G.K. Beale on the Assurance of Salvation

At the recommendation my dear friend Nathan Martin (@nater_Martin) I spent some time last night reading the excursus in G.K. Beale’s “A New Testament Biblical Theology” on the assurance of salvation (pgs. 865-870). Assurance is one of the most important doctrines for a new believer to comprehend, but unfortunately it is often presented in ways that are at best unhelpful and at worst can be unbiblical. Instead of offering trite sayings or clichés, Beal provides us with a clear, simple and Biblical model for understanding the assurance of salvation. He argues that we can understand assurance as a triangle, “with each angle contributing to an aspect of assurance. “

BealeTriangle

Trust in God’s Promise of Salvation

 Beal states that, “First, God promises throughout the NT that those who place their faith in Christ and his redemptive work will receive an inner assurance that they have truly benefitted from Christ’s work (the top of the triangle).” (p.867) He then cites 1 John 5:9-15 as a classic example of this teaching in Scripture:

If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

This passages teaches us that “God ‘has testified’ that ‘eternal life’ comes through belief in ‘His Son,’ and those ‘who believe’ in the Son ‘have the testimony in ‘themselves.’” (p.868) We have the assurance of God’s Word that He has given life to all who believe.

Good Works

The Bible clearly teaches that no one will be saved by their good works, but it is also equally adamant that those who have been saved will produce good works. Beale uses Ephesians 2:8-10 to demonstrate this point:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Verses 8 and 9 are universally used to demonstrate the Biblical teaching concerning justification by faith alone, however; we often skip the next verse. Verse 10 is important because it teaches that as believers we are saved to do “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” Beal says, “..one who has truly been resurrected (Eph 2:4-6) and thus becomes a part of the new creation will inevitably and increasingly be characterized by good works (Eph 2:10) instead of behaving like “dead people” in bondage to “trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1-3).” (p.868)

One of the ways that I explain this to new believers is that the greatest evidence of genuine salvation is a changed life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This new life is exhibited through a change in behavior and attitudes that lead to good works. These good works not only demonstrate to others that we have received a new life, but also serve as assurance to us that God has indeed transformed our lives through the gospel. Beal says, “…believer’s assurance of truly being part of the new creation comes as they look back at their former life and see the changes that have come about as they look back at their former life and see the changes that have come about since they became Christian.” (p.869)

Conviction by the Spirit

Many years ago I heard an evangelist say that one of the ways that we know we are saved is that “whenever we fall into sin we are immediately convicted by the indwelling Holy Spirit.” He summed this teaching up by saying, “We can’t get away with anything.” Looking back this was one of the most evident signs to me that something had changed in my life. I can remember shortly after I was saved falling under tremendous conviction for uttering a curse word on the playground. What had been a regular activity before now suddenly felt out of place and wrong.

Beal closes by saying, “…faithful, growing Christians should receive multiple assurances from these three angles, which have a cumulative force, enhancing the overall sense of confidence about the reality of their Christians experience.”(p.870) But also warns that, “no confidence should exist in those who profess to believe in Jesus but who reflect no discernible change for the good in their lifestyles and who have no conviction about changing their sinful ways.”

G.K. Beale “A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New” (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011)

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Nawho? — Why We Need to Preach From the Most Neglected Book of the Bible

In the entire history of preaching I doubt there is any section of the Bible more neglected than the minor prophets and among the minor prophets none is as ignored as the book of Nahum. Elizabeth Achtemier says of the book, “We often wish Nahum were not in the canon, and the book has been almost totally ignored in the modern church.” (Achtemeir, 5)  If you will take about 15 minute to read the book you will quickly see why.  The message that Nahum delivers is one of judgment and the picture of God given in the book is one of vengeance, wrath and anger.  Consider the second verse of the opening chapter, “The Lord is a jealous, and avenging Go; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps earth for his enemies.” (1:2) This picture of God doesn’t go over too well in the modern church but I would like to suggest that there’s more to Nahum than what we see at first glance.  There are hidden nuggets in this short book that the modern church desperately needs to hear.  Let me just mention a few of the important themes that make Nahum one of the most relevant books for our times.

Nahum Reminds Us that God’s Justice and Loving Kindness Are Two Sides of the Same Coin

Another way of saying is this is that God is sovereign, showing justice and wrath to the doers of evil while at the same time displaying mercy and love to His people.  We’ve already noted that in 1:2 Nahum clearly teaches us that God is jealous and avenges evil but we also need to note that in v.3 he says, “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power…”  Throughout this book, Nahum reminds the people of Judah that while God will judge the city of Nineveh for the atrocities that it had committed He will at the same time show them mercy.  For instance, in 1:15 he writes, “Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who published peace! Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows, for never again shall the worthless pass through yowl he is utterly cut off.”  In other words, the people of Judah could be confident in worshipping God because He will restore them and will deal with their enemies. 

God’s justice and His lovingkindness are not separate natures but rather, they are attributes that coexist perfectly within His divine character.  In the modern church, we have so overemphasized the grace and mercy of God that we have neglected to teach on His justice and wrath.  But the truth of the matter is that we cannot understand what God is like without coming face to face with both aspects of his character.  These two aspects of God’s character are displayed most vividly through the cross of Jesus Christ.  On the cross Jesus met the righteous demands of God’s justice by bearing the punishment for our sin while at the same time displaying God’s love and grace by becoming the ultimate sacrifice for our sin.

Nahum reminds us that God’s justice provides comfort because He has not forgotten nor does He ignore those who do evil.  People living in Judah may have thought that God had been harsh with them but that He was letting the Assyrians and their capital city of Nineveh off the hook.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Nahum reminds us that God is faithful to His promises

In 1:12-13 Nahum writes, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Though they are at full strength and man, they will be cut down and pass away.  Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more.  And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds apart.”  In these verse God reminds Judah that He has not forgotten about them and that He is going to be faithful to all of His promises.  He may have had to temporarily afflict the people but He had not forgotten them.  This is a message that believers in every age need to hear.  Like the ancient residents of Judah, we often find ourselves wondering if God is ever going to intervene to bring about justice.  In those moments, Nahum speaks to us and reminds us that God is faithful to His promises.  He will judge evil and He will restore the righteous.  But there is one final theme in Nahum that modern believers need to hear.

Nahum reminds us that our only security is in God

 The Assyrian Empire was the mightiest military force on the face of the earth in Nahum’s day.  Under the leadership of Tiglath-Pileser the Assyrians dominated the Ancient Near East, including both Israel and Judah, forcing the conquered nations to pay him homage.  The Assyrians were a fierce, militaristic, conquering people who lived by the philosophy that “might makes right.”    They had conquered every major power in their part of the world and must have felt invincible but God says, “Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at you nakedness and kingdoms at your shame.” In other words, God is announcing that He was about to humble the greatest, most powerful nation on the earth at that time. In their commentary, Kenneth Barker and Waylon Bailey state that, “Nahum shows that when the military might of a nation becomes its security and its god, then sin has conquered the nation, and it will fall.  Sin is not limited to those with specific instructions from God’s book about it.  Every person knows basic human rights and values.  Any person or nation who refuses to follow these rights and values is condemned as a sinner and faces God’s judgment.” (Nahum, 155)

As a people we need to be reminded that our strength is not in our military might, economic power, or advanced technology.  In the end none of these will stand the test of time.  The only true source of security that we have is in God.  Nations, churches and people who trust in anything other than God will find that their lives are built on sinking sand.  Our security is found in God and God alone!

My prayer is that God will use this brief survey of the themes in Nahum to encourage you to preach through/from this most neglected book of the Bible.