We Never Ask “Am I Elect”

Let no one, then, seek confidence in his own election of God anywhere else than “in Christ,” unless, indeed, he would blot out, and do away with, the “book of life” in which his name is written. God’s adoption of us “in Christ” is for no other end than that we should be considered His children…

Calvin Against Pighius | (HT: Kevin DeYoung)


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  1. Great quote! While there is certainly a place for godly self-examination (2 Cor. 13:5) and for giving all diligence to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10), do you think that some of the Puritan writers went overboard in stressing self-examination and discerning the fruits of election? Do you think they were sometimes unbalanced in losing sight of the “objectivity” of the gospel promises in Christ, as such objectivity is reflected in the Calvin quote? (I’m not using the “objectivity” language in the FV sense!) How do you think we should go about maintaining the right balance between (on the one hand) keeping the eyes of our faith fixed upon Christ, and (on the other hand) fulfilling the biblical imperatives of self-examination?

    I don’t know about others, but the more time I spend in self-examination (navel gazing?), the more reason I find to be worried and fearful about my eternal state. There’s still lots of garbage lodging within my breast, and at times there seems so little “sanctity” to my sanctification. “Wretched man that I am!” But when I get my focus off my subjective state of soul and my personal performance, and back onto Christ as God “objectively” delivers Him to me in Word and Sacrament, then I find rest, joy, hope, and peace for my soul.

  2. Can you put the issue any better than Joseph Alleine did:

    “You begin at the wrong end if you first dispute about your election. Prove your conversion, and then never doubt your election. If you cannot yet prove it, set upon a present and thorough turning. Whatever God’s purposes be, which are secret, I am sure His promises are plain. How desperately do rebels argue! ‘If I am elected I shall be saved, do what I will. If not, I shall be damned, do what I can.’ Perverse sinner, will you begin where you should end? Is not the word before you? What says it? ‘Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.’ ‘If you mortify the deeds of the body you shall live.’ ‘Believe and be saved’ (Acts 3:19; Rom 8:13; Acts 16:31). What can be plainer? Do not stand still disputing about your election—but set to repenting and believing. Cry to God for converting grace. Revealed things belong to you; in these busy yourself. It is just, as one well said, that they who will not feed on the plain food of the Word should be choked with the bones. Whatever God’s purposes may be, I am sure His promises are true. Whatever the decrees of heaven may be, I am sure that if I repent and believe, I shall be saved; and that if I do not repent, I shall be damned. Is not this plain ground for you; and will you yet run upon the rocks?”

    • John,

      “prove” as in “test” is one thing, but “prove” as in demonstrate by perfect sanctity is another. Even testing is not without problems. What we must first do is to believe. We must repent daily of our sin and we should not be presumptuous, i.e., to think that impenitence is not an indicator of grave spiritual problems.

      We should be very careful, however, of directing sinners to look at themselves for assurance, at least as the first reflex. The first thing is to look to Christ and his promises as announced in the Gospel and made visible in the sacraments. We confess that we should also be encouraged by evidence of God’s grace in our lives (see HC 86; Belgic 24) but those are secondary.

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