It’s good to claim the Bible’s promises, but most of them are conditional: either explicitly conditional, (“If we confess our sins” I John 1:9) or implicitly conditional (“and the peace of God… will guard your hearts” Phil. 4:7)
A Bible promise for which we have not met the conditions is not a Bible promise that applies to us. God’s promises to his people may appear indiscriminately on other folks’ greeting cards, but they only given to his people. Otherwise, applying them is a form of practical universalism. According to this theory, everything nice happens everywhere at the same time, like a mis-timed fireworks display. And people can be in every nice place at will, such as Helena, Montana, without actually having to go there.
For example, one promise that can’t be claimed from the Bible is assurance of salvation. Yes, the Bible contains words of assurance about salvation. But they are conditional words (you will disagree if you are a doctrinaire Universalist, of course, in which case you believe that everybody is going to heaven, like it or not).
For example, Romans 10:9 is a promise of salvation – to people who meet the conditions of confessing and believing. You say that you have confessed and believed. So have many other people whose lives suggest that they lack true faith. Repentance is a gift. You can’t engineer it into existence. Faith is not so common as all that.
Are you basing your assurance of salvation on the Bible, or on your self-defined, self-reported faith? The interesting thing is that, based strictly on the Bible, you cannot be assured that you are going to heaven unless your name appears in the Bible saying that you have confessed and believed. You and I do need to do that, but it’s not up to us to decide whether we have.
Some sacramentally-based Christians, such as the Roman Catholics and the Church of Christ (!), counter that their salvation is not based on their own opinions, but on the physical act of baptism. But they won’t go so far as to say that baptism guarantees that a faithless person will go to heaven. In practice, they are taught to be less sure about their salvation than other denominations are.
Yes, the Bible is a book of promises. And salvation is promised, to one group of people, by name. They are named the church of God, the body of Christ, the assembly of the firstborn, the bride of Christ. Their complete names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. But their names aren’t written in the Bible.
4 thoughts on “You are not in the Bible.”
Is there not, however, an assurance of salvation given by God through the witness of the Holy Spirit, confirming the promises of the Word in our lives? And is there not, through the Word and the Spirit, a way to be assured that God has accomplished salvation in us?
Very good. Yes, I agree that there is such an assurance. The question is what the witness of the Holy Spirit is, besides some warm feelings. People can deceive themselves about the witness of the Spirit just as they can deceive themselves about the promises of the Bible. The Bible also describes what a Christian is like; we can compare our lives to that.
I think that I mainly agree, Michael.
However, what do we do when we find a promise that is sometimes states as conditional, but sometimes as unconditional?
I’m guessing you’d say that we assume the condition into the unconditional version? But what if this difference sometimes acts as a clue that God himself will fulfill the condition?
Like, I say, on the whole I agree with you, but I think there is most certainly a (conditional) assurance available to disciples.