Calvary Road Baptist Church



We Baptists have always embraced the benefits of the assurance of salvation. We know that the difference between eternal security and assurance of salvation is actually the difference between a fact and a feeling. Eternal security is a fact, while assurance of salvation is a feeling, a confidence. Baptists, though we are essentially a fact driven people, have nevertheless embraced assurance of salvation as a great source of joy and delight in the Christianís life. But to the degree Baptists have been influenced by the theology and practice of Charles G. Finney, the 19th century evangelist and Bible college president who did so much to overturn effective evangelism and replace it with decisionism[1], we have also suffered from what I term the plague of false assurance.

Let me give you a typical example of how decisionism and this plague of false assurance go hand in hand: A soul winner goes out soul winning to win someone to Christ. During the course of that activity, the soul winner knocks on a door that is answered by a junior high school student and the two begin to talk. Over the course of about ten minutes, sticking closely to the script that was memorized when he trained to be a soul winner, the soul winner persuades the lad to close his eyes and utter the words of a prayer he leads him to repeat. Once the lad has repeated the prayer to trust Christ, the soul winner then takes the fellow he assumes to be a new Christian to First John 5.13, ďThese things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God,Ē and gives him the assurance of his salvation.

Let me state that although it is possible for a sinner to come to faith in Christ in a manner similar to what I have already described, it is also entirely possible, using the same approach, for a sinner to do exactly the same thing without being saved. When such a thing occurs, would anyone know the difference between the genuinely saved and the completely lost person, after they both supposedly prayed some type of sinnerís prayer? Obviously, the answer is no. Yet, although most people would admit to having no idea who is and who is not saved after such an exchange between a soul winner and a sinner, the soul winner is typically trained to do everything he can to give assurance of salvation to the hopefully new Christian before ending that soul winning encounter.

However, what if the hopefully new Christian is not really an actual new Christian? What if the sinner is still lost, as many people will admit to being after such exchanges have taken place between them and a soul winner? Must we not grant that in such a case where the hopefully new Christian is not really a new Christian that the assurance of salvation given to him is not legitimately an assurance of his salvation?

Will you not consider even the possibility, then, of someone having assurance of his salvation that is not legitimate? False assurance of salvation would certainly be any assurance of salvation someone has who is not truly saved. Can that be denied? Certainly not. False assurance of salvation might also be a genuine Christianís assurance of salvation, if that assurance is based upon unscriptural foundations.

If assurance of salvation is a personís certainty that his soul is safe in the care of Jesus, let us consider the possibility of that personís certainty being wrong, of his soul not being safe in the care of Jesus, or of him being certain when he has no business being certain that all is well with his soul.

Four considerations for you:




Most Christians think it is every personís right to be assured of his salvation, to know that you know you are going to heaven. However, what if assurance is not a right? What if assurance is sometimes wrong? What if someone is positive that he occupies a position of favor with God and that all is well with his soul, but he is mistaken? Have you ever considered that possibility?

Consider those Jews in John chapter 8 who had such great assurance of their salvation. In verse 39, they responded to Jesus by saying, ďAbraham is our father,Ē suggesting that their relationship with God was cemented by their ancestor Abrahamís relationship with God. Then, in verse 41, they come right out and say that God is their Father. However, the Lord Jesus Christ refutes their assertions, showing the Bible believer that it is possible for a person to have assurance of salvation and to be entirely mistaken in that assurance.

Lest you think false assurance is a problem that was confined to Christís earthly ministry, consider the effort by the Apostle Paul to persuade the Corinthian Christians to examine themselves to see whether they were in the faith, Second Corinthians 13.5, though there is no hint that any of them felt uneasy about their salvation. In other words, Paul told Christians with assurance of their salvation that they needed to check themselves out to make sure they were in the faith. That suggests that their assurance of salvation was not legitimate, or was not founded upon Bible truth.

As well, what about Paulís comment to the Galatians in Galatians 4.11, where he writes, ďI am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vainĒ? Why did he write those words? Though they were confident of their Christianity, having much assurance, the Apostle Paul began to have doubts about them because of their behavior. He entertained the notion that their assurance could have been false assurance. Thus, the Apostle Paul shows us that assurance is sometimes mistaken.

Therefore, we know there is such a thing as false assurance and that it is something more than an abstract idea. People really can be wrong about their strong and positive feelings that all is well between them and God. Sometimes lost people can be wrong about their assurance of salvation. As well, sometimes Christians can be wrong about their assurance. It is established, then, that false assurance of salvation does exist with both saints and sinners.




First, consider once again that there are two kinds of people who can have false assurance of their salvation. There is the lost person, who has solid confidence that all is well with his soul, and that when he dies he will certainly go to heaven, and there is the Christian who really is saved and who has the same kind of solid confidence that he will go to heaven when he dies. Both the lost man and the Christian, as we have seen, can have false assurance.

With the lost man who thinks he is saved and is not, as well as the Christian who has great confidence, false assurance in both situations is related to their assurance being based upon an unscriptural foundation, not really knowing what the basis for scriptural assurance of oneís salvation ought to be.

Though we do not have the time to deal with it in great detail this evening, this plague of false assurance has developed as a direct result of the decisionism advance by Charles Finney in the 19th century. Before his time, pastors and missionaries typically treated new converts as hopeful Christians, knowing full well that the events surrounding their so-called conversion experiences could be very misleading as indicators of a personís true spiritual state.

The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 provides great insight into this plague of false assurance. Matthew 13.3-8:


3      And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

4      And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

5      Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

6      And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

7      And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

8      But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.


The interpretation is given by our Lord in Matthew 13.18-23:


18     Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

19     When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

20     But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

21     Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

22     He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

23     But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.


Briefly, the parable our Lord Jesus taught pictures four kinds of soils, with each being a particular response to the gospel, and with only the final example being an example of real conversion. This is the person who hears and understands, and who bears fruit. The other three are examples of those who respond in one way or the other, but who are not saved.

Let me read again the second reaction to the gospel in the parable, which is clearly the reaction of someone who is not saved. Matthew 13.20-21:


20     But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

21     Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.


In this parable our Lord Jesus Christ clearly teaches that an unsaved person can hear the gospel, respond very favorably, yet not actually be truly saved. Thus, what do we know from the response of someone who receives Godís Word with joy? We know that he can still be lost, according to Matthew 13.20-21. He can also be saved, since some who are truly converted do respond in this way when they come to Christ.

The point that is oftentimes lost on most people is that a personís affirmative reaction when he hears the gospel, his joyful response, is no indication one way or the other of whether the sinner really was saved. Thus, whenever someone bases his assurance of salvation on the kind of reaction he had to the gospel when he responded to it in a positive way has a false assurance. Furthermore, when you consider that some of those who respond to the gospel with joy are still lost, and some who respond to the gospel with joy are actually saved, then you have both lost and saved people with a false assurance of salvation, an assurance that is based upon that single event in the past.

How many Christians do you know who, when asked, will tell you that they know they are saved because of some past conversion experience they remember vividly? As well, many of you know people who you know are not saved, but who nevertheless are convinced they are Christians because of some past conversion experience they remember vividly.

The common feature in false assurance, with both the lost and the saved who are plagued with false assurance, is their reliance upon a past experience they remember vividly as a source of their assurance that they are safe and secure in Christ. With Christians it is their conversion experience, with unsaved people it is what they wrongly misinterpret as their conversion experience.

I submit to you that the error arises as soon as a person develops a fixation upon a past experience that he vividly remembers and uses as a basis for his assurance of salvation. Whether he actually got saved at the time of that past event he vividly remembers or not, I submit to you that no one has any scriptural basis for using such past events to assure themselves they are truly saved.

To state the matter another way, God does not use past events to assure people that they really are Christians.




It may surprise you to conceive that there can be, that there is, danger in assurance. We seem to be so sure that it is always right to be sure. Scriptural assurance is a wonderful thing, in that it properly results from the precious indwelling Holy Spirit giving you peace and joy and the associated feelings of well-being and serenity that flow from peace of mind and joy of heart. However, what danger is a person in when he has feelings of well-being and serenity that are not produced by the Holy Spiritís active work in his life, but are delusions?

The dangers of the plague of false assurance in a lost personís life are obvious to us all. Any lost man who thinks he is going to heaven will greatly resist the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, and will therefore be immune to the threats and promises of the gospel message. After all, we recognize the importance of the Holy Spiritís convicting and convincing work to persuade the sinner of the danger of his lost condition and his desperate need of Christ. That being the case, why do we encourage soul winners to immediately work to give assurance of salvation to someone who has just prayed a sinnerís prayer when we have Bible proof that you cannot immediately tell after conversion who is saved and who is lost? The truly converted person does not need to be given such assurance, since he is on his way to heaven anyway, while the person who is still lost can be severely harmed if he is falsely persuaded that he is now a Christian, making it all the more difficult to bring him to Christ. Why do soul winners mindlessly work to give assurance to people who may be greatly harmed by false assurance? Presumption. There is little thought associated with what is commonly passed off as soul winning these days, and even less concern for the welfare of the sinner who is mishandled by people who pass themselves off as soul winners.

What is not obvious to us all are the dangers associated with false assurance in the life of the person who truly is a Christian. Turn in your Bible to Galatians 5.22, where we see part of the fruit in the life of the believer of the Holy Spirit of God: ďBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.Ē Do you not see, from this verse, that peace of mind and heart is supposed to be the Holy Spiritís doing in a Christianís life? Thus, real assurance of salvation springs from the peace of mind and joy of heart the indwelling Holy Spirit produces in the Christian. Therefore, if you base your assurance of salvation on some event that took place in the distant past you have effectively eliminated the Holy Spiritís peace and joy from having any role in your assurance. That means, you can do anything you want, engage in any sinful activity you choose, without such wickedness having any impact on your assurance of salvation. Is that a good thing? Is Godís plan for assurance really so divorced from a Christianís behavior that he can commit any sin he wants without it affecting his sense of well-being about the safety of his soul? No, it is not. Right doctrine encourages holiness, while it is false doctrine that works to opposite ends. Godís plan for the Christianís assurance of salvation is not rooted in the past, but in the present. Assurance of salvation is supposed to result from the sense of confidence and well-being that results from the Holy Spirit of God producing peace, love, and joy in the Christianís life. Assurance of salvation is something that no unsaved person should ever be able to counterfeit, and they cannot counterfeit assurance unless they falsely base their assurance upon some past event. Godís plan for assurance of salvation makes it impossible for any lost person to be assured of his salvation, because he is not saved. Godís plan for assurance of salvation makes it impossible for any saved person who is committing willful sin to be assured of his salvation, because when he is sinning the Spirit of God is grieved and withholds the peace, love, and joy that is necessary for continued assurance. Consider. The Christian commits a sin. The Spirit of God is grieved and the Christian loses his peace of mind and his joy. He then begins to wonder, ďIs my relationship with God what it should be? Would a real Christian be doing what I am now doing?Ē He is then motivated to begin addressing the issue of the sin he committed in the hopes that his assurance will be restored. Remember Davidís prayer in Psalm 51.10-12:


10     Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

11     Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

12     Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.


Notice, this issue of assurance has nothing to do with losing your salvation. The believer is secure in Christ. But assurance is not supposed to be a once and for all time settled matter with the Christian. Assurance is supposed to be the present comfort and delight the Christian has that corresponds to his present behavior and service to the Lord. However, with this plague of false assurance that afflicts so many Christians, they sin and continue in their sins because their false assurance never wavers. Why should it waver? It has no bearing on present behavior, and works independently of the Holy Spirit. That is not a good thing, since it enables Christians to flagrantly sin without the loss of assurance that is supposed to happen when the Spirit of God is grieved by the Christianís sin.




I think Christianity has been greatly harmed by this plague of false assurance. With lost people having assurances they have no business having, and with Christians having assurances unrelated to their behavior, no wonder the cause of Christ is in the sad state that we find it in today.

My friend, no one has any business feeling good about his relationship with God when he is lost, or when he is wallowing in sin, whether he be a Christian or not. Assurance of salvation is properly reserved for that child of God who follows his Lord, who lives a consecrated and holy life, and who is a credit to the cause of Christ. The remedy, then, for false assurance, is twofold: First, it involves an assurance of salvation that is properly based upon the way you are living now. Next, it involves the Christian living a spiritual life so the indwelling Spirit of God will be pleased with your life and free to produce the love, joy, and peace that leads directly to the kind of assurance of salvation God wants you to have.

Let me show you some verses that deal with this matter of assurance, so you can see for yourself what the proper basis for assurance is supposed to be in Godís Word:


John 13.35: ďBy this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.Ē


Romans 8.14: ďFor as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.Ē


Romans 8.16: ďThe Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.Ē


First John 2.3: ďAnd hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.Ē


Please notice that in each of those four verses, just as with all the others that bear on this issue of assurance of salvation, the confidence you have springs from something that is occurring in the present, not something that occurred long ago. Therefore, you see, the remedy for false assurance is real assurance. Real assurance springs directly from your present conduct giving rise to confidence, a confidence that only a Christian would behave as you are now behaving. Such behavior is made possible by Godís grace, by the indwelling Spirit of God, and by the new life you have in Christ. That kind of assurance is not possible for any sinner, and is not possible for any Christian committing willful sin.


Turn to Second Corinthians 13.5: ďExamine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?Ē That verse was written to Christians who had a false assurance of salvation. Paulís desire was that they have an assurance based upon their present behavior, not some event in their past, and not even their past conversion experience. Which brings us to you. Do you have assurance of your salvation? Is it false assurance based upon a past event? If it is, you may very well have assurance and actually be unsaved.

This verse does not advocate you examining yourself, as though any individual was competent to evaluate himself. Rather, this is an exhortation to a congregation to examine themselves, which is properly done when one Christian is carefully dealt with by another. That is something you may want to consider, Christian.

[1] Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a Lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved.

Conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit, which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinnerís standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert. The objective side of salvation is justification. The subjective side of salvation is regeneration. The result is conversion.

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