Assurance of Salvation

Assurance of Salvation

Barry Pendley

CHAPTER 1: Introduction

Recently, the topic of the assurance of salvation made a resurgence in many journal articles, books and debates. This issue is linked to the doctrines of Eternal Security and Perseverance, yet it hasn’t enjoyed the full development that these doctrines have undergone.

Probably the main reason for the current interest in the Assurance of Salvation is that it answers questions that lie deep within the mind of men and women. R.C. Sproul notes some of these questions and fears. “We fear His power, we fear His wrath, and most of all we fear His ultimate rejection.”1

However, the topic is not new. Men in history have pondered the same worries, and some fortunately answered those questions. Martin Luther was one of the men. “It is this uncertainty that drove [him] almost out of his mind before he came to understand the great truth of justification by faith alone.”2 Luther, Calvin and many other post-Reformation teachers developed this doctrine based on their study of the Word of God.3 Further statements and confessions elucidated the doctrine of assurance. By 1677, the Second London Confession expansion of the First, produced the first extant article on the Assurance of Salvation.4

John Wesley also preached and wrote on the subject. He was so effective that he is considered “the principal exponent of assurance in the eighteenth century.”5 Yet, John Wesley promoted a view that was inconsistent with Scripture and the very nature of God’s salvation. Wesley put fears and undermining doubts into many Christian’s minds concerning their future destiny. This is not to say that Wesley is alone responsible for this tragedy, the Romanists and other groups negate the possibility of assurance.

The Bible teaches that it is possible to have a complete assurance of salvation, and one can and must attain it. This will be decided throughout this study by examining the passages of Scripture pertaining to full assurance. God’s Word presents assurance as a possibility and benefit of a sure salvation. As well, lack of assurance indicates a person’s failure in understanding or applying the responsibilities of salvation, or even a lack of salvation in the first place.

CHAPTER 2: You Can Have Assurance

Some systems have the tendency to eradicate any thought of assurance (i.e.. Roman Catholicism and Arminianism). They do so by redefining assurance. Also, they claim that man, weak, frail, and sickly, cannot have complete assurance. This may reflect a theology that includes man as an initiator or completer in the salvation process. Yet, man can have full assurance. This is both “possible and desirable.”6

Definition of Assurance

The possibility of assurance is carefully and precisely presented in God’s Word. It is necessary to identify the terms used, as well as construct a working definition for assurance.

Biblical Words

“Guarantee” Bebaio”

This term has a figurative and literal usage in the Bible. Literally, it is used of an anchor (Heb 6:19). Figuratively, the word means reliable or dependable.7 By the fifth century, the word became recognized and used as a legal term.8

It is no surprise that the Apostle Paul uses the legal emphasis of Bevbaio” to refer to the promise of faith (Rom 4:16). This is a legal guarantee of the promise of the gospel and it’s benefits – both to Gentiles and Jews alike. Assurance of that promise is possible based on this legal promise and the dependability of the promise maker – God Himself.

“Know” Oida

The second word, oida, is by far, the most used term in this list. BAGD identifies five usages of the term. First, it can refer to “knowing something or someone.” Second, it is used of an “intimate relationship.” Third, it means “understand how” something is done or appears. Fourth, simply to recognize someone or something. Fifth, refers to taking an interest in someone or something.9

Oida is employed in the first usage by the Apostle John in his first Epistle to “furnish the groundwork” of assurance of salvation10. This knowledge is always listed with modes of practical behavior and demands obedience to it (1 John 1:6; 2:3).11 The Holy Spirit gives this knowledge fully as a gift to the believer (1 John 2:20; 3:24).12 Therefore, the knowledge of one’s assurance will have a profound effect on his behavior and vice versa. Knowledge of one’s assurance is therefore possible and extremely crucial to further obedience.

“Full Assurance” Plhroforevw

The final word is a verb which means “to convince fully.”13 Thayer states that it is “to fill one with any thought or conviction.”14 The noun Plhroforiva is used by Paul in reference to one’s acceptance of the gospel. “. . . because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction [plhroforiva ] (1 Thess 1:5) This deep conviction is possible and necessary. ”Purified [by the Work of Christ] the Christian can stand with ‘full confidence’ before God.”15 This is a theme that is presented in Scripture regarding one’s salvation (Rom 4:21; Col 2:2; Heb 6:11; 10:22).

A Working Definition

Since Calvin, many have confused the meaning of assurance of salvation. Calvin himself doesn’t make a distinction between saving faith and the confidence of that faith.16 While it is understood that assurance arises out of salvation, and they are inseparable (as the Puritans held), assurance can be thwarted, whereas salvation cannot.17 Zane Hodges ties assurance to saving faith18 and confuses the two19. Some say that “. . .it is possible to speak of an extremely high degree of assurance of salvation.”20 Is assurance limited from being complete assurance?

All three Greek words, Bevbaio”, Oi\da, and Plhroforevw, indicate an unwavering, certain assurance. Bevbaio” identifies a “legal guarantee” that secures faith. Oi\da refers to the cognitive possibility of complete assurance. Plhroforevw, probably the most descriptive of the three terms, denotes a super-abounding assurance that is completely filled. Therefore, an assurance that cannot be complete is alien to the usages of these three terms. How then, does one define assurance? Assurance is a believer’s full knowledge that he or she is legally secure in God’s family for eternity.

You Can Experience Assurance

It would be presumptuous to think that this is the continuing experience of every Christian, unfortunately it is not. At the conception of salvation, full assurance is initiated. One cannot say that there was a lack of assurance at the moment of salvation and maintain they are saved. The experience of every true Christian at salvation is a result of a practical cognitive response, not just mere factual intake.21 This issues into an experience that reflects a personal relationship with Christ.22

After salvation, a person is confronted with his old world. Emotional pressures, sin, and weakness create doubt in the Christian’s mind. If a true believer lives with unconfessed sin, his experience will not be “normal.”23 Nor will it be unusual for a Christian to have frequent battles against doubts.24 Beeke notes, “Pastorally, it is critical to maintain that justifying faith and the experience of doubt often coexist.”25 If these doubts are handled correctly, a person can have the ability to experience complete assurance.

Although many do not have complete assurance, that does not preclude others from having that assurance. Demarest provides an insightful illustration of the possibility of assurance.

If a president should pardon a convicted criminal, it is proper that he should bring this to the person’s attention. Similarly, if God freely forgives our sins, we should expect that he will assure us of this fact.26

One is able to experience assurance. This is a possibility because assurance is based on firm grounds.27

Your Assurance is Based on Firm Grounds

The Five Arminian Articles, in Article 5, challenge the possibility of complete assurance by stating:

. . . only if they [Christians] are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling . . . they are capable through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ.28

Arminian Theology bases salvation on man’s works. Therefore, this statement is consistent with their belief. Unfortunately, it is entirely unbiblical. Assurance of Salvation, as well as Salvation are both gifts of God. Assurance is provided by means of the Holy Spirit and is not subject to human will, but rather God’s intended purposes.29 “If salvation depends in any degree on personal goodness, there could not be even a saved person in the world, and therefore, not ground in it for assurance.”30 Even though feelings and other “subjective phenomena” provide a sense of security, they are not true grounds for complete assurance, nevertheless “strong assurance.”31 What are the grounds of assurance?

The Westminster Confession of Faith, XIV.III. states.

This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong, may be often and many ways assailed and weakened, but gets the victory; growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.32

Ultimately, the whole basis of assurance goes back to the faithfulness of God. God’s faithfulness extends to man in three different avenues: The Word of God (God’s Self-Revelation); The Inner Witness of the Holy Spirit (God’s Comforter); and perseverance (Christian’s Progress).33 Peterson writes,

To stress the Word and downplay the other foundations is to risk easy believism and antinomianism. To emphasize the Spirit and minimize the Word and perseverance is to fall into subjectivism and mysticism. To look to perseverance while neglecting the other foundations is to invite merit theology and legalism.34

God’s faithfulness is in view in all three areas. Man can and will default. Yet, the grounds for assurance is sure and never wavering. Assurance is possible because God makes it possible. God provides salvation and the attendant assurance forever. This is not based on man’s faithfulness, but God’s.


Complete assurance of one’s salvation is possible. The Bible presents assurance in terminology that indicates full assurance. Also, if a person is truly a believer, he or she has already experienced full assurance. Although, that assurance may wane because of internal or external influence, complete assurance is again possible. Lastly, since assurance is based on God’s faithfulness, a believer must be aware of this extension of grace. The Christian must remain responsible to this faithful God and maintain his assurance.

CHAPTER 3: You Must Maintain Your Assurance

God is faithful and provides the grounds for one’s assurance. Yet, this is not to be treated lightly. A believer has certain responsibilities. Once again, the age old debate arises. How does one reconcile God’s sovereign control with man’s responsibility? Carson has coined a term called “Compatibilism” to deal with this problem. He states, first, “God is absolutely sovereign but his sovereignty does not in any way mitigate human responsibility.” Second, “human beings are responsible creatures, but their responsibility never serves to make God . . . contingent.”35

As noted previously, a believer may experience a loss of assurance. Many reasons exist for this problem. Some problems are doubt, the procedure of salvation, wrong theology, or unconfessed sin.036 Some corrective procedures have been suggested. Chafer states, “If need be, note the very day and hour of such a decision and then believe in the decision itself . . .”37 John MacArthur finds eleven “test questions” in 1 John to bring one back to full assurance.38 Meanwhile, Robert Gromacki identifies twelve “test questions” in the same book.39 Are these steps comprehensive enough? Not according to Scripture. Carson writes, “Anyone who applies exactly the same spiritual remedy to these diverse ailments ought to have his license as a spiritual physician immediately rescinded.”40

Looking back to the grounds for one’s assurance, a believer can maintain assurance by conviction of the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, resulting in perseverance through life.

Produced by the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit plays an very important role in the lives of believers. Often, His role is misstated as an emotional experience, or overlooked with intellectual pride. Without the Spirit, a Christian would have doubts, fears, and hopelessness about the assurance of his salvation.

The Holy Spirit’s Role in His Witness

Two passages of Scripture, combined, explicitly state that the Holy Spirit is the agent of maintaining assurance.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, `Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:15-17)

Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, `Abba, Father’. (Galatians 4:6)

Based on Romans 8:15 alone, it is difficult to dogmatically prove that the “Spirit of sonship” is the Holy Spirit. Paul does say later in the parallel passage of Galatians 4:6 that this Spirit is the Holy Spirit.

The status of sonship is granted to the believer as a benefit of his salvation. Uo{qesia [sonship] “indicates a new family relation with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities.”41 The Arminian would like to see the believer participating in this act of adoption. John Wesley, a proponent of Arminian thought, “distinguished between the witness of the Holy Spirit and the witness of a believer’s spirit.”42 This is merely an attempt to remain consistent within that system. Man does not participate with God to effect one’s salvation, nor salvation’s benefits – namely the witness of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s argument is proving that the Holy Spirit, given by God, provides assurance.

This does raise a question that is impossible to fully answer. What is the relationship between the Spirit’s testimony and one’s understanding of that testimony? One cannot rely on an emotional response to indicate whether the Holy Spirit is really bearing witness. This witness is not divorced from one’s intellect. It is not proper to think that God will propositionally reveal to a believer that he is a child of God.43 This witness results in a firm conviction within a believer that he is a child of God. Douglas Moo notes that Paul’s purpose is to show that one who possesses the Holy Spirit, will accordingly respond with some emotion; not vice versa.44 Hawkes aptly explains, “The Christian receives assurance through the exercise of his faculties, as the Spirit provides evidence of faith within the believer and also enables the reason to understand this evidence.”45

The Holy Spirit’s Role in Conviction

Another aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work involves the conviction of the believer. The Bible says, “Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:24). Obedience is a very important part of maintaining a right relationship with God. When a believer disobeys, God works through the Holy Spirit to correct the believer. This is a benefit of the Holy Spirit’s witness. The Holy Spirit convicts the intellect through the Word of God and brings one back into a right relationship with the Father. Note that “. . .the Spirit’s testimony is always tied to, and may never contradict the Word of God.”46

King David in the Old Testament was not a perfect man. He had some terrible sins in his life that would commit many believers into deep spiritual problems. Yet through the Word of God, his conscience was pricked, and he repented. “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” (Psalms 119:92)

Employed by the Word of God

The question may be raised, “If the Holy Spirit is the witness to the believer, how does the Holy Spirit objectively compel one to have complete assurance?.”

God has communicated to man through the propositional truths of the Word of the Scriptures. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways” (Hebrews 1:1) Also, these truths are necessary for teaching and correcting man. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) Lastly, the only way a man can understand the Word of God is by the aid of the Holy Spirit. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Since the Bible is the only way God communicates to man, it follows that it is only through the Word of God that assurance of salvation comes. “The Spirit gives His testimony with the Word and through the Word, never against the Word or without the Word.”47 If one is diligent in the study and the application of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will illumine that individual not only to understand the truths of Scripture, but to experience the benefits of the Spirit’s witness in complete assurance of salvation.

Exhibited by Perseverance

This presents another question. “If one has been saved, and is reading the Scriptures, but shows a pattern of consistent habitual sin, can that person have assurance?”

Historically, the Puritans had a primitive concept of assurance. They were developing the doctrine from the theology that was set forth by the Reformers. One way a Puritan was taught to attain assurance of salvation was to “diligently seek for it through the means of grace.”48 This however is not definitive and is open to speculation regarding the exact nature and outworking of the “means of grace.” This could be interpreted to assume that one could sin so that “grace may abound.” The Apostle Paul rejects this theology. “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1)

Since the Puritans, developments have been made both negatively and positively. One group, namely the Grace Evangelical Society, attempts to establish the thought that assurance is a right given to every believer, no questions asked, no perseverance needed.49 Others, have been very instructive regarding perseverance and it’s relation to the believer.50

Zane Hodges a teacher within the Grace Evangelical Society realm believes that a Christian can live a life of habitual sin while maintaining complete assurance of his salvation. To prove his point, he twists the intent and significance of Scripture.

Case in point. Hodges claims that the purpose of the epistle of 1 John is “fellowship with God.” Further, he says that 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,” is not a purpose of the Epistle.51 This is misleading and over simplifying the purpose of 1 John. He distorts the significance of Scripture because his premise is faulty.

A proper approach finds that assurance and perseverance are inseparable. A person who thinks that it is possible to entertain assurance, yet lives a lifestyle contrary to the Word of God deceives himself. (1 John 2:3) John MacArthur writes, “. . .some people have assurance who have no right to it.”52


The paradox between God’s Divine Sovereignty and man’s responsibility must be maintained. Failure to acknowledge that man has a responsibility leads to laxity in a Christian’s life.

God provided salvation and the assurance of salvation. First, the Holy Spirit is the witness to the believer that he is saved. Thus, assurance is a result of the Spirit’s witness. Second, the Holy Spirit assures man only in accordance with God’s Word. Any assurance that is based on any external experience that is contradictory to God’s Word is not assurance at all. Last, Man will never lose salvation. Although, he may lose assurance of that salvation due to sinful activity. That is why commands such as “be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.” (2 Peter 1:5)

CHAPTER 4: Summary & Conclusion

Throughout the history of Christianity, many have debated the doctrines of the Bible. One subject that is in the forefront of many debates is the subject of Salvation. It is an issue that touches lives as no other philosophy, idea or doctrine can. One great benefit of Salvation is the assurance that it provides concerning one’s own destiny.

Some (ie. Romanists) regard the assurance of Salvation as an attack on man’s rationality. Others regard assurance as only a mere chance. Yet, some regard assurance as a Christian’s right that is always present.

You can have complete assurance of your salvation. The Bible is clear to note that once you have repented of your sin, thus becoming a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17), the Holy Spirit gives assurance of salvation.

Over time, the pressures of daily life and the desires of the “old nature” may drift you away from this assurance. Even though your salvation is completely secure, you may think that it is not. The Holy Spirit provides a witness to the believer. This witness works through the Word of God to convict and bring a believer back to a sanctified life. If you remain satisfied in a state of unrepentance, you were never saved in the first place; thus, giving no grounds for assurance. Although, if a you are convicted to repent and do so, then assurance may be experienced once again by sanctification.

Assurance is a benefit of salvation that can and must be maintained. Failure to do so reveals a neglect of responsibility on the Christian’s behalf.


Bauer, Walter, William F.Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 2nd ed. revised and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Beeke, Joel. “Personal Assurance of Faith: The Puritans and Chapter 18.2.” Westminster Theological Journal 55 (1993): 1-30.

Buswell, J. Oliver. A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. 2 vols. in 1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Co. 1962.

Carson, D.A. “Reflections on Christian Assurance.” Westminster Theological Journal 54 (1992): 1-29.

________. “The Function of the Paraclete in John 16:7-11.” Journal of Biblical Literature 98 (Winter 1979): 547-566.

Chafer, Lewis. Systematic Theology. 8 vols. Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948.

________. Salvation: A Clear Doctrinal Analysis. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1945.

Court, John. “Blessed Assurance?” Journal of Theological Studies 33 (October 1982): 508-17.

Dillow, Joseph. “Abiding is Remaining in Fellowship: Another Look at John 15:1-6.” Bibliotheca Sacra 147 (January 1990): 44-53.

Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology. S.v. “Assur-ance.”

Dieter, Melvin and Others. Five Views on Sanctification. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987.

Encyclopedia of Biblical Theology. S.v. “Assurance of Salvation,” J. Kurzinger.

Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983.

Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. S.v. “Assurance,” by B. Demarest.

Gerstner, John. “True & False Assurance.” Table Talk (February 1992): 10-12.

Gromacki, Robert. Salvation is Forever. Chicago: Moody Press, 1973.

Hawkes, R. M. “The Logic of Assurance in English Puritan Theology.” Westminster Theological Journal 52 (1990): 247-261.

Hiebert, D. Edmond. “Romans 8:28-28 and the Assurance of the Believer.” Bibliotheca Sacra 148 (April-June 1991): 170-83.

________. “An Exposition of 1 John 1:5-2:6.” Bibliotheca Sacra 145 (July 1988): 329-42.

Hodges, Zane. “We Believe in: Assurance of Salvation.” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 3 (Autumn 1990): 3-17.

Hoekema, Anthony. Saved by Grace. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989.

Hunt, W. Boyd. “The Perseverance of the Saints.” Christianity Today (May 15, 1962): 18-19.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. S.v. “Assurance,” by D. M. Pratt.

Kent, Homer, Jr. The Freedom of God’s Sons: Studies in Galatians. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976.

Kilpatrick, Ron. “Assurance and Sin.” Table Talk (February 1992): 13-16.

Lumpkin, William. Baptist Confessions of Faith. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1969.

MacArthur, John, Jr. Saved Without a Doubt. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1992.

Moo, Douglas. Romans 1-8. The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991.

Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1955.

________. The Epistle to the Romans. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977.

Nicole, Roger. “The Priviledge of Assurance.” Table Talk (February 1992): 7-9.

New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. S.v. “Firm,” by H. Schönweiss.

________. S.v. “Knowledge,” by E.D. Schmitz.

Peterson, Robert. “Christian Assurance: Its Possibility and Foundations.” Presbyterion 8 (Spring 1992): 10-24.

________. “The Perseverance of the Saints: A Theological Exegesis of Four Key New Testament Passages.” Presbyterion 17 (Summer 1991): 95-112.

________. “Perseverance and Apostasy: A Bibliographic Essay.” Presbyterion 16 (Summer 1990): 119-125.

Pettingill, William. Bible Questions Answered. Edited by Richard Polcyn. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Co., 1979.

Rienecker, Fritz, and Cleon Rogers. Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980.

Ryle, J. C. Assurance and Doubts.

Ryrie, Charles. Basic Theology. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1986.

Schaff, Philip. The Creeds of Christendom: With a History and Critical Notes. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985.

Sproul, R. C. “Fear Not.” Table Talk (February 1992): 4-6.

Strong, Augustus. Systematic Theology. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1907.

Thayer, Joseph. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. N.d. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. S.v. “,” by Seeseman.

________. S.v. “Plhroforevw,” by Delling.

Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology. S.v. “Assurance,” by Rupert Davies.

WillIquette, Scott. “On What Basis Can I Be Sure?: A Study of Christian Assurance.” Th.M. dissertation, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 1993.

Yohn, Rick. Living Securely in an Unstable World. Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1985.

1R.C. Sproul, “Fear Not.” Table Talk (February 1992): 4.

2Roger Nicole, “The Privilege of Assurance.” Table Talk (February 1992): 8.

3Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, s.v. “Assurance,” by B. Demarest, p. 92.

4William Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith, (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1969), p. 274.

5Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology, s.v. “Assurance,” by Rupert Davies, pp. 48-9.

6Anthony Hoekema, Saved by Grace, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), p. 149.

7BAGD, p. 138.

8NIDNTT, s.v. “Firm,” by H. Schönweiss, 1:658.

9BAGD, pp. 555-6

10ISBE, s.v. “Assurance,” by D.M. Pratt, 3:32.

11NIDNTT, “Knowledge”, by E.D. Schmitz, 2:399.

12TDNT, s.v. “Oi\da,” by Seeseman, 5:119.

13BAGD, p. 670.

14Thayer, Lexicon, p. 517.

15TDNT, s.v. “Plhroforiva,” by Delling, 6:311.

16Hoekema, Saved by Grace, p. 148.

17R.M. Hawkes, “The Logic of Assurance in English Puritan Theology.” WTJ 52 (1990): 250.

18D.A. Carson, “Reflections on Christian Assurance.” WTJ 54 (1992): 6.

19D. Edmond Hiebert, “Romans 8:28-28 and the Assurance of the Believer.” BibSac 148 (April-June 1991): 8.

20Encyclopedia of Biblical Theology. s.v. “Assurance of Salvation,” by J. Kurzinger, p. 50. also; Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985), p. 548.

21D. Edmond Hiebert, “An Exposition of 1 John 1:5-2:6,” BibSac 145 (July 1988): 341.

22Lewis Chafer, “Assurance,” Systematic Theology, (Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), p. 22.

23Ibid, p. 23.

24John Court, “Blessed Assurance?”, JTS 33 (October 1982): 509.

25Joel Beeke, “Personal Assurance of Faith: The Puritans and Chapter 18.2.” WTJ 55 (1993): 6.

26Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 91.

27Chafer, Systematic Theology, p. 21

28Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, p. 548.

29Augustus Strong, Systematic Theology, (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1907), p. 883.

30Lewis Chafer, Salvation: A Clear Doctrinal Analysis, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1945), p. 57.

31Beeke, “Personal Assurance of Faith,”, p. 13.

32Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, p. 631.

33Robert Peterson, “Christian Assurance: Its Possibility and Foundations,” Presbyterion 8 (Spring 1992): 22.


35Carson, D.A. “Reflections on Christian Assurance,” p. 22.

36Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1986), p. 329.

37Chafer, Salvation, p. 58.

38John MacArthur, Jr., Saved Without a Doubt, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1992), pp. 67-91.

39Robert Gromacki, Salvation is Forever, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1973), pp. 177-183.

40Carson, “Reflections on Christian Assurance,” p. 28.

41Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980), p. 365.

42Rick Yohn, Living Securely in an Unstable World, (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1985), p. 49.

43John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans. NICNT, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), p. 297.

44Douglas Moo, Romans 1-8. WEC (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), p. 538.

45Hawkes, “The Logic of Assurance in English Puritan Theology,” p. 256.

46Beeke, “Personal Assurance,” p. 28.

47Sproul, “Fear Not,” p. 5.

48Beeke, “Personal Assurance of Faith”, p. 9.

49See the “We Believe in. . .” series in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society. This trend is easily noticed.

50See Peterson’s Articles in the Presbyterion 1990-1991.

52Zane Hodges, “We Believe in: Assurance of Salvation.” JGES 3 (Autumn 1990): 5.

52MacArthur, Saved Without a Doubt, p. 8.

Lordship Salvation: Profession vs. Possession

Lordship Salvation: Profession vs. Possession

False or Incomplete Gospels

Easy-believism is a dangerous doctrine because it produces false professions of faith, fills the church with unbelievers, and gives a false sense of security to those who may be lost.

Primary teachings of easy-believism

Salvation is based purely on belief or faith.”

Anyone who believes in Jesus is saved. Faith is defined as simply believing the facts of the Gospel. Faith is a purely intellectual activity.

Repentance is not required for salvation.”

Some re-define repentance to mean a simple change of mind from unbelief to belief. Others assert that no kind of repentance is necessary at all.

Submission to the Lordship of Christ is not required for salvation.”

One need only trust Christ as Savior at the point of salvation; at some later point, one may recognize Him as Lord. Ideas like commitment, submission, and loyalty have no place in an evangelistic invitation.

Nothing about the costs of salvation is mentioned in an evangelistic invitation.”

The evangelist mentions only the benefits of salvation and the ease of attaining it.

Since believing in Jesus is so easy, one need not go into much depth or take much time when communicating the Gospel.”

One need only agree that he is a sinner and that Jesus is the Savior to be saved.

Since belief in Jesus is all that is necessary for salvation, the evangelist is encouraged to use any and all methods to generate belief.”

No evidence of salvation need follow belief.”

One may live his entire Christian life in bondage to sin. Such believers are carnal Christians – they are believers who have never grown in their faith or shown any fruit of salvation. Believers may even renounce their profession of faith and still be Christians. Easy-believism states that as long as a person believed in Christ at some point in time, then he is saved, whether or not that belief continues. The believer need not persevere in faith or good works. As long as one claims to believe, others must acknowledge that he is a Christian.

In 1983, a man by the name of R.T. Kendall wrote: Whoever once believes that Jesus was raised from the dead, and confesses that Jesus is Lord, will go to heaven when he dies. But I will not stop there. Such a person will go to heaven when he dies no matter what work (or lack of work) may accompany such faith.1 Later, he expanded on this saying: “I therefore state categorically that the person who is saved – who confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God raised Him from the dead – will go to heaven when he dies no matter what work (or lack of work) may accompany such faith. In other words, no matter what sin (or absence of Christian obedience) may accompany such faith.

There are two classes of Christians: carnal and spiritual.”

Carnal Christians continue to exhibit sinful attitudes and behaviors just as they did before they were saved. Spiritual Christians have made a decision at some point after salvation to commit or devote themselves to Christ. It is only after this decision that the believer is able to make progress spiritually. Regular Christians are believers; committed Christians are disciples. Discipleship is not required of regular believers.

Assurance of salvation is based only on the promises of Scripture.”

Since God says He will save those who believe, one must simply trust that what God says is true. If one doubts his salvation, he simply looks back to his decision to believe Jesus.

Standing in stark contrast to easy-believism is an idea that some call Lordship Salvation. Lordship Salvation takes the opposite view to all the ideas stated above.

Primary Teachings of Lordship Salvation:

Faith is more than mere intellectual assent to the Gospel. Faith is a total-person response (intellect, emotion and will) to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

  1. Repentance is a necessary part of the response to the Gospel. (See Lesson Eight)
  2. Submission to the Lordship of Christ is a required part of faith. Words such as commitment, submission, and loyalty are perfectly suitable when describing saving faith. (See Lesson Nine)
  3. The evangelist carefully discusses the costs of discipleship. Jesus called his disciples to take up a cross and follow Him. He called them to leave everything. He insisted on first place (Matt 10:34–38; Lk 14:26–33; Jn 12:25). One cannot invite a sinner to Christ without telling him the costs involved.
  4. The evangelist takes all the time necessary to carefully discuss the issues involved in conversion to Christ. He wants to reduce the possibility of a false profession of faith.
  5. The evangelist uses only those methods that are in keeping with the character of God and with the evangelistic task. Since preaching is the primary means of proclaiming the gospel (1 Cor 1:18f), preaching is the focus.

Evidence of salvation will always follow true conversion.”

New creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) will give evidence of their new spiritual state by a radical change in attitudes and behaviors. Lack of spiritual fruit is evidence of a lost condition (Matt 7:15–20). Lordship salvation teaches that true believers will persevere (continue) in the faith and good works. They may backslide for a time, but they will not ultimately reject Christ. Lordship salvation does not teach sinless perfection, but it does expect to see some fruit of repentance.

Evidences of salvation from 1 John: Characteristics of true believers

  1. walk in the light (1:6–7). They display Christ-like behaviors and attitudes.
  2. are sensitive about sin. They confess and forsake it (1:8–10).
  3. are obedient (2:3–5, 29). Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.”
  4. love other believers (3:10–15, 5:1–2). No love = no salvation.
  5. affirm sound doctrine (2:20-23). They are orthodox.
  6. follow after holiness (2:29, 3:6-9). They are not sinless, but they are striving to cease from sin and follow the Lord.

The idea that a true believer can continue in a carnal state is false.

There are not two categories of believers. All Christians are disciples and should strive to fulfill the biblical characteristics of a true disciple. A Christian will continue to struggle with sin (see Rom 7), but he will also make progress in his desire to be more like Christ. Those who continue in sin and/or who fall away were never truly saved in the first place (1 John 2:19).

Assurance of salvation is based on the evidence, not on a simple profession of faith.

Those who have no evidence of salvation can have no assurance. Many who claim to be saved are not.

Matt 7:21–23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Titus 1:15–16 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

1 John 2:4–6 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.


While we want to see people respond to the gospel, we dare not stoop to the level of easy-believism. Salvation is free but it’s not cheap. Jesus told us to count the costs. It’s a misrepresentation to preach an easy, superficial, undemanding “gospel.”

For Further Discussion:

1. Is it likely that you can lead someone to a saving knowledge of Christ in five minutes?

It’s possible if the person is ready, understands, and is under conviction, but it’s not likely to happen regularly.

2. What’s the danger of attaching a physical response to an invitation to be saved?

Someone might confuse the two – i.e., think he is saved because he participated in a physical act. This is especially true of children. They are often susceptible to peer pressure and suggestion, and desire to gain the leader’s approval. So they’ll do whatever the speaker asks, even if they don’t understand the Gospel.

3. What are the bases of assurance of salvation?

Believing the right doctrine, behaving the right way and the internal witness of the Holy Spirit.

4. Why is it important to tell people the costs associated with salvation?

1. Because Jesus told us to; 2. To prevent false professions; 3. To be honest.

1 R. T. Kendall, Once Saved, Always Saved (Chicago: Moody, 1983) 19 (emphasis in original).

Ibid., 52–53.

.“he cross not only brings Christ’s life to an end, it ends also the first life, the old life, of every one of his true followers. It destroys the old pattern . . . in the believer’s life, and brings it to an end. Then God who raised Christ from the dead raises the believer and a new life begins. . . . We must do something about the cross, and one of two things only we can do – flee it or die upon it.” A.W. Tozer, The Roots of Righteousness, pp. 61–63. Quoted in Faith Works, p. 205 .