Assurance, Hope, and Presumption


This post is a response to a comment on–>The Sin of Presumption Opposed to Hope

John: So…While Christians may “Hope” for Salvation, the reality is there is no way to “know” that we have been saved short of human presumption which is not Scripturally based.

Bread From Heaven: First, I wish to deal with the comment “which is not Scripturally based”, as i have many times before. But Sola Scriptura or the Protestant doctrine that nothing is to be believed unless it is “Scripturally based” is itself NOT based in Scripture. There is no way to know without any doubt that we are going to go to Heaven when we die. How could we? We all have free will. We are not Christian Puppets once we are born again. We always have the choice to commit a sin unto death. We are not omniscient, so how is it possible for us to KNOW we will persevere to the end? Only God Knows. We can hope. We can be pretty sure that we will die in friendship with God and go to Heaven. Have you never known a person or more than one, who by all appearances was a good and true Christian who later was found to have had an affair, embezzled from work, or even committed murder?

John:Is this Catholic teaching on Salvation? Also; I believe I read you saying that the Catholic Church believes you can “lose” your Salvation…So, how many “times” can a person be saved and then “lost”?

Bread From Heaven: Only God knows. What we do know is that it is possible to commit sin so as to be lost to Heaven as St. Paul tells us and many writers of Scripture warn us of this.

Please see my post Can We Lose Our Salvation? for just a few of the thousands of scriptures that supports the Catholic position.

St. John clearly tells us about “sin unto death” or deadly sin.

  1. 1 John 5:16
    If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
  2. 1 John 5:17
    All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.
  3. And St. Paul Romans 6:16
    Know 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?
  4. Romans 5:21
    That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

And St. Paul has lists of sins that he exhorts avoidance b/c they have no part in the Kingdom of God.

John: My question is based on a simple premise, that all sin is sin and sin keeps us separated from God.

Bread From Heaven: All sin IS equal in that all sin, no matter what it is is enough to separate us from God so that we are in need of a Savior. But, all sin is not equal in the eyes of God. Some sin is an abomination and deadly as clearly stated in Scripture. For clarity please see my post–>Is All Sin The Same In God’s Eyes?

John: It would be presumptuous to say well, my sin is certainly not enough to keep me from God, eternally, so in that, I have “Hope”.

Bread From Heaven: I agree with you! But that is not Catholic teaching.

All sin offends God. We are to confess and repent from all sin. And ” He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin.”This is what leads to hope. Not a self judgement that we haven’t done anything too bad so we still have hope. That is an abominable attitude. And it is indeed presumptuous.

John: The second issue has to do with “assurance”. By this model, every person who has ever lived, assuming they are in fact humble, would be found laying on their death bed, petrified that the “unconfessed sin” could be the one that lands them in Hell for if purgatory does exist, it is also true that not all souls go there. For some, there sin is too great and they will awaken on the other side, in Hell.

Bread From Heaven: One should be petrified of unconfessed and unrepented sin. That is why we pray for a holy death that includes a final confession to a priest and communion to strengthen us. If what you really mean is, forgotten and therefore unconfessed sin we have nothing to fear. Any confession to a priest absolves us from sin we have truly forgotten. If we remember it later than we are obligated to confess and of course repent from it. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven except persistent rejection of Grace.

John: Is it not then presumptuous for anyone to assume their sin is only enough to require a period of cleansing in the much debated Purgatory?

Bread From Heaven: Yes. We hope we make it to Purgatory. We should not assume it.

John: 1 John 5:13, John 20:31, John 16:33, John 13:19, et al, seem to clearly indicate a peace (of mind) in “knowing” that Salvation is not just possible, but assured.

Bread From Heaven: Let’s take a look at the actual passages.

John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

John 13:19 From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

John 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Only the first passage, which says “so that you may know that you have eternal life”seems to argue against my contention that we cannot KNOW for sure we WILL go to Heaven. And of course, anyone can at a point in time be sure that they are saved. For example, we can know, immediately following a good confession or baptism, before we have had a chance to sin again. I do not mean to imply that we must go through life without a single clue about our eternal destiny. What I am saying is that falling away is always a possibility. Therefore, we cannot be absolutely SURE of final salvation for the next five, ten or twenty years etc. We must be humble before the unpredictability and fallenness of our nature.

And let’s not forget that the passage we quoted above is after five chapters and many verses. For instance, some of what John wrote in order that we can “know we have eternal life”:

2 In this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God, and keep his commandments.

3 For this is the charity of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not heavy.

4 For whatsoever is born of God, overcomes the world: and this is the victory which overcomes the world, our faith.

For instance if we love the children of God, obey His commandments and overcome the world we can know we have eternal life. But this in no way assures one that they will continue to do so.

John: The point is; a person who has come to know the Gospel and the truth of Scripture could not have “peace” or “hope” if there isn’t assurance.

Bread From Heaven: Why not? I can have peace and hope at this moment b/c I am in friendship with God. I can have a certain amount of assurance at this moment in time. But I cannot have assurance of the future unless I have lost my free will and am merely a puppet of God. This is not what Scripture teaches.

John: Most of us who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior would spend our lives certain we could not possibly have measured up, once we are on our death beds.

Bread From Heaven: But we cannot “measure up”. We must try to please God throughout our lives and hope for Heaven. Confess and repent when we sin and know that Our God is Merciful. We hope in His Mercy.

John: Scripture clearly indicates that we should no longer fear the outcome for we have believed and have been Saved…Either we are; or we aren’t. There is no “middle ground” and there certainly isn’t “peace” in wondering…

Bread From Heaven: then why does St. Paul tell us

Philippians 2:12
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;

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