Category Archives: Assurance of Salvation

If It’s Works, It’s Not Grace, Part 2

Peter Ditzel

Two pictures side-by-side. On the left is a picture of dirty, grim-looking child coal workers from 1911. On the right is a joyous child playing in the sand at the beach.
Jesus said, ““Most certainly I tell you, unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Jesus didn’t have child labor in mind. He meant that we must humbly turn from trusting in our works and obedience to the law. We must become like simple and carefree children, trusting and resting in Him. This doesn’t take effort on our part. It’s not difficult. Jesus is the narrow gate into the kingdom. God gives us the faith; He takes us through.
Left: Child coal workers in Pennsylvania in 1911. Right: Photo by Barbara Ribeiro from Pexels.

In Part 1, we saw how some preachers promote the idea that finding the kingdom and living the Christian life are hard work and use derogatory terms such as “cheap grace” and “easy believism” against their opponents. Yet, the Bible teaches, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). If it’s works, it’s not grace!

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If It’s Works, It’s Not Grace, Part 1

Peter Ditzel

A Euler diagram of two, separate circles. One is labeled grace and the other is labeled works. The diagram shows that there is no intersection between the two sets. Grace and works are separate.
Grace is God’s unmerited pardon. Jesus Christ purchased grace for His people by His atoning sacrifice on the Cross, and God gives that grace freely to believers (Romans 5:15-19). For grace to be grace, it must be entirely apart and distinct from works. It must be pure. It can never be mixed with our works.

Something I’ve learned over the years is that many people profess to believe in salvation by grace alone received by faith alone. Yet, a good number of those same people throw works into the formula, often without even knowing it. You might be one of them. The Bible clearly teaches, “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Romans 11:6). Like oil and water, grace and works don’t mix. Our salvation either stands on grace or it falls on works. Let’s look at some commonly held beliefs and see what they’re really based on.

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2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine Ourselves, or Not? | Pt 2

Instead of examining our own works, we should be focusing on Jesus only. Picture of a boy laughing with an open Bible on his lap. Photo by Ben White on Unsplash.
Instead of examining our own works, we should be focusing on Jesus only. It is then that we can have the joy of the full assurance of our salvation.

Peter Ditzel

In part 1, we saw that many interpret 2 Corinthians 13:5 to mean that we should examine our works for evidences of conversion. We also saw that the context shows that Paul’s focus was himself. He expected the Corinthians to see that the fact that they were believers proved that God had worked through him to bring about their conversion. They were to stop listening to people who were maligning him. Now, let’s look at another proof that this verse isn’t teaching us to examine ourselves for evidence of conversion.

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2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine Ourselves, or Not?

A woman looking comtemplative and downcast. Did Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:5 tell us to examine ourselves for evidences of conversion? Photo by Irene Strong on Unsplash
Did Paul tell us to examine ourselves for evidences of conversion?
Photo by Irene Strong on Unsplash

Part 1

Peter Ditzel

Are we Christians supposed to examine ourselves for evidences of conversion? Some very prominent pastors, preachers, and writers would answer yes. They say that we’re to take stock of whether we’re producing works of conversion. These works show that we are really saved. They base this on 2 Corinthians 13:5, in which Paul tells his readers to examine themselves and test themselves. But how does such a teaching square with the biblical assertion that our salvation is entirely by grace through faith? If we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, why should we look to our works as evidences of conversion? Are we to examine ourselves or not?

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The Two Powers

A picture of Moses with the Ten Commandments on the left and the Cross on the right.
The Bible speaks of two powers that have different purposes and are mutually exclusive. Yet, many insist on teaching that we are under both.

The two powers I have in mind are at opposite ends of the compass (Psalm 103:12). One is the power of sin and of death and of Satan, and the other the power of God for salvation. These two powers are mutually exclusive, each working against the other. As believers, we have experienced the power of God for salvation, and we remain safe under that power. And yet, Christian teachers abound (some of them even claiming New Covenant Theology) who insist that believers are under both powers and that the power of sin and of death and of Satan is the power we are to use to guide our lives and accomplish our sanctification. I want to show you where the Bible speaks of these powers and how we cannot be under both.

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Q. If God makes sure we persevere, how can we be shipwrecked (1 Timothy 1:19) and become castaways (1 Corinthians 9:27)?

The wreck of the SS American Star (originally named the SS America) on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.
The wreck of the SS American Star (originally named the SS America) on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. Can we make shipwreck of our salvation?

A. In 1 Timothy 1:18-19, Paul wrote to Timothy, “This instruction I commit to you, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which led the way to you, that by them you may wage the good warfare; holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust away made a shipwreck concerning the faith.” How can some have thrust away their faith and good conscience to become shipwrecks at the same time that God is making sure that they persevere? Is the perseverance of the saints an unbiblical doctrine that gives us false hope?

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Q. What is the unpardonable sin, or the sin that Jesus said “shall not be forgiven?” I am afraid that I have committed it.

A. I think that just about everyone working in Christian ministry has been contacted by Christians concerned that they have committed the unpardonable sin. Let’s see what this sin is and determine whether it is possible for Christians to commit the unpardonable sin.

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Q. How can I know that I am saved?

A. This is a common question. Some other ways that it can be asked are, “How can I know that God has chosen me as one of His children?” and, “How can I be assured of God’s love for me?” It is, in fact, a question of what theologians call assurance.

I know people who have come up with all sorts of elaborate ways to answer this question. They tell people to look at themselves and see how they have changed since the time they think they became a Christian. They tell them to look at their love for others, their Christian works, their growth in Scriptural knowledge, their better morality, how much they love the law, and so on. Others will also advise people to wait for a vision, a voice, or a feeling to know they are saved.

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