On what should we base our assurance of salvation?

Q: On what should we base our assurance of salvation? I know the Word and the promises of the Gospel are our rock, but how do we distinguish between real faith and mere intellectual assent? I ask this because many evangelicals make me nervous when they say that if one has doubts about one’s salvation, one is probably not saved, because the Holy Spirit is supposed to provide inner assurance. (I guess this ties in to the whole Pietist problem.) But in the face of emotional ups and downs, moral failings, intellectual doubts, and confusion over doctrine, how can one know if one truly has faith in Christ?


A: Lutherans believe that faith is created and strengthened not by looking inside of one’s self (to one’s own faith and/or doubts) but by looking outside of one’s self (to God’s Word and promises in Christ). Therefore, assurance of salvation is to be sought by looking to God’s Word and promises in Christ (which create and strengthen the faith through which one is saved), not by looking inward at the strength or weakness of one’s own faith (which creates either pride and false assurance or doubt and lack of assurance). Anxiety regarding doubts, strength of faith and certainty of salvation are signs of faith(however weak it may be), not signs of unbelief, since the unbeliever has no concern or anxiety about doubts, faith or salvation. If you would like to study this issue further,

I would recommend Martin Chemnitz’s book on Justification available from Concordia Publishing House (800-325-3040, stock no. 15-2186).

Usage: We urge you to contact an LCMS pastor in your area for more in-depth discussion.

Published by: LCMS Church Information Center

©The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295