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Is Assurance Absolutely Certain?
Not According to Lordship Salvation!
by Bob Wilkin
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
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" Presbyterion 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
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