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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
 www.frcsr.com/fellowship/melville/
 
Title:The assurance of your election is to be found in Jesus Christ
Text:CD 1 art 12-13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2020-07-05
Added:2021-12-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Bible Translation: ESV

Book of Praise: 2014

 

Hymn 64:1

Apostles' Creed

Psalm 23:1,2,3

Psalm 52:5,6

Hymn 64:2

Read:  2 Peter 1:1-15

Text:  Canons of Dort, Chapter 1, art. 12,13

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What are we to make of 2 Peter 1:10?

"Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall."

What does that mean?  Over the last few weeks we've been learning what the Bible has to say about election and predestination, making use of chapter 1 of the Canons of Dort.  One of the main things we have learned is that our calling and election is all of God.  It is God who calls, and it is God who elects us to eternal life.  Your calling and election is not your decision for God, but God's decision for you.  He chose us before the foundation of the world, before we had done anything good or evil.  He did so not because of us but because of his good pleasure. 

  But then, what about 2 Peter 1:10?  What does it mean, then, to confirm your calling and election?  Did we get it all wrong?  Is it up to us after all as to whether or not we really are among God's elect?  2 Peter 1:10 also says that "if you practice these qualities you will never fail."  Those qualities, it is clear, are the things that Peter mentioned in verse 5-7, that we supplement to our faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love.  But isn't that pushing us back to the idea that election unto salvation will only be ours if we do our part?  Isn't this pushing us back into the idea that somehow what Christ did wasn't enough, that in the end our calling and election is up to us after all and that you can only be sure of your salvation, you can only be sure of your election, if you are good enough to the very end?  And isn't that the problem that many of us have?  The problem that we don't know if we are good enough, the problem that we know that we are not good enough, the problem that we know that if our salvation was up to us we would undoubtedly perish?  How then can we be sure of our election?

What Peter means when he instructs us to confirm our calling and election is not that you need to somehow convince God of your election: God knows those who are His and not one of them will be lost.  But what he means is that you need to be sure of this for yourself!  That’s what we learn when we read 2 Peter 1:10 in the context of the Bible chapter.  Second Peter begins with a description of what God has already done for us and in us through Jesus Christ.  He’s given us faith, His power has given us all things we need for a life of godliness, He’s given us

“his precious and very great promises, so that through them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”  (2 Peter 1:4)

And, verse 5 says, for this very reason, because of what God has given you, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue and knowledge and self-control and so forth.  And, verse 10, be even more diligent to do these things so that you will never fall and so make your call and election sure.  The Bible is clear that if you do not do these things, then you are not living as one who has escaped the corruption of this world, you are not living as one who is saved in Jesus Christ.  But when you do these things, when you are diligent, when you make every effort to grow in faith and love and godliness, then you will see and experience the fruit of one who is in Christ.  And then you will never stumble, then you will be assured that you belong to God in Jesus Christ, then you will be assured of your salvation. 

  So the way to be sure of your election is to begin with the promises of God, believing that through these promises you have the forgiveness of sin and are united to the Lord Jesus Christ.  And then, knowing that, to make every effort to grow in Christ, to bear fruit for God, to supplement or to add to your faith virtue and knowledge and self-control and perseverance and godliness and brotherly kindness and love.  And if you practice these qualities, you will be sure of your calling and election, if you do these things you will never fall.

It is with this in mind that I wish to direct your attention to the assurance of our election as we confess this together in chapter 1, articles 12 and 13 of the Canons of Dort.  I proclaim God's Word to you under this theme:

The assurance of your election is to be found in Jesus Christ.

1. Being sure of your election

2. Living sure in your election

 

1. Being sure of your election.

One question that deeply disturbs many godly saints in the question:  "But am I really saved?  Am I really one of God's elect?" 

  The Arminian asks this question because he really doesn't know the answer.  The Arminian believes that you cannot know for certain until the day that you die whether or not you are truly one of God's elect.  You cannot know, they say, because ultimately your election is up to you!  All you can do is try to keep on holding on to Jesus, keep on believing and trying not to backslide until the very end.  This, of course, is a very sad way to live.  There's no real assurance here, no conviction, no quiet confidence that you are truly saved.

  But there are also Reformed believers who struggle with the question of whether or not they are elect.  For some, the struggle is because they've lived a very sinful life, they've committed one or more very serious sins.  The Canons of Dort will have more to say about that in chapter 5.  Others wonder because they lose sight of the gospel and of the fact that our entire salvation is of Christ from beginning to end.  Although they agree in principle that you are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, in practice they end up thinking that they have to do more in order to be saved.  And then there are others who set aside the clear teaching and promises of God and instead search for some special feeling or a quiet voice whispering to their souls that they are indeed one of God's elect.  And then when their feelings come and go, their assurance that they are one of God's elect also comes and goes.

But the Bible teaches us that God's children can be sure of their election to salvation.  Consider these Bible verses.

  • Job 19:25-27.  "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.  My heart faints within me!"  For all his suffering, and for all his questions about where God was and what God was doing, Job was assured, he was absolutely confident of his standing with God. 
  • Luke 10:20.  "Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
  • Romans 8:31-33.  "What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him gracious gives us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God's elect?  It is God who justifies."
  • And Romans 8:38-39.  "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."  The apostle Paul is sure: nothing can separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  He is and he always will be one of God's elect.
  • 1 John 4:13.  "By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit."
  • And 2 Peter 1:1,2.  "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. . ."
  • And 2 Peter 1:3-5.  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

All these Bible verses speak of assurance.  From these and many other Bible texts it is clear that the saints of both the Old and the New Testaments could be, and indeed were, sure of their election.  And the reason why they could be so sure was because their starting point was not in themselves but in Jesus Christ.  That's where we are to start, with the promise that "whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life".  And with the promise that that the Lord Jesus Christ gave in John 10:28, that

"I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand."

That's where we need to start when we speak of the assurance of election:  with God and the sure promise of our union with Christ.  To paraphrase what John Calvin wrote in his Institutes (Book 3, chapter 24, paragraph 5), since we are elect in Christ, it stands to reason that we will also find the assurance of our election in Christ.  Calvin also wrote, "How insane are we to seek outside of him what we have already obtained in him, and can find in him alone?"  And therefore we don't look for the assurance of our election in ourselves, on the basis of our own works or the worthiness of our own faith.  We don't even look for the assurance of our election in a voice whispering these things in our hearts.  But we find our assurance of election in the promises of God.  When you are asking yourself whether or not you are one of God's elect, you need to ask yourself another question in order to answer this one.  Ask yourself:  "Do I know my sin?  Do I understand my need for a Saviour?"  And, "Do I believe that God has given me the one and only Saviour, Jesus Christ?"  Romans 10:9,10 says,

"if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

And if you saved, then you are one of God's elect.

And so the way to be sure of your election is to find that assurance in Jesus Christ and in the sure promise of the gospel that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.

But there's more to be said.  Because we might still doubt, we might still wonder and we might still struggle in our assurance of election.  Or else we might not doubt and we might not wonder about our election because we've deluded ourselves into thinking that all is well with our salvation when in fact it is not at all.  And so the Canons of Dort gives us further instruction that we might be assured of our election not by prying in to the secret and hidden things of God, but by observing in us the sure fruits of election.  That brings us to our second point.

 

2.  Living sure in your election.

There is a clear reason as to why the apostle Peter called his readers to "be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election."  That's because there were many so-called Christians who were not Christian at all.  When Peter wrote his second letter the false teachers that he was faced with were saying that it did not matter what you did or how you lived.  These people, Peter wrote in 2 Peter 2:1, had denied the Master who bought them, and, chapter 2:15 adds, had forsaken the right way and gone astray.  They were the ones, 2 Peter 2:20 says, that having escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them.  They’d fallen back into a life of sin with the result being that the last state was worse than the first.  The false teachers that Peter was writing against did not seem to understand what effect the gospel must have on our lives.  To the contrary, they spoke and acted as though once you’ve been saved you could live and do whatever you pleased.  Peter didn’t mince his words when he wrote in 2 Peter 2:14,15 that they had

“eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin.  They entice unsteady souls.  They have hearts trained in greed.  Accursed children!  Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.”

But we should not just look at others: we need to think about this for ourselves too.  Because we too are in danger of falling into one of two dangers.  The first danger is that we go back to trying to save ourselves, to being busy doing this or that to feel accepted by others, and even to feel accepted by God Himself.  But the other danger is that as we reject this, we also reject God’s claim on our lives.  But the Bible teaches us that we were saved for a purpose.  We were saved to bear fruit.  We were saved by Christ’s blood so that we might be renewed by His Holy Spirit to serve Him, to live for him, to grow in Him and to be more like Him.  And if we do that, then we will grow in our salvation and we will be assured of our election.  But if we don’t do that, then we are scorning the blood of Christ, we are making light of what He has done for us and we are rejecting the new life that He has called us to live.  And that's dangerous.  Because if we are living like that, then we are living like one who is not saved at all.  2 Peter 3:17 says,

“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.”

What we need to understand is that the gospel must change us!  And when you see and experience the change that comes with a true faith in Jesus Christ, then you will also be assured of your salvation, and you will never fall.  That’s what Peter is getting at when he writes in 2 Peter 1:10,

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”

When Peter says here that you will never fall, he does not mean that you will never sin but that you will be firmly established, that you will be unmoved, that you will be fully assured that you are a child of God, elected to eternal life.  And you will receive this assurance, 2 Peter 1:10 says,

“if you practice these qualities.”

And those things that you are to do, are the things that Peter spells out in verses 5-7 where he tells you to

“supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

The Bible never suggests that godliness isn’t all that important.  The Bible never suggests that its ok to “go with the flow.”  The Bible never suggests that since Jesus did it all for you, it is up to you as to how you are to live your life and that nobody can tell you what to do.  No, since God has given you what you need for a life of godliness, you must be godly!  You must do what you can to grow in knowledge, to develop self-control, to persevere in godliness.  You are to spend time with your brothers and sisters in Christ and be kind to them, love them, help them.  You are to love both God and your neighbor and to grow in that love.  These are not suggestions, these are not options for the Christian:  you need to do these things!  You were not saved to be selfish, but Christ saved you to serve!  To serve Him, to live for Him, to praise Him and to serve your neighbor, to love them and to be a blessing to them.

That’s what you must do in order that you might never stumble and fall.  So Peter is telling us very clearly that what you do has a direct impact on your assurance of election.  “If you practice these qualities you will never fall.”  But on the other hand, if you don’t practice these qualities, if you do not supplement your faith in this way, then you will stumble and you will fall.  You will be ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, (verse 8), you will be one who is nearsighted and blind, one who has forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. (Verse 9)

And now, having understood this, let us turn back to chapter 1, article 12 of the Canons of Dort.

The elect in due time, though in various stages and in different measure, are made certain of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation. They attain this assurance, however, not by inquisitively prying into the hidden and deep things of God, but by observing in themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unfailing fruits of election pointed out in the Word of Godsuch as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, and a hunger and thirst for righteousness.

And article 13,

The awareness and assurance of this election provide the children of God with greater reason for daily humbling themselves before God, for adoring the depth of his mercies, for cleansing themselves, and for fervently loving him in turn who first so greatly loved them.  It is therefore not at all true that this doctrine of election and the reflection on it makes them lax in observing the commands of God or falsely secure. In the just judgment of God, this usually happens to those who rashly presume to have the grace of election, or idly and boldly chatter about it, but refuse to walk in the ways of the elect.

I trust that it is clear to you that how you live your life as a Christian is important. Do not be surprised if your faith is weak, do not be surprised if your faith fails, do not be surprised if your assurance of election isn’t there if you do not make use of the means of grace, if you do not regularly come to church, if you do not open your Bible every day,  if you do not grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and in godliness, if you do not partake of the sacraments, and if you do not make every effort to be a living member of Christ and of his church.  But when you do turn to God, when you do give all diligence to supplement your faith with a life of godliness, and when you grow and increase in this, then you will remain firm in your faith and your call and election will be made sure.  And that will be a blessing to you.  It will be a blessing to you because you will be filled with thanks and gratitude towards God.  It will be a blessing because it will make you want to know Christ even more and to love Him and to serve Him even more.

Indeed, being sure of your salvation can never make you careless or godless.  Rather, it will encourage you to grow and increase in the Lord Jesus even more!  You will no longer be grasping for what this world has to offer but you will be longing for God and for what He holds out to you.  Do you see how important it is therefore, brothers and sisters, to be even more diligent to make your call and election sure?  Yes, it does take effort.  Yes, it does mean dying to yourself and living in and for your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  But what a blessing it is to increasingly have that assurance of your election to salvation in this life!  Amen.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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