Assurance and Election

Question

Is it possible to be broken by your sin, to believe that Christ is the only way to salvation, and to have asked God to save you, yet still not be elect? What can someone do if he thinks he is not elect?

Answer

Well, yes and no, depending on how you define terms like "broken," "believe," "only way of salvation," and "ask God to save." It is not possible for someone to be genuinely broken by sin, genuinely to believe that Christ is the only way to salvation and genuinely to have asked God for salvation, and yet still to be unsaved. But it is possible for someone to believe he has genuine faith and repentance, but to be mistaken (John 2:23-24). And it is possible for one to believe the genuine facts about Jesus yet still be unsaved (Jam. 2:19).

If one's faith in Christ is genuine and one trusts in Christ alone for salvation, then one is saved and will persevere in faith until the end. There are many indicators that one has this kind of faith, but none of the indicators is infallible; it is always possible to be mistaken about one's salvation. Still, the indicators should give us hope that we are saved. And the more indication there is that we are saved, the more hope we should have. Indicators of saving faith include but are not limited to such things as: personal experiences of repentance and faith, good works that flow from faith, confirmation of the content of one's faith by Scripture, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and love for God and for others.

With specific regard to election, all who are ultimately saved are elect, and all who are elect are ultimately saved. But election is a doctrine that refers to the secret counsel of God, not to that which is revealed to us. And the Bible teaches us that some people have a false faith. Because we cannot know anyone's heart with absolute certainty, we cannot identify those who are truly faithful, and therefore we cannot identify the elect. Nevertheless, we can have greater or lesser assurance of salvation, according to the indicators that I mentioned. And since we know that if one is saved now, then one will ultimately be saved, and therefore one is elect. So, to the degree that we can have assurance of our present salvation, we can also have assurance of election.

Now, it is sometimes the case that people doubt their salvation when they learn the doctrine of election. Their doubt commonly arises from a fear that they are self-deluded and not elect. But this fear is unjustified. The doctrine of election is not a reason to doubt the salvation that is evident in your life, but rather a reason to have confidence in the salvation that is evident in your life. The doctrine does not teach that one may have true faith yet perish because one is not elect; on the contrary, everyone who has true faith is elect.

If you have true faith, then you are presently saved, you will ultimately be saved, and you are elect. Yes, the possibility of self-delusion exists, which is why it is always important to examine yourself according to the indicators of salvation (2 Cor. 13:5). But don't be harder on yourself in this examination than the Bible is. Jesus and the apostles rejoiced at the outward conversion of souls (Luke 15), and hoped that all who professed faith were earnest (e.g., Acts 2:41-43). They were optimistic in this regard, not pessimistic (Heb. 6:9), and they encouraged the pursuit of further indications of salvation.

So, if you think you aren't elect: repent and believe the gospel, receive Jesus as your savior, do good works, spend time in communion with God and ask him for assurance. And don't second-guess God. If you believe the gospel and trust in Christ, don't misinterpret the sin in your life as proof that you aren't saved. Rather, interpret it as proof that you are not yet glorified, as proof that Jesus still needs to return to finish what he started, as proof that Paul was telling the truth about the difficulty of Christian living (Rom. 7:14-25; Gal. 5:17). Examine your heart, and pray for wisdom and comfort. Remember, godly men have doubted (Matt. 14:29-31; John 20:24-28), and have sinned greatly (2 Sam. 11-12; Ps. 51; Matt. 26:69-75). Yet, they have been preserved (Luke 22:31-32) and restored (John 21).

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.