A.: Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavour to walk in all good conscience before him, may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God’s promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.
Q. 81: Are all true believers at all times assured of their present being in the estate of grace, and that they shall be saved?
A.: Assurance of grace and salvation not being of the essence of faith, true believers may wait long before they obtain it; and, after the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and intermitted, through manifold distempers, sins, temptations, and desertions; yet are they never left without such a presence and support of the Spirit of God as keeps them from sinking into utter despair.
Dr. Morecraft starts us out with the five prevalent views on the assurance of salvation:
Roman Catholicism denies that a certain assurance of salvation can be attained except by eminent saints and ascetics to whom God gives it by extraordinary revelation. Otherwise, it is not attainable, not to be sought for, not beneficial if attainable, and not even desirable.
Non-Reformed Protestants (Arminians), teach that certain assurance of final salvation is not attainable in this life, and that to doubt one’s salvation is beneficial and conducive to humility.
Followers of John Wesley believe that, although salvation can be loseable, assurance of present salvation, followed by some hope of final salvation, is possible and essential to the life of every believer.
Fundamentalism holds that one should have assurance obtained by reason
without the necessity of a changed life to prove the reality of faith. (1) He who has the Son has life. (2) I have the Son by faith. (3) Therefore I have eternal life. (4) I should never doubt or question my salvation no matter what I do.
Reformed Christianity teaches that the believer can know for certain without special divine revelation that his sins are forgiven forever, that he is a new creature in Christ, and that he is eternally accepted with God, from Whom nothing can separate him in life or in death.
Over against Wesleyanism, Roman Catholicism and the charismatic movement, the certain and undeceivable assurance of eternal salvation is possible for a believer without extraordinary revelation from God. It is true that this assurance is ours as the Holy Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God, but this
witness of the Spirit is not a verbal and audible revelation from God; it is more like enlightening assistance in our self-examination and inner persuasion from the Spirit regarding the reality of God’s work within us. .....
So then, assurance of salvation does not come by extraordinary Divine revelation but by faith grounded upon the truth of God’s promises. (260-261)
If a purpose of the Bible is that believers may know with certainty they have eternal life, then the implication is that this assurance of salvation is attainable. (261)
“We” as believers can know that after we die, i.e., after our “earthly tent…is torn down,” we will live happily with God, i.e., “a building from God… eternal in the heavens.” Paul is speaking with certainty about these things, not simply as an apostle, but as a believer in Jesus. (262-263)
If God will not withhold any good thing from His people, then certainly He will not always withhold assurance of our salvation from us, which is one of the greatest of all the “good things” God can give us. (263)
The true believer in Jesus has within his new heart several sources (springs and fountains), from which assurance of salvation flows. True saving faith in Christ is one such “spring.” ....
Hope is another “spring” of assurance in the believer’s heart: “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27)....“Souls that are big in hope,will not be long without sweet assurance.”10 ....
A good, clear conscience cleansed by the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:14), is another spring of assurance in the believer: “For our confidence [glorying] is this, the testimony of our conscience that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you” (2 Cor. 1:12). ....
Lastly, love is another spring of assurance in the believer—“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14).
10. Brooks, Heaven on Earth, 22. (264-265)
...He [Holy Spirit] is commanding us to exert all effort, immediately, with all seriousness to make certain that we are in fact saved people. Do not cease your efforts until you have obtained this certainty. (266)
The way to assurance of salvation is the diligent and increasing adding to our faith in Christ moral superiority, knowledge of God and His revealed will, self-discipline, perseverance in well doing, godliness of character and behavior, brotherly kindness and Christian love. As we purpose and endeavor to manifest this Christ-likeness
in our lives as believers, we become more and more certain about our eternal salvation in Christ.
The second means for obtaining full assurance is self-examination: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5). (267)
The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is a sign and seal of the blessings of salvation to the believer. It has as its purpose to assure those who partake in faith that they do in fact belong to the Lord. (268)
“Joy and rejoicing is a consequent and effect of assurance… and therefore… believers may attain unto a well-grounded assurance of their everlasting happiness, else it is impossible that they should ‘rejoice evermore’.” 17. Brooks, Heaven on Earth, 29. (269)
The assurance of salvation attainable by all true believers in Jesus is an infallible assurance, or as the Larger Catechism has it: Such as truly believe in Christ… may… be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation....It is an assurance that is certain, unerring, undeceivable, and
therefore full of rejoicing, peace, and sense of security. (270)
False assurance is a reality because self-deception is a reality. A person can be certainly persuaded that he is at peace with God, when in fact he is not....Such a position is presumption, i.e., presuming one’s self to be a Christian, when he has no reason whatever to think of himself as such, largely because he is a stranger to selfexamination, and he has adopted the rationalistic and deceptive approach
to assurance of Fundamentalism, or else he thinks he believes what is demanded of him by the gospel, but he is mistaken. (270)
Thomas Brooks, in his book on true assurance, entitled Heaven on Earth, gives us eight differences by which true assurance is distinguished from counterfeit assurance.
True and well-grounded assurance of salvation is accompanied by a deep admiration of God’s love and favor in Christ. ...
It produces in the heart an earnest yearning after a clearer and fuller enjoyment of God in Christ. ....
It is sometimes violently attacked by Satan, who hates joy and peace in the believer. ...
It makes a believer as bold as a lion; valiant for Christ and His kingdom, even in the face of danger and death. ....
A well-grounded assurance of a person’s own eternal happiness and salvation will make him endeavor to increase the happiness and holiness of others....“Assurance
will strongly put men upon the winning of others by counsel, by example, by prayer, and by communicating their spiritual experiences to them. Assurance will furnish a man with will, skill, and experience to confute all those false reports that vain men frequently cast upon the Lord and His ways.”21 ....
It strengthens a believer against all sin (Ezek. 16:60-63). ...
It is accompanied by love, humility and joy. True assurance makes the believer sing: “I will love Thee, O LORD, my strength” (Ps. 18:1). ....
It springs from the witness of the Holy Spirit together with the spirit of the believer that he is in truth a child of God: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16).
21. Brooks, Heaven on Earth, 293. (271-273)
The Catechism Question 80 sets forth the character of those to whom infallible assurance of salvation belongs as bearing two marks. They are those who truly believe in Christ and those who endeavour to walk in all good conscience before Him. (274)
(1) When a person believes in the name of the Son of God, God gives him eternal life immediately upon believing. (2) This eternal life God gives is in His Son. (3) To possess eternal life from God a person must have the Son of God as his Lord and Savior by faith. (4) Those who truly believe in Christ the Son of God may KNOW for certain that they have eternal life. (5) Because only those who believe in Jesus Christ have eternal life, only those who believe in Christ can be infallibly and undeceivably certain that they possess eternal life. (275)