By Mike Cocoris
How soon after trusting Christ can a person know that he has eternal life? There are two basic answers to that question.1 One view teaches that from the moment of faith a person can have assurance of eternal life. A second view insists that a newborn Christian cannot have immediate assurance of salvation.
The first view teaches that assurance is available at the moment of faith. The one who trusts Christ has eternal life (John 3:16; 3:36; 5:24; etc.). In fact, the very reason a person trusts in Christ as his Savior is so that he can go to heaven! Since faith secures eternal life a new believer can be told that God promises eternal life to all who believe in Jesus Christ. The new believer can take God at His Word and know that he is going to heaven.
The view that new believers cannot have assurance of salvation is taught in some Reformed circles and by many Lordship Salvationists. Advocates of this view claim that assurance is based on our works and since a new believer has not had enough time to produce sufficient good works to demonstrate “genuine faith” he cannot have assurance of salvation.2
Recently a Lordship Salvationist and I engaged in a lengthy discussion concerning the question, “What must I do to be saved?” At one point I asked him, “If I led someone to Christ tonight, could that person go home, lay his head down on his pillow, and know for sure that he was going to heaven?” The man with whom I was talking replied emphatically, “No!”
I walked away from that conversation with two conclusions. First, I would continue to do what I have done for the last thirty years: give new believers assurance of their salvation based on the Word of God and not on their works. Second, the next time I discuss salvation with a Lordship Salvationist I will ask him, “Can a new believer have assurance of his salvation?” It seems to me that the inability of Lordship Salvationists to harmonize the promises of Scripture with their view of the gospel shows the bankruptcy of their position.
2How long would one have to be a Christian before he had produced enough good works to make assurance possible? This is an unanswerable question for people holding this view. Logically absolute assurance would never be possible in this life if this view were correct since all believers would wonder whether they had produced enough good works yet to prove their salvation.