For an upcoming project I’ve been reading some of Wilhelmus A. Brakel’s (1635–1711) The Christian’s Reasonable Service. It’s a four-volume work on which Reformation Heritage Books has a great price (link). The other night I was reading in Volume 1 on his treatment of election and reprobation. Toward the end of that chapter, he gave three ways for the Christian to make his calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). I thought our readers may find this helpful.
Every Christian’s Duty
Brakel notes, “It is…the duty of every Christian to strive for assurance according to the exhortation of the apostle in 2 Peter 1:10, as this assurance is the fountain of much joy in God and results in much growth in sanctification.”
But how does one obtain such assurance? Brakel first says what not to do:
One does not obtain this assurance by ascending into heaven to examine the book of life for the purpose of ascertaining whether one’s name is to be found in it (Rom. 10:6–7). Neither is this assurance obtained by imagining oneself to be one of the elect, so that by the duration of this imagination one could consistently maintain this assurance, being of the opinion that it is a sin to be doubtful about it rather tough one lacks the least foundation for this assurance.
What then is the Christian to do? Brakel counsels that “one obtains this assurance from the Word of God wherein is found a clear description of those who are of the elect. If these characteristics are discerned within, he may draw the conclusion that the is one of the elect.”
Now, there are some things I might add to this list, like the assurance provided by the local church, but I hope what follows helps you discern your own election so that you may live in the joy and holiness of this reality.
“The first characteristic,” Brakel notes, “is the calling. God calls internally and efficaciously only those whom He has chosen.” What, then, does this look like?
If, while bringing yourself into the omniscient presence of the Lord and examining yourself in truth, you may perceive that your mind has been illuminated to enable you to discern the spiritual dimension of the spiritual benefits of the covenant of grace; if you perceive within yourself a love and desire for spiritual frames within your soul such as the love and fear of God, willingness and obedience, spiritual stimulus, stirring you up to think upon God, to pray, to repent after backslidings, to walk in a way pleasing to God; and if you perceive that the nearness of the Lord is your life and His absence your grief — if all these things are to be found in you, then you may be assured of being called and drawn.
“Secondly,” Brakel continues, “the Word of God teaches that faith is a certain characteristic of election.” See, for example, Acts 13:48, Titus 1:1, or Ephesians 1:13. What does this faith look like in the life of believers?
If…you are assured that you find delight in God’s counsel to reconcile sinners to Himself through the Surety, the Lord Jesus Christ; if, due to grief and sorrow over your sinful heart and deeds, fear for God’s wrath, love for communion with God and a spiritual walk, and a sense of your own impotence to attain to these matters, you take refuge to this Surety who offers Himself; if you look to Him, long for Him, engage in transactions with Him, accept His offer, surrender yourself to Him, rest your salvation upon Him, and rely upon Him…then you are a partaker of true faith. If you may thus be assured of your faith, you may then consequently conclude your eternal election.
Finally, Brakel mentions that “Sanctification is also a sure characteristic of election.” What does this sanctification look like?
If you…perceive within yourself a hatred, repulsion, and sorrow concerning both the secret sins of your heart, as well as your sinful deeds, and if you find an inner delight and love for a godly spiritual frame and the practice of all virtues in the fear, love, and obedience of God, as being His will; if you perceive within yourself the warfare between the flesh and spirit so that sin does not have dominion over you, that is, that you are not governed by your evil will; if sin meets with internal resistance of your will, being restrained and often driven away by the fear of God; if you perceive within yourself the inclination to pray, wrestle for peace of conscience, and experience the nearness of the Lord; if, either privately or in the presence of men, you desire to let your heart, thoughts, words, and deeds to be governed by the will of God; if, I say, these things be found in you, then you are a partaker of spiritual life and the principle of sanctification is in you. This is not the result of your natural disposition, but a gracious gift of God issuing forth from election. Thus, you may conclude your election from this spiritual condition.
What About You?
What will you do with this information? I hope you will consider the Biblical mandate to make your calling and election sure. I hope that if you find these examinations comforting that you will press on to know the Lord all the more walking with Him in joy, obedience, and holiness.
If you find yourself wanting after think through these characteristics, I hope you will not rest satisficed in the state of your soul. Rather, will you repent of your sins and call upon Christ even now? Certainly, there are mysteries that pertain to election that God has not revealed. What He has revealed, however, is enough: those whom He has given to Christ will come to Him and whoever comes to Christ will not be cast out (cf. John 6:37).
So, what will you do with your soul? Go to Christ even now! Find in Him a suitable sacrifice for your sins. Put your faith in Him and see that you are a partaker of the immeasurable riches of His great grace.