But do Christians actually walk around on a daily basis with Blessed Assurance in their heart?! Unfortunately, my experience is that they do not. It reminds me of an story I read about the scientist Carl Sagan. A newspaper publisher sent a telegram to a noted astronomer: WIRE COLLECT IMMEDIATELY FIVE HUNDRED WORDS ON WHETHER THERE IS LIFE ON MARS. Sagan replied, “Nobody knows” 250 times. If someone wrote you an email asking, "In 500 words or less write back how you know you would go to heaven today if you died?" Would you email back "nobody knows" 250 times?
I believe there are two extremes when it comes to the view of Assurance of Salvation
- Eternal Security--also known as Once Saved Always Saved. There is a lot of historical background to understand this view, so I am forced to truncate it and will inevitably leave out good details. So I encourage you to study it on your own. In reaction to the Roman Catholic view and abuse of indulgences, the Protestant Reformation swung too far on some issues. John Calvin created the acrostic TULIP. Each letter stands for a doctrine. Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. If man it totally unable to choose God and God's grace is irresistible, then surely once man has been chosen by God he cannot fall away. This is the basis of Reformed Theology. They believe, without eternal security, the Bible would describe a situation where Christianity is a perpetual game of Russian Roulette; a life in which condemnation and salvation alternate every time we sin and confess, and we never know if we’re saved or not. I would agree with them that the Bible does not teach a perpetual game of Russian Roulette when it comes to Assurance. But it is too far, IMO, to ignore the plethora of verses that warn of falling away from the faith, in order to create a doctrine that emphasizes assurance.
- Eternal Insecurity--This term I made up. Nobody is a champion for this view for everyone believes the Bible exhorts a Christian to have assurance of salvation (1st John 5:13). What happens is people end up mixing law and grace. It creates a legalistic doctrine which chokes out any room for assurance. They live a lifestyle where they are never sure if they are ever good enough to still be saved. It is Galatianism all over again. The problem is when they forget salvation was initially by Grace and continues by Grace. That is, you become a Christian by grace through faith and you remain a Christian by grace through faith. When we focus on our own holiness to give us assurance it is no wonder we are eternally insecure. For we have never been good enough and will never be good enough for salvation. If God did not require us to be perfect to be offered salvation, then why would he require us to be perfect to keep salvation?
But herein sits the problem. As soon as you make a statement emphasizing assurance, people are going to say you are a Calvinist who believes in Eternal Security. Yet, if you emphasize the need for holy living and that grace is not a license to sin (à la. Romans 6), then people will focus on their own righteousness, realize they are not worthy, and lose all sense of assurance. I believe the proper focus is to understand how God views us once we become Christians. That will be the topic of my next post to finish the thoughts here. What is your view of Assurance?