"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Roman Catholic Considers Reformation Theology | Main | The Conversation that Never Was »

    How may I know I'm elect?

    "How may I know I'm elect? First, by the Word of God having come in divine power to the soul so that my self-complacency is shattered and my self-righteousness is renounced. Second, by the Holy Spirit convicting me of my woeful, guilty, and lost condition. Third, by having had revealed to me the suitability and sufficiency of Christ to meet my desperate case and by a divinely given faith causing me to lay hold of and rest upon Him as my only hope. Fourth, by the marks of the new nature within me - a love for God; an appetite for spiritual things; a longing for holiness; a seeking after conformity to Christ. Fifth, by the resistance which the new nature makes to the old, causing me to hate sin and loathe myself for it. Sixth, by avoiding everything which is condemned by God's Word and by sincerely repenting of and humbly confessing every transgression. Failure at this point will surely bring a dark cloud over our assurance causing the Spirit to withhold His witness. Seventh, by giving all diligence to cultivate the Christian graces and using all diligence to this end. Thus the knowledge of election is cumulative."

    A. W. Pink

    Posted by John Samson on July 17, 2006 04:38 PM


    Please. What is the reference for this quote?

    Tremendous quote.

    "Sixth, by avoiding everything which is condemned by God's Word and by sincerely repenting of and humbly confessing every transgression. Failure at this point will surely bring a dark cloud over our assurance causing the Spirit to withhold His witness. "

    Isn't this sixth step going to be impossible for anyone to keep (except Wesleyans, of course!) in this lifetime? Confessing *every* transgression? Avoiding *every* thing forbidden by God? Luther almost drove himself nuts in a monastary trying to remember to confess every sin to his confessor...can't we drive ourselves nuts today, just without the human priest in the loop? Can't we get neurotic over whether or not we're elect?

    How literally did Pink mean "every" in this quote? Just curious...I've never read his work.

    What if someone (not myself) does not find in their life these signs that they are among the elect? Should they then conclude that they are not elect, and despair? After all, if they are not elect they are wasting their time trying to repent, according to this kind of theology. Or should they do what the Bible tells them to do, repent and turn to Christ? Should they believe the truth in it which some seem to deny, that "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved", whether or not they exhibit any signs of being elect?

    Article XVII of the Thirty Nine Articles of the Anglican church makes my point well:

    So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.

    The danger of this kind of teaching on election, especially if linked with supposed signs of election like Pink's, is that it drives those who don't appear to be elect to despair and to even worse sin.

    And then there is the opposite danger: those who consider that they have exhibited the signs of being elect, therefore they are elect and assured of salvation, therefore it doesn't matter if they sin. Sadly this is a route which many have taken. "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12, TNIV).

    So, it seems to me, we should indeed seek to exhibit in our lives Pink's signs, but we should not presume to say that these are either necessary or sufficient signs of our final salvation, which is a matter for God himself.


    The phrase, "How do I know if I am elect", is similar to saying, how do I know the Holy Spirit has done a work of grace in my heart. This is not a post about predestination, as your response seems to imply, but about signs of grace. That is, signs that a work of grace has taken place in ones' heart. And these signs all point to the work of Christ, not our work.

    Lets get specific here. You asked, what if persons do not have these signs, what are they to conclude. Let's take them one at a time a bit more closely:

    1) self-righteousness is shattered. If someone still has confidence in the flesh, i.e. not glorying in Christ Jesus for their salvation, then they simply should not have assurance of salvation. How can the self-righteous be assured of election?

    2) the Holy Spirit convicting me of my woeful, guilty, and lost condition. The opposite of this would be persons who do not believe they are guilty or lost. Can such a person be saved? If someone believes they are innocent and without need of Christ, should we assure them of their salvation?

    3) That Christ alone is suitable for salvation. If someone does not believe the mercy of Christ alone can save them, should we assure them of salvation? never.

    4) That the marks of the new nature i.e. a desire for Christ exists in the heart. Can we assure someone of salvaiton who has no desire for Christ?

    5) resistance of new nature against old. Should we assure persons who continue unrepentantly in sinful lifestyles without any regard to the commands of Christ. When we sin, and we all do, does the Spirit convict? If not, and the peron shows no regard or desire to obey but still loves and continues in their old rebellious lifestyle, should that person have assurance? Not according to the Scriptures

    5) avoiding that which is condemned in God's Word. The opposite would be running to everything God condemns in His word. Should we assure persons who run to sin every time it is presented to them. Or should we assure those who desire to love Christ?

    These points are healthy because they take the eyes off of self and show it to be God who does the work of grace in us that we might believe. And faith is not empty. It is a faith that has no confidence in the flesh and glories in Christ Jesus. (see Phil 3) It is a faith which sees itself has having no hope save in the mercy of Christ. It is a faith that sees its own sin and desperate condition apart from Christ. A work of the Holy Spirit alone can produce these things.

    If you can show how these qualities can be absent in one whom Christ has done a work of grace in then please do so. When looked at more closely, none of these signs are of self-confidence but rather, confidence in Christ. So you comment "we should indeed seek to exhibit in our lives Pink's signs" would seem to miss the point. These are not signs that we SEEK to exhibit. They are signs that naturally accompany regeneration.

    let me help you out. For the sins that you can't remember (we all have them) then just say as David did when he asked God to forgive his hiddened sins. By "hiddened" he didn't mean the ones that he was hiding from people or God, he meant the ones that only God knew about. That's what so great about the true God...he knows everything and realizes we don't. So don't go nuts...go to Jesus.

    "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:3-6

    John W.,
    very good!


    This philosophy of faith is rooted in a gross misinterpretation of our key text on God's gracious gift of eternal life - to all who believe. I tremble for you and those you teach to look inwardly for "signs of grace." When Paul looked with himself, what did he report to have found? "I know that nothing good dwells in me."

    And though I obey the Apostle's counsel and "aim for perfection," "perfecting holiness out of reverence for God," if I were to follow the counsel I read in this thread I would have no recourse but to say in despair,

    "O wretched man that I am!"

    Bear with me while I, by the grace of God, illuminate your error with a little exposition of the scriptures. This is a literal translation of Ephesians 2.8:

    "It is by grace through faith you have been saved, and that not from yourselves. It is the gift of God - not of works - lest any man should boast."

    It's crucial to understand that the word "faith" (pisteos) here is feminine, while "that" (touto) is neuter, and is what's called a demonstrative noun.

    In short, the rules of Greek grammar disallow us from reading that "faith" is a gift from God. It most certainly is not, but a command. As Jesus proclaimed, "Repent and believe the Gospel." God's orders.

    Rather, Paul has in view being "saved" as "the gift of God," which he says is received is received "by grace through faith."

    John Calvin, incidentally, understood exactly this. Not that I need any man to tell me what the Word of God says. But since you call yourselves by his name, and his Greek was better than mine, I mention this that you may get the call of the Gospel right - or perhaps, that you will obey Christ's commandment and turn to God and entrust yourself to his Son.

    That said, Calvin's commentaries on this very verse - the clearest and most important text on the nature and doctrine of the Gospel - are in full agreement with my exposition. On Ephesians 2.8, he wrote:

    “Now it may be asked how men receive the salvation offered to them by the hand of God? I reply: by faith. Hence [Paul] concludes that herein is nothing of our own. If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all praise, it follows that salvation is not of us.

    Continuing on this text, Calvin went on to say:

    When, on man’s side, he places the only way of receiving salvation in faith alone, he rejects all other means on which men are accustomed to rely. Faith, then, brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ.”

    If the teaching of the Apostles is not sufficiently clear to you, then note that Calvin said that God's will for the unbeliever is that "he places the only way of receiving salvation in faith alone." When the unbeliever has faith, it brings him "empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ."

    In other words, as Paul says in Ephesians 1, "You heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you received the the promised Holy Spirit."

    The gift of the Spirit, therefore, is received by yielding to God and trusting in Jesus Christ.

    When we do this, rather than looking within our twisted hearts for "signs of grace" to see if we're elect - the choice to have in Christ "strips us of all praise."

    And that, my brothers, is how I know I have received the gift of eternal life. I was stripped of all praise and gave God all the glory by trusting in Jesus Christ. By putting my faith in Christ, to use Calvin's phrase, I came empty to God. And his Son Jesus Christ immersed me with the Holy Spirit, by whom I am seal for the day of redemption. Amen.

    Now I realize that Piper and Sproul and their fellow travelers teach that faith is a gift, corrupting themselves by distorting this very, and very precious, text of holy Scripture. But they are in gross error.

    Like fools, they begin with a philosophy - in this case, the unregenerate cannot have faith - and commit sin by importing a false doctrine into apostolic teaching that the Apostles themselves would roundly condemn.

    So leave this way, and teach the truth that is in Christ Jesus. That, my friends, is how you can best exalt God and magnify his glory.

    My conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit, I carry an immense burden for you. And by the grace of God, I'm here to help.


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