Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Musings: Perseverance Produces Assurance

For several Mondays I have been posting about the relationship of our present existence to God’s promised future because I think it is an important topic that is under-discussed in our churches. One text that discusses salvation in both the present and the future while also discussing the link between the two is Romans 5:1–11. How do we know we will be saved in the final judgment? What is the basis of our assurance of salvation?

“(1) Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (2) Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (3) More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, (4) and endurance produces character [dokimē: evidence, proof that something is genuine), and character [dokimē] produces hope, (5) and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

(6) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— (8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (11) More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Before salvation: We are described as weak (5:6), ungodly (5:6), sinners (5:8), and enemies (5:10).

We have been saved: Because of Christ’s death (5:9–10) and our faith (5:1) we now have been justified (5:1, 9; declared to be in the right or righteous) and reconciled to God (5:10, 11; the restoration of a broken relationship). We also now have peace with God (5:1), access to grace (5:2), and joy (5:2).

We will be saved: Because of our justification and reconciliation we have confidence that we will be saved from God’s wrath (5:9, 10) in the future day of judgment.

How do we as believers have such incredible confidence that we will be saved on the final day of judgment? Paul here grounds our confidence in two realities. First, in Christ the future verdict from the final judgment has moved into the present and right now, in the present, Christians hear the verdict of “not guilty!” This is the meaning of justification! The future verdict has been declared in the present over those whose lives are bound up with Christ’s life.

Second, our faithful endurance in the midst of the suffering of this present time period produces evidence or proof (dokimē) that God’s declaration of “not-guilty” in the present time will match his verdict in the final judgment. I think the ESV’s translation of this word as “character” obscures this point (the NASB does a bit better with “proven character”). Paul’s point is that we as Christians can rejoice in the midst of suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance and perseverance produces evidence, proof, or assurance that we are indeed in the right (justified). This assurance, forged in the furnace of endurance, then results in confident hope.

This two-fold basis of assurance guards against false assurance or false confidence. We have confidence based upon the promises of God that our faith has already resulted in justification and reconciliation. This confidence is confirmed or made more sure by our endurance and perseverance which results in proof or evidence that we will indeed be saved in the final judgment.

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