Tag: Assurance of Salvation

Scripture Alone or Faith Alone: What Sola Should Come First?

When we write or teach on the solas of the Reformation, with which distinctive should we begin? In the end, this is probably a matter of preference, but after completing Reeves and Chester’s (excellent) book Why the Reformation Still Matters and pondering how I would begin our young adult’s study on the Reformation, I was forced to wrestle with the question of order.

I had planned to begin with Scripture alone, but when I noticed that Reeves and Chester begin with justification by faith alone (chapter 1) and then move into Scripture alone (chapter 2), I was thrown into a fit of confusion. Alright, it wasn’t that severe, but I did develop two different introductions because I was slightly unsure how I should go about sequencing these Reformation distinctives.

In the end, I went with Sola Scriptura. But why begin our discussion of the five solas of the Reformation with Scripture Alone? Doesn’t it make more historical sense to begin with justification by faith alone (Sola Fide)?

The Truth of Justification, Found in the Bible
Yes, perhaps for the sake of historical order it helps to begin with justification by faith alone. If we follow the narrative of Luther’s theological and spiritual development, it makes sense to begin with the “material principle” of the Reformation, for it was two years after Luther posted the 95 Theses, in a disputation with John Eck (1519), that the Reformer officially concluded that Scripture is the supreme spiritual authority in the church and that church tradition is subject to the authority of Scripture, not vice-versa.

In Luther’s story, it is his search for assurance of salvation that led him to discover the glorious truth of justification by faith alone. Yet, he discovered this truth in the Scriptures, which would eventually lead him to declare Scripture Alone as the supreme source of spiritual authority for the individual Christian and the corporate church.

The doctrine of Scripture Alone, therefore, was implicit, we might say, in Luther’s search for assurance. It was Luther’s search for assurance that led him to find light in the Scripture and not in the teaching of the Roman Church. Indeed, it was the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church concerning salvation that had cast Luther into a desperate spiritual state for several years. He finally had a breakthrough when he discovered the truth of justification in the Scriptures.

Not a Mere Logical Starting Point
Our of the Reformation principle of Scripture Alone, therefore, is not a mere intellectual or logical starting point. Intimately tied to the principle of Scripture Alone is the believer’s assurance of salvation, for it is in the Scriptures and only in the Scriptures that God has given us his clear Word on how a person can be right with his Creator. When the supreme authority of Scripture is disregarded or when Scripture is placed on an equal plane of authority with church tradition and counsels, then the gospel and assurance of salvation will soon be muddled and eventually lost.

As the Luther and the other reformers sought to promote theological, spiritual, and ecclesiastical transformation throughout Europe, they drew their doctrines from the Scripture, appealing to the Bible as God’s Word to man and our supreme spiritual authority for faith and practice. Even those who came before Luther who had critiqued the Roman Catholic Church—John Wycliff, John Hus—had rooted their arguments in the Bible, thus indicating that it was to Scripture they were finally beholden, not the church’s teaching.

Without a commitment to Scripture Alone, the Reformers’ commitment to other doctrines of the Reformation would have been weakened and eventually abandoned. It was because the Reformers were convinced that God has revealed his Word in the Bible alone and not in the teaching of the church that they were able to stand through intense opposition from the Catholic church.

That’s why I begin with Scripture Alone. 

The Connection Between Assurance, Depression, and Diligence

A few weeks ago I took our college group—and later in the week, our young professionals—through a study on what the Proverbs say about diligence. The week prior we had all been laid low by the many Proverbs that condemn laziness.

I began the lesson my noting that diligence is an “all of life” issue. That is, rather than talking about work ethic—a metric that is typically used in relation to how we approach our job or career—we should speak in terms of diligence and how Scripture calls us to apply diligence to every facet of our lives: our walk with Christ, our jobs, our relationships, our responsibilities at home, our ministries, and even our recreation (see Prov 12:27; 19:24)! Continue reading “The Connection Between Assurance, Depression, and Diligence”

The Value of Your Salvation Testimony

By delivering His people from sin’s power and penalty, God has given every Christian a testimony—a story of sin and grace; justice and mercy; failure and redemption. Yet, a personal testimony of salvation in Christ is unique to all other stories we can tell. We might have warm-hearted stories of time spent with family or riveting stories of adventure and friendship. Our testimony of salvation in Christ is unique, however, for it is the story through which all our other stories find meaning and significance. Continue reading “The Value of Your Salvation Testimony”

Applying the Parable of the Soils

The parable of the soils (Matthew 13:3-8; Mark 4:3-8; Luke 8:4-15) is simultaneously a frightening and encouraging section of Scripture. It warns all those who hear the Word of Christ to take heed lest their heart or the hearts of fellow believers ultimately reject the word and become unfruitful. But it also encourages believers to pursue and protect what Jesus calls “a good and honest heart” that “bear[s] fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). There are clues in the parable and the immediate context that help us discern how to cultivate a heart that readily accepts and profits from the Word, and believers should make it their aim to diligently apply these principles. Continue reading “Applying the Parable of the Soils”

How Many Conditions Must We Meet in Order to Believe in Jesus? None

Perhaps the most deadly feature of hyper-Calvinism is the idea that one must first discover certain qualifications of the Spirit’s work in his heart before he has warrant to believe in Jesus. Over the centuries hyper-Calvinists have taught, either implicitly or explicitly, that a certain amount of remorse for sin or love for Christ must be located the soul in order for a person to know that he is elect and has warrant to believe in Jesus for salvation.

Once accepted, however, this damnable notion can keep many souls from Jesus and salvation. Happily, the New Testament does not require any qualifications of the sinner before he come to Christ. The call is to “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Jesus calls to sinners, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).   Continue reading “How Many Conditions Must We Meet in Order to Believe in Jesus? None”

Sleep, Exercise, and Assurance of Salvation

Assurance of salvation is God’s will for Christians. A continual lack of assurance and doubting of one’s standing before God may appear ultra-spiritual, but it is actually a sign of spiritual immaturity. Scripture repeatedly calls Christians to pursue assurance and assumes that it is possible to attain it.

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Heb 6:11-12; emphasis addded)

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13; emphasis added) Continue reading “Sleep, Exercise, and Assurance of Salvation”

Helping People Find Genuine Assurance of Salvation (or, A Case for Systematic Theology)

For some (if not many) Christians, finding and enjoying the assurance of their salvation is a painfully elusive venture.  Although there may be evidence in a person’s life that strongly suggests they are a believer—evidence confirmed by trusted friends and pastors—a robust sense that they truly belong to God seems to regularly evade their grasp.  As a result, these struggling Christians find themselves returning to the mire of past sin, unable to wage effective warfare against their illicit thoughts and desires, and consequently finding themselves largely unproductive and unfruitful in their Christian life. Continue reading “Helping People Find Genuine Assurance of Salvation (or, A Case for Systematic Theology)”