The fifth objection is that if “assurance is of the essence of saving faith” were true, then from AD 100 until 1517, almost no one was born again.
This is not a Biblical argument. If we based our theology on this type of reasoning, then we certainly would not believe that only people who profess to be Christians are born again. Less than one person in three in the world today (31%) even professes to be a Christian. If truth is determined by what view allows the most people to get into Christ’s kingdom, then universalism would be true.
Additionally, this is an argument lacking solid evidence. It is true that we lack existing documents outside the Bible promoting eternal security before the Reformation. But that is easily explainable based on two factors. One, the printing press was not invented until ca. AD 1450. Two, very few of the handwritten books before the sixteenth century have survived. We really do not have an accurate way of determining what percentage of church people believed in eternal security prior to the Reformation. Even if there were many such books, the Catholic and Orthodox churches would have sought to destroy them. The Council of Trent (1545-63) pronounced an anathema on anyone who said that he was sure of his eternal destiny.
Paul makes clear in Romans 9 that there was a remnant of believing Jews in his day. He clearly is teaching that there will be a remnant of believing Jews in every generation. And, of course, there are also believing Gentiles in every generation.
Besides, if people were born again prior to the Reformation by believing in works salvation, then people are born again today by believing in works salvation.
That is essentially the sixth question. If assurance is of the essence of saving faith is true, then millions of Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants today are not born again.
I know some Free Grace people who believe that anyone who believes that Jesus is God and that He died on the cross for our sins and rose again is born again. These people believe that nearly all Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants today are born again, even if they believe in Lordship Salvation or works salvation.
The problem with that view is that it runs against the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles. John 5:39-40 contradicts that view. So does John 6:28-29; Acts 16:31; Eph 2:8-9; 1 Tim 1:16; Rev 22:17.
The Judaizers who were trying to bewitch the believers in Galatia were surely preaching Jesus’ deity, substitutionary death, and resurrection. Otherwise, they never would have received a hearing. But they were proclaiming works salvation, and Paul called their message a false gospel and said, “let them be accursed” (Gal 1:8-9). While anathema refers to a temporal curse, Paul makes it clear that the message of the Judaizers was not only not a saving message, but if the believers in Galatia bought into it, then they would fall from the present experience of grace (Gal 5:4), though, of course, they’d remain eternally secure.
Assurance is of the essence of saving faith. That is, a person is not born again until he believes in Jesus “for everlasting life” (1 Tim 1:16), or the equivalent (for permanent salvation, for irreversible justification, for an eternally secure relationship with God, for a guaranteed home forever in heaven/the kingdom, etc.).