Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Proper Ground of Assurance

Reading: Ephesians 1 – 3, Colossians 1
What is the ground, or basis of your relationship with God? The Gospel continually points in one direction for confidence in our relationship with God.
For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18)
One could translate it, “on account of Him.” Our access to God is never on account of us. We should never look to us. Again, but a handful of verses later Paul writes,
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)
Our eyes are continually pointed, not at ourselves, but at Christ and what He as done on our account.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
I was reading some history of the reformed faith and discovered some great comments by John Calvin on this topic. Rooted in Ephesians 1:4 which declares that, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world,” Calvin writes, “But if we have been chosen in Him, we shall not find assurance of our election in ourselves.... Christ, then, is the mirror wherein we must, and without self-deception may, contemplate our own election.”
Our assurance in salvation, our confidence before God that we are saved and therefore can come before Him as His children is rooted in Christ alone. It is like the time in Numbers when the Israelites had sinned and the Lord sent venomous snakes into their midst and whoever was bitten died.
The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." (Numbers 21:8)
Salvation” was not rooted in the people, but in what they looked upon. John in his Gospel records these words, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15) Notice the parallel between “look at it and live” and “believes in him may have eternal life.” Our believing in Christ is not some work we conjure up; the power is in the object of our gaze—Christ. Those looking at the snake on the pole had no grand illusion that they somehow earned their deliverance. They had rebelled, were bitten, and were going to die; but God in His mercy provided a serpent on a pole... and a Savior on the cross.
Looking to ourselves will never produce assurance. Calvin goes on to say in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, “when the Christian looks at himself he can only have grounds for anxiety, indeed despair.” Is Christ's death sufficient for you? Indeed it is. And clinging to Christ is all the sufficiency we need.
Consider, again the claim of scripture regarding the ground of your relationship with God:
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. (Colossians 1:21-23)
How are we reconciled—brought back into right relationship—to God? By Christ's physical body through death. He is the One hanging on the pole to bear our punishment. And now we are holy in the Father's sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
Recently a friend of mine shared how that next verse (23) has tripped them up for years. He kept reading, “if you continue in your faith” as a obligation upon how he lived in order to stand secure. It brought his eyes off the One hanging on the cross for him, the Sufficient One, and onto himself. But one day, sitting in the driveway of his house, I talked about this verse with him in a whole new light. “If you continue in your faith” is not intended to take our eyes of of the Sufficient One and put them onto our faith, but intended to keep our eyes on Christ. Faith is clinging to Christ, trusting in Christ as our only means of right relationship with God. It is clinging to Christ that saved us and it is clinging to Christ through which we remain. Continuing in faith is continuing to root the ground and basis of our faith in Christ and Christ alone.
Commenting on how he would respond if asked how he has assurance he is elect, an issue which frequently sidetracks people in their assurance of salvation, Calvin's response is quite profound. “I answer that Christ is more than a thousand testimonies to me.” Christ is our assurance of salvation—look to Him.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

No comments:

Post a Comment