"The law of YAHWEH is perfect, reviving the soul." Psalm 19:7

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When Is Assuring Someone Else of Salvation Itself A Sin?

Assurance & Security of Salvation

The Bible talks of securing your salvation in John 10:27-28 by continuing to follow and listen to Jesus. In that case, no one can snatch such persons from Jesus' hands. For a thorough discussion of that passage, see this link.

The Bible in 2 Peter 1:10 likewise talks about making your calling and election secure and guaranteed by doing “good works.” These words from the best manuscripts were suppressed in our modern English Bibles. Only one English translation today preserves the true original:

Wherefore, brethren, labour the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election. For doing these things, you shall not sin at any time. (Douay-Rheims.)

How strong is the presence of "good works" in this verse? The earliest strains of the New Testament dating to 340 AD, as well as the Latin Vulgate of the early 400s, the Alexandrian text, and two source texts Beza had, have this “good works” bolded above.

Two ancient manuscripts, the Alexandrine and the Sinaitic,1 insert here, "Through your good works." (Pulpit Commentary.)

"by good works", as the Vulgate Latin version and two copies of Beza’s read; or "by your good works" (Gill’s Exposition)

Despite this overwhelming manuscript evidence, every English version but Douay-Rheims reads otherwise. The American Standard Version is typical:

Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble: (2 Peter 1:10 ASV.)

You can easily see “good works” is missing, because the second clause says “if you do these things, you shall never stumble.” What things? The “good works” that were in all the best earlier strains of this passage. Without that, the antecedent reference is missing, and the deletion by accident or on purpose is obvious.

Hence, I urge you to ignore the NIV and KJV suppression of these key words. Second Peter in fact later says in substance the very same thing. It wisely says you can secure that you will not fall out of your strong position in Christ if you add to faith seven virtues, including perseverance, self-control and goodness. 2 Peter 1:7-12.

These passages all deal with security of one’s salvation. True Biblical security depends on adding virtues and proximity to Christ as a means of securing or guaranteeing your salvation.

Paul Could Not Assure Himself of Present Justification and A Place in Heaven

Paul, the one cited repeatedly as proof that faith alone gives you a guaranteed spot in heaven, wrote instead in1 Corinthians 4:1-5 in the NIV:

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy [pistos, Greek for faithful, obedient, etc.] But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself [i.e., not aware done anything to prove non-pistos, unfaithful], but I am not thereby acquitted [justified]. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:1-5 NIV)

Adam Clark in his Commentary points out that Paul uses the word justified, not acquitted. The KJV had it likewise, “I am not hereby justified....” 1 Cor. 4:4. This is the Greek word dikaioo. It means to render just.

Paul thus says the following facts:

1. A servant must prove trustworthy, using the adjective pistos. This is faithful meaning “obedient” or “trustworthy.” The word pistos is related to the verb pisteuo that appears in John 3:16 and is translated typically there as believe.

2. Paul is unaware of anything against himself that would prove he is unfaithful, disobedient, etc..

3. Paul is not acquitted—justified—merely because as he examines himself he finds he is pistosfaithful.

4. The Lord will judge Paul on judgment day.

5. Since the Lord will judge Paul, Paul says do not pronounce a judgment of acquittal / justification before the proper time (judgment day) on Paul himself.

There is no missing this is talking about justification by faith -- regardless of how Paul understood that concept -- because pistos and dikaioo are connected in 1 Corinthians 4 just as pisteuo and dikaioo are connected in Paul’s famous lines in Romans about Abraham and justification by faith. See Romans 4:3-5.

The NIV obscured this connection by rendering pistos as trustworthy rather than faithful and by rendering dikaioo, which means justified, by the word acquitted. However, there is no hiding the truth if you peek under the covers. We must not translate the Bible inconsistently to protect our doctrine.

The context here also makes it clear that Paul is talking about justification by faith / faithfulness and hence salvation because judgment day is clearly in view. How? Paul says do not declare yourself as justified before “the time.” That can only mean judgment day in context. Do not assure yourself therefore that you will be declared just, that is, justified, on judgment day based on introspection that you have been pistos, that is you have been having pisteuo (faith, obedience, trust -- whatever you believe Paul means in Romans 4:3-5).

What a blow to eternal security! What a blow to the false gospel of today is contained in a correct translation of 1 Corinthians 4! Paul did not even think he could assure himself of justification by pistos on judgment day even if his faith was ongoing and he found no fault.

John’s Lesson on Assurance in 1 John

Now compare 1 Cor. 4:1-5 with what the Apostle John says in 1 John. He says we can be sure we “know” Christ and “know we belong to Him” as follows:

18 My Little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth. 19Hereby shall we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him: 20 because if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, we have boldness toward God; 22 and whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight.

23And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he gave us commandment. 24And he that keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he gave us. (1 John 3:18-24 ASV, removing -eth to verbs.)

Thus, if we “obey his commands” we have confidence toward God.

So 2 Peter 1:10, 1 John 3:18-24 and 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 are so far passages in the Bible that actually deal with assurance of one’s salvation / justification. Paul says it is not for sure; that he is unsure and should not pronounce a final verdict; and both Peter and John say by good works for Jesus’ sake gives you the assurance you will be part of the company of Jesus. 

Dillow’s Very Different Teaching

With this background, you can see eternal security provides a completely dangerous message of assurance. It insists there is no introspection for whether we are saved. Based upon our initial faith, we can declare ourself forgiven of every future sin we might commit. Thus, we do not have to wait until we die to know we will be justified on judgment day. Dillow in Reign of the Servant Kings at 249 -- a seminary classic your pastor likely studied -- in defense of eternal security says:

“A firm and sure knowledge that we are saved is thus of the essence of faith itself and is not the result of later reflection upon whether we have believed or whether or not there are fruits of regeneration in our lives.”

Thus, Dillow is sure he knows Christ and belongs to Christ from simply having believed one time. He even thinks he is saved without reflecting on whether he had “believed” or whether he does "good works" or "obeys His commandments," etc. Dillow advocates zero introspection. It is so complete it never has to be later examined.

So Dillow ignores 1 John that says we know we belong to Him and are sure we know Him if we are believing, obeying Christ and loving the brothers. Dillow instead knows for a fact he is going to heaven. Dillow is now pronouncing judgment of an acquittal on himself. Predictably, Dillow dismisses 1 John’s discussion of assurance as a discussion of whether you are in “fellowship” with Jesus. However, fellowship is just a synonym for salvation. Dillow never proves there is a difference. And if there was a difference, John does not actually speak about ‘fellowship’ in the verses quoted anyway. He does elsewhere but not there. John speaks about whether you know you “belong to the truth.”

So Dillow ends up uttering this inaccurate claim: “External fruit... is never presented in Scripture as a basis for the man’s personal assurance.” (Dillow, Reign of the Servant Kings, at 308.)

What did the Apostle John, however, just say? He said you can “know you belong” to Jesus by obeying the commands of Jesus, loving the brethren in deed, and not in word only. Dillow talks like these verses don’t exist. What did Second Peter say as well? That good works are how you make your election sure.

And what does Dillow say about Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians 4? First, he twists Paul to be saying the opposite of what Paul really says. Dillow says it is foolish to be introspective for your fruit, and in 1 Cor. 4:1-5 Dillow claims Paul “specifically forbids such attempts at discrimination...” (Dillow, Reign of the Servant Kings, at 306).

Do you see what Dillow did? Paul said do not declare that you will be justified on judgment day before that day even if today you know nothing against your "pistos" -- faithfulness to Christ. It would be arrogant to do so, Paul says. Dillow says Paul rather said do not declare your fruit good until judgment day, but you may continue, as Dillow does, to declare that you yourself will be justified on judgment day. But Paul said that it was wrong for him to examine himself internally, find he was faithful up to now, and say to himself that he is going to be justified before God on judgment day. That is totally different than what Dillow says.

Dillow also says this passage of 1 Cor. 4:1-5 means “we should not judge others now...” (Dillow, Reign of the Servant Kings, at 521), while we remain free to declare ourselves justified now and forever before God. But this is false. Paul says do not declare yourself justified before the time.

Thus, Dillow has no answer to 1 John. And he distorts 1 Cor. 4:1-5. This proves again how desperate the arguments become when you hold onto eternal security. They are desperate precisely because they are held against the weight of Paul's own words and the words of Apostle John. 

Assurance Based on Works Is Heresy?

What is driving the eternal security advocate to not even recognize Scripture says that your assurance comes from obedience? Dillow claims that if assurance comes from good works, then salvation comes from good works. Dillow explains how he equates the two:

“However, nothing more than looking to Christ [one-time] is required, insofar as assurance of heaven is concerned. If more were required, then we would have to say it is by grace through faith plus works or by grace through faith on the condition of faithfulness.”(Dillow, Reign of the Servant Kings, at 309.)

Dillow is right that assurance of salvation and what saves must be related. Your assurance must come from something that affects salvation. And thus these passages on assurance from obedience refute Dillow’s doctrine on salvation by faith that is alone.

The truth is, as John says, if our consciences are clean, we have assurance toward God. Obviously, it follows if our consciences are not clean, we lack assurance toward God. Thus, it is disobedience that causes the loss of assurance. John says this is cured by confession of sin. Eternal security advocates says this is cured by realizing you are saved despite disobedience. Eternal security is a non-Biblical view that contradicts the message of Jesus in John 10:27-29; Second Peter in 1:10; Apostle John in 1 John 3:18-24; and even Paul—the one on whom Dillow mostly relies—in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.

In other words, if the Bible tells us that our assurance we belong to Christ comes from looking at whether we are believing and we are loving the brothers and obeying the commandments of Jesus (1 John), then indeed it must follow we cannot feel confident we “belong to him” if we are either not believing or are not loving the brethren or not obeying the commandments of Jesus. We cannot assure ourselves based on some initial moment-in-time faith unless we are willing to ignore these messages.

And thus these passage on assurance from obedience (1 John) teach us by deductive logic that faith that is alone does not save. Dillow is correct that assurance must be linked to what saves. And if your assurance turns in part on obedience plus faith, then faith alone does not save.

Is It Dangerous To Assure Yourself You are Justified When You Are Not?

The answer is obvious: of course. By cheapening the price of salvation, ES gives assurance to Christians of salvation when they may not have salvation any more. ES teaches current Christians are surely justified now and are heading to heaven even if they stop believing and are un-loving toward other Christians. This is a false assurance. Even Dillow concedes it would be wrong to assure someone of their salvation when it is untrue but he does not apply his point to how cheap grace, if invalid, does so:

“It would be a terrible tragedy to ‘give assurance’ to someone who is not truly justified. We would then be assuring a man that all is well with his soul, when in fact he is on the high road to hell.” (Dillow, Reign of the Servant Kings, at 248.)

It is not merely a tragedy. If one accepts Paul as an authority, it would even be a sin. It violates Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 4. Paul said he looked inwardly and did not find he was being unfaithful (being un-pistos). But still no one should think he is justified before judgment day, Paul said. And if you cannot judge yourself justified, it follows just as strongly that you should never tell anyone else they will be justified on judgment day. Its also unwise because you may be giving a tragic false assurance.

Does the quote from Dillow about false assurance mean that Dillow agrees with me? No. Dillow ironically still believes that Paul is talking about what we can say to others and their justification. Dillow insists, nevertheless, we are free to declare to ourselves that we will be justified on judgment day if we know we one-time believed. But that was precisely the sin condemned by Paul whom Dillow follows. Paul said he had examined himself, found himself pistos (faithful), but would not declare himself justified before the time. That must await judgment day, for the secret thoughts of men will then be revealed. 

Are you like Mr. Dillow and look right at the words on the page of Paul, if you follow Paul, and which are directed at you, and not apply them to yourself, as Dillow does? Doe ES have your mind so captive that you cannot even reason logically any more? I hope not.

If you accept the grace Paul offers, you must also accept the costs and limitations Paul teaches. Paul thus teaches that it is a sin to assure yourself or others that they will be surely justified on judgment day, even if they know they are a Christian now and are being pistos now (being faithful). 

Summary

In sum, you can know (be assured) you are a Christian by your trusting Jesus and obeying his commands. (1 John 3:18-24). When you sin you can obtain forgiveness and justification anew by repentance. Then the blood of Christ cleanses you anew (1 John 1:7). If, however, you examine yourself and do not find sin to repent of, finding yourself having been faithful, you cannot thereby assure yourself of a final justification, if you accept Paul as a valid teacher. (1 Cor. 4:1-5.) The final verdict must await judgment day for only God is able to judge the secret thoughts and intentions of the heart. And if that is true based upon your own introspection, then it goes double for what you say to others. If you assure them they are going to be justified on judgment day, you may be tragically assuring a person all is well with their soul when they are heading for hell. Don’t do it. Don’t preach eternal security one more day! 

Some Fear of Judgment Day Always Abides

Of course, this means the true message of Jesus is not so easily packaged for easy consumption. You cannot sell Jesus like an insurance policy: sign up, say a prayer, go on your way, and you know you are saved no matter what you do. What an easy and simple message! But should we accept a lie and a false-gospel because it is easy to sell? Of course not.

The truth is not that much harder to say. As Paul even said, it is required of a servant to be faithful, trustworthy, obedient, etc. (1 Cor. 4:1-5.) The true gospel means we need to stress obedience, and not merely faith. And we need to stop assuring people they are going to heaven regardless of their later unfaithfulness. What we need to do instead is share the path to salvation (trusting in Jesus, turning around in obedience, and repenting from sin) and how to renew one’s justification (confess sin and the blood of Christ cleanses you). Then it is up to God to judge each one of us at the final personal accounting. And since we cannot now judge ourselves as going to be justified later (that is, judging ahead of time), as even Paul correctly says in 1 Cor. 4:1-5, we must always have an edge of reverent fear of how that final determination will come out.

This understanding of 1 Corinthians 4 thus explains Peter’s statement that because of our knowing about that final accounting that everyone must give, those who call on God must “sojourn in fear” here and now. And this also explains Paul’s statement in Philippians 2:12-13 that we must “work out our salvation to its completion with fear and trembling.” There is always to be a measure of doubt, and hence fear, whether one is going to be justified on judgment day before God despite being assured by your good works that you are on the correct path to salvation (trusting, obeying, and repenting).

That’s a simple and elegant gospel too, isn’t it? The true Gospel is just as easy to share. And more important: it is the true Gospel.


1. The Sinaiticus is the oldest manuscript of the New Testament, dating to 340 AD. All prior versions are fragments.