The Reformation and Assurance

No one can read New Testament Scripture honestly and conclude that salvation is earned by our works.  Nor can anyone honestly conclude that God wants us to torture our souls with wondering whether we are truly saved.

The saints of the Protestant Reformation understood this better than most; they were in awe of the grace of God; they were astounded that He would save anyone, let alone them.  They believed most heartily in assurance of salvation.  The whole point of their system of doctrine was that we must thank God, and God alone, for our salvation, and that thanks must arise from a joyful heart that is certain of its salvation.  How could you thank God for something if you didn’t know whether He had really given it to you?

The Reformation confessions and catechisms teach this quite clearly.  They also teach clearly the perseverance of the saints, and this created a hairline fracture in their system of doctrine.  That fracture  permits a squinty-eyed, untrusting person to begin to question whether, if he were really saved, he would commit the sins that he does.  Many Reformed people have widened this hairline fracture to an unbridgeable chasm, and as a result whole denominations have been led to abandon both the Bible’s clear teaching of assurance of salvation and the Reformers’ fine example in that area.

The charge is this:

First: relieve the agony of these squinty-eyed people by assuring them of their salvation through Christ’s promise—just as Paul and the early Protestants would have done;

Second:  attack as a hireling and a thief anyone who tortures Christ’s sheep by teaching them to doubt rather than to trust, to examine themselves in morbid introspection rather than to look to Christ’s promise for assurance.  The apostles attacked such teaching, as did the early Protestants, and so should you;

Finally:  read the early Protestants and their descendants charitably, as fellow heirs of the grace of God.  They are our people, whether we like them or not.  We will spend eternity with them; we might as well begin being charitable now.  Remember that in every age God has had His people, and they have had their errors.  As the early Protestants had theirs, we have ours.  We undoubtedly believe contradictory things, just as they did, and our flaws will come to light in due time, just as theirs have.  God promises us that “with the judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with what measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”  Therefore, be kind in your judgment of them and humble in your assessment of yourself.


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