Saturday, March 25, 2006

Assurance of Salvation

For many years he had known and believed the truth, but his views of Christ had been rather sought in the reflection of the inward work of the Holy Spirit in his heart than in the contemplation of the finished righteousness of Christ, and he had neither peace nor joy in believing …At last, to use his own earnest words in a remarkable letter published by John Newton, “The cloud which covered the mercy-seat fled away, Jesus appeared as he is! My eyes were not turned inward, but outward, The Gospel was the glass in which I beheld him …. I now stand upon a shore of comparative rest. Believing, I rejoice. When in search of comfort, I resort to the testimony of God; this is the field which contains the pearl of great price. Frames and feelings are, like other created comforts, passing away. What an unutterable source of consolation it is that the foundation of our faith and hope, is ever immutably the same! – the sacrifice of Jesus as acceptable and pleasing to the Father as ever it was! … Formerly the major part of my thoughts centred either upon the darkness I felt or the light I enjoyed. Now they are mainly directed to Jesus, what he hath done, suffered, and promised.”
[From Alexander Haldane, Lives of Robert and James Haldane, speaking of a testimony given by and Edinburgh merchant by the name of John Campbell. Quoted in Iain Murray, The Old Evangelicalism, p. 191).

1 comment:

Gary said...

Q: On what should we base our assurance of salvation? I know the Word and the promises of the Gospel are our rock, but how do we distinguish between real faith and mere intellectual assent? I ask this because many evangelicals make me nervous when they say that if one has doubts about one's salvation, one is probably not saved, because the Holy Spirit is supposed to provide inner assurance. (I guess this ties in to the whole Pietist problem.) But in the face of emotional ups and downs, moral failings, intellectual doubts, and confusion over doctrine, how can one know if one truly has faith in Christ?

A: Lutherans believe that faith is created and strengthened not by looking inside of one's self (to one's own faith and/or doubts) but by looking outside of one's self (to God's Word and promises in Christ). Therefore, assurance of salvation is to be sought by looking to God's Word and promises in Christ (which create and strengthen the faith through which one is saved), not by looking inward at the strength or weakness of one's own faith (which creates either pride and false assurance or doubt and lack of assurance). Anxiety regarding doubts, strength of faith and certainty of salvation are signs of faith (however weak it may be), not signs of unbelief, since the unbeliever has no concern or anxiety about doubts, faith or salvation.