence of assurance of our election”. That’s the point of 2 Pet 1:10 in one sentence. Obviously, sanctification is also in view.

  48. Roger du Barry said,

    January 4, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Ref. no. 47

    Our good works provide us with an important evidence of (and?) assurance of our election.

    Well then, we are on the same page, but I am truly confused about the point of the article. It seemed to me that you were objecting to the fact that our works have anything to do with our assurance or perseverance since they are certain without works by grace alone, but that was not the point after all in the light of your words quoted above.

  49. im.steve said,

    January 4, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Bob, Re #8

    In reading what Roger (curate) cautioned in the previous discussion (despite the title of that post), and in following what he continues to write under this post, I believe one way to put it is: we can not move to the extreme in our assurance such that, based on our understanding of the doctrine of perseverance, we effectively say, “that passage has no relevance for me, thank you very much.” INO, given the communicative force of what Peter wrote (or what Christ said as recorded in Mark), a person should not say, well, I’m convinced I am elect and I am certain about God’s preserving the elect, so this statement, which is about assurance can be minimized. I find myself easily ignoring the communicative force. It obviously wants me not to sit on my six and say, well, “once saved always saved; this is obviously for someone else.” I suppose that is an important question who is this written for after all? Is it for the elect? Aren’t they the ones for which assurance and sanctification apply? Or, is the communicative intention more general, and, in whatever the opposite of the judgment of charity is (maybe the judgment of suspicion), the writer intends also to warn the reprobate in the audience to persist (the one whom RC Sproul describes as not saved but thinks (s)he is saved). Perhaps in his/her case this is another warning from God that (s)he ignores, adding to their condemnation. It seems the warning must be for someone; otherwise, it wouldn’t need to be there in Scripture.

  50. January 4, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Steve,

    Thank you for your gentle admonition. Please rest assured that I am not saying nor implying that anyone should ignore any verse of Scripture. I’m merely saying that all Scripture must be consistent internally and interpreted in context. Neither am I arguing, contrary to the usual FV peanut gallery (no one here), that assurance comes quickly or necessarily easily. The confession covers that nicely in WCF 18.3:

    This infallible assurance doth 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: 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. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure; 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, the proper fruits of this assurance: so far is it from inclining men to looseness.

    The WCF summarizes this whole discussion beautifully with so few words. The point of this post was to put good works into its proper perspective w/r to the doctrines of assurance and perseverance, contrary to the Council of Trent and those here who have been essentially quoting Trent and claiming those words as “Reformed”. This post, although not written specifically to do so, also refutes the Federal Vision notion that assurance requires “morbid introspection”.

    As Scripture and the Confession say, we must work actively with the Holy Spirit and by God’s grace in our sanctification, being diligent to use the means of grace and obedience to God’s Word to become more and more conformed to the image of Christ over time. The good works so produced are ONE of several means by which to obtain confidence in our election. These good works, of course, have nothing to do with our justification, which is a monergistic work of God and apprehended by faith alone.

    Thanks again for seeking clarification.

  51. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 4, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    I’m gonna stick my neck out here for the purpose of being educated.

    It seems to me that the terminology of “certainty” has changed since the Confession was written.

    At that time, things like “the sun will come up tomorrow” were regarded (correct me if I’m wrong) as “certain” — perhaps slightly less certain than the Second Coming, but certain.

    Now that four centuries have passed, and we’ve had time to reflect on the difference between deductive and inductive reasoning, we now often restrict the word “certain” to mean “mathematically certain.”

    So we might say, “The chance that the sun will rise tomorrow is 99.999999999% — practically certain”, but we understand that there are still contingencies that might interfere. The Second Coming, perhaps. :)

    Now, given these statements in the Confession:

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

    2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption. — WCoF 18

    would it be unreasonable to say that assurance is not mathematical certainty, but practical certainty.

    That is, I do not have mathematically 100% confidence that I am indeed saved and am not one of the hypocrites who have carnal presumptions; yet still and all, I have a hope grounded on the promises of God, an inward evidence that those promises have been fulfilled in me, a demonstration of their working in my life — I have practical certainty that I am saved.

    Would that, or would that not, map to WCoF 18.1-2? Or does assurance require absolute knowledge of one’s faith and heart?

    Jeff Cagle

  52. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 4, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    s/”four centuries”/”three-and-a-half centuries”/

  53. R. F. White said,

    January 4, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Bob, thanks for 43. No need for apologies. Let me try something out.

    As we reflect on assurance, perseverance, and 2 Pet 1:10, it seems to me that we must recognize that God ordains the means as well as the ends. Specifically, in light of our topic, we cannot expect to obtain the ends of assurance and perseverance if we ignore the means He has appointed to those ends.

    What, then, are the “means” to the “end” of assurance? There are several such “means.” For example, WCF 18.1 says, “… 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, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.”

    Note those words, ‘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.’ It’s not that loving Christ and endeavoring to walk in good conscience are conditions/grounds of justification, but they are conditions/grounds of assurance. Without them assurance may be lacking, since as the natural consequences of saving faith their absence indicates the absence of saving faith, and, in the absence of saving faith, justification doesn’t occur.

    Again, when we’re talking about the “means” to that “end” which is assurance, I have in mind what WCF 18.2 says when it tells us that the “assurance of faith” is “founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God.” I also have in mind what is said in WCF 18.4: “True believers may have the assurance of their salvation [in diverse] ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted [temporarily interrupted].”

    How is it that assurance can be shaken, diminished, and intermitted? The WCF goes on to say, “by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light.” Notice that diligence in preserving it, walking in obedience rather than falling into the sin that wounds the conscience, and resisting temptation are all means of gaining and sustaining assurance.

    In addition to the “end” which is assurance, we can speak of that “end” which is perseverance. Again, what are the “means” to that “end”? As WCF 17.2 says, the perseverance of the saints “depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.” At the same time, WCF 17.3 acknowledges that God has appointed means of the preservation of the saints in the state of grace. God’s Word, with its promises and warnings, is such a means. To be kept from totally or finally falling from a state of grace, the saints must not and, by God’s enablement, will not neglect the means of their preservation. The saints cannot neglect the means of preservation and expect to be preserved. God warns the saints against apostasy, and they tremble at God’s warnings. He makes promises to the saints, and they embrace God’s promises. The saints prove that they are saints–they make their calling and election sure–as God’s Word bears its proper, Spirit-produced fruit in their lives: they both tremble at the threats of God’s Word and embrace its promises.

    All the above brings us to passages like 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” Such passages show the proper dynamic of God’s promise and God’s warning as the Spirit works with the Word to effect His will in the elect. In other words, in His warnings God declares His wrath towards sinners and so moves them to fear; in His promises God declares His love for sinners who receive and rest in Christ alone and so moves them from fear to confidence. In the true believer, in God’s elect, the work of the Spirit through the Word does not stop with the warning of God that bears its fruit in fear of punishment for sin. Rather the Spirit directs us, as elect sinners, to the promise of God after the warning of God, and the promise of God brings forth in us confidence for the day of judgment, confidence that is the fruit of His love. This confidence is experienced by the Spirit through and according to the Word.

  54. January 4, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Dr. White,

    Very well said. I hope that I did not leave the impression that I would in some way disagree with your exposition. If so, it was only through some incapacity in communication on my part.

  55. im.steve said,

    January 7, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Bob, Re #50.

    Thank you for clarifying. Yes, the WCF describes the tension succinctly. Certainly was not admonishing – merely contemplating the discussion and seeking constructive correspondence.


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