What does assurance of salvation mean? To me assurance of salvation means absolute certainty that I am saved. I know without a doubt that I have eternal life. Why? Because Jesus said that “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). That and many other promises in Scripture affirm that Jesus guarantees eternal life to all who trust Him for it. Since I believe His promise, I know with 100% certainty that I have eternal life.
To Lordship Salvationists assurance of salvation means something less than absolute certainty. They suggest that a person can be confident that he is saved, but not absolutely certain. Commenting on the Roman Catholic charge (from the Council of Trent and the Roman Catholic dictionary of theology) that Protestants believe that absolute certainty is possible for believers, Robert Peterson writes:
- Protestants do not claim the “absolute” certainty that Rome rejects. The reformers acknowledged that believers can waver in faith. Nevertheless, confidence of salvation is possible, even normal, for God’s people (“Christian Assurance: Its Possibility and Foundations”
- 18 :11).
Note well: confidence, not absolute certainty is possible according to Peterson and others who share his views. Why is this? Because they suggest that the promises in Scripture to the believer are not enough for assurance. Those promises are necessary, they say, but not sufficient. In addition one needs the inner witness of the Spirit and the persevering works of the believer. Since both of those are subjective and are subject to change, one cannot have absolute certainty.
Recently the National Basketball Association had its annual draft lottery. I was interested because I live in Dallas and our team, the Dallas Mavericks, had far and away the worst record in the NBA this past year. Dallas had more ping pong balls than any other team in the lottery. How confident was I that Dallas would win the lottery and get the first pick? Far less than absolutely certain! It turned out that Dallas did not get the first, second, or even the third pick!
Lordship Salvation “assurance” is like that. The best anyone can hope for is to have enough good works so that he or she is somewhat confident. However, even with a lot of good works a person may prove to be unsaved, just as the Dallas Mavericks failed in the lottery, even with the lion’s share of the ping pong balls. Such “assurance” is not very assuring.
Peterson is aware of our view. He writes: “The Grace Evangelical Society want[s] to make assurance completely certain. . . The society acknowledges only one biblical foundation for assurance-saving faith” (p. 23). A little later on he adds, “The Bible teaches that there are three foundations of assurance and we dare not reduce these to one” (D. 23).
Actually it is the Westminster Confession of Faith and not God’s Word which teaches that there are three foundations of assurance. The Bible teaches that there is only one foundation of assurance: the promises of God.
All we need to disprove the Lordship Salvation view of “assurance” (I put assurance in quotes since their view is not assurance at all) is one biblical example of someone who had assurance solely on the basis of God’s promise. There are many. The apostles knew with 100% certainty (Luke 10:20; John 13:10). so did Timothy (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:5), Titus (Titus 1:4), Martha (John 11:25-27), the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:30-34), Cornelius (Acts 10:43-48), and at least 120 people on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:15; 2:1-21; 11: 15). All of these had 100% certainty of their salvation. The promises of the Word of God were enough for them.
Absolute certainty is the birthright of every believer! Indeed, the person who lacks absolute certainty is not at that moment believing the Gospel. For if I believe the Gospel, I have assurance. The Gospel is assurance. This does not mean, however, that one who lacks assurance is necessarily unsaved. A believer can lose his or her assurance by taking their eyes off of the promises of God. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Lordship Salvation counsels: “The Bible teaches that there are three foundations of assurance and we dare not reduce these to one.” In other words, we dare not stand only upon the promises of God!
Lordship Salvation teaching says that the promises of God’s Word are necessary for assurance of salvation, but not sufficient. That is eerily close to the Roman Catholic view that the death of Christ is necessary for our salvation, but not sufficient. Sadly, Lordship Salvation truly is, as Dr. Earl Radmacher recently charged, a return not to Wittenberg (where Luther nailed his 95 theses), but to Rome.
Is assurance absolutely certain? It depends on what you consult. According to the Council of Trent and the Westminster Confession of Faith, the answer is no. According to God’s Word the answer is yes. Amen!