Editors Note: In addition to all of our online ministries and curriculum we spend time every day answering questions through email. A man contacted our ministry last week saying his female friend was worried wondering if she’s a part of the elect. I thought it beneficial to post the response to these two people:

My concern here is that this young lady has made the mistake that many people, both professing Christians and non-Christians alike, often make. They make decisions based on what they think either is or is not the secret, decretive will of God. But Scripture forbids us to do this. All of our decisions and evaluations are to be made based on the revealed and moral will of God, namely, the will of God made clear to us in Scripture. The secret and decretive will of God is precisely that, secret, and therefore cannot be known apart from an explicit revelation in the Word. The revealed will of God is that this young lady repent and believe the gospel. There is no way she could ever know if she is among the elect except by believing the gospel. There is no way she could ever know that she is among the non-elect except by dying in unbelief. It is really quite easy for her to overcome her fear of being among the non-elect: repent and believe the gospel! If she does, Jesus says he will in no way ever cast her out. If she says, “But how can I believe the gospel if I’m among the non-elect?” The answer again is, “Believe the gospel and thereby know that you are among the elect.” Those who are non-elect ultimately don’t care one way or the other. They so despise Christ and the gospel that they don’t live in fear they are non-elect. This leads me to suspect that this young lady is under the convicting work of the Spirit and that the Spirit has already unveiled to her heart the beauty of Christ and the hope of the gospel. She is struggling to make sense of it all and has allowed herself to be led into despair on the basis of her “knowledge” of something that by definition can’t be known. So, again, the mistake that creates numerous unanswerable problems for her is basing her decisions and letting her feelings and fears be governed by something God has refused to reveal. I would say to her, “Put all your fears to rest and know this for sure, if you will but repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ you will be finally and forever forgiven and saved.”

– Sam Storms


    20 replies to "How to Know if you’re Elect (Sam Storms)"

    • Kevin Jackson

      This question is an issue only because this young lady is holding to a dialectical view of God’s will. If God’s revealed will is consistent with what he really wants, then this concern doesn’t come up.

    • phil_style

      “It is really quite easy for her to overcome her fear of being among the non-elect: repent and believe the gospel!”

      This seems a bizzarre thing to say. How can one “believe” something, if they simply find it unbelievable? Sounds far from “easy” to me.

    • Carrie

      Beautiful post Sam. 🙂

    • cherylu

      I don’t see this OP as the solve all answer to this question either. One can repent and believe the gospel, or at least seem to, and then fall away. Now I think the Calvinist answer to that would be the person never really believed in the first place or that obviously she was not one of the elect since she didn’t persevere. Am I right? It seems I have heard those statements made more then once. So how is this girl/woman going to know that she has “really” believed and is therefore one of the elect? What if she is struggling with faith at the moment or having doubts and she thinks it may be because she is not one of the elect? Telling her to just repent and believe is not going to answer these questions for her.

      Calvinists seem to find great comfort in believing they are of the elect. But this whole idea can also work the other way and cause great fear in people’s hearts. I don’t know if there is a more scary idea then the thought that you may not be chosen as elect by…

    • cherylu


      Sorry for the double post. But can someone please tell us why our comments get cut off some times when the counter at the bottom shows we still have characters left?

      Someone else noted this happening the other day too.

    • whoschad

      I just read Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding”. I think he would very much disagree with your stating how ‘easy’ it is.

    • Richard Worden Wilson

      It the pre-destinarian, pre-determinative understanding is the cognitive ground of meaning for why one is one of the “elect,” then the admonition to “repent and believe the gospel” and then you’ll know seems a bit hollow. If “Believe the gospel and thereby know that you are among the elect” is the solution to the dilemma then Arminian understanding has more to say about the issue than any confusion about “the secret, decretive will of God.” Confusing theological traditions are easily trumped by simply believing and trusting in the goodness and faithfulness of God in the person and work of Christ. Believing and knowing that one is saved is an act of faith confirmed as one lives into the gift. The overly logical intellectual abstractions of our various traditions just get in the way of simply believing and knowing, trusting and resting in the God who loves us all through Christ.

    • Ron

      You say both

      There is no way she could ever know if she is among the elect except by believing the gospel.


      She is struggling to make sense of it all and has allowed herself to be led into despair on the basis of her “knowledge” of something that by definition can’t be known.

      So can we know we are elect or not? I’m genuinely confused by your response.

    • Danny

      This question (and answer) illustrates why Calvinism is so silly.

    • Paul Davis


      Question about your answer, is this from a Calvinist point of view about the elect?

      I ask because Michael had made no bones about his stance, and I have come to view anything on parchment and pen as far more leaning in that direction than anything else. But your response doesn’t fit that mold…

      Just curious…


    • Arminian

      Ron (comment # 8), you really skewered Sam’s response with your comment. Calvinism is not consistent with assurance of salvation because with it one cannot know that he is elect until the end when he has persevered in the faith and arrived in glory. If somebody believes and is fully convinced that he has trusted in Christ truly, believes he is bearing fruit and looks like he produces fruit, and all the believers around him think he has truly believed and is bearing godly fruit, yet if he later falls away, the Calvinist answer is that he never truly believed to begin with. So with Calvinism, one can never know he is elect/saved in this life. It gets worse, for if one is not elect (which is most people), one can’t ever truly believe and be saved; God decided such people would not. But in a big illusion they can think they believe and look like they believe (also decreed by God). This does not mean Calvs can’t have assurance, just that their assurance is inconsistent with their Calv

    • sandra

      i am like this young lady, in despair in wanting so much to be saved, feeling convicted by sin, seeing the beauty of christ, and so wanting to feel assurance. i know christianity is true, i have the intellecual assent. however, i feel that he is not granting me the spirit and not giving me the gift of actual faith. he has totally forsaken me, like saul in the old testament. and i am so very sad.

    • MzEllen

      I think that if a person has never had doubt, it may because their faith is so shallow, doubt can be brushed away. It is when we face our doubts, work through them with fear and trembling, that we come through stronger on the other side.

      We can look our doubt in the face and cry out, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” or we can deny that we ever had a doubt in the first place.

      to go through a “dry time” – it is a sad time. To feel that you can cry out to God, but He doesn’t hear…to believe that God exists, but maybe He just doesn’t want ME…

      To persevere is to stand steady during the times of doubt. It is no struggle to persevere, if there is not doubt.

    • Jeff Ayers

      having struggled with assurance of my salvation for many years, the following is the path God used to bring me doubt to full assurance:

      1. Understand the saving gospel is that Christ gives eternal life to all who simply believe on him (Acts 16:31; John 6:47, 3:36, 5:24)
      2. Understand that believing in him involves trusting him to do what He promised to do, i.e. assurance is of the ESSENCE of saving faith (A sine qua non of Calvin’s understanding of faith)
      3. Understand that repentance is simply chaning my mind about the fact that since I am a sinner I cannot add to my salvation either before during or after i have been regenerated and justified.
      4. Understand that works, submission, confession, surrendering, contrition or God fearing do not in any way prepare me, sustain me or keep me saved—or even prove i am saved.

      In a nutshell, once I got out of calvinism, lordship salvation and repentance- as defined as turning from sin- type of theology i no longer doubted my…

    • M.L.

      This is a good opportunity to seek clarification of what exactly it is that Calvinists believe.

      On the one hand, they say that ‘totally depraved’, fallen human beings CANNOT believe in the gospels. They say we cannot know who has, ‘from eternity’, been ‘elected’ or condemned. They say we are ‘saved’ not by works, but by God’s grace; faith itself is somehow magically bestowed upon ‘the elect’ by God.

      But Sam tells us we CAN know we are ‘elected’ by believing in the gospels (or that we are not ‘elected’ by dying in unbelief)! This is effectively indistinguishable from choosing to believe.

      We all know our desires impact what we choose to believe; advanced stage cancer patients and their loved ones often ‘believe’ they will be cured when medical professionals know they will not. The parents of convicted murderers whose guilt is not in doubt to objective third parties evaluating the evidence often ‘believe’ their son or daughter is innocent because the alternative is too painful to bear.

      Certainly, someone reared in the Calvinist tradition, taught that if they doubt the gospels or ‘die in unbelief’ they are among the damned ‘reprobate’ has strong psychological pressure to ‘believe’. The suggestion that the only way one can come to believe in the gospels is by divine intervention is extremely irrational and counter to what is known by modern science about the mechanisms underpinning of belief. Why should anyone in 2011 fret nervously about the fate of their soul based on the writings of a superstitious man from the 1500s, who himself wa not averse to recommending that people he deemed insufficently faithful be burned alive? Regardless of whether oft heard charge thst the God of Calvinism is a monster is true, it’s namesake (John Calvin) certainly was.

      I’m aldo deeply disturbed by the profound contempt for reason that is so fundamental to Calvinism. It denies the obvious and demonstrable truth that rational people can and do evaluate truth claims based on the evidence to support them. Calvinism denies this, claiming that the only way one can believe the gospels is through divine intevention, and the only reason we reject them is inheited original sin. It seems to me that Calvinism’s candid admission that gospels can only be  believed via divine intervention – not via reason or evidence – is practically atheistic. It also denies the obvious fact that much good is done in the world by people who are clearly not believers in the gospel, while John Calvin himself was a moral monster. This is very hard to square with the idea that fallen man is incapable of good.

      My advice to the young lady is not to lose any sleep in 2011 worrying about the ethical musings of a pre-scientific religious fanatic from the 1500s who had a penchant for having people burned alive for trivial offenses.

    • Nelson Banuchi

      Unfortunately, Sam’s notions of knowing how one can be assured they are the elect is so obviously flawed, I wonder that no one see it.

      First, it is admited in no uncertain terms that no one can know “decretive will of God”. And since his revealed will does not clearly disclose to us who in particular and in fact are the elect, there is no place where one can be directed to inconclusive testimony that they themselves are the elect. As such, the Bible itself does not help here.

      Second, it is admitted that “There is no way [anyone] could ever know if [they are] among the elect except by believing the gospel.” This places knowledge of divine things dependent not so much in objective revelation through the Holy Spirit as in one’s subjective feelings, e.g. the feeling that their belief is genuine.

      Third, that Sam says, “There is no way she could ever know that she is among the non-elect except by dying in unbelief”, merely deflects the issue. Sam must admit that (a) the women in particular does not what assurance of what she is more afraid she is, that is, non-elect but assurance of what she seems to think she is not, i.e. elect; and (b) if Sam is correct, the contrary must be logically true, i.e. there is no way she could ever know that she is among the elect except by dying in belief. Well, that does away with any notions of assurance.

      Fourth, Sam provides an naive answer: “It is really quite easy for her to overcome her fear of being among the non-elect: repent and believe the gospel! If she does, Jesus says he will in no way ever cast her out.”

      Is it that easy?

      First of all, does not the Bible say that the “heart is deceitful above all else; who can understand it?” If one cannot understand their own heart, is it not possible that they may have deceived themselves into thinking they are truly repentant and genuinely believe in the Gospel. It seems, one must be assured that they are being true to themselves and God before they can know for certain they are of the elect.

      And, second, does not Calvin teach somewhere that certain persons are given faith to believe, a faith that produces fruits indistinguishable from the faith of the elect, but only for the purpose of removing said faith and damning them for all eternity? As such, one must first know they are not elected for possessing only a temporary faith, before thay can be assured that they are the elect.

      Better advice to the young lady: Calvinism’s teachings are too inconsistent and self-contradictory to be of any value in ascertaining if one is truly in the company of the elect.

      My personal advice (for even Calvin taught that genuine faith might be mixed with doubt), the faith that is important is PRESENT faith, that is, the belief that I am now saved; and not, “future” faith, that is, the belief that I am saved thirty years in the future or at the time of my death. What we believe about our personal salvation for the future is irrelevant. Only what we NOW believe counts

    • texastrek

      I find it hard to believe that so many can believe in Unconditional Election, and I won’t even get into the other 4 points of Calvinism.

      From a logical viewpoint, why would God create so many people and give them FREE WILL, only to subvert that free will by deciding their fate on his own ahead of time? This makes our free will meaningless and frankly makes us no different than any other animal species. Does God know ahead of time whether or not we will choose to do his will and obey the gospel? Of course! He is omniscient, after all. Does that mean He makes that decision for us? Absolutely not. As the writer of the article advised the girl, “If YOU WILL but repent and believe… you will… be saved.” The decision is the girl’s, not God’s. Otherwise, what’s the point of our existence? We might as well all commit mass suicide if our eternal fates have already been decided for us.

    • texastrek

      Oops, I guess I did get into Predestination. Hard to separate those two points.

    • Matteo

      No one knows they are the elect. To say you are is being on par with Satan. Too much sinful pride. What you think doesn’t matter.

    • PowershakeR

      Texastrek said above and wrongly so that “the decision is the girl’s, not God’s.” You see, the Bible teaches that faith is a gift from God. Salvation itself is a supernatural work of God. Regeneration is the work of God. All of salvation is a work of God. Even the time, place and messenger that you heard the gospel and believed is the work of God in your life. For example, God knocked Paul off the horse on the road to Damascus. The Holy Spirit told the Apostle Peter to go preach the gospel to Cornelius. So, it is quite obvious in the Bible that salvation is all the work of God. How can anyone decide to believe something if they don’t really believe it? Can you manufacture your own faith? Can you raise yourself from the dead? I’m sorry, but that’s not possible. If man could bring himself to spiritual life and manufacture his own faith, he would be in essence saving himself, and then he would have room to glory in himself and not God.

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