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What does the reformed church teach in terms of what to do, or pray for, if one begins to suspect that they are not predestined for salvation.

And if they are in fact not elected by God, does the church have a process for them to discover this about themselves, or are they to continue in hope even though there is no chance of salvation?

  • See monergism.com/making-your-calling-and-election-sure where the author refers to 2 Pet. 1:10 as a good place to start. – Paul Chernoch Jul 16 at 14:37
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    You seem to be implying that one believes in one's own election (an impossibility, since that is only known of God). Does one not, rather, believe in Jesus Christ, one's only hope of salvation ? – Nigel J Jul 16 at 17:37
  • I edited the question into a form a think is acceptable. – curiousdannii Jul 17 at 5:52
  • @curiousdannii thanks for your revision, I have added to it to better scope my question – Beestocks Jul 17 at 11:06
  • @PaulChernoch Your link helps of answer some of my question, but it operate under the premise that the person is in fact elected by God. I am also interested in what is recommended if the opposite is true. Or is it not possible to know the flip side? – Beestocks Jul 17 at 11:10
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Just because a person is a long time church member does not mean they belong to Christ Jesus or that they have put their faith and trust in Him. There are many people who say they are Christians but who have never experienced the new birth. Forgetting about Calvin for one moment, born-again Christians look to Christ Jesus and believe in this promise in John 6:37-40:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away... I shall lose none of all that he has given me... everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

No if’s, no but’s and no maybe’s. If a person has been born-again then they have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and that is their assurance. If they have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then they begin to produce the fruit of the spirit. A transformed life is evidence of the new birth. As for seekers who have not yet come to saving faith in Christ Jesus, and who look for assurance, then this extract from a sermon preached by Baptist minister Charles H. Spurgeon on the subject of Election may be helpful:

Many persons want to know their election before they look to Christ, but that is not possible; it is only to be discovered by "looking to Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2). Do you feel yourself to be a lost, guilty sinner? Go straight to the cross of Christ, and tell Jesus so, and tell Him that you have read in the Bible, "Whoever comes to me I will never cast out" (John 6:37). Tell Him that He has said, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). Look to Jesus and believe on Him, and you shall make proof of your election directly, for as surely as you believe, you are elect.

If you will give yourself wholly up to Christ and trust Him, then you are one of God's chosen ones; but if you stop and say, "I want to know first whether I am elect", you do not know what you are asking. Go to Jesus, just as you are, in all your guilt. Leave all curious inquiry about election alone. Go straight to Christ, and hide in His wounds, and you shall know your election. The assurance of the Holy Spirit shall be given to you, so that you shall be able to say, "I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me" (2 Timothy 1:12).

Christ was at the everlasting council - He can tell you whether you were chosen or not; but you cannot find it out in any other way. Go and put your trust in Him, and His answer will be, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you" (Jeremiah 31:3). There will be no doubt about His having chosen you when you have chosen Him. (Source: Charles H. Spurgeon’s devotional Morning and Evening, morning 17 July)

This, I believe, expresses the Reformed Protestant view. As the article says, if a person doesn’t know whether they are part of God’s elect then they need to go to the cross and turn to Christ Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2-3). Assurance is experienced by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, by whom the believer realises that they have been adopted into God’s family:

Romans 8:9, 11, 14:16: “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ... And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you... because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God... And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. “

1 Thessalonians 1:4-6: “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction... you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”

2 Timothy 1:12: “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”

It is possible for a believer to back-slide, to grieve the Holy Spirit and to become spiritually sick, but that does not mean they are no longer part of God’s elect or that they have lost their salvation. It means they need to repent and turn to the great physician and cry out for help:

2 Peter 1:1-10: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness... But if anyone does not have them, he is short-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.”

I confess I find all this talk about Calvin and the Elect confusing. I am a Christian of the Reformed Protestant persuasion but I do not follow Calvin. I follow Christ and I believe what the Bible tells us. Here is a brief summary regarding the biblical basis for the believer’s assurance of salvation:

I have been saved – in the past – from the penalty of sin – by a crucified Saviour: “For in this hope we were saved" (Romans 8:24). “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Romans 2:8).

I am being saved – in the present – from the power of sin – by a living Saviour: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18).

I shall be saved – in the future – from the presence of sin – by a coming Saviour: "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" (Romans 5:9)

Regeneration is an on-going process but the Christian who belongs to Christ Jesus can be assured that Jesus shall lose none of all that the Father has given him: “everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:37-40).

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    Surgeon is a moving preacher. Does he imply that if you hunger for Christ then it is a sign that you are elect? Therefore all who want Christ need not to worry that about the scenario where they may in fact be predestined to eternal damnation? – Beestocks Jul 17 at 13:54
  • So if you don’t know you’re elect go to Jesus? But supposing you’re not elect, going to Jesus will do nothing according to Calvinism. And if you are elect you can’t resist even if you tried. – Autodidact Jul 17 at 14:19
  • @Autodidact good points that need to be addressed, that is why I asked does it therefore imply all who want to go to Jesus are by default elect? – Beestocks Jul 17 at 14:24
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    It is the Holy Spirit who convicts the sinner of sin and who draws him so that they respond positively to God’s irresistible call. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer that is the sign of God having elected a believer unto salvation. This is evidenced by a transformed life. No believer who has experienced this work of grace in their life doubts that is a free and undeserved gift from God. They are assured. I have no intention of arguing with detractors of Calvin nor shall I presume to speak for either Calvin or Spurgeon. My answer stands on what the Bible says. – Lesley Jul 17 at 16:50
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    The answer rightly shifts the focus away from "doubting our election". We should not doubt or have faith in our election, but rather only have "Faith in Christ". This is a much more reformed orientation. – L1R Jul 18 at 20:43
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A few verses come to mind: Some are “objects of his wrath - prepared for destruction” (Rom 9:22) God “hardens whom he wants” (Rom 9:18) No one comes to Christ “unless the Father … draws them” (John 6:44)

This contrasts with God “wants all people to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4) God gave his son, so that “whoever believes” will not perish (John 3:16)

These two are then wrapped up in the complexity of pre-destination, election: Chosen in Christ, “having been predestined according to (God’s) plan” (Eph 1:11)

So the question can be phrased in (at least) two ways: If I’m not predestined, what do I do? How do I know? If I’m “prepared for destruction”, what do I do? How do I know?

Let’s assume I am not predestined for salvation and am prepared for destruction (I am uneasy with the implication of these phrases, but “pre-destination”/”prepared for destruction” are another subject entirely…)

(1) If I am not saved, how can I know?. First, I’d look for doctrinal “facts”. Have I believed/accepted all Jesus said? Repented? Confessed Christ? Been baptized? Fellowshipped with believers? If any of these are lacking, I would look closely at the reason why. It’s possible my heart has not fully committed to Christ. Second, I’d look at my “fruits” (Mt 7:16). Evidences of an indwelling Spirit (Gal 5:22). I’m not looking for sinlessness (1 John 1:8), but for godly actions and attitudes. I’d also look for a troubled conscience about ungodly actions and attitudes (Rom 2:15). Yes – my conscience can be dulled (1 Tim 4:2). This is not foolproof.

(2) If, after the above process, I decide I am not saved, what can I do? Is it hopeless due to my 'unsaved predestination'? As Paul writes “who can resist (God’s) will?” (Rom 9:19). We as humans are fallible in our understanding. Therefore, I don’t think I can be 100% sure I am an object “prepared for destruction”. For God wants all to be saved, and snatches some from the fire with barely anything saved but the man himself (1 Cor 3:15). So – I think hope remains if I’m still breathing. And so what can I do? Continue to pursue God. I can be assured He wants my salvation (1 Tim 3:4), and He can be moved to compassion (Luke 15:20, which by the way is the only verse where God is portrayed as running toward us).

Which leaves a final question unanswered – how do I know I am saved (as opposed to how do I know I’m not). See the good link higher in this thread (monergism.com/making-your-calling-and-election-sure). Short answer: I can find assurance.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Nathaniel is protesting Jul 18 at 15:29
  • @AndrewShanks the latter definitely, as is reiterated in Scripture, Jos 24:15&**22**, Psa 10:14, Deu 30:15&19, Psa 119:30&173, Job 34:4&33, Psa 25:12, Joe 3:14, 1 Kin 18:21, Exo 32:26 and so on the choice lies with the individual to hear the word and if they are disposed to the truth (translated ordained) then they believe. Whosoever believes, that’s a choice that the individual makes. Grace comes THROUGH faith, you can’t get to grace prior to faith. God chose EVERYONE, He left ALL our names in the Book of Life and we choose to have it removed or remain. You’re not arguing from the Greek! – Autodidact Jul 18 at 16:16
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Speaking as a Calvinist, according to Calvinism, if you doubt your election then you should pray for forgiveness again and go back to the beginning again of repenting and believing on Christ for salvation. Believing you are elect is a reflective consequence of faith in Christ. It is not our business to worry about whether we are elect, our business is to trust in Christ.

Only once we have believed, then we can take comfort from the fact, and be humbled by the thought, and thank God for the truth, we are saved because of the electing love of God, because of his sovereign choice, and not because of anything wiser or better in us than those who do not believe.

  • "Pray for forgiveness and go back to the beginning" that is an interesting to read. Sounds like then anyone can simply take comfort in their belief. I suppose something like Matt 7:22 applies only to the extreme insincerity? – Beestocks Jul 17 at 20:25
  • @AndrewShanks you sound like a very nice and genuine believer. Were you born in a Baptist family or did you turn to Calvinism as an adult? – Autodidact Jul 17 at 23:59
  • Speaking as a Christian, I know by experience that the 'revolving door' of repetitive 'repenting and believing' is a symptom of being under the curse of the law, not an evidence of faith in Christ. – Nigel J Jul 18 at 0:02
  • @Autodidact - I was born into an agnostic family with no church-going. I came to faith by secret reading of Scripture as a teenager, recognising that God is sovereign over all things, including who gets saved, before I was saved myself in my early twenties. – Andrew Shanks Jul 18 at 7:06
  • @Nigel J - Well, if a person has doubts then they necessarily are going back to the law... who could argue with it? Not sure such a revolving door means you are under the law, but to those who doubt their salvation then to get a firmer grip of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith would be good, for which, if scripture alone will not do it, then I would recommend the antidote of Martin Luther's Commentary on Galatians. – Andrew Shanks Jul 18 at 7:19
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The following points detailed in this Study Guide seem to answer your questions, and I just wish to highlight some of them, prefacing them with this simple point. Assurance of God’s grace and salvation comes after the event. God graciously saves an individual. Thereafter, the person becomes aware of that transforming grace.

Some of the problems you raise could be due to a person trying to ‘drum up’ assurance where, either, none can exist because the person is not yet justified by God, or they have been justified but are so insecure in themselves and weak in faith that various things can cause them to doubt the promises of God (see Psalm 88:14). In the first case, their vain imaginations deceive them. In the second case, they needlessly torment themselves. In the latter case that would not happen if they kept to “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). Paul used that phrase in context of the way Satan can subtly corrupt the Christian mind from “the simplicity that is in Christ.” Herein lies the problem.

‘The Westminster Confession of Faith’ is based upon the Swiss Reformed Churches Heidelberg Catechism of 1562 and I’m working from a book for classes studying the Westminster Confession of Faith, written by G.I Williamson (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Philadelphia, Pa. 1964).

Chapter 17 deals with XVIII – Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation (pp 131-136)

1 Although hypocrites, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God and estate of salvation; which hope of theirs shall perish; yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; which hope shall never make them ashamed.

2 This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God: which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.

After scriptural explanations of those first two WCF statements, four questions are asked of the students: (a) Is man easily deceived in religious matters? Cite Scripture proof. (b) Why did the Pharisee think that he was ‘right with God’? (c) Does the Scripture affirm that there is valid assurance? (d) Is it the duty of believers to endeavour to possess this assurance?

The answers given are: (a) Yes. Jeremiah 17:9, Galatians 6:3. (b) Because he thought that he was better than other men. (c) The Scripture does affirm that there is true assurance. (d) Yes. Hebrews 6:11, II Peter 1:10.

Then follow 9 points for the students to prove – far too much for me to detail here. I will extract a couple of points pertinent to your query. Re. Romans 8:16 [“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God”] what proof is there that a false interpretation is given by those who believe in an immediate testimony of the Spirit (apart from the Scripture)? The answer given is that the error lies in expecting an immediate revelation to our spirits that we are saved, when we believe that this witness is by means of the Word. The next point is that the Spirit’s testimony is by enabling us to know first that his Word is sure, and second, that his Word applies to us because we see undeniable evidence of true grace in ourselves. Then come points 3 & 4 in this section of the WCF:

3 This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure; that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance: so far is it from inclining men to looseness.

4 True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it; by falling into some special sin, which woundeth the conscience, and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation; by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him, to walk in darkness, and to have no light: yet are they never, utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may in due time be revived, and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair.

Again, scriptural explanations of WCF points 3 & 4 follow, with 11 questions asked of the students. Some relevant points are that, “The Bible nowhere states that one cannot be saved without assurance. The Bible shows that true believers have sometimes lacked it. In ‘faith’ a Christian has confidence in Jesus Christ as he is freely offered in the gospel. In ‘assurance’ a Christian has confidence in his faith and other graces.”

You asked, “Does the Church have a process to discover” if they are not elected by God. The Reformed church consistently teaches that, until God takes the initiative and justifies an individual, they are unregenerate. It is incredibly simple, really, and in all the Reformed preaching I have heard over 40 years this is what is proclaimed – not ‘a process’ to discover this, but simply what the Bible states. All who attend to Reformed teaching should be in no doubt that they will remain unregenerate until God sovereignly acts in grace towards them, personally. They will know God’s activity in them as they are enabled to respond aright to the gospel message, in faith. They will be given saving faith. Then they will believe unto salvation. This is not ‘a church process’. What they are ‘to do’ is prayerfully heed the preached gospel message about Christ and come to Christ, as he says all weary, burdened souls are to do, for he will never turn away any such who come to him. It’s not the Reformed church that has this ‘system’ of discovery or ‘process’ of gaining assurance of salvation. Heed the gospel; put your faith in Christ alone; believe the promises of God. All the elect do that, by the grace of God. All those not ordained unto salvation will never do that, no matter how many gospel sermons they hear, for their pride will remain resistant to the truth of the gospel. And God alone knows who those ones are.

Your final question about whether the unregenerate can continue in hope even though there is ‘no chance of salvation’ needs clarifying. None of us know whether an individual will never be saved. The repentant thief on a cross next to Jesus was only saved at virtually the last gasp, when it seemed all hope had gone. It had not. His faith in Christ sufficed shortly before Christ died. Reformed Christians exhort all to heed the gospel and leave all judging to God. We cast the seed of the gospel all over the place, even though some will not take root, for it is God who makes it grow. Everyone is unregenerate until God works that miracle of transforming grace in their heart and mind. But when God does that, an individual experiences undeniable evidence of that true grace. Their minds will not be corrupted by Satan’s subtle doubts as they remain in “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

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