FANTASIES, FABLES AND TRADITIONS
"Well, sir, perhaps if you exercise rigorously and diet carefully along with the pills...."
"I don't want none of that. No exercise, no dieting. I just want to get skinny. Can you give me that assurance or not?"
"Well, sir. You give me the $3,000 and I will give you whatever assurance you want."
For whatever a person wants, there are plenty of people ready and anxious to supply it. This is especially true with insurance (assurance). If you doubt this, take a look in the phone book under "Insurance" or watch your mailbox for insurance junk mail.
It's obvious that someone is making a profit somewhere - and supposedly it's you.
The world is overflowing with people out to get all they want without having to do anything for it. And that is never more true than in affluent countries like the USA.
I live in a small town - or at least it was a small town until it decided to grow and bring in the rich and the elderly, for which the town advertised.
Immediately the town grew - mostly from the criminal element and the homeless and the beggars who were keeping an eye on the ads for where the rich and the elderly congregated.
There is always someone who wants to take advantage of those who wish to take the most for themselves.
And that is never more true than in the church realm.
This can be seen in the huge cathedrals from the past. But not the past only. Even now small churches hardly large enough to fill a living room spend great amounts of money building huge churches for their expected "future growth."
Many years ago I heard a pastor say that he was instructed by a well known Evangelist on the tricks he needed to use to insure the growth of his ministry. They were the same tricks used by businesses and corporations to get their "product" on the top of the heap.
And today as I was perusing the web I came across a site that announced in big letters that they had "Strategies" available for winning souls. This is not new - almost all churches teach strategies for winning souls. They learn them from the business experts of the World.
Strategies to bring them in.
I think of the carnival barkers who stands at the door of a darkened room and announces to the world what a wonderful time they will have if they pay their money and enter his room.
And I think of the man who advertised a book entitled; "All I know about making a million dollars." All he knew was how to sell a book with empty pages because he knew nothing more about making a million dollars than that there were plenty of people willing to spend good money to learn tricks, rather than earn what they want.
The churches have an advantage over businesses of the world. In the world you can learn immediately if what you have purchased is any good or not. In the church, however, much of what you are to attain is supposed to be supplied after you die. By that time it's a little late to demand your money back if you find it too hot for you in the "Paradise" you had been promised.
And for the more immediate blessings you are supposed to receive, if you do not receive them, you are told it is because you did not hold your mouth right when you prayed for that new Cadillac, or you did not work up enough faith within yourself to be healed of that amputated arm.
Whereas a business may fail if their product proves to be inferior, a church does not suffer such problems because they can always blame you the practitioner, or the devil, or even God if no one else is found to accept the blame.
The method Jesus used was just the opposite of what the churches use. The churches promise prosperity, and health, and a blissful life here on earth. They promise that the more you do for yourself, the more God will bless you, and the more God blesses you, the more you can know that you are one of His and that He loves you.
Then the strategy Jesus used to build His Church (body of believers) was not to build a bigger building, in fact He had no building whatever accept perhaps a borrowed upper room for a short period. His strategy was to beat his followers off with a stick ("drink my blood"), and those who remained, He trained and prepared to be sacrificial soldiers rather than royal celebrities. In other words, He trained them to be just like Himself.
Assurance is something we seek, and naturally so. We want to know that we are on the right track. We want to be assured that we are on the road to Paradise, even though all around us is nothing but sagebrush and cactus plants. We want some one, any one to promise us that we can have what we want even though we have made no effort to attain that which we desire.
So there are churches ready with the answer we desire. Not all churches, mind you, but many.
Where does the doctrine of Assurance come from? Is it Biblical?
All church doctrine is "Biblical." It may have no more foundation than a half a verse that has been warped and mangled, but it is unlikely that you can find a doctrine that does not claim that it is based on the Bible.
Most doctrines, like that of Assurance, has a much broader Biblical foundation. However, whatever a person chooses to believe, there is usually overwhelming evidence against it in the Bible as well. That is why there are so many doctrines and denominations and cults in this world. People are looking for the Truth, but they will anxiously settle for a quick and easy Truth; not an enduring Truth that takes much investigation, frustration and the leadership of the Holy Spirit to discern.
Assurance is a concept started by the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo. These writings were then accepted and incorporated into the doctrines of such notable people as John Calvin, John Wesley, and Martin Luther. So if you belong to the Lutheran, Methodist or one of the many churches that follow Calvinism, you are doubtless aware of and fully instructed in the doctrine of Assurance.
The doctrine of Assurance, also known as "Security" or "Confidence" does not stand alone. In fact it goes hand-in-hand with the doctrine of "Saved by Grace Alone." It is difficult to separate the two. Because of this, if your Faith is an adherent of Grace Alone, it is most likely a follower of Assurance.
In opposition to Assurance, and therefore Grace Alone, is the doctrine of what is called by many "Lordship Salvation," or "Perseverance of the Saints," not to be confused with "Final Perseverance of the Saints" which is sometimes called "Preservation of the Saints" where Salvation is retained in spite of ourselves. [Confused? Me too!] This doctrine, that is "Lordship" states that one can lose their Salvation if they do not endure to the end. This means that a person who wishes to retreat back into the world, that is to take back the reins of their life, may do so. Whereas Grace and Assurance state that once you are converted you have no more choices but rather are now "Infilled" with the Holy Spirit who cannot under any circumstances be withdrawn from you.
In other words, your Assurance is not based on anything you can do, but rather based on what God has done, and will continue to do through Eternity.
This is reassuring to be sure. Now let us investigate the Scriptures that are used as support for this reassurance.
1John 2:1 1My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous
John 10:27-30 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. 30I and my Father are one.
John 5:24 24Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
John 6:37-40. 37All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
Phil 1:6 6Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Rom 8:1 1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Rom 8: 31-39 31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:15-22 . 15What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 19I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
1Cor 1:4-9 4I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
1Cor 3:15 15If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
1Cor 12:13 13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
Gen 15:6 6And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
Gal 5:13,16-17,25 13For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Titus 2:11-14 11For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Eph 4:30 30And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Rom 11:29 29For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
Heb 7:25 25Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Heb 13:5 5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
1Pet 1:4-5 4To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Jude 1:24 24Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
2Tim 2: 13If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
The following portions of Scripture are considered "Problem" verses by the proponents of Assurance. Consider them and see if they present any problem to you.
This first example from Hebrews 6: (to me) seems quite frightening if I were to depend on it as my excuse for slothful behavior as I stand before the Great White Throne where "dead branches" are being tosses into a pit of fire and brimstone. But the adherents to the Assurance doctrine contend that it is not Salvation that is being spoken of here, but rather the maturity of the saint.
The proof text that follows (John 15:) they say is again not speaking of the person being burned, but the rewards for good conduct that the Lord has promised the Faithful for good works (Treasures in Heaven is what I assume they mean). Before I risk this interpretation I want to make sure I have lots of sunburn lotion at hand. But that's me; see what you make of it.
Heb 6:1-12 (Assurance advocates say it refers to maturity)
1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3And this will we do, if God permit. 4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: 8But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
9But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. 10For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: 12That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
John 15:1-15 (Advocates Say this means losing reward when burned, not the person)
1I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. 11These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Heb 10:26-31 26For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
1Cor 9:24-27 24Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
1John 3:24 24And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
(Heb 3:12-14) 12Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
1John 2:19 19They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
2Pet 2:20 20For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
Rev 3:2-4 2Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. 3Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. 4Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. 5He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Col 1:21-23 21And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: 23If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
John 14:15 15If ye love me, keep my commandments. 16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
Rom 2:14 5But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11For there is no respect of persons with God. 12For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; 13(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 14For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) 16In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
Jesus said that Scripture is written in such a way as to confuse the carnal mind. Are you confused? (Luke 8, Isa 28:13-15)
2Cor 5:17 17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
Eph 5:5 3But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. 13But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. 14Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. 15See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Heb 12:14 4Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. 5And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. 14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; 16Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
Very often when I read what a theologian uses to support their view, right next to it, or very near it is another Scripture that clearly nullifies what they are trying to support; or even stranger, it is a verse that is an even better support for their position than the one they were pushing forward.
And speaking of verses, I notice how very little Scripture is presented as evidence, or at least as little as absolutely possible. Often all that is presented is one single verse, and on occasion only a portion of a verse.
I have often wondered if this is in consideration for our (the reader's) eyesight, or if they have a limited amount of ink or paper. But the fact that they have written (at times) several volumes of their own words to try and explain that half a verse causes me to doubt this to be the case.
It kind of reminds me of a two hour movie that has spent so much time in the development of the plot, that they only have a minute or two to show what everyone has been waiting for - the fulfilment of the plot.
And some times I wonder if it's not very much like Junior who when asked if he washed his hands gladly thrusts out his spotless left hand while he hold his right hand containing the mud ball behind his back. Or more to the point, the used car salesman who sheepishly points out and discounts for the balding tire, while covering up the fact that the transmission is on its last legs. Or the magician who forces a card on his audience in order to prove he is able to read minds.
I also find it quite interesting that as I investigate the different sources of information that supports one view or another, they seem to have different verses they use to back up their beliefs than do others of the same belief. It's as if they don't investigate what any one else has to say about their subject of interest, but rather only go by what they happen to find laying in front of them.
I think of the cult members who go door to door with five worn-out pages in their Bible they use to "prove" their doctrine, and the rest of the Bible is as pristine as the day it came off the press.
It is my belief that to find the Truth (something I wonder if very many people are actually looking for) I have to check out every source I can find, put them all together like a jigsaw puzzle, and then tear it all up and rearrange the pieces to see of they will fit yet another way. I find I can't leave pieces out, or whittle them down to size, or turn them around and paint them to match the picture I think the puzzle is supposed to be. After all this (and during) I check with the Creator of the puzzle, the Holy Spirit, who might or might not aid me in my exploration. Then when I am all through, and I either exhaust my resources or just plain give up - I assume I still don't have the Truth, but rather just (hopefully) a working knowledge of the subject.
This said, I have taken the above support Scriptures for Assurance and added some of the surrounding verses that may add clarity to their true meaning. (Take note that some verses have been left out.)
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