Evidences of Assurance

Derek Thomas: The Westminster Confession of Faith insists that Christians may be “certainly assured that they are in the state of grace” (18:1) and goes on to assert that this “infallible assurance of faith” is “founded upon” three considerations: “the divine truth of the promises of salvation” “the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made” “the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are children of God” (18:2). The possibility of “certain” and “infallible” assurance is set against the backdrop of medieval and post-Reformation Roman Catholic views that paralyzed the church with an “assurance” that was at best “conjectural” (wishful thinking), based as it was on rigorous participation in a sacramental treadmill. Few epitomized the contrast more starkly than Cardinal Bellarmine (1542–1621), the personal theologian to Pope Clement VIII and ablest leader of the Counter-Reformation, who called the Protestant doctrine of assurance “the greatest of all heresies.” What, after all, could

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What Is Your Only Comfort?

  Dr. Kim Riddlebarger: Of all the Reformation-era catechisms, perhaps none is as well-loved as the Heidelberg Catechism. In the opening question and answer, the personal and distinctive tone of the catechism becomes evident. “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” This is not a theoretical question—”What would be necessary if God were to comfort sinners?” Rather, this is a very practical question—”How do I have comfort as long as I live and then when I die?” The key word in the opening question is comfort (German, trost). The word refers to our assurance and confidence in the finished work of Christ. This comfort extends to all of life and even to the hour of death. As one of the authors of the catechism (Zacharius Ursinus) puts it in his commentary on the catechism, this comfort entails “the assurance of the free remission of sin, and of reconciliation with God by and on account of Christ, and a

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Justification and Assurance According to John Calvin

Tom Schreiner: Justification by Faith Alone Calvin, like Luther, stresses that justification is by faith alone. A right relationship to God can’t be gained by works since all people sin, thus the only pathway to salvation is faith. Calvin is careful to say, however, that faith shouldn’t be construed as a work, as if faith itself justifies us, for if such were the case, then faith would be a good work that makes us right with God. Instead, faith is the instrument or vessel that joins us to Christ, and ultimately believers are justified by Christ as the crucified and risen one. Faith itself, strictly speaking, doesn’t justify. Rather, faith justifies as an instrument, receiving Christ for righteousness and life. Indeed, faith is not something that originates with human beings. Yes, human beings believe the gospel and are saved, and so in that sense faith is exercised by human beings. At the same time, however, faith ultimately comes from the Holy Spirit

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The Relationship between Warnings and Assurance

Andrew Wilson: Paul is a puzzle. He often warned his converts that if they didn’t persevere, or behaved in certain ways, they’d miss out on final salvation. He also assured his converts that, because of the faithfulness of God and his gift of the Spirit, they’d be preserved to the end without falling. As I say: a puzzle. Some people like the assurances (because they’re comforting), but don’t like the warnings (because they frighten believers). Some people like the warnings (because they take sin seriously), but don’t like the assurances (because they make people complacent). Some people don’t like either of them, because taken together they make it sound like John Calvin was right, and we can’t have that. Some people think Paul got himself in a hopeless tangle on the subject, and we should politely ignore him. WARNINGS AND ASSURANCE COMBINED Then there are those—we happy few—who try to have our cake and eat it too. The warnings are real:

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What Is the Greatest of All Protestant “Heresies”?

What Is the Greatest of All Protestant “Heresies,” according to Roman Catholic doctrine? Sinclair Ferguson: Let us begin with a church history exam question. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) was a figure not to be taken lightly. He was Pope Clement VIII’s personal theologian and one of the most able figures in the Counter-Reformation movement within sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism. On one occasion, he wrote: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ .” Complete, explain, and discuss Bellarmine’s statement. How would you answer? What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies? Perhaps justification by faith? Perhaps Scripture alone, or one of the other Reformation watchwords? Those answers make logical sense. But none of them completes Bellarmine’s sentence. What he wrote was: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance.” A moment’s reflection explains why. If justification is not by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone — if faith needs to be completed by works; if Christ’s work is somehow repeated; if grace

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Complete Assurance for Incomplete People

John Piper: By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14) Two things here are mightily encouraging for us in our imperfect condition as saved sinners. First, notice that Christ has perfected his people, and it is already complete. “For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” He has done it. And he has done it for all time. The perfecting of his people is complete and it is complete forever. Does this mean that Christians don’t sin? Don’t get sick? Don’t make mathematical errors in school? That we are already perfect in our behavior and attitudes? There is one clear reason in this very verse for knowing that is not the case. What is it? It’s the last phrase. Who are the people that have been perfected for all time? It is those who “are being sanctified.” The ongoing continuous action of the Greek present

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An Interview with Sam Storms on What the New Testament Really Teaches about Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security

00:00 – How did you come up with your new book’s title, Kept for Jesus?   00:32 – How do terms like “eternal security,” “perseverance,” and “assurance” relate to one another? 02:53 – What do different theological positions teach about eternal security? 05:13 – How would you respond to the claim that the Arminian perspective seems most consistent with our experience of seeing people fall away from the faith? 09:04 – Is assurance of salvation normative for the Christian life? 12:15 – Who do you envision using this book? Learn more, download an excerpt, or download a free bonus chapter, “A Primer on Perseverance.” “I have wrestled with the issue of assurance of salvation not just as a pastor counseling timid souls but as a sinner trusting in God. What a great help isKept for Jesus, then! Handling the relevant biblical texts with clarity and precision, Sam Storms has crafted real ministry with this book, working by the Spirit to

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