Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Checklist Evangelism and Questions about Assurance

Updated and Revised: May 12, 2008 2:31 PM PST

Reformed Lordship Salvation and Assurance
For Reformed Theology and Lordship Salvation, assurance can never be certain because of where they look for it. The foundation for assurance in LS is threefold, two of which are totally subjective. These pillars, two of which are crumbling, are the word of God, perseverance in faith and works, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit. The problem for assurance in Reformed Lordship Salvation has already been documented on this blog extensively. In a nutshell, because one's faith can fail, thus showing he is reprobate, having only exercised a spurious, non-saving faith, one's capacity for assurance can only come as he endures and perseveres in faith and good works, which are the inevitable signs of (and conditions for) eternal life, and ruminates upon their strength. What a roller-coaster of emotion this can generate, in that circumstances in one's life will invariably dictate the degree of one's assurance. Often, adherents to LS are found dangling over the pit of despair, wondering if they have spurious or genuine faith. Such was characteristically the case in the Puritans of time past.

Checklist Evangelism's Quest for Assurance of Salvation
But this post is not going to consider assurance from the perspective of Reformed Lordship Salvation. What I want to look closely at is one's search for assurance in the traditionalistic and inconsistent theology of the checklist evangelists. Many who consider themselves free grace (albeit inconsistently) state that assurance is the birthright of every Christian but that a Christian many not experience assurance the day of their spiritual birth. This, in and of itself, is grievous error, because assurance is of the essential nature of saving faith. Be that as it may, what I am concerned with here is ascertaining exactly where should this individual, who has been evangelized by a checklist evangelist, supposed to go in order to have assurance of their salvation for either the first time or later if he loses it?

These traditionalists will state, correctly, that assurance will only be founded upon the objective word of God (although not all of them will assert that this assurance is certainty, which understanding, too, is in error). But where must they turn to in the Bible in order to find this objective assurance of their eternal well-being?

We must understand that this is a very big problem for them. Let me tell you why. These traditionalists require that the lost become converts to their specific doctrinal statements or creeds as a condition, mandated by God, for eternal life. For example, one well known creedal statement required to be assented to for eternal life goes something like this: 1) Jesus is God, 2) Jesus is man, 3) Jesus died substitutionally for sins, 4) Jesus rose bodily from the dead, 5) Salvation is received by grace through trusting these facts. It must also be noted here that each one of these statements has a number of subpoints which give them context that must also be assented to in their minutia, or one will fail to fulfill their conditions, and the checklist evangelist will not consider such a one saved.

Questions illustrating the problem for checklist evangelists' quest for assurance:
  • If someone has been evangelized this way, where can he turn to in order to find assurance in the scriptures?
  • What passages will he have to string together? What exercises in logic will he have to employ?
  • What will be the steps to find assurance in the objective word of God?
  • Is there any clear passage or passages that shows for him all of the conditions that he must fulfill and that promises eternal life, justification, or eternal salvation upon actually fulfilling them?

  • Free Grace Theology, Saving Faith, and Assurance
    Consistent Free Grace Theology understands that eternal life is received the moment that one simply places his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There are no stipulations, provisos, codicils, or strings attached. When one believes in Jesus of Nazareth for eternal life he will never perish but has everlasting life. To substantiate this claim, Consistent Free Grace evangelists turn the lost to such passages as John 3:16, 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 11:25-26. These passages show in a straightforward, unambiguous, and clear fashion that eternal life and the guarantee against perishing comes to the one who simply believes in Jesus.

    But here is the thing. When someone evangelized by a Consistent Free Grace Theology advocate loses his or her assurance for whatever reason, the same scriptures that were introduced to him in evangelism are the same passages that he must turn to in order to find assurance! John 6:47 states, "Solemnly I assert to you, whoever believes in Me has everlasting life." "Believing in" someone is simply trust and reliance upon that person for something specific. In the context of the previously mentioned evangelistic verses, what Jesus is being trusted for and relied upon for is everlasting life. A person knows whether or not they believe Jesus when He solemnly asserts His gratuitous promise and guarantee. The moment that they look to Jesus in faith, who is the Guarantor of eternal life to the believer, they will again find perfect peace and certain assurance (they had it the moment the exercised saving faith, but that is another issue). Why? Because faith is simply being convinced that something is true. If they are convinced that Jesus is telling the truth in His promise then they know, certainly, that they have eternal life, because the possession of such is explicitly guaranteed in His promise. Furthermore, Jesus would be lying if eternal life didn't come simply by taking Him at His word, believing Him in His promise, trusting Him for what He offers, unconditionally, to the lost. [This is a problem, in and of itself, for checklist evangelists, because in a sense, they make Jesus a liar. Jesus makes a solemn assertion that anyone who simply trusts in Him has everlasting life. Checklist evangelists would have someone go to hell who sincerely trusted in Jesus for the gift He offers by faith, yet who was not privy or understanding of their supplemental additions to saving faith, their fundamentalist creeds that they impose on the Lost as God mandated conditions for receiving everlasting life.]

    The Roadblocks to Assurance found in Checklist Evangelism
    But what of the plight for assurance by the checklist evangelists and those who are evangelized by them? This is crucial to recognize: There is no passage written by Paul, Peter, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Jude, James, or the writer of the Hebrews, or any statements by Jesus (recorded for us in the Scriptures) that articulates that eternal life is guaranteed to the one who fulfills the many conditions imposed on the lost by these traditionalists. Where can he turn to for assurance? No scripture(s) line up with his evangelistic experience! If he has to turn to many passages in order to string together some weak support for what he has been told are God mandated requirements for eternal life, how will he be satisfied that he has found them all? Since there are so many conditions and they are never found all in one place, how is he to be sure that he has in reality found all of the doctrines and facts that he must assent to in order to have confidence that he has indeed fulfilled them and so certainly have assurance that he is saved? It is a slippery slope that can lead to great uncertainties.

    I already hear some of the objections by the checklist evangelists. They may say that they can turn to passages such as John 3:16 for assurance. But here is the problem for them. John 3:16 states, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." This passage states unequivocally that "whoever believes in Him" is the one who shall never perish but has eternal life. Believing in someone is simply trusting in that person for something specific. In this context it is shown that what one is relying upon Jesus for by faith is eternal life and the guarantee that one will never perish.

    But the checklist evangelists understand "believing in" Jesus to mean something much more complex than that. They believe it is assenting to a plethora of historical and doctrinal facts in addition to belief in Jesus. How can they use this verse for assurance when there is no clear affirmation anywhere in the Scriptures equating "believing in" (pisteuo eis) Jesus with the multitude of creedal assertions that they are convinced are required to be assented to by mandate of God for the express purpose of receiving everlasting life? How can they be sure that they haven't missed something that "believing in" Jesus may encompass? They cannot. There is no verse or passage that clearly identifies "believing in" Jesus with the assent to specific and enumerable doctrinal and historical facts. Furthermore, when Jesus pronounced His promises such as John 3:16 and 11:25-26, he was merely eliciting trust in Him for eternal well-being, not asking them to assent to a wide range of doctrinal facts!

    Furthermore, if John 3:16 is sufficient to be singled out for assurance by a checklist evangelist, how is it insufficient as a statement denoting saving faith in his estimation? Such is the inconsistency of their position. John 3:16 does not enumerate for us all of the conditions for eternal life in the opinion of checklist evangelists.

    For me, John 3:16 is a sufficient articulation of the single condition mandated by God for eternal life: "believ[ing] in" Jesus. Therefore it is a sufficient scripture to turn to in order to find assurance.

    If my mom wrote this to me, "I promise that if you send me your mortgage bill for this month that the day I receive it I will send in the payment" where can I get assurance that my mortgage payment was indeed paid for after having sent her the mortgage bill in the mail? Quite simply by doing this: reading the promise of my mom, knowing I fulfilled the condition for her explicit guarantee.

    One can ONLY have assurance of the stated consequences of specific conditions if one knows those conditions and then fulfills them. In John 3:16, there is only the one condition given by Jesus (and thus by Consistent Free Grace advocates), faith in Him; there is no run-down of all the conditions that the checklist evangelists impose on the lost. Therefore, checklist evangelists cannot legitimately find assurance in that verse.

    Where one finds the conditions for receiving everlasting life and then fulfills them will be the same place that he must look to for assurance. Unfortunately for checklist evangelists, there is no passage that conditions the reception of eternal life on the multitude of historical and doctrinal facts they impose on the lost. The quest for assurance by checklist evangelists and those whom they evangelize can only be described as a scavenger hunt where no one can win.


    Blogger alvin said...

    Amen brother Antonio!!!
    Your reasoning is not only biblical but consistent.

    WOW you mean I can simply take Jesus at His word and know I'm eternally secure!!! You mean I don't have to go here and there and everywhere but simply can go to Jesus and His promise! That's just to easy, in fact it's so easy a child could do it and get assurance.

    What would these highly educated ones do with all their hoops? And what would they do if they could not judge whether one has repented enough? They think, "it surely isn't a gift someone could just freely take." But you need to go to seminary so you know ALL the hoops to set in place, you don't want to make it to easy. Right? Right?
    Believe has to mean more then just to believe Jesus word, that's just to easy. And world couldn't really mean world, that would mean God loves all those reprobates,,,my,,,my,,,that couldn't be true,,,,could it?
    You have to be a educated idiot and be educated out of Jesus simple promises because they are just to simple to believe,,,right? Right?
    What does the word say?

    John 5:47
    47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
    John 6:47
    47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.
    John 4:10
    10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

    Revelation 22:17
    17 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.
    Yep!!!! No hoops!!!! Why not? Because Jesus paid it all, sin has been taken care of on the cross!!!


    May 10, 2008 7:33 PM  
    Blogger alvin said...

    I'm sorry! I might have gotten a little carried away in that last post. I've never been called an "educated idiot" but I was called "an idiot" a couple of weeks ago when I pulled out in front of this car! Anyway I remember Zane in his one talk on the Law and answered a question saying we might want to be careful and not calling anyone a numskull or you fool because even though were not under the law we still will give an account of our words at the Bema. So if your one of those educated idiots don't take it personal because it is a higher level of idiot, you could be just a plain idiot like me!


    May 11, 2008 1:03 AM  
    Blogger Rose~ said...

    Just printed this out to read it while I lay here ill, Antonio. That is how important your posts are to me. ;~)

    May 12, 2008 3:55 PM  
    Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME said...


    I think the hamster is dead, although the wheel is still turning on this one.


    May 18, 2008 1:06 AM  
    Blogger Antonio said...


    thanks for that very astute observation and comment about this article.

    May 18, 2008 6:01 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "Most people lack the true repentance. They lack the true contrition, the true brokenness. They are void of urgent desperation. They don't have a true relationship to Jesus Christ. They just 'hang around' Jesus... And they do not know what it means to bow to that which is eternal. To be concerned about that. They want a gospel that doesn't ask for repentance. They want a gospel that has no threats. They want a gospel that allows them to have some superficial attachment to Jesus, but not a bowing to His absolute sovereignty at any cost. They want a gospel that fixes them in this world to make them more comfortable. That's not it. And that's not what Jesus offers."
    —John MacArthur

    Oh no! Someone just quoted John MacArthur!

    May 19, 2008 7:17 PM  
    Blogger Antonio said...

    Hey Ryan,

    Always a pleasure.

    Great quote from JMac!

    Hey, what is the reference to that?


    May 19, 2008 8:26 PM  
    Blogger Diane said...

    Hi Ryan,

    Nice to meet you here on Antonio's blog.

    John MacArthur is a very gifted communicator. But I wonder why he can't see that he's put a price tag on receiving a free gift? I use to be a follower of John MacArthur. I loved his teaching. I supported him financially. I ordered most of his tapes at that time and even used them in Bible Studies. I met him at a Conference once where he spoke. I just plain loved him. Then one day I heard him say that you weren't saved by believing only. You had to commit to follow Him, surrender to Him as Lord, count the cost, etc. (paraphrased). He called those who weren't willing to do that... unsaved. He called it "easy believism!"
    I was devastated. This teacher whom I had been learning under and loved crushed me by his words that day, and I knew he was wrong. I cried. I couldn't believe what I was hearing from one I had grown to love and respect so much. That started me on my journey of searching and studying everything I could get my hands on. It never made me doubt my salvation. I always KNEW I was eternally saved based on the wonderful promise of John 3:16.

    I say all this... not to be critical of you, but to just ask the question of you.... WHY is believing In Jesus FOR HIS FREE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE not enough?
    Why doesn't John MacArthur see that he's mixing justification truth with sanctification truth?
    It puzzles me.

    Thank you for posting this quote. For me it just reminded me again of the great divide between free grace and Lordship salvation theology. I'm thankful for the debate because it's sharpened me in my understanding of the Bible. The debate is good as long as it is done in love.
    Your post was a good reminder to me of why free grace teaching is so important.

    I hope that your journey with Lord brings you to the place where you too see the distinction between justification and sanctification truth. You are loved by the One who died and rose to give you this wonderful free gift of eternal life by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. I wish you God's best in that journey.

    In Jesus' love,

    May 22, 2008 8:57 PM  
    Blogger alvin said...

    Hi Diane

    You don't seem to speak often, but when you do it's profound!!!!
    Just remember I'm in your cheering section. When experince speaks I listen,,,Ha!!Ha!!! Not that your old or anything, but time does bring wisdom, especially with one who walks with Jesus!

    Your brother In Christ

    May 25, 2008 9:58 AM  
    Blogger Diane said...

    Hi Alvin....
    Just call me Grandma Di-Di. That's what my grandkids call me, and all the other little kids at church!!!
    I love it!!!
    Of course, I didn't like the thought of being considered "old" by any of them, but then I looked in the mirror. OK.... truth won out! I've arrived. I get SS now. That makes me officially old~!
    BUT..... I get senior discounts at McDonalds, too, so I'm not complaining!

    Actually, one of my grandsons (7 years old at the time) asked me last year on my birthday how old I was. When I told him, he looked shocked and said in a startled way..... "I thought most people didn't make it to 50!!!"
    Kids..... Aren't they precious!!!

    Thank you always for your kind words. Actually I feel like I write too much on Antonio's blog. I read his blog all the time and continually learn something, but sometimes I just HAVE to inter into the conversation. I feel like I do it too much. I have no great insight into anything, but one thing I know....... how I was eternally saved..... by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone apart from anything that I can offer. He did it all. I'm the receiver! Praise His Name!!!

    Always enjoy reading your comments. Don't stop.

    Grandma Di-Di (this time only)
    (the one over 50)

    May 25, 2008 12:28 PM  
    Blogger alvin said...

    Hi Diane

    I like those discounts! That's the great thing about 55 and older senior discounts,,yep!!
    Your input is always excellent!!! And greatly appreciated by me, because it is the plain down right truth. It's one thing to talk about something, but when you have experienced it first hand it carries alot more weight. Hopefully Ryan will take another look at what he has bought into. It would be a terrible thing to get to the end of your life and realize you had your ladder all the time against the wrong wall. And then find out it really was a free gift after all.

    blessings alvin

    May 25, 2008 3:54 PM  
    Blogger David Wyatt said...

    Alvin & Diane,

    I am really enjoying the encouragemenet coming from both of y'all. I truly believe it is a gift from the Lord. You both use it well. God Bless.

    BTW, Hi bro. Antonio.

    May 26, 2008 6:48 PM  
    Blogger Biblicist said...

    It seems to me that the big problem for non-Free Grace thinkers or those who oppose us is the fact that they confuse what may be needed propositions to instill or arrive at Saving Faith with what Saving Faith itself is. There are a multitude of facts presented in the Gospel of John which prove His ability to make the promise of Eternal Life on faith alone in Himself. Further, there are even more facts presented throughout the rest of the Bible which prove the same. Just as you, Antonio, state, one cannot have a checklist to provide assurance one has Eternal Life. But some of the so called checklist items may well be necessary for a person to gain assurance that the Lord Jesus Christ is willing and able to give the free gift.

    What you didn't mention are the so-called check list items given in I John! I think that these are more difficult to deal with. Confusion over knowing Christ as savior and knowing Him intimately for the one already saved is rampant. For example,

    1 John 2:3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.

    1 John 2:4 He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

    Hodges does an excellent job of explaining such passages in his commentary on the letter of John. But most people I've dealt with reject out of hand his commentary.

    But in my view, none of these passages can give real assurance to anyone who has been convicted by the Holy Spirit of his sin. The problem may be that they like the one in 2 Peter 1 have forgotten that they were cleansed. How can one base his knowledge of salvation on keeping His commandments? Only by rationalizing down His commandments till they are gone.

    Understanding such passages as meaning abiding in Christ and knowing Him more intimately, makes them not only not depressing, but encouraging toward more perfect fellowship.


    June 04, 2008 7:54 PM  
    Blogger Biblicist said...

    Ryan S:

    What is really neat is the JMac will be judged exactly how he writes here. He will be judged accorging to his judgment.

    I'd hate to be in his shoes.


    June 04, 2008 7:59 PM  

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