Security and Assurance – Are They the Same?

September 2012

Many of us Christians stress the certainty of our salvation. We often use the term “assurance of salvation” to express the truth that once saved, always saved. However, the question arises as to whether or not the certainty of our salvation is the same as the assurance of our salvation. My uncle recently pointed out a very fine line between these two. While our salvation is secure, we may not always have the assurance of our salvation. Huh?

Think about it: the security of our salvation rests in the person of God. God does not change (Jas 1:17b). His purpose is fulfilled in Jesus and whoever believes in Jesus and confesses Him as Lord is saved, period (Rom 10:9-10). Paul explains that we are “sealed” with the Holy Spirit and thus our salvation is assured (see 2Co 1:21-22; Eph 1:13-14; 4:30).

The assurance of our salvation, however, is something that we sense within ourselves. By its very definition, assurance is an emotional thing and emotions are volatile. Paul points out that, “The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Rom 8:16 – HCSB) However what happens if we grieve the Holy Spirit (see Eph 4:30) through our sinful actions? Will that not weaken the testimony that the Spirit gives our spirit? Is it not logical that we may feel we have “lost our salvation”? If we are not in communion with God, it is possible to lose the assurance of salvation. And in one sense the loss of the assurance and the yearning to have it back is a good indication of the security of our salvation. The Christian band Petra once sang, “You say you’ve walked ten thousand steps away. / But don’t you know that it’s only one step back?”* And that is true for assurance: one step back through repentance to the emotional assurance of the fact of the security of salvation.

* John Schlitt and Richard Gootee, Just Reach Out, Petra, Word Records and Music, CD, 1993.