Jean’s Gospel: Monstrum Incertitudinis
Monstrum Incertitudinis attacks believers by sowing doubt in their hearts and minds that their salvation is secure.
Monstrum Incertitudinis works by persuading believers that their faith is not attributable to the Gospel alone, but instead that justifying faith has to do with either the Gospel plus the Law or the Gospel plus good works. How does it work?
The Law can enter the picture when the Gospel is presented as God’s grace made available to an individual, to which must be added a decision by the individual to repent of his sins and in some manner to surrender or commit to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. God does His part; now you must do your part. This presents the believer with a problem: Was his decision sincere? How sincere must he be? Does God judge his decision on a pass-fail basis or on the curve? This sort of Gospel plus the Law, sows seeds of doubt in the mind of the believer as to whether he is in fact saved, particularly in times of trouble or suffering. Can he know for sure? Does God want him to be secure in his salvation? This problem inevitably draws the believer into himself, looking internally for his authentic faith and Christianity.
But, Monstrum Incertitudinis also works by convincing believers that justifying faith involves the Gospel plus good works.
Good works enter the picture when the Gospel is presented such that God’s wrath is appeased when an individual comes to faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, the offer of the forgiveness of sins is conditional on the virtuous act of faith produced in the believer’s heart. God says “I will forgive you, if you believe in me.” This too presents the Christian with the same uncertainty: Was his confession of faith good enough to appease God’s wrath? Is God convinced? How can the individual be sure? If the believer suffers a serious personal or professional setback, is that God’s wrath or something else? This uncertainty also draws the believer into himself again, looking internally for his authentic faith and Christianity.
If you find people asking you questions, such as: “can I be sure of my salvation?” or “how can I know for sure if I’m saved?”, then you might just have Monstrum Incertitudinis lurking in your church. If you find yourself getting these types of questions, a refresher in the pure Gospel might be the best remedy to banish the monster. Tell the flock that there is only one thing, and one thing only, that we can give to God: our sins. But when we do that, Jesus says there is rejoicing in heaven. Wait, it gets better: Jesus takes our sins and gives us back His righteousness and salvation as a gift. It turns out that no decision is necessary (or even possible). The Bible teaches that justifying faith actually comes by hearing the proclamation of the Gospel (Romans 10:17). Even our faith is a gift from God. Then, only after one is justified by faith can one confess Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3).
In Christ, God has provided us with everything needed for reconciliation with Him, our righteousness and our salvation.
Therefore, we can place our trust entirely in Christ crucified for our sins and raised for our justification. Conversely, we should place no trust or justifying faith in our own works, commitment to God, love of God or any other thought, which would divert our singular trust in Christ. As John the Baptist said of our relationship with Jesus: “He must become greater; I must become less.”
Lord, keep us in your Word,