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In Praise of Presumption

December 12, 2016

Can you imagine a marathon runner standing at the start line with a rope tied around his waist anchored to a large boulder? Can you imagine a marathon runner running by the drink tables with his hand out asking for a marble pillar to carry the last fifteen miles of the race? Every serious competitor enters the race with as little encumbrance as possible.

The Galatian believers started their Christian life very well. They were running steady and well. They seemed to be growing but somewhere along the way they began to accept burdens. The Judaizers preached a false gospel and the Galatians accepted the lies. They began to take burdens onto their backs. These were no trivials encumbrances. The burden piled on the backs of the Galatians were two stone slabs weightier than any man can bear.

“When Christians unto carnal men give ear, Out of their way they go, and pay for ‘t dear; For Master Worldly Wiseman can but shew A saint the way to bondage and to woe.” (The Pilgrims Progress)

The book of Galatians conclusively proves salvation is only by the grace of God. Salvation is only received through faith in Jesus. Salvation is not dependent at all on the effort of the one who would be saved. The individual is powerless to increase his righteousness before God. In fact, those who seek to have a part in their salvation have rejected grace. Those who have received Jesus are fully righteous before God. Nothing can add to Jesus’ perfect righteousness. The one who trusts Jesus is certainly saved.

Catholicism teaches it is a sin to claim certainty about one’s salvation. Catholic teaching calls such certainty the sin of presumption. “(The sin of presumption) may be defined as the condition of a soul that, because of a badly regulated reliance on God’s mercy and power, hopes for salvation without doing anything to deserve it.” (Catholic Encyclopedia) What a powerful demonstration of the folly of flesh centered, works based self-righteousness!

Paul’s words in Galatians reveal that a badly regulated reliance on God’s mercy results in uncertainty about salvation. A Christian who relies on God for his full salvation and does nothing in hopes of deserving salvation is a Christian with a rightly regulated reliance on God’s mercy. The Christian who trusts God’s mercy to save him looks forward with great anticipation to the eternal joy God has promised. If salvation is by grace through faith alone and if God is faithful to keep His promises, then the Christian can wait with confidence on God. He can rely fully on God’s mercy with no trepidation over the lack in his own merit.

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