Lack of personal assurance of salvation comes from having an incomplete understanding of salvation and its requirement. A proper understanding of salvation, leading to assurance, is rooted in theology, and is based on the doctrine of election. Election is unto salvation. “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13).
A distinction can be made between election, and salvation, but they cannot be torn apart. Those who hold a prescient, or foreknowledge view of election, believe that God elects to salvation people whom He knows from eternity will believe in Christ. On the basis of His prior knowledge of what people will do, God elects those individuals.
The Arminian view of election makes the deciding factor of salvation the free will of man. Man thus becomes his own savior. Moreover, God’s omniscience is destroyed, for He comes into knowledge by looking down the corridors of time to see what an individual will do with the gospel. The Biblical view of foreknowledge is that God foreknows something because He has decreed all things that will come to pass. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts `15:`8).
Election and salvation are not rooted in man, but purely on the grace and mercy of God. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16). According to Scripture, if a person is elect, they are saved. If a person is saved, they are elect.
Those who believe that election is based upon their own performance, exercising their free will in a positive manner toward Christ, tend to struggle with assurance of salvation because if it is up to the individual to get saved, it naturally follows, that it is up to the individual to stay saved.
Here is the conclusion. None of those who are elect fails to be saved. To be sure of salvation, let the heart know that it is numbered among the elect. “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Pet. 1:10). Election is not to make salvation possible. The purpose of election is to save.
In the High Priestly Prayer, the truth is set forth that the Father gives the gift of the redeemed to the Son. All whom the Father gives to the Son comes to Him, and those who come to Christ are kept by Him, and He loses none of them. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. 7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. 9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:6-12).
Assurance of salvation is not to be based upon a person’s confidence to persevere, but upon the faithfulness of God the Father and God the Son. The saints do persevere, but the reason why the saints persevere is because they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and are preserved or kept by the power of God. “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:5).
The ordo salutis, or, the order of salvation, is also to be considered in the discussion of the relationship between election, and assurance of salvation. There is a sequence of actions or events that take place that are the discreet aspects of all that is involved in salvation. There is a logical order, rather than a temporal order.
We say that we are justified by faith alone. The question is, “How long after we possess true saving faith are we justified?” “Is it seconds, five minutes, five months, or five years?” The answer is that the moment we are justified, or declared righteous in the sight of God, we are saved. Moreover, in the very moment of salvation, we are justified.
Justification and faith are coterminous with respect to time. However, the logical priority order of salvation is that a person is justified by faith, for we are saved by grace through faith. Faith is the prerequisite, or the necessary condition that has to be present for justification to take place. Faith precedes justification, not in time, but in logical necessity. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
Keeping in mind the idea of logical necessity, consider The Golden Chain of Romans 8. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 28-30).
The promise of Romans 8:28 is reserved for those who love God. Those who love God are the called of God according to His promise. This calling of God is a special call. There is a general, external, outer call of God to all mankind. But salvation only comes to “the called according to his purpose.” This inner call of God is an effectual call, whereby the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the unbeliever to the beauty of Christ. The Holy Spirit opens the ears of the unbeliever to the sweetness of the gospel. The Holy Spirit illuminates the mind of the unbeliever so that the way of salvation is not deemed foolish, but wise. The Holy Spirit removes the stony heart of the unbeliever and gives him a sensitive and living heart of flesh so that he is sensitive to sin, and wants to love God. All of this is to bring about the purpose of God. All of the elect receive this inner call of God.
Continuing in Romans 8:28, Paul speaks of the purpose of God. He begins with God’s foreknowledge. Beginning with God’s foreknowledge, God moved to a destination. That destination was that sinners be made to conform to the image of Jesus Christ. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).
The abbreviated order of salvation continues in Romans 8:30. The order of salvation is clearly abbreviated, because sanctification is not in this list. But what is in this list is that those who have been predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ are called, justified, and glorified. “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). There is an order here that is logical, and important to assurance of salvation: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.
Foreknowledge. Because foreknowledge is mentioned first, Arminians assume that on the basis of foreknowledge the other events happen. The text does not say that, but it is assumed. Romans 9 clearly teaches that this is a false assumption, because election is revealed as the sovereign decision of God, not the individual. “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:13). The love of God was manifested before the children were born, so that the election was not of their own merit or worth, but upon God’s sovereign choice, “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Rom. 9:15).
Reformed Theology insists that people who are elect in God’s decree are not formless and nameless. They are known personally to Him from all eternity. God elects Abraham. God elects Jacob. But for God to elect someone, He has to have an idea of who that person is. So obviously foreknowledge must precede predestination, because God is predestining someone, a people. That is a logical necessity.
Calling. All who are called are justified. Because this is true, this call cannot refer to the external call of the gospel. This has to refer to the inner call, because we know that not everyone is justified in the sight of God. Pharaoh was not justified. Herod was not justified. Judas was not justified. They all heard the external call of the gospel. But all those who hear the internal call of the gospel are said to be justified based on the quickening work of the Holy Spirit.
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:1-10).
The quickening of the Holy Spirit, being made alive, is united to the calling. If a person is assured they have been called of God, they can have assurance of salvation. What is critical is understanding what regeneration is.
Every soul seeking salvation can make this doctrine personal, by saying to self, “If I can determine I am justified, then I can have confidence I shall be glorified. I can have assurance of salvation. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).