The Roots of Insecurity Part 5

5. Uncertainty of Election

One of the most incomprehensible aspects of redemption is the antinomy of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Although space does not allow us to delve into the arguments for/against Calvinism or Arminianism, the confusion about election and predestination may stir up insecurity regarding one’s salvation.

The Calvinist would say that election to eternal life offers an assured salvation to the believer. L. Boettner noted, “All true Christians may and should know that they are among those who have been predestinated unto eternal life. Since faith in Christ, which is a gift from God, is the means of salvation, and since this is not given to any but the elect only, the person who knows that he has this faith can be assured that he is among the elect.”[1]

The five point Calvinist reasons that since regeneration precedes salvation, and faith is only granted to those chosen and called according to God’s decree, then believers should take their faith as an assurance of salvation.[2] However, Reformed theologians point to another crucial aspect of evidence–good works (holiness). 2 Peter 1:10 draws this conclusion: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.” The preceding context points to the need for virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Boettner quoted Mozley as stating, “Good works become the mark and test of election, and when taken in the comprehensive sense in which Peter is here thinking of them, they are the only marks and tests of election.” [3]

We grant that there is a consistency of logic in this model, however, not a few believers from this doctrinal heritage are troubled with insecurity regarding their salvation. They may wonder, “What if my good works don’t adequately confirm that I am chosen? If my election does not involve my responsibility, what if I haven’t been included? Do my moral/spiritual failures indicate that I am merely religious–like the unsaved–and am predestined to hell?”

Although sincere, godly scholars have debated these issues for centuries, the following clarifications safeguard the New Testament perspective on assurance and security.

An Open Invitation

The anxious believer needs to focus on the wonderful invitations of Scripture which are as genuine as they sound. Christ proclaims, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).[4]

The validity of this gracious invitation is supported by the declared desire of God, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4; cf. 2 Pet. 3:9).

A Sufficient Atonement

A Calvinist professor instructed pastoral counselors to avoid saying to a non Christian that “Christ died for you,” because it cannot be known that the counselee is among the elect (reflecting the belief that Christ died only for the elect).[5] This belief in limited atonement–although logically defended in the Reformed paradigm–has also been interpreted in a way that undermines world missions and raises doubts concerning assurance to the struggling believer.[6] However, the apostle John declared, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2).

Dear reader, God does love you and Christ did die on Calvary on your behalf! Therefore, take refuge in Him. The familiar truths of John 3:16-18 offer this assurance: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (Note that the cause of missing salvation is personal unbelief, not non-election.)

The Lord Jesus had perfect theology regarding these issues and wept over the spiritually resistant people of His day: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matt. 23:37). This compassion motivates Christ’s disciples to serve as His ambassadors: “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:18-20). This Gospel is more than an apparent announcement only valid to those programed to respond; it is the compelling, compassionate call of our Missionary God.

Although we will never be able to logically reconcile the parallel truths of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, the most practical way to approximate this balance is to consider that believers are elect “according to the foreknowledge of God” in a way that does not exclude anyone from potentially choosing to respond to the loving conviction of the Holy Spirit and to receive Christ as personal Lord and Savior (1 Pet. 1:2).

The LORD guides our lives with mysterious providence, yet offers salvation and assurance to everyone who receives the Lord Jesus: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24)


[1] Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination., (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1979), 308. The text usually used to see faith as a direct gift of God is Ephesians 2:8. However, the Greek word for “that” is neuter, whereas “pistis” (faith) is feminine gender. Therefore, the grammar suggests that the gift of God is more general–salvation by grace through faith. Cf. A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament.

[2] For a brief analysis of the five points of Calvinism, see the GraceNotebook article “The Sovereignty of God and the Responsibility of Man: A Quest for balance.”

For a critique of the view that regeneration occurs prior to personal faith, see Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, The Warrant of Faith: “If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.” (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1978), p.3]. Quoted in Reformed Theology and Regeneration –

[3] Boettner, 309; Mozley, The Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination, 45.

[4] Other invitations include Isaiah 1:18; 55:1-7; Matt. 22:4; Luke 14:17; Acts 2:21; John 4:14; 7:37,38; Rom. 5:18; 10:9-13; Titus 2:11,12.

[5] Jay Adams, Competent to Counsel, p. 70.

[6] A classic example of this distortion was the rebuke given to pioneer missionary William Carey before he left England for India. The moderator at a ministerial meeting declared: “Young man, sit down. When God decides to save the heathen, He will do it without your help or mine!”- J. Herbert Kane, Christian Missions in Biblical Perspective (Baker, 1976), 300.

For a scholarly treatment of this complex subject from a foreknowledge perspective, see Norman Geisler, Chosen but Free: A Balanced View of Divine Election (Bethany House).

Posted in