We believe a sacrament is the word united with material objects according to Christ's command. This, e.g. Baptism isn't just a bath, but the water united with the word in according to Christ's command. And the word in both cases is the preached law and gospel. As long as you (and others here) insist in dividing sacraments from the word, you won't understand Lutheranism. This does not mean you have to agree with Lutheranism, it is just that we don't have a category of "sacramentalism" which means something which is not the gospel, which your remarks plainly imply.If this is true, then wouldn't it go back to the question Steve asked in his post, "Was George Tiller saved"? In other words, if a Lutheran has received a valid baptism and is a faithful communicant receiving valid communion, then, if I understand you correctly, he'd be receiving the gospel as well. But what if this same Lutheran happened to be someone like George Tiller? It'd have to mean he was saved according to Lutheranism, wouldn't it? If this is so, then it'd seem to be a monumental injustice.
For this reason I do not agree when you say "...your position seems to add more than what the LCMS has said here" because belief in the gospel is believing the gospel, whether it is verbal or verbal with material things according to Christ's command for the remission of sins.
I have been speaking of subjective assurance. It has been acknowledged all around that the elect may not ever have subjective assurance, and the non-elect may believe they are assured. The touchstone is what you alluded to above: irresistible grace, and its cousin, perseverance of the saints. If one wants to know one is elect, one is pointed to "fruits". But the WCF itself allows for these fruits to be misinterpreted, and even allows for the elect to lose their assurance for a time, with the attendant advice to look for fruit to see if one is elect. In effect, the system is pointing one to one's self for proof to one's self--but that proof is not a solid as we would like.1. I think your interpretation of the WCF is reductionistic. As I've said before, the WCF's advice on the assurance of salvation isn't reduced to merely looking to oneself or one's fruits. Again, there are three grounds of assurance. None of these is reducible to one of the other three grounds.
- To quote John Frame on the WCF:
First, the Westminster Confession speaks of "the divine truth of the promises of salvation." Clearly, God promises eternal life to all who receive Christ (John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 47; etc.). His promises are absolutely infallible. . . .
The second basis of assurance the Westminster Confession mentions is "the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made." This ground corresponds to the doctrine of sanctification. When we introspect in this way, we are asking if indeed the Lord is sanctifying us. . . . God has promised to make his people holy (1 Peter 1:15-16; 2 Peter 1:4). So, as we observe what God is doing within us, as we observe our own progress in sanctification, we "make [our] calling and election sure," as Peter says (2 Peter 1:10-11). . . .
The third ground of assurance, corresponding to the doctrine of adoption, is "the testimony of the Spirit to our adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are children of God." This confessional statement comes right out of Romans 8:16-17. This is to say that, in the end, our assurance is supernatural. Note in Romans 8 that it is not only the witness of our own Spirit but something over and above that, a witness of God's Spirit with our spirit that we are the children of God. Our scrutiny of God's promises and our own sanctification, in the end, is fallible. We make mistakes in our judgments. But the Spirit never makes a mistake. So, he persuades us that what we observe in God's Word and in our own lives is really true, really evidence of grace.
- What's more, Frame anticipates your objection that "the system is pointing one to one's self for proof to one's self":
Many say that we should not look at ourselves but that we should look beyond ourselves, outward, at the work of Christ, at his word of promise. That was what we advised under the first ground of assurance, and certainly we should not look inward without looking outward at the same time. But it is important not only to look at God's promises but also to see how God is fulfilling those promises within us.So it's not as if the WCF advises us to look solely to ourselves. The WCF's advice is not reducible to this point.
- Btw, notice that the WCF bases these grounds of assurance in Scripture. For example, the third ground of assurance comes from Rom 8:16-17. In other words, there's an exegetical basis for what's said here. A little bit more on this in my next point.
- Why does Paul command us to "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Cor 13:5)?
- Likewise, why does Peter in 2 Pet 1:5-11 list off qualities like "faith," "virtue," "knowledge," "self-control," "steadfastness," "godliness," "brotherly affection," and "love," and follow it with the exhortation, "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall," if looking for these qualities isn't in some way conducive to making our "calling and election sure"?
- And why would John say things like, "And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments" (1 John 2:3) or "If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him" (1 John 2:29)? After all, how can we know if we have kept God's commandments or if we are practicing righteousness without examining ourselves and/or having others examine us?
Also, looking for the Holy Spirit to testify with our spirits that we are God's children, John writes: "Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself" (1 John 5:10).
Now, John tells us precisely why he has written the letter of 1 John: "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" (1 John 5:13). Hence, from start to finish, 1 John is a letter dealing with the assurance of salvation. So that those who believe in Christ may know that they have eternal life.
In this letter, John exhorts believers to do several things so that they may know they have eternal life, but one of them is to look for evidence of sanctification in one's own life. It's not the only thing John mentions but it is one of the things.
It's practical, pastoral advice for any believer struggling over whether he's saved. These grounds of assurance aren't limited to the Reformed. We don't necessarily have to dispute over irresistible grace or perseverance of the saints in order to answer the question of how does one know if he is saved per se (although I can't see how God can save someone only to later lose that person, for e.g., but be that as it may for the moment).
A Christian struggling with whether he's saved can ask himself: (a) am I trusting in Christ, in the promises of Scripture; (b) do I see the fruit of the Spirit in my life (e.g. Gal 5:19-21 vs 22-24); and (c) does the Holy Spirit testify with my spirit that I'm a child of God, that is, do I cry "Abba! Father!" in my innermost being? Thus he can better determine if he's the real deal or a faker shaker.