Does Finding Assurance in the Mirror of Christ Mean Don’t Think About Election?

Calvin—“The persons, therefore, whom God has adopted as his children, he is said to have chosen, not in themselves, but in Christ; because it was impossible for him to love them, except in him … if we are chosen in him, we shall find no assurance of our election in ourselves; nor even in God the Father, considered alone, abstractly from the Son. Christ therefore, is the mirror, in which it behooves us to contemplate our election; and here we may do it with safety…. Thus we have a testimony sufficiently clear and strong, that if we have communion with Christ, we are written in the Book of Life” (3/24/5).

The sins of the elect demand not some philosophical (and non-biblical) idea of some “infinity” or “equivalent”. The sins demand death. The death of Christ was God’s justice, God’s wages for all the sins of the elect.

To glory in the cross is to see that the death of Christ cancels the debt for all the elect when they are placed into that death. Romans 6:9-10: “We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has any dominon over him. For the death he died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.“

The reason that the debt of the sins of elect cannot hold Christ is
not some “equivalent” of suffering and torture. The reason that the debt of the sins of the elect cannot hold Christ is Christ’s death. Christ died to sin. This does not mean that Christ was born again. And Romans 6 is not talking about the elect being born again either.

The Triune God caused Christ to die because the Triune God by legal
imputation already did or did not lay the sins of each individual sinner on Christ. And this in turn means ONE that Christ is no longer imputed with those sins, because He has died once for them and will not die again. It means TWO that it is not sinners (nor their faith nor their apology) who give their sins to Christ. God gave the sins of the elect to Christ already, and God already did not give the sins of the non-elect to Christ.

Let’s think about a text parallel to Romans 6:9-10. Think of II Corinthians 5:15: “One has died for all, therefore all have died, and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Even so called Calvinists talk about one-sided deals in which the ony thing they “contributed” was their sins. “I offered God my sinful heart and God gave me His righteousness.” But God is the only imputed, and God already imputed your sins to Christ or not. Romans 8:3—“What the law could not do, God did by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin-he condemned sin in the flesh.”

II Corinthians 5:15 teaches us the gospel about Christ’s death being the death of all those who will be justified. Those who attempt to find assurance in Christ but without thinking about election have a false Christ, a false Christ who did not die only for the elect, a false Christ whose death does not save. The false gospel can only tell us that Christ died “so that our guilt COULD now be taken away, and we COULD be counted righteous.” This “might or might not be” false gospel always conditions the imputation of sins to Christ on the faith of the sinner. The false gospel says: “Jesus suffered the penalty due our sins so that we do not have to.”


In a few words that’s the same false gospel I have been hearing all my life. Most people who profess to be Christians profess that what Jesus did (in death and resurrection) sets up a plan which makes it possible for you to give him your sins and then for Him to save you. Most so called Calvinists not only professes to have been saved because they believed this false (Arminian) gospel. Most so called Calvinists continue to teach that same “so that we don’t have to” false gospel.

II Corinthians 5:15 does not teach that Christ died for our sins so that we don’t have to; it says that those for whom Christ died also died with him. That is substitution, and you cannot teach substitution without confusion unless you describe which sinners Christ died for. You cannot teach biblical substitution without teaching about election.

If Christ died for every sinner but some of these sinners will perish, then that may be a substitution but it not a saving substitution. II Corinthians 5:15 does not use the word “elect”, but the only other way to understand the identity of the “for” and the “with” is to teach an universalism in which every sinner has died to sin and will be justified.

I think most “middle-camp” tolerant Calvinists would rather live as practical de facto universalists then dare talk about election in connection with II Corinthians 5. They want a future judgment for the elect, even while they quibble with NT Wright about that not being a future justification. They fear as antinomian any good news which teaches that the elect have already died to judgment when Christ died for them.

Another advantage for most “middle camp” evangelicals in not talking about election in II Cor 5 is that they can take the phrase “live for Him who died for them” and use it to lay duties on every sinner they meet. But there is no point in talking about any such duties until a sinner has obeyed the true gospel and repented from the dead works of the false gospel.

The false gospel is a “but” gospel. It says that “we are saved not only by believing the fact that Christ died for our sins, but by union with the crucified and risen Savour.” But the true gospel does NOT tell any particular sinner that Christ died for their sins. The gospel does NOT tell sinners who the elect are; the gospel tells sinners about election and substitution.

It is a gospel fact that there was one kind of “union” of the elect in Christ already at the cross. Before (or after) the elect are justified, Christ paid by death for their sins. Faith does not make this election happen. Faith in a false Christ is not a mirror to give us assurance that we belong to the true Christ. Only faith in the Bible revealed Christ gives us assurance that we are elect.

Galatians 3 does not start with believing to get justified, and it does not end with believing more to get more of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 3 starts with “before your eyes Christ publicly portrayed as crucified.” T Yes, there is a promise of the Spirit through faith, but that is because first “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law” SO THAT this will happen. Not so that it COULD OR MIGHT happen.

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6 Comments on “Does Finding Assurance in the Mirror of Christ Mean Don’t Think About Election?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    we must believe the gospel before we can believe that we are called

    if we think we must know we are called before we believe the gospel, then we do not yet believed the gospel

    John 1—we BECOME the children of God

    Romans 8: 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and IF children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him

    1. We are not children of the Father before we believe the gospel.

    2. We become children of the Father when we believe.

    3. The meaning of the “if” is “since”, as in “since we are children, we have all the inheritance and blessings.”

    4. But the gospel does not tell you if you are a child of the Father.

    5. The true Holy Spirit will not tell you that you are a child of the Father until after you believe the gospel.

    Ephesians 5: 25 Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 in order to sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.

    1. Christ did not find a clean wife to marry.

    2. Christ found a dirty deserted wife to marry.

    3. Christ justified and sanctified the ungodly.

    4. Christ did not clean up his wife before He married her.

    5. Christ married his wife in order to clean her.

    6. You can not know that you are Christ’s wife before you have been cleansed by the washing of the word, which is the power of the gospel.

    7. The washing of the water with the word is God’s calling by the gospel.

    8. Believing the gospel is not the same as believing that we have been washed with the water of the word.

    9. God is not the Father of every sinner, and Christ does not love every sinner.

    10 Assurance of being Christ’s wife is not based on Christ having every wife for his wife.

    11. Words like “infinity” and “sufficiency” are false abstractions when it comes to Christ’s particular love for those the Father has selected and given Him.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    what gospel is the object of faith?
    assurance that I am elect is not the object of faith
    assurance that God saves all who believe gospel is part of the object of faith
    we believe both the gospel and the promise of the gospel
    gospel with no promise is not gospe

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Engelsma: Completely unreliable, indeed misleading, is Joel R. Beeke’s
    Beeke’s book is ominously titled The Quest for (not: “Gift of”) Full Assurance: The Legacy of Calvin and His Successors (Banner of Truth, 1999). As the subtitle indicates, Beeke contends that the Puritan and “nadere reformatie” doctrine of assurance was a faithful development of the doctrine of Calvin, when, in fact, it was a radical departure from the Reformer’s and, indeed, the entire Reformation’s doctrine, as the Puritans themselves acknowledged. Playing on the ambiguity of the adjective, “full” (“full assurance”), Beeke assures his Reformed readers that the Puritan and “nadere reformatie” doctrine of assurance can be harmonized with the teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism, that “true faith…is…a hearty trust which the Holy Ghost works in me by the Gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God,” etc. (Heid. Cat., Q&A 21, in Schaff, Creeds, vol. 3, 313; emphasis added). In fact, the Puritan and “nadere reformatie” doctrine flatly contradicts the Catechism. Regarding the fundamental issue, whether assurance is an aspect of the essence of faith (what faith is) or merely a possible “fruit” of faith (for a few favored saints after years of agonizing, laborious “quest” for assurance), Dr. Beeke hunts with the hounds and runs with the hares. Treating Calvin (and the Reformation), Beeke acknowledges that “it [faith] possesses assurance in its very nature. Assurance, certainty, trust — such is the essence of faith” (Quest, 38). Summing up, however, and expressing the Puritan and “nadere reformatie” thinking on assurance (which is his own thinking), Beeke tells us that “full assurance of personal salvationconstitutes the well-being or fruit of faith rather than the essence of faith” (Quest, 276). Assurance now is a “goal, duty, and desire”
    (Quest, 275). The injurious thrust of The Quest for Full Assurance is a wholehearted defense and promotion of the Puritan and “nadere reformatie” doctrine of assurance (which robs many of the comfort of the gospel and drives them to doubt and despair) as though it were the teaching of Calvin, the Reformation, and the confessions (which emphatically it is not). Stoeffler affirms, and demonstrates, the influence of Puritanism on the “nadere reformatie”: “Reformed Pietism on the Continent was heavily indebted to the Puritans” (F. Ernest Stoeffler, The Rise of Evangelical Pietism, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1965, 118).

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Fisher’s Catechism on Q.87, q.20 What is the evil in maintaining that none but true penitents have a warrant to embrace Christ by faith? a. It sets sinners upon spinning repentance out of their own bowels, that they may fetch it with them, as a price in their hand to Christ, instead of coming to him by faith, to obtain it from him, as his gift. Mark: I agree with Fisher that we don’t need to know that we are regenerate (or elect) before coming to Christ. We can’t know before coming. But the warrant (the right) for sinners’ coming is not that “Christ is dead for you” or that Christ desires the salvation of the non-elect.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Arminian—You cite D. M. Lloyd-Jones’s account of how several famous preachers received their assurance through feelings and spiritual experiences—like seeing a light, or being ravished by joy…

    David Engelsma–. The Reformed tradition rejected mysticism just as heartily as it rejected salvation by works of the law. But Puritanism teaches that the way for a believer to get assurance is by a special, emotional, dramatic, datable, recognizable feeling. The public defenders of Puritanism tend to whitewash this aspect of their teaching, nevertheless, Puritanism does teach that you get this assurance from a mystical experience, such as a vision, a dream, or by an extraordinary providence in your life. In which case, you base your assurance of salvation, not upon Jesus Christ and faith in His promise. The result is that a majority of believers under that kind of teaching never get assurance, because they’ve never had that kind of experience. And what’s worse, they begin looking for weird experiences that may have happened to them, in order to give them confidence of their salvation.

    David Engelsma argues for presumptive regeneration—“Sometimes doubt is due to our own sinfulness. When we are not living in our faith, living a holy life, or living in communion with God, doubt is the chastisement that comes upon us. But it is one thing to recognize an ailment, and quite another thing to preach that it is normal for the majority of Christians to lack assurance.

    “I was a pastor for 25 years and when I dealt with members, I would attempt to discover if there was any cause behind their doubts, such as living in hatred of their brother, or in infidelity, or otherwise walking in deliberate sin. In which case, it would be understandable that they would come to doubt their salvation. Otherwise, I would tell them what the gospel itself says: believe on Jesus Christ, know Him as the Savior from sin, put your faith in Him for YOUR righteousness with God, and you will have certainty of salvation. God Himself promises hat everyone who believe on Jesus Christ is saved, will be saved, and will never be lost, and we have no reason to doubt whatsoever.”

  6. markmcculley Says:

    the antinomians say, don’t ask yourself if you believe the gospel
    think instead about the faith of Christ and not about if you have faith in Christ
    since our works are excluded in salvation, preachers say, our faith in Christ is also a work
    so don’t even think about your own faith in Christ

    preachers say, look to Christ don’t look to yourself
    but end up separating Christ and Christ giving us faith
    though the elect do not receive faith by faith,
    the elect receive both Christ’s death and assurance from Christ’s death
    but some preach justification already for those without faith in the gospel
    preachers say, don’t look to yourself looking to Christ
    look to Christ alone, but without looking at your looking

    but i don’t know what it means to look to Christ
    while trying hard not to look at yourself looking to Christ
    Christ was there then, I am here now
    does this mean, since i was not there then, I cannot here now look to Christ?
    you were already born saved, they say, before you look, without looking
    Christ, I trust you not only for the salvation of the elect whoever they may be
    Christ, I look to you for MY salvation

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