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A Reader Offers a Different View of Assurance

Some background

Over the past weeks we’ve talked about how you can know you are saved.

One reader sent me a video which gave the Orthodox Church’s view of assurance.

There are points on which I agree with the Orthodox Church — the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and their pro-life stance, for example.

But I do not believe their teaching on assurance is biblical.

So why talk about it?  I went back and forth on whether I should post this (give me your thoughts below).

But I am going to post this because — as my father taught — a good way to explain what you ARE saying is to contrast it with what you are NOT saying.

So here’s the 3-minute video — or you can skip the video and read the transcript which I include at the end of this post.

The video

I am sure this video does not say everything the Orthodox Church has to say on this topic.

But it did raise three points of concern — which I’ll summarize under three words — Scripture, Forgiveness, and Faith —


I was surprised the video didn’t quote any Scripture, or refer to any verses.

Maybe this was just an oversight.

But if God has given us His Word — then what’s most important is understanding what God’s Word says about assurance.

But to do that we need explicit references to God’s Word — which were lacking in this video.

[I appreciate a reader correcting me on this — see his comment below.  He mentions that the video did refer to Phil 2:10 — “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  He also points out that the video left out Phil 2:11 which says it’s God who does the heavy-lifting in our salvation.  I should also mention that the video references the publican who beat his breast and begged for leniency (Luke 18:13-14).  But neither of these Scriptures are used by the video to explain how we can be assured of salvation.]


The reason we need assurance of salvation is because we sin.  And sin brings God’s judgment.

But the Bible teaches that God justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5).

This means He forgives all our sins (past, present, and future) because of Jesus’ death — and He sees us as perfectly morally righteous in Christ (Rom 4:7-8; 2Cor 5:21).

So even though I have sinned in the past — and will not be free from all sin until heaven — justification means I can be fully assured that I am completely forgiven, I will never face condemnation, and now and forever God is rejoicing to do me good.

But the video never mentions justification — or forgiveness of sins.


The video never mentions faith in Christ.

This is huge — because the only way to be saved is by faith in Christ (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Rom 3:28; Eph 2:8-9).

But the woman on the video said she was being saved “through [her] intentional decisions to follow Jesus’ example.”

But what I’d want to (gently) ask her is —

What about those times when you don’t follow Jesus’ example?

Can you be saved from those sins?  Can you be sure those sins are forgiven?  And if so — how?

The video gives no answer.

But — thankfully — the Bible does give an answer.

The way to be sure all your sins are forgiven is by faith in Christ — by turning from everything else to trust Jesus Christ to forgive you, change you, and satisfy you in Himself.

The moment you turn to Jesus and look to Him with faith — you can be completely assured —

  • that all your sins are forgiven through Jesus’ death on the Cross (Rom 3:23-26).
  • that God has clothed you with Jesus’ perfect righteousness (Rom 5:17).
  • that you will never face condemnation (Rom 8:1).
  • that God is rejoicing to do you good with all His heart and soul (Jer 32:41).
  • that your eternal life in His presence is secure (John 3:16).

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The transcript of the video

I was originally saved 2,000 years ago, when God the Son took on human flesh, and offered himself as a perfect sacrifice for all of mankind — defeating the power of sin by suffering on the Cross, and destroying death through his miraculous resurrection

I am being saved daily through my intentional decisions to follow Jesus’ example within each situation I find myself.

Viewing Paradise, not as just a someday-destination, but as the everyday experience of self-denial – of being filled through the Eucharist, obedience, and love for others – with Christ — I will – Lord have mercy – be saved at the great and final judgment when I give an account for a lifetime of actions — when it becomes clear whether or not I cooperated with the grace so generously bestowed upon me.

Who of us, having been blessed beyond all comprehension, should feel the need to insure that regardless of our choices, a reward will be ours, free and clear?

Who of us dare to sit idle with our assurances – interpreting the conditions of the bridegroom’s invitation – while our lamps for illumining the darkness run out of oil?

My individual salvation is being worked out with fear and trembling through the unique responsibilities God deemed best to set before me.

Based upon the model of the publican, who beat his breast and begged for leniency, I am careful to not assume I have a handle on the spiritual state of others.

I would do best, rather, to stay focused on my own flagrant shortcomings, reverencing both friends and enemies, all of whom were created in God’s image, as living icons of Christ Jesus.

I share my faith – yes! – but not out of obligation.  A soul that’s found its meaning cannot help but be witness to such joy.

My ongoing testimony is presented through acts of service, in accordance with Christ’s commandment to love God by loving your neighbor.

I pray ceaselessly for the courage to fight the good fight, staying faithful, until my very last breath upon this earth.


(Picture is from everystockphoto by concept junkie.)

Category: Strengthening Your Faith


8 Responses

  1. Marcus says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the problems in the video’s view. I do wish to point out one small inaccuracy, however:

    “I was surprised the video didn’t quote any Scriptures, or refer to any verses.”

    This isn’t quite true. “My individual salvation is being worked out with fear and trembling” references Philippians 2:12: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,”

    However, it conveniently ignores the very next verse, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”, which makes it God’s work to effect your salvation, not your own.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Thanks for catching that, and pointing it out to me, Marcus. I’m going to go ahead and edit the post to reflect that.

  2. extremestan says:

    That we can reject and abandon the salvation we had in Christ is really plain in Scripture.

    There are basically two views compatible with Scripture: That the saved can lose their salvation (e.g., the Catholic view), or that if you fall away, you never had salvation in the first place (e.g., the Calvinist view).

    But neither of those views are, “If you think you’re saved, you’re definitely locked-in and secure.” The latter of those views is actually tautological.

    Here’s some clear Scripture on the topic:

    Romans 11:22

    >Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

    Hebrew 10:26-29

    >If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

    2 Peter 2:20-21

    >If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, extremestan.

      I agree that just thinking I am saved does not mean I am locked-in and secure.

      After all, Jesus describes people who believe they are saved who end up shocked when He says “I never knew you” (Mat 7:21-23).

      But would you agree that if I am turning from everything else to trust Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and Treasure — then I can be assured of God’s regenerating work?

      And if I can be assured of God’s regenerating work — then that means He has put the fear of Him in my heart so I won’t turn from Him (Jer 32:40), and the good work He has started in me He will continue (Phil 1:6), and that He will keep me from stumbling (Jude 1:24-25).

      So I can be confident that I will certainly persevere to the end and enter into the joy of the Lord forever.

      BUT — if I turn from trusting Jesus and start trusting money, or sex, or fame to satisfy me — and I continue in this without repentance, without remorse, without confession — then at that moment I can no longer be assured of salvation. That’s when the warning passages you list kick in — and I won’t regain assurance until I once again turn from everything else to trust Christ as Savior, Lord, and Treasure.

      Does that make any sense?

      I elaborate on that in “Can a Believer Lose Salvation?” and “My Response to: How Do I Know I am Saved? (Part One)

      I’d love to hear your response to those posts. Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

      • extremestan says:

        I think yours is a fine view that is compatible with Scripture, because it is a statement of contingent truth: “If I persevere to the end, I will be saved.”

        But you rightly invoke God’s passionate Grace and loving mercy as partners in perseverance. If we lock ourselves into a healthily humble, genuine, and repentant matter of course, it’s almost certain that we’ll persevere.

        In other words, there are two kinds of assurances here:

        – The *absolute* assurance of the *contingent* truth of salvation: If we continue in faith, we will be saved.

        – The *practical* assurance of the *probability* of our eventual salvation based on what we know right now about our faith and attitude.

        “Assurance of salvation” contradicts the Bible only when the latter kind of assurance is put in absolute terms.

        • Steve Fuller says:

          Thanks so much for your additional thoughts, extremestan.

          But I’m not sure I agree with your explanation — because (if I rightly understand what you are saying) it sounds like my assurance of salvation is only as sure as my ability to keep persevering.

          But too many Scriptures teach that it is God Himself who promises to keep His redeemed persevering to the end.

          So here’s how I try to put this together. I see two truths taught in Scripture —

          One is that if a believer continues in sin, then he could face hell (Rom 8:12-13, for example).

          The other is that everyone whom God saves will, by God’s power, keep persevering in faith so they enter heaven (Phil 1:6, for example).

          I believe Scripture puts these together as follows:

          If I am turning from everything else and trusting Christ, then I can be assured that God’s saving power is at work in me — which means He will certainly and non-contingently keep me persevering until the end.

          If I am continuing in sin — then I cannot be assured that God’s saving power is at work in me. I might still be saved — but I cannot have assurance of salvation. And the warnings tell me that if I continue in sin — with no change — then I could face hell. So I should immediately repent and turn back to trusting Christ.

          Once I do, I can once again be assured that God’s saving work is in me and that I will persevere to the end.

          I hope that at least clarifies what I am saying. And thanks again for the dialogue. I really appreciate it.

          In Christ,


  3. Matt karnes says:

    Steve, I am just now getting to this. I apologize for the late response. Life is very full. I am looking forward to resting in the shade of my own vine (Micah 4:4), having all the time in the world to contemplate God. But this is now, and that will be then. So, again, I beg your forgiveness for my late response.

    This conversation is going on both on your blog and on Facebook, but I’ll only comment on your blog. I think it will be easier that way.

    First, let me acknowledge your observation that the Orthodox Church stands firm in the Trinitarian faith and the Deity of Christ. It seems you know something of us. Then you, probably, also know we affirm the humanity of Christ as well, and that we are saved not only because the Son of God was slain but because the Son of Man was slain. We are only saved because God assumed humanity.

    You also mentioned your approval of the Orthodox Church’s teaching on the value of human life. Of course, this teaching is born of God’s love for mankind, and of His creation of us in His image and likeness.

    You noticed the video didn’t cite any Scripture. I can not speak for the maker of the video, but you shouldn’t make too much of that. We do not generally feel the need to back up everything we say with a Bible verse. We wrote the Bible. We read it constantly. Its words form most of our prayers. But we do not have the same historical and existential need that Protestants have (as a result of your conflict with the Roman Catholics) to base everything on Bible passages. We are relaxed in letting the Holy Spirit speak through us in the vernacular and as is expedient for different audiences. But, we understand where Protestants are coming from and admire your devotion to the parts of the Bible you have. So, for your sake, I’ll fill this reply to you with citations from the Bible and , maybe, other texts.

    There is one interesting thing, something that I forget about Protestants. You call the Bible the Word of God. Orthodox do not usually do that. In fact, I can’t remember ever hearing an Orthodox calling the Bible “the Word of God”. That is a name we usually reserve for the Son (John 1:1, Wisdom of Solomon 18:15), or a prophetic utterance. There is one priest however, who does call the Bible the “written Word of God”. In a little book available on line ( Fr. Tom Hopko describes the Bible as God-inspired writing of human authors which “constitute the true and genuine expressions of His Truth and His Will for His People and the whole World” and “as the divinely-inspired Word of God in the words of men, contains no formal errors or inner contradictions concerning the relationship between God and the world. There may be incidental inaccuracies of a non-essential character in the Bible. But the eternal spiritual and doctrinal message of God, presented in the Bible in many different ways, remains perfectly consistent, authentic, and true.” I think the vast majority of Orthodox Christians would agree with those statements, but we also believe giving a drink of water to a thirsty man, or clothing the poor can be the Word of God. The Word of God is bigger than the Bible.

    Assurance: I do not understand what you mean by this. Do you mean that we need someone to announce that our sins are forgiven? If so, I agree. And that is exactly what the Orthodox church does. For example, at baptism we announce to the newly born again (John 3:5) that every sin has been washed away. And after the newly illumed comes out of the water and is being clothed in a white robe we chant these verses from the 32d Psalm (by our LXX numbering it is the 31st):

    Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whom the Lord imputes not sin, and in whose mouth there is no guile. Because I have kept silence, my bones waxed old through my crying all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy on me. I was turned into lowliness while the thorn was fastened in me. My sin I have acknowledged, and my iniquity I have not hid. I said, “I will confess against myself my sin unto the Lord.” And You forgave the ungodliness of my heart. For this shall everyone who is holy pray to You in a seasonable time; moreover in a flood of many waters shall the billows not come nigh to him. For You are my refuge from the tribulation which surrounds me. O my rejoicing, deliver me from them that have encircled me. The Lord says: “I will give you understanding, and will teach you in this My way which you shall go; I will fix My eyes on you. Be not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding. With bit and bridle would you bind their jaws; lest they come near to you.” Many are the scourges of the sinner, but with mercy shall I encircle them that hope on the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you that are upright of heart.
    Then as if that isn’t enough of an assurance, we sing this hymn over and over as the new Christian follows the priest in a procession around the baptismal font “As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27) Alleluia”.
    Then, because we want that new Christian to know what his salvation means, we read St. Paul’s words to him: “Brethren, do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:3-11)
    Then near the end of the Baptismal Rite are three priestly prayers whereby God is thanked for mercifully saving those who believe in Him, and His mercy is begged that the faith of the new Christian will continue to grow.
    I do not know how much more assurance a person needs, but that is what we do at Baptism. At Confession (1 John 1:9, James 5:16) and Communion (1 Corinthians 10:16, John 6:51) there is even more but I won’t type it all here. You can Google “Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom” and “Orthodox Rite of Confession” if you want to read it.

    Steve, you asked “What about those times when you don’t follow Jesus example.” Yes, you are right to cite Romans 3:23-26 and Romans 5:17 and Romans 8:1 but you neglected to mention St. Paul’s teaching in the 1st letter to the church at Corinth. There he, in the first few chapters of that letter corrected a lot of errors in that church, even giving himself as an example of one who keeps his own body under control lest he be lost (1 Cor. 9:27) for as he said in his letter to the church in Rome, by unbelief even those once in Christ can be lost (Rom. 11:20-21). But not just unbelief but carnal behavior in disagreement with professed belief can cause one to be lost. After after giving a long list of behaviors to eschew he reminds us that “every one of us shall give an account of himself to God (Rom. 14:12) when Jesus returns to judge every action and even every secret thought (1 Corinthians 4:5) of the living and the dead (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed). But there is no reason to fear as a rabbit in a lions den. The Church announces forgiveness to all who Confess their sins. (1 John 1:9, James 5:16). So, what does the woman in video do when she does not follow Jesus? In faith she confesses her sins and receives forgiveness.

    Once, when I was at an outdoor liturgy where there were many priests and the bishop was presiding, I saw a boy maybe 12 or 13 come late. He got the attention of one of the altarboys as he as carrying bread to the altar. He slipped the altar boy a note. I saw the altar boy give it to a deacon. I saw the deacon hand it to the bishop. The bishop read the note and I saw him speak to one of his priests and then to the altar boy. The altar boy pointed to the boy who had given him the note. And the priest went to the boy and together with him knelt in the dirt, and the priest heard his confession and announced forgiveness. There was a boy who had sinned but had faith in the words of the Apostles that Jesus forgives those who confess. And there was the Church, Christ in the world, hearing the confession, even under unusual and, some would say, improper conditions, and announcing forgiveness.

    Yes, you are right when you say “the Bible does give an answer”.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Matt,

      Thank you so much for your detailed and thorough response. I really appreciate it.

      One quick thought on calling the Bible “the Word of God.” One reason I think this is appropriate, and important, is because Jesus Himself does so (Mark 7:13; John 10:35).

      But now on to the topic of assurance. When I speak of assurance I am not talking about having someone else tell me my sins are forgiven. They may or may not be right.

      I’m talking about whether I can know for sure that my sins are forgiven and that I will be saved from God’s wrath.

      I believe Scripture teaches that if I am turning from everything else and trusting Jesus Christ as my Savior, Lord, and heart-satisfying Treasure — then I can be absolutely confident that God’s saving work has started in me — and that if it has started in me, it will continue causing me to persevere to the end (Phil 1:6; Jude 1:24-25; Rom 8:28-30; John 10:28).

      But what about the warnings you mention? It is true that many passages warn believers that if they continue in sin, then they could lose heaven.

      I don’t think those warnings teach that a saved believer can lose his salvation.

      I believe they teach that IF a saved believer continues in sin, then he could lose his salvation.

      But it’s also the case that every saved believer will pay heed to those warnings, and turn back from sin before it’s too late (Jer 32:40).

      So the warnings are true — if a believer continues in sin, he could lose his salvation.

      But the assurances are also true — if I am trusting Jesus now (which includes paying heed to warnings), that means God’s good work has started in me, and that He will keep me persevering in faith and paying heed to the warnings — all the way to the end.

      If someone thinks he is a believer but he is ignoring the warnings — I would tell him that if he continues in sin then unless something changes he will go to hell. His damnation would not be because he lost his salvation — but because his continuing in sin showed that he was never saved.

      So the way to know for sure I am saved (and that God will keep me persevering) is by turning from everything else and casting myself upon Jesus — trusting Him as Savior, Lord, and all-satisfying Treasure.

      I hope that makes some sense.

      And thanks again for your thoughts.


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