STUDY SEVENTEEN: ASSURANCE OF SALVATION

© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2014


There is strong disagreement among Christians on the question of assurance of salvation [or, the security of the believer]. At the time of the sixteenth century Reformation this was one of the questions on which the Roman Catholic church and the reformers differed. In the following centuries, however, it has become a point of debate and disagreement within Protestantism. This disagreement continues in contemporary Christianity, with many Christians today believing they can lose their salvation.

 

A.    OPPOSING VIEWS ON ASSURANCE OF SALVATION

Task #1: Study the following statements.
Underline any phrases or sentences that suggest or state that salvation can be lost – that no Christian can have any real certainty that they are eternally saved.

A.1 Roman Catholicism [current statement]

[Note: The ‘Sacrament of Reconciliation’ referred to in this quote is a new name for ‘Confession’ ]

‘Can we have a definitive assurance of our Salvation?


No, St. Paul and St. John’s epistles warn us that justification can be lost. Thus without an extraordinary revelation from God, we cannot be assured of our salvation or justification. The Council of Trent tells us, "If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end, -unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema (Council of Trent, Sixth Session, Cannon 16)". Assurance of salvation is a presumption upon God that we can infallibly judge the state of our souls. The Bible is very clear that only God and God alone can judge a person’s soul. Paul writes, "For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil (1 Corinthians 5:10)." Paul also emphasizes that salvation and justification are not a one-time event, but a lifetime process that we must work out with participation in grace. He tells us, "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but much more now in my absence,) with fear and trembling work out your salvation (Philippians 2:12)". Because justification can be lost and Christian truth demands that it is a process and not a one-time event, there can be no infallible assurance of salvation.


Instead, the Holy Spirit offers the theological virtue of hope that leads us to desire the kingdom of heaven, the love of Christ and the fellowship of the Spirit. By hope a Christian can ask God for perseverance in his friendship and love. Even if a person mortally offends God and rejects his grace, Christ offers us the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the forgiveness of sin and the recovery of sanctifying grace. God is always willing to embrace his prodigal sons and daughters provided they repent and ask of forgiveness in his holy Sacrament.’ http://www.saintaquinas.com/Justification_by_Grace.html

 

 

 

A.2 Remonstrant [Arminian] opinions [c1618-19]

1. The perseverance of believers in the faith is not an effect of the absolute decree by which God is said to have chosen singular persons defined by no condition of obedience.

2. God provides true believers with as much grace and supernatural powers as He judges, according to His infinite wisdom, to be sufficient for persevering and for overcoming the temptations of the devil, the flesh, and the world; it is never charged to God’s account that they do not persevere.

3. True believers can fall from true faith and can fall into such sins as cannot be consistent with true and justifying faith; not only is it possible for this to happen, but it even happens frequently.

4. True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish.

5. Nevertheless we do not believe that true believers, though they may sometimes fall into grave sins which are vexing to their consciences, immediately fall out of every hope of repentance; but we acknowledge that it can happen that God, according to the multitude of His mercies, may recall them through His grace to repentance; in fact, we believe that this happens not infrequently, although we cannot be persuaded that this will certainly and indubitably happen.

8. A true believer can and ought indeed to be certain for the future that he is able, by diligent watchfulness, through prayers, and through other holy exercises, to persevere in true faith, and he ought also to be certain that divine grace for persevering will never be lacking; but we do not see how he can be certain that he will never afterwards be remiss in his duty but that he will persevere in faith and in those works of piety and love which are fitting for a believer in this school of Christian warfare; neither do we deem it necessary that concerning this thing a believer should be certain.     http://www.apuritansmind.com/creeds-and-confessions/the-remonstrants-arminian-documents/the-arminian-opinions/

 
 

A.3 Charles Finney [1840]

‘Sanctification, justification, and final salvation, are all put upon the same ground. And it cannot be true, that men are justified, any farther than they are sanctified; or that they are, or ever can be saved, any farther than they are cleansed from sin. Gospel justification is generally defined to be pardon and acceptance. But can a man be pardoned, any farther than he is penitent? Can the soul be accepted any farther than it is obedient? Certainly it cannot be, unless Antinomianism is true, and the law of God is abrogated. The distinction, then, that is commonly made, (which I, following the current of the Church, without sufficient examination, once held myself,) between instantaneous justification and progressive sanctification, must be without foundation. Every man feels that he is condemned, and not justified, when he sins, and that he is kept out of condemnation only by keeping out of sin. This is the doctrine of the Bible. It is the doctrine of conscience and of common sense. And that is certainly a most licentious view of the doctrine of justification, that maintains that justification is perfected while sanctification is imperfect; that justification is instantaneous, while sanctification is progressive.’ http://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/Oberlin_1840/OE1840.Salva.Conditio.Text.html

 

 

 

A.4 John Wesley [from a sermon preached in 1740]

14. And as to you who believe yourselves the elect of God, what is your happiness? I hope, not a notion, a speculative belief, a bare opinion of any kind; but a feeling possession of God in your heart, wrought in you by the Holy Ghost, or, the witness of God's Spirit with your spirit that you are a child of God. This, otherwise termed "the full assurance of faith, is the true ground of a Christian's happiness. And it does indeed imply a full assurance that all your past sins are forgiven, and that you are now a child of God. But it does not necessarily imply a full assurance of our future perseverance. I do not say this is never joined to it, but that it is not necessarily implied therein; for many have the one who have not the other.

15. Now, this witness of the Spirit experience shows to be much obstructed by this doctrine; and not only in those who, believing themselves reprobated, by this belief thrust it far from them, but even in them that have tasted of that good gift, who yet have soon lost it again, and fallen back into doubts, and fears, and darkness, -- horrible darkness, that might be felt! And I appeal to any of you who hold this doctrine, to say, between God and your own hearts, whether you have not often a return of doubts and fears concerning your election or perseverance! If you ask, "Who has not?" I answer, Very few of those that hold this doctrine; but many, very many, of those that hold it not, in all parts of the earth; -- many of these have enjoyed the uninterrupted witness of his Spirit, the continual light of his countenance, from the moment wherein they first believed, for many months or years, to this day.

16. That assurance of faith which these enjoy excludes all doubt and fear, It excludes all kinds of doubt and fear concerning their future perseverance; though it is not properly, as was said before, an assurance of what is future, but only of what now is. And this needs not for its support a speculative belief, that whoever is once ordained to life must live; for it is wrought from hour to hour, by the mighty power of God, "by the Holy Ghost which is given unto them." And therefore that doctrine is not of God, because it tends to obstruct, if not destroy, this great work of the Holy Ghost, whence flows the chief comfort of religion, the happiness of Christianity. http://www.godrules.net/library/wsermons/wsermons128.htm

 

 

A.5 Church of the Nazarene [current]

‘We believe that all persons, though in the possession of the experience of regeneration and entire sanctification, may fall from grace and apostatize and, unless they repent of their sins, be hopelessly and eternally lost.’ http://nazarene.org/ministries/administration/visitorcenter/articles/display.html

 

 

 


Task #2: Study the following statement
Underline phrases or sentences that maintain assurance of salvation in the Articles below.
Compare and contrast these statements with the statements above.


A.6 Canons of Dort: Articles on the Perseverance of the Saints [1618-19]

‘Article 8: The Certainty of This Preservation
So it is not by their own merits or strength but by God's undeserved mercy that they neither forfeit faith and grace totally nor remain in their downfalls to the end and are lost. With respect to themselves this not only easily could happen, but also undoubtedly would happen; but with respect to God it cannot possibly happen, since his plan cannot be changed, his promise cannot fail, the calling according to his purpose cannot be revoked, the merit of Christ as well as his interceding and preserving cannot be nullified, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit can neither be invalidated nor wiped out.
 
Article 9: The Assurance of This Preservation
Concerning this preservation of those chosen to salvation and concerning the perseverance of true believers in faith, believers themselves can and do become assured in accordance with the measure of their faith, by which they firmly believe that they are and always will remain true and living members of the church, and that they have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
 
Article 10: The Ground of This Assurance
Accordingly, this assurance does not derive from some private revelation beyond or outside the Word, but from faith in the promises of God which he has very plentifully revealed in his Word for our comfort, from the testimony of "the Holy Spirit testifying with our spirit that we are God's children and heirs" (Rom. 8:16-17), and finally from a serious and holy pursuit of a clear conscience and of good works. And if God's chosen ones in this world did not have this well-founded comfort that the victory will be theirs and this reliable guarantee of eternal glory, they would be of all people most miserable.
 
Article 11: Doubts Concerning This Assurance
Meanwhile, Scripture testifies that believers have to contend in this life with various doubts of the flesh and that under severe temptation they do not always experience this full assurance of faith and certainty of perseverance. But God, the Father of all comfort, "does not let them be tempted beyond what they can bear, but with the temptation he also provides a way out" (1 Cor. 10:13), and by the Holy Spirit revives in them the assurance of their perseverance.
 
Article 12: This Assurance as an Incentive to Godliness
This assurance of perseverance, however, so far from making true believers proud and carnally self-assured, is rather the true root of humility, of childlike respect, of genuine godliness, of endurance in every conflict, of fervent prayers, of steadfastness in crossbearing and in confessing the truth, and of well-founded joy in God. Reflecting on this benefit provides an incentive to a serious and continual practice of thanksgiving and good works, as is evident from the testimonies of Scripture and the examples of the saints.
 
Article 13: Assurance No Inducement to Carelessness
Neither does the renewed confidence of perseverance produce immorality or lack of concern for godliness in those put back on their feet after a fall, but it produces a much greater concern to observe carefully the ways of the Lord which he prepared in advance. They observe these ways in order that by walking in them they may maintain the assurance of their perseverance, lest, by their abuse of his fatherly goodness, the face of the gracious God (for the godly, looking upon his face is sweeter than life, but its withdrawal is more bitter than death) turn away from them again, with the result that they fall into greater anguish of spirit.
 
Article 14: God's Use of Means in Perseverance
And, just as it has pleased God to begin this work of grace in us by the proclamation of the gospel, so he preserves, continues, and completes his work by the hearing and reading of the gospel, by meditation on it, by its exhortations, threats, and promises, and also by the use of the sacraments.’ http://www.apuritansmind.com/creeds-and-confessions/the-synod-of-dordt-1618-1619-a-d/

 

 

 

 

The quotes A.1 to A.5 effectively deny assurance of salvation. A.6 affirms assurances of salvation. These two perspectives on assurance [or security] of salvation flow out from different views of the role of man and the role of God in salvation. They also relate to different understandings of salvation itself.

 

Task #3: Discussion point
Describe and discuss the differences between the denial of eternal security in A.1 to A.5 and the affirmation of security in A.6, looking particularly at the understanding of salvation in each.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A.7 The two main arguments used against assurance of salvation or eternal security of the believer

In reading what people or denominations have written denying assurance of salvation or the eternal security of the believer, two arguments dominate:

[1] The argument that grapples with the idea that a sinner, with present sin, can enter heaven,
[2] Arguments against the doctrine of divine election.

Where continuing sin in the believer is understood to prohibit and prevent assurance of salvation, it seems that the difficulty is because of an inadequate understanding of both the nature of sin and the nature of salvation.

Where people reject the doctrine of divine election, they are also inclined to reject assurance of salvation or eternal security. Yet where the Scriptures teach assurance of salvation, this assurance is grounded on a far broader base than divine election: it is grounded in grace, it is grounded in the objective nature of salvation in its many aspects, it is grounded on the completeness of salvation, and it is grounded in the person of Christ himself.


B. BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ASSURANCE OF SALVATION

B.1 The Holy Spirit and assurance of salvation

We have already looked at the fact that the Holy Spirit indwells every person who genuinely believes in Jesus Christ. The New Testament teaches that this indwelling Spirit confirms and assures the believer.

 

B.1.1 The Holy Spirit as a seal, guarantee and deposit

[a] In 2Corinthians 1:18-22 Paul writes of the great confidence and assurance that believers can have:


God is faithful [18]

Jesus Christ is certain and unwavering [19]

All God’s promises are ‘Yes’ in Christ [20]

God makes us stand firm in Christ [21] – the Greek word means ‘has established’ us [perfect tense – done, and still effective.]

God has anointed us [consecrated us to himself] [21]

God has set his seal of ownership on us [22 – the word means stamped with his signet ring]

And put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come [22 – arrabona – a word used to refer to a deposit paid in advance as security for the rest of the payment]

It is highly probable that in Paul’s mind the three assurances mentioned in verses 21-22 are all associated with the Holy Spirit: - anointed, sealed, and given the deposit that guarantees everything.

 

[b] 2Corinthians 5:5: Here Paul states that the Holy Spirit is a ‘deposit guaranteeing what is to come’. This is the same word as in 1:22. Note that Paul goes on in verse 6 to say ‘therefore we are always confident’. Irrespective of the groaning and burdens of human life [verse1-4] the indwelling Spirit guarantees that other spiritual life, that life that endures beyond death and with the Lord.

Note that this guarantee and this confidence do not cause Paul to think lightly of sin; rather, he says, because of this confidence ‘we make it our goal to please him’ [verse 9].  

 

[c] In Ephesians 1:13 Paul tells the Ephesian believers that, on the day of their conversion to Christ, they ‘were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit’.

Here again, as in 2Corinthians 1:22 Paul used sphragizo – sealed with a signet ring; then he continues to tell the Ephesians that the Holy Spirit is ‘a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession’ [14], using the word arrabon as in Corinthians.

This all speaks very strongly of assurance and security. God’s signet ring – sealed with the seal of God.. God's guarantee of ultimate redemption. Surely nothing can be surer than God’s seal and God’s guarantee.

 

[4] Again in Ephesians 4:30 Paul uses the word sphragizo. The believers, he says, ‘were sealed for the day of redemption’. That aspect of redemption that is still future – our final liberation from the power and the presence of sin and from the frailties of our mortal bodies – is certain. We are sealed with God’s signet ring for that day. The Holy Spirit is that seal of God.

Again, this is not an excuse or motivation for loose living. Rather it is specifically included in this passage as a motivation for godly living.

 

B.1.2 The Holy Spirit affirms the believer's sonship

[a] Romans 8:15 states that believers have received, not the spirit that makes them slaves of fear, but the Spirit of sonship. If we put this statement in the context of the whole chapter, it starts with the statement that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and ends with a long and impactive statement that no accusation, no charge, nothing, can cut the believer off from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. This freedom from fear of which Paul speaks in verse 15 is not the fear of trivial things, but the fear of God’s judgment. This freedom of fear is the grand assurance of the children of God.

[b] Romans 8:16 goes on to say that the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children, and Paul makes it clear in the following verses that the sufferings we suffer can never be taken [as unbelief takes them] to mean that we are the target of God’s judgment and rejection.

Again in Galatians 4:3-7 Paul contrasts slavery with sonship, and states that ‘God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.’ Note that the slavery that stands in contrast with this sonship, is slavery to the law, that is, slavery to a performance-based relationship with God, in which there is no assurance of his acceptance.

 

Task #4: Underline assurance/security of salvation in the quotes below.

Billy Graham comments concerning the Holy Spirit as a ‘seal’:

‘It seems to me that Paul had two main thoughts in mind concerning our sealing by the Holy Spirit. One concerns security, and the other, ownership… in the Old Testament … the king sealed Daniel into the lion’s den so that he could not get out … Pilate did much the same when he ordered the soldiers to secure the tomb of Jesus. [Matt. 27:65,66] “Seal” in this passage is the same Greek word used in passages which speak of the sealing of the Holy Spirit. … One of the most thrilling thoughts that has ever crossed my mind is that the Holy Spirit sealed me. And He has sealed you – if you are a believer….
‘… It also means ownership. … The allusion to the seal as the proof of purchase would have been especially significant to the Ephesians. The city of Ephesus was a seaport, and the shipmasters of the neighbouring ports carried on an extensive trade in timber. The method of purchase was this: the merchant, after selecting his timber, stamped it with his own signet – an acknowledged sign of ownership. In due time the merchant would send a trusted agent with the signet; he would locate all the timbers that bore the corresponding impress, and claim them. Matthew Henry sums it up: “By him [the Holy Spirit] believers are sealed; that is, separated and set apart for God, and distinguished and marked as belonging to him.” You and I are God’s property forever!’ [p75,76 The Holy Spirit]

AA Hoekema:

‘The doctrine of the perseverance of true believers is one of the most comforting teachings of Scripture. We learn from it that God by his power keeps his people from falling away from him, that Christ will never permit anyone to snatch them out of his hand, and that the Holy Spirit seals them for the day of redemption. Our heavenly Father holds us securely in his grasp; that is our ultimate comfort in life and death. We rest finally not on our hold of God but on God’s hold of us.

‘Yet this doctrine also urges us to persevere in the faith – and this is our challenge. We can only persevere through God’s strength and by his grace. … How can we know that we are in the faith? We can know this only from our continuation in the life of faith, our perseverance, our standing firm to the end. John Murray put it well: ‘We may entertain the faith of our security in Christ only as we persevere in faith and holiness to the end.”

‘The doctrine of the perseverance of true believers, therefore, is both a comfort and a challenge. But the challenge is based on the comfort. We can be certain that we shall persevere to the end only because God has promised to enable us to do so. And so we rest in him, for time and eternity, knowing that he will never let us go.’ [p255,256, Saved by Grace]


John Piper:

‘The point is certainty and confidence and assurance and security. The point is that God is the one who saves his people, really saves them. He does not just offer salvation, he saved them. From beginning to end he is the One who decisively and infallibly acts so that not one of his own is lost. The point is that the chain cannot be broken: all the foreknown are predestined; all the predestined are called; all the called are justified; and all the justified are glorified. The point is to guarantee that everyone in the chain will reach the goal of glory.’ [Commenting on Romans 8:29-30, p124, Future Grace]


‘One final thing to remember about the good fight of faith in future grace: the victory is assured. Our assurance is not destroyed by the demands for endurance. The key to assurance is not to eliminate the biblical commands for endurance, but rather to magnify grace as a future power to believe, as well as a past pardon for sin. Our assurance does not lie in looking back to a momentary decision we made for Christ, but in looking forward to the certainty of God’s preserving grace, based on the all-sufficient atonement of his Son’s death’. [ibid, p317]


B.2 Jesus’ teaching on false faith

A key factor in understanding assurance of salvation and the eternal security of the believer is to understand that there are different kinds of ‘faith’. Not everyone who expresses ‘belief’ in Christ is actually doing what the Bible understands as true ‘belief’ in Christ. Jesus himself made it quite clear that there is such a thing as non-genuine belief, and warned that those with false faith do not have salvation. To give false believers assurance of salvation is totally contrary to the Biblical perspective.

 

Task #5: Look up these references
What do they teach us about the existence of false faith? What criteria, if any, are given for distinguishing between true and false faith?

Matthew 7:15-27 [at least 3 criteria are given here]

 


Matthew 13:16-23 [apart from the ‘crop’, one significant criteria is given here]

 


Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43,

 

Matthew 25:1-13

 


Luke 9:57-62

 


John 2:23-25

 

John 6:64-66

 


John 8:30-32 [read also 33-47 to see Jesus’ understanding of the falseness of their ‘faith’]

 


In looking at these references we can understand that a significant part of the problem people have with assurance of salvation or the eternal security of the believer, stems from a failure to realize that not all ‘believers’ are actually ‘believers’. They have an appearance of ‘belief’, and that is all. It may be the result of enthusiasm, of excitement, of crowd psychology, or whatever, but it lacks understanding of who Jesus really is, it lacks real repentance, and it lacks real commitment and submission to Jesus as the Almighty, eternal Son of God. [At this point we see the necessity for a Biblical understanding of both faith and repentance. We also see the significance of a true understanding of the person of Jesus Christ. Faith in a Jesus less than the Biblical Jesus is simply not Biblical faith at all. It is faith in something, but the Bible promises eternal life only to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.]

To those who have genuine faith in him Jesus promised salvation. And we need to note here this precise focus of faith: it is faith ‘in him’, not faith in salvation. Our faith is never faith in the fact that we are saved, but faith in Jesus Christ, in whom alone, and by whom alone, salvation is found and assured.


B.3 Jesus’ teaching assurance of salvation in the gospels

Jesus came ‘to seek and to save the lost’ [Luke 19:10]. He did not come to save them only to lose them again – the word save is in the Aorist tense, indicating a once-for-all, decisive action. This security of those who he saves is indicated in his teaching.

 

Task #6: Identify and discuss the assurance and security in these passages.

Matthew 11:28-30 [note the significance of the word ‘rest’ and ‘rest for your souls’]

 

 


Matt. 13:24-30, 37-43 [Note God’s concern for preservation of the sons of the kingdom]

 

 


Matthew 20:1-16 [Note that the outcome at the end of the day is on the basis of the Master’s promise, not on the amount of work].

 


Luke 15:11-31 [acceptance based on God’s sheer love]

 

 

Luke 18:9-14 [justification based on sheer mercy]

 

 

John 1:12 [based on the will of God]

 

John 3:15,16,36; John 6:47

 

John 3:18

 

John 4:14; 6:35; [note the permanence]

 

John 5:24 [three secure facts here]

 


John 6:37-40

 

 

John 8:36

 


John 10:27-29

 

 


John 11:25-26

 


John 14:1-4

 


John 17:3

 


John 20:31

 

 

 

In most of the above, note the direct connection between believing in Jesus, and Jesus’ assurance of life, of eternal life.

 

B.4 Paul’s teaching on assurance of salvation

Like Jesus, Paul emphasises assurance of salvation. His letters are written to people who have already in the past put their faith in Christ. Many were being hassled by false teachers to give up faith that was focused in Christ alone and to add to that focus, or supplant it with, something else – some human work which was being presented as necessary for or enhancing salvation. Paul called his readers back to a singled-minded faith focused in Christ alone, because only in Christ is salvation, eternal salvation, to be found. The moment any human work is added to the work of Christ all grounds for assurance are forfeited.

 

Task #7: Identify and discuss assurance of salvation in these verses.
What grounds of this certainty are stated?

Romans 1:16,17 [note salvation is because of God’s power; and by faith]


Romans 3:19-24 [several points of assurance here]

 

Romans 4:16

 

Romans 5:1,2


Romans 5:9-11 [note present and future certainty]


Romans 5:17


Romans 6:15; 7:6

 

Romans 8:1-2


Romans 8:16,17

 

Romans 8:28-39


1Corinthians 1:28-31

 

2Corinthians 5:14, 17, 21


Galatians 2:16-19 [note: the whole of Galatians 1 to 5:15 teaches assurance of salvation in Christ alone]


Galatians 3:10-14


Galatians 5:1-11 [contains stern warnings about depending on one’s performance]


Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14 [forgiveness, redemption – present possession]


Ephesians 2:8,9 [by grace, not works]


Colossians 1:12

 

Colossians 1:13

 

Colossians 1:22

 

Colossians 2:10 [‘fullness’ = ‘complete’]


Colossians 3:3

 

2Timothy 1:12

 


As far as Paul is concerned salvation is something that is secure because it is not, never has been, and never will be, based on human effort and human qualifications. It is based wholly and solely on Jesus Christ and his sin-bearing death. When Christians lose sight of that, and start adding anything of their own to the work of Christ as necessary to either gain or maintain salvation, it is then that assurance of salvation falls to pieces. This lack of assurance generated by man-centred, guilt-producing corruptions and reductions of the gospel, does not necessarily mean that these people have lost their salvation; but it does mean that they have lost the joy of their salvation and their confidence in their salvation. They are living as though grace was no longer the operating principle of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, as though they were not saved. Christ and his sin-bearing death have been robbed of their power by a dependence on and focus on human obedience, spirituality and religious endeavours. Thus Paul states:

‘As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.’ [2 Corinthians 6:1]

‘I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!’ [Galatians 2:21]

‘I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all…. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace’ [Galatians 5:3,4]

 


B.5 Assurance of salvation in other New Testament writers

Jesus and Paul are joined by the other New Testament writers in affirming assurance of salvation.

 

Task #8: How do these passages communicate assurance of salvation?

Hebrews 4:14-16


Hebrews 7:22-25


Hebrews 9:12 [note that the terms ‘once for all’ and ‘eternal’ are used repeatedly in Hebrews].

 

Hebrews 10:10,14


Hebrews 10:17


Hebrews 10:19-22

 


Note: The letter to the Hebrews was written to affirm the utter superiority of Christ and his salvation, and to warn the recipients against doing so foolish a thing as to leave that which is permanent, certain and superior because it is grounded in Christ, for that which is impermanent, uncertain and inferior because it is grounded in human performance. We note here that the very thing which makes some teachers deny that there can be any solid assurance of eternal salvation is that precise thing which the writer to the Hebrews warns his readers against. Dependence on Christ alone gives assurance: dependence on any human activity renders assurance impossible.

1 Peter 1:3-6


1John 1:8-2:2 [Note that assurance of salvation exists at the same time as sin in the believer]

 

1John 3:1-3


1John 4:15

1John 5:1

1John 5:10-12


1John 5:13


CONCLUDING COMMENTS:

Hoekema writes:

‘According to [Hebrews 11:1] … faith, when it is what it ought to be, carries with it certainty about spiritual realities, definite assurance and conviction about the salvation which is hoped for.
[1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Anyone, who denies that a believer can have assurance of salvation will have a difficult time getting around this text. Over against the incipient Gnosticism which held that knowledge was far superior to simple faith, John insists that those who have faith in Christ also have knowledge – the knowledge that they have eternal life. Not just an elite group among believers, not just those who have received some special revelation, but all true believers may and should know that they have eternal life.’ [ibid, p149]

‘What the doctrine of the perseverance of true believers does mean is this: those who have true faith can lose that faith neither totally nor finally. The real question at issue … is this: Can a person who has true faith ever lose that faith? … No. It should immediately be added, however, that [this answer is given] not on the basis of the superior spiritual strength of the believer but on the ground of God’s faithfulness to his promise. … God will never permit those to whom he has given true faith to fall away from that faith. True believers persevere not because of their strength but because of God’s unchangeable mercy.[ibid, p234,235]


Note: This study has barely touched on the Biblical perspective that good works accompany saving faith. These passages do not deny assurance of salvation, but emphasise that true faith believes not only the promises but also the commands of Christ. [See Study on Faith, section G; also Study 19.]