Youth Messenger Online Edition


What Is Presumption?
What Is Presumption?
A Bible and Spirit of Prophecy compilation, with comments by Peter D. Lausevic [Emphasis added throughout.]

How May It Involve Me? Part 3


In the last two issues of the Youth Messenger, we discussed the sin of presumption as a counterfeit of true faith and explained how often it is triggered by pride. Now, another question comes to mind:

What are some things that lead to presumption?

1. Doubt can lead a person to the sin of presumption, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

A serious warning was given by God through Ellen G. White, which she related to a man guilty of presumption: “Brother Hull, you were shown me under the soothing influence of a fascination which will prove fatal unless the spell is broken. You have parleyed with Satan, and reasoned with him, and tarried upon forbidden ground, and have exercised your mind in things which were too great for you, and by indulging in doubts and unbelief have attracted evil angels around you, and driven from you the pure and holy angels of God. If you had steadfastly resisted Satan’s suggestions and sought strength from God with a determined effort, you would have broken every fetter, driven back your spiritual foe, come closer to God, and triumphed in His name. I saw that it was presumption in you to go forth to meet a spiritualist when you were yourself enshrouded and bewildered by clouds of unbelief. You went to battle with Satan and his host without an armor, and have been grievously wounded, and are insensible to your wound. I greatly fear that the thunders and lightnings of Sinai would fail to move you. You are in Satan’s easy chair and do not see your fearful condition and make an effort to escape. If you do not arouse and recover yourself from the snare of the devil, you must perish. The brethren and sisters would save you, but I saw that they could not. You have something to do; you have a desperate effort to make, or you are lost. I saw that those who are under the bewitching influence of spiritualism know it not. You have been charmed and mesmerized, yet you do not know it, and therefore do not make the least effort to come to the light.”—Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 428, 429.

As mentioned in the previous articles, what is the difference between faith and presumption? “Faith is in no sense allied to presumption. Only he who has true faith is secure against presumption. For presumption is Satan’s counterfeit of faith. Faith claims God’s promises and brings forth fruit in obedience. Presumption also claims the promises but uses them as Satan did, to excuse transgression. Faith would have led our first parents to trust the love of God and to obey His commands. Presumption led them to transgress His law, believing that His great love would save them from the consequence of their sin. It is not faith that claims the favor of Heaven without complying with the conditions on which mercy is to be granted. Genuine faith has its foundation in the promises and provisions of the Scriptures.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 126.

2. Another way that we can fall into presumption is by not living up to all the light we have. Jesus said of the Pharisees, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin” (John 15:22). We are responsible for all the light that God gives us. Again, the Spirit of Prophecy warned another individual: “Again and again God has stretched out His hand to save you by showing you your duties and obligations. These duties change in character with the increase of light. When the light shines, making manifest and reproving the errors that were undiscovered, there must be a corresponding change in the life and character. The mistakes that are the natural result of blindness of mind are, when pointed out, no longer sins of ignorance or errors of judgment; but unless there are decided reforms in accordance with the light given, they then become presumptuous sins. The moral darkness that surrounds you will become more dense; your heart will become harder and harder, and you will be more offensive in the sight of God. You do not realize the great peril you are in, the danger there is that in your case the light will become entirely obscured, veiled in complete darkness. When the light is received and acted upon, you will be crucified to sin, being dead indeed unto the world, but alive to God. Your idols will be abandoned, and your example will be on the side of self-denial rather than that of self-indulgence.”—Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 435, 436.

“With the Bible in our hands we ought all to know and practice the truth. But some do not wish to change their faith or course of action, and argue that if they are only honest they will be saved. Such will be in great danger of committing the sin of presumption, of not living up to all the light they have. Critical self-examination, united with a diligent searching of the Scriptures and earnest prayer, is essential, not that some way may be found to evade the cross, but that they may be led into all truth however much self-denial it may cost, and however inconvenient it may be to obey.”—The Signs of the Times, July 22, 1880.

3. We can also become guilty of presumption by trying to excuse our sins. This is a very dangerous practice. “One presumptuous act, one deed in disregard of God’s expressed will, lost for Adam his beautiful Eden home and opened the floodgates of iniquity and woe upon our world; and yet men will declare that God is not particular, and does not require perfect obedience to His law. The precepts of Jehovah are as unchangeable as His eternal throne. To excuse sin on the plea that God is lax in His government is dishonoring to the great Governor of the universe and perilous to man. It is an attempt to belittle His requirements and to take away the force of law. Those who advocate such doctrine place themselves in harmony with the first great rebel, and however high their professions of religion, Christ pronounces them ‘workers of iniquity.’ They are saying to the sinner, ‘It shall be well with thee in thy disobedience and transgression,’ as said the arch-deceiver in the garden of Eden.”—Ibid., December 15, 1887.

4. In referring to the temptations presented to Christ, in Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 372, we are told that "pride of display" also leads to presumption. What did Christ teach us to pray regarding temptation? Most of us already know the answer: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:13).

What type of sin is it to deliberately place ourselves in the way of temptation? “Often when Satan has failed of exciting distrust, he succeeds in leading us to presumption. If he can cause us to place ourselves unnecessarily in the way of temptation, he knows that the victory is his. God will preserve all who walk in the path of obedience; but to depart from it is to venture on Satan’s ground. There we are sure to fall. The Saviour has bidden us, ‘Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation’ (Mark 14:38). Meditation and prayer would keep us from rushing unbidden into the way of danger, and thus we should be saved from many a defeat.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 126.

How did Satan try to lead Christ into presumption? “Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. . . .

Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:1, 2, 5–7).

Victory promised

In the wilderness, Jesus was tempted and was victorious on three great points: Appetite, presumption, and love of the world. The temptations which we also face are likewise based on these three points. It is not usually that hard for us to see when we are being tempted on appetite or love of the world. But presumption can be a little more subtle:

“The sin of presumption lies close beside the virtue of perfect faith and confidence in God. Satan flattered himself that he could take advantage of the humanity of Christ to urge Him over the line of trust to presumption. Upon this point many souls are wrecked. Satan tried to deceive Christ through flattery. He admitted that Christ was right in the wilderness in His faith and confidence that God was His Father, under the most trying circumstances. He then urged Christ to give him one more proof of His entire dependence upon God, one more evidence of His faith that He was the Son of God, by casting Himself from the Temple. He told Christ that if He was indeed the Son of God He had nothing to fear; for angels were at hand to uphold Him. Satan gave evidence that he understood the Scriptures by the use he made of them.”—Selected Messages, bk1, p. 282.

Young people, beware of those who may try to trick you by flattery! Some may even place Scripture texts as bait in their trap. But whatever they may try, do you remember the promise that we can claim? “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).


How can we avoid the sin of presumption in its various forms? “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). How do we do this? “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7).

“We need to study the character of the motives that prompt us to action in the light of the law of God, in order that we may be made aware of our deficiencies; but while the human agent may see his sins, he is not to become discouraged, although he finds himself condemned by the precepts of righteousness. He is to see and to realize the sinfulness of sin, to repent, and to have faith in Christ as his personal Saviour. It is never safe for us to feel that we are possessed of virtues, and that we may congratulate ourselves on our excellences of character and our present state of purity and piety. David often triumphed in God, and yet he dwelt much upon his own unworthiness and sinfulness. His conscience was not asleep or dead. ‘My sin,’ he cries, ‘is ever before me’ (Psalm 51:3). He did not flatter himself that sin was a matter with which he had nothing to do, and that should not concern him. As he saw the depths of deceit in his heart, he was deeply disgusted with himself, and prayed that God would keep him back by his power from the presumptuous sins, and cleanse him from secret faults.

“It is not safe for us to close our eyes and harden our conscience so that we shall not see or realize our sins. We need to cherish the instruction we have had in regard to the hateful character of sin, in order that we may truly confess and forsake our sins. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). Are you willing to be cleansed from all unrighteousness? Is it your purpose to press forward, but not in your own human strength, toward the mark for the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus? Keep the fear of the Lord always before you. Your only hope is in making Jesus your counselor.”—The Youth’s Instructor, July 5, 1894.

“Under the old covenant, there were many offenses of a daring, presumptuous character, for which there was no atonement specified by law. In the new and better covenant, Christ has fulfilled the law for the transgressors of law, if they receive Him by faith as a personal Saviour. ‘As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” Mercy and forgiveness are the reward of all who come to Christ trusting in His merits to take away their sins. In the better covenant we are cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ.” —The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 7, p. 931.

“Joseph bore the test of character in adversity, and the gold was undimmed by prosperity. He showed the same sacred regard for God’s will when he stood next the throne as when in a prisoner’s cell. Joseph carried his religion everywhere, and this was the secret of his unwavering fidelity. As representative men you must have the all-pervading power of true godliness. I tell you, in the fear of God, your path is beset by dangers which you do not see and do not realize. You must hide in Jesus. You are unsafe unless you hold the hand of Christ. You must guard against everything like presumption and cherish that spirit that would suffer rather than sin. No victory you can gain will be so precious as that gained over self.”—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 544.