In chapter 8 (“Can we know that we are saved?”) Sproul addresses the topic of the assurance of one’s salvation. He mentions one of the “crucial questions” of D. James Kennedy’s “ministry,” Evangelism Explosion:
“The first is, ‘Have you come to the place in your spiritual life where you know for sure that when you die you will go to heaven?’ Experienced workers say the vast majority of people answer this question in the negative. Most people are not sure of their future salvation. Many, if not most, raise serious doubts about whether such assurance is even possible.
When I was in seminary, a poll was taken of my classmates. Of that particular group of seminarians approximately 90 percent said that they were not sure of their salvation. Many expressed anger at the question, seeing in it a kind of implied presumptuousness. It seems arrogant to some people even to talk about assurance of salvation” (p. 163).
Those doubting seminarians expressed anger at the “implied presumptuousness” because they believe that salvation, at least in part, depends on their own efforts at religion and morality (cf. Romans 9:30-32; 10:3).
Interestingly those who initially expressed anger would most likely concede that it is possible for one to *arrive eventually* at an assurance that is not presumptuous. Evidently to them assurance based on “the sure and certain promise of God through the work of Jesus Christ alone” (CCF, V.C.6.) is presumption, while assurance based on so-called “graciously enabled” obedience to the law and continued repentance is not presumption.
Apparently they would be angered with the teaching that “God gives every believer assurance of salvation” (CCF, V.C.6.) as an immediate and inevitable fruit of regeneration, but they would NOT be angered with the teaching that assurance is obtained, maintained, or regained by establishing a righteousness of their own as part of the grounds of acceptance before God (cf. Romans 10:1-4). In short, they have not assurance of salvation because they have not faith in Christ (for more, see the OTC article “Faith is Assurance”).
“With respect to the assurance of salvation there are basically four kinds of people in the world. (1) There are people who are not saved who know that they are not saved. (2) There are people who are saved who do not know that they are saved. (3) There are people who are saved who know that they are saved. (4) There are people who are not saved who ‘know’ that they are saved.
It is the last group that throws a monkey wrench into the works. If there are people who are not saved who ‘know’ that they are saved, how can the people who are saved know that they really are saved?
To answer that question we must first ask another question. Why do some people have a false assurance of their salvation? Actually it is relatively easy. False assurance stems chiefly from false understanding of what salvation requires or entails” (pp. 163-164).
Sproul asserts that there “are people who are saved who do not know that they are saved.” Sproul not only contradicts Romans 8:16, he also opens a floodgate that enables all sorts of people into the Kingdom apart from knowledge and belief of the gospel (cf. Romans 1:16-17; 10:1-4). Ironically false assurance comes from Sproul’s teaching of assurance based on works. And Sproul’s teaching of assurance based on works stems chiefly from a false understanding of what salvation requires or entails. R.C. Sproul (and those who believe like him) are stumbling at the Stone of stumbling. They misunderstand the function of the law of God — which is NOT a means of working up a self-righteous assurance of salvation, but a means of resting in a Substitute who met in full (“It is finished!”) all that salvation requires and entails (Galatians 3:24).
“God requires perfection to get into his heaven. We either find that perfection in ourselves or we find it somewhere else, in someone else. If we think we can find it in ourselves, we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us” (p. 166).
Those who doubt their salvation are seeking to find a righteousness in themselves that will give them assurance of entrance into His heaven (cf. Romans 10:1-4).
“We can have a proper understanding of what salvation is and still delude ourselves about whether or not we meet the requirements of salvation. We may think that we have faith when in fact we have no faith. We may think that we are believing in Christ but the Christ we embrace is not the biblical Christ. We may think that we love God but the God we love is an idol” (p. 167).
The above contradicts the teaching of Scripture which says things like, “I know in Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day” (1 Timothy 1:12) and that it is impossible for the regenerate sheep to follow a false shepherd (John 10:1-5). Ironically for Sproul he has NOT “embraced” the Biblical Christ and the “god” he loves is a less-than-sovereign idol.
Sproul, commenting on 2 Peter 1:10-11, asserts the following:
“There are many Christians who are indeed in a state of salvation who lack assurance. To be lacking in assurance is a grave hindrance to spiritual growth. The person who is not sure of his state of grace is exposed to doubts and terrors in his soul. He lacks an anchor for his spiritual life. His uncertainty makes him tentative in his walk with Christ” (p. 168).
Sproul with cavalier hands takes hold of the rock of 2 Peter 1:10-11 in a futile attempt to wring the blood of self-righteous endeavor out of it (cf. Romans 10:3). He erroneously thinks that the elect of God make their calling and election sure by means of establishing their own righteousness.
The apostle Paul teaches that true Christians have NOT received a spirit of bondage again to fear, but a Spirit of Adoption. Sproul forcefully contradicts the God-inspired apostle. Sproul says further that some true Christians lack an anchor. But God through the writer to the Hebrews says the exact opposite:
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus” (Hebrews 6:19-20).
Sadly Sproul teaches the repugnant notion that the Christian’s faith can at times be anchored in his own self-righteous navel rather than perpetually anchored in the One who enters and intercedes for them in the Holy of Holies.
Sproul commenting on Psalm 51:
“If we read his prayer of confession in Psalm 51 we can hear the lament of a man who is struggling to regain his assurance … The saints have called it the ‘dark night of the soul’” (p. 172).
Sproul reads his pseudo-pious Puritan Reformed nonsense into the text. David’s plea to God for renewal of a stedfast spirit and for not taking His Holy Spirit from him is for the purpose of restoring the joy, NOT the assurance of God’s salvation (vs. 10-12).
Sproul asked in the subheading “Can we lose our salvation?,” and proceeds with the following:
“We have already stated that it is possible to lose our assurance of salvation. That does not mean, however, that we lose the salvation itself” (p. 173).
When you think about it there is much similarity between the Arminians who affirmed actual loss of salvation to the truly regenerate (see Conference of Remonstrants 11/7), and Calvinists like Sproul who affirm that only assurance of salvation can be lost. These Remonstrants believed that a truly regenerate person could fall away into eternal reprobation because they believed in salvation conditioned on their own efforts. Similarly those who lose assurance of salvation do so because they too, believe that salvation is conditioned on their own efforts. They become “more and more assured” as they do more and more works or conquer more and more sins. Their bold assurance to enter into the Holiest (if or when they obtain assurance) comes NOT from the blood of Jesus Christ ALONE, but from their own self-righteous supposedly “graciously-enabled” endeavors (cf. Hebrews 10:19). Next Page (Table of Contents)