May 14, 2020

How Do I Know If I'm Elect?

Nathan W. Bingham & Burk Parsons
How Do I Know If I'm Elect?

How can we be sure today if God chose before the foundation of the world to save us? Today, Burk Parsons carefully guides us through passages of Scripture that address questions of election and our assurance of salvation.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: I'm here on the Ligonier campus with Ligonier's chief publishing officer and also one of our teaching fellows, Dr. Burk Parsons. Dr. Parsons, how do I know if I'm elect?

DR. BURK PARSONS: Well, the simple answer to that question is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." We know from Scripture that it is by faith and by faith alone in Christ, and by Christ alone, that we are justified, and that is all by the grace of God alone. And so, really, truly the simple answer is "believe." And all who believe have life. All who believe are united to Jesus Christ. Because the question that you've asked, the question that many Christians ask, "How do I know that I'm elect?," that question typically comes because of our doubts. Our doubts about our faith, our doubts about God's preserving grace, are doubts as to whether or not we are truly regenerate, if the Holy Spirit has truly made us to be born again. And these are real questions and real doubts that enter our minds from the darts of the evil one and even the accusations of our own flesh. These doubts come about because of our own sins, because of our own pain, the trials that we go through, the hardships that we endure, and they cause us to ask the question: "Lord, am I truly Your child? Am I truly a Christian? Am I truly among Your elect?" Because we understand that God's election is a once-for-all decision that He made before the foundation of the earth.

We have to remember that when God elects His people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, God elects us unto faith and He elects us into Christ. That's the language of Paul in Ephesians 1, that we are elected in Christ. We are chosen in Him, and we are also elect unto the saving and regenerating power of the Holy Spirit within us, who makes us to be born again. And so, when we are elected from before the foundation of the earth, God in real time, by the power of His Spirit, conquers us, takes us over, gives us a new heart, and makes us His children, and He does it through the instrument of faith.

Now the question is, of course, How do we know that we have true faith? And that question is very easily answered. In fact, it's answered not only in the New Testament"it's answered not only in James 2; it's answered not only by Christ throughout the Gospels"it's really an answer that we were given throughout all of Scripture. And the very simple point is this: if we truly believe, if we have true genuine faith, then that faith will bear fruit. We know that we are justified by God by faith and faith alone. That is to say, we know that we are declared righteous by God"that God pardons all our sins, imputes our sin to Christ, and imputes Christ's righteousness to us once and for all time"that God does that. But we also understand that the faith which justifies is a faith that never remains alone. That is to say, it's a faith that will produce fruit. It will show forth its authenticity by our sanctification. And so, the point that James is making in James 2 about showing our faith"we're justifying our faith by our works"is the same point that Jesus makes throughout the gospels.

It's the same point that Peter makes in 2 Peter 1, and that's a passage in 2 Peter 1 where many Christians are confused and confounded by the statement that Peter makes there in verse 10 when he writes the following: "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election." Now, that's just one part of the verse and really taken out of context, but that one part of that one verse has confounded many Christians for ages because they ask the question: "Well, how do I make my calling an election sure, and what does that even mean? How do I confirm my calling and election?" The language there and the word that Peter uses there is really a legal term that can also be translated "ratify," in the sense that when we are true Christians"and Peter here is writing to true Christians; he's writing to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with Peter and the other Apostles.

This is a faith that is by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. And throughout the first portion of 2 Peter 1, Peter has reminded the Christians of all that they have in Christ, even saying, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature" (vv. 3-4). And then listen to this. He says, "Having escaped [from] the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desires." And then Peter in verses 5 and following goes through all these things that we are to generously add or "supplement" to our faith with virtue that has goodness, knowledge, knowledge and self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (vv. 5-7).

What Peter is arguing here is much the same thing that John is arguing in his first epistle, that if we have true faith, we're going to have true love for our brother. If we don't have true love for our brother, then we don't have true faith. If we're not bearing fruit in our lives, fruits of repentance, not just remorse over sin which leads to death like in the case of Judas, but true life-giving repentance like in the case of Peter that leads to sanctification, leads to consecration, to a new way of life. That if we are living that way, if we are not practicing sin unrepentantly but we're living following after Christ and pursuing Christ, humbling ourselves at the foot of the cross, then what that will mean is that we will be by virtue of bearing fruit from our faith, we will be confirming our calling and election. But we're not confirming it to God; we are confirming it to ourselves, and God is confirming it to us by His Spirit. And His Spirit is in us to both convict us of sin and to comfort us through repentance as we look to Christ.

And so, Christ is really the key here"being united to Him, trusting Him, recognizing that we are saved from beginning to end, and we are justified because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, because of His perfection and not ours. We have to remember that whenever we ask this question, "How do I know if I'm truly elect?," whether we have a strong faith, a blazing faith, or whether we have a weak faith, we have to remember, as our friend Sinclair Ferguson has reminded us over the years, that whether it's a strong faith or a weak faith, we all have the same strong Christ. Christ is the One who saves us. It is according to His works and according to His righteousness that we know we are elect and we have that righteousness by faith and by faith alone.