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Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. - 2 Peter 1:10 (ESV)

This seems to suggest that we have some level of influence over whether we finally end up among the elect, and that idea is contradictory to the Calvinist teaching of Unconditional Election. So how do Calvinists interpret 2 Peter 1:10?

4

Calvinists from Calvin to the present day have interpreted this verse as relating to man's assurance, not God's will.

John Calvin specifically responds to those who say this verse implies that the "stability of our calling and election depends on good works," saying:

[P]urity of life is not improperly called the evidence and proof of election, by which the faithful may not only testify to others that they are the children of God, but also confirm themselves in this confidence, in such a manner, however, that they fix their solid foundation on something else.1

That is, good living can be correctly called proof of election, in that it is a testimony to others and to oneself of one's election, but this does not imply that good living is the foundation of election.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown argue that God's steadfast will needs no assurance, but man does, and good works provide it: "There is no uncertainty on His part, but on ours the only security is our faith in His promise and the fruits of the Spirit."2

Louis Berkof likewise uses this verse as evidence that "believers can in this life attain to the assurance of salvation."3 Similarly, John Frame cites this verse and says,

Calling is a gracious act of God, but it inevitably produces good works in the believer, works that demonstrate that one is in fact called.4


  1. Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles
  2. Jamieson, et al. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
  3. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4.11.C
  4. Frame, Systematic Theology, p940
  • Help me understand how the necessity of works as evidence is something less than doing good works willfully, because I can't see how you can accidently do them, or fail to have evidence of election... – Sola Gratia Jul 1 '18 at 20:58
  • @SolaGratia Maybe I'm misunderstanding your point, but good works are still done "willfully." The inner motivations of others can't be perfectly discerned, but good works still serve as "evidence" (though not proof) of someone's salvation. – Nathaniel Jul 2 '18 at 12:56
  • What is the difference between evidence and proof? When speaking of justification before God, what others think is completely irrelevant is it not? – Sola Gratia Jul 2 '18 at 14:44
  • @SolaGratia It's irrelevant in that it has no actual bearing on the justification itself. But the church still attempts to discern whether individuals are saved, particularly for issues of membership and discipline. Such judgments are made on the basis of "evidence," and could be mistaken. – Nathaniel Jul 2 '18 at 14:52
  • Must the believer do the works which are called evidence? If they don't will they still be saved? The reason I ask is because it's always implied by Calvinists that 'they'll do the works if they're saved' but their choosing to do them and actively doing them is foggy and it seems like they mean they will robotically do them. – Sola Gratia Jul 3 '18 at 13:55
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I believe it is a matter of perspective. I don't see the fundamental Calvinist doctrine being at odds with any scripture, (although many have implemented it in ways contrary to scripture, as with any doctrine).

the KJV says:

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

note the colon, and continues verse 11

For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The second verse reminds us that entrance into heaven is ministered UNTO us, it is not something we accomplish for ourselves.

verses 5-7 show us some fruits of the spirit (virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity).

The point is this: If we doubt our salvation, all we have to do is look at our lives. When we see the fruits of the spirit manifest in us, despite our sinful nature, we are reminded of our election in Christ, and our inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Hope this helps.

EDIT: When I said "matter of perspective", I meant this: From Our perspective, we are working, making decisions, growing in Christ (or falling away). From the Father's perspective, who knows the end from the beginning, we are either elect, or not.

  • Your last statement, clarifying what you meant by a "matter of perspective," is very intriguing. – user23 Nov 7 '14 at 14:59
  • So essentially, we are able to influence who will be or won't be saved, but God knows what will happen in the end? – Zenon Nov 7 '14 at 16:38
  • Yes. if you take the Bible literally, this is the only shoe that fits, in my opinion. I don't understand this scripture as shedding light on the once-saved-always-saved debate, rather as a brother in Christ instructing the churchmembers on how to be assured of their salvation--by examining their fruit bearing. If you examine the verses before and after this one, you'll see why I feel that way. – ridthyself Nov 7 '14 at 17:37
1

We need to be guided in our interpretation of 2 Peter 1:10 not only by the context provided us by Peter, but also by the context provided us by all the other inspired authors of the Bible.

Thomas Constable, in his notes which accompany the NET Bible at bible.org, quotes Richard Bauckham (Jude, 2 Peter. Word Biblical Commentary 50. Waco, Tex.: Word, 1983) as follows:

“This passage [viz., 2 Peter 1:10] does not mean that moral progress provides the Christian with a subjective assurance of his election (the sense it was given by Luther and Calvin, and especially in seventeenth-century Calvinism) . . .”[48].

In other words, what does provide the Christian with a subjective assurance of his or her election are primarily the promises of God, and only secondarily (if that) the occasional naval gazing about our standing before God, which is unchangeable, in light of our state before God, which is highly changeable. Our faith, firm belief, and trust in the promises of God regarding our salvation are so much more important than the feelings we get by constantly monitoring our progress in sanctification.

Do we need periodically to check our progress (or as Peter puts it, "confirm [our] calling and election")? Yes. That progress check, however, is only part of the process of sanctification. Another important part--and here is where the "both/and" kind of thinking is helpful--is to reassure our hearts by such things as the following (not an exhaustive list, by any means):

  • the trustworthiness of God to bring to completion what he has started in our lives. "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6 NAS); and "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy . . . (Jude, v.24).

  • the love and power of God to keep his sheep safely in the hollow of his hand. Jesus said, "'My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand'" (John 10:27-29 NASB Updated.)

  • the centrality of faith in our salvation and in our progress in sanctification. Faith is not just knowing; it is knowing that we know. Faith depends not primarily on logic, reason, and infallible proofs; rather, faith believes in and banks on God's promises. When we truly believe in our hearts what God wants and requires us to believe in order to be saved, then we are surely on the road of faith and on the road to faith. As John said in his first letter: "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life" (5:13 NASB Updated).

  • the relative unimportance of knowing who is (or will be) saved and who is not (or will not be) saved. As Paul tells us very clearly: "Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, 'the Lord knows those who are His,' and, Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness" (2 Timothy 2:19 NASB Updated).

Combining at least the last two bullet points, Christians are both saved by faith and are then to walk by faith and not by sight. An inordinate concern about who is one of the elect/saved or who is not one of the elect/saved is an exercise in futility. Only God "knows those who are His." Our primary task is to "confirm [our] calling and election" by applying ourselves diligently to the formation of such qualities within us as moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Peter 1:5-7). That is the positive side of things.

On the negative side of things, we are "to abstain from wickedness." In other words, don't concern yourself so much with the other guy's spiritual standing before God, but take heed to your own spiritual state before God, which requires frequent repentance, confession, and cleansing (1 John 1:8-10).

In conclusion, there is no dichotomy between God's unconditional election of the elect and the confirmation of our calling and election. It's not a matter of either/or, but both/and. To insist dogmatically that there is a dichotomy when there is none belies, perhaps, a desire to be right at all cost and not a desire to find common ground and then leave the rest to God, who alone and ultimately has all the answers. As Isaiah said in 55:8-9, where the word My refers to the LORD's thoughts and ways,

"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thought than your thoughts.'"

In light of God's omniscience and infinite wisdom, a little humility on our part goes a long, long way, particularly when we are at odds with our brothers and sisters in Christ and refuse to see the merits of their interpretations, perspectives, and reasoning.

  • 1
    Excellent points; it seems there are only a few "Check your progress" verses compared to the multitude of "Trust in God for your salvation" verses. – ridthyself Nov 18 '14 at 19:17
  • @Mr.Bultitude: Thanks for the edit. I think I agree with your reason for excising the first few paragraphs of the original answer. I tend to be a "big thinker." Consequently I sometimes include too much material so as to make a bigger point. That tendency, however, is not always beneficial to my readers. So, thanks again. Don – rhetorician Jul 26 '15 at 2:46

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