Mark Dever on Assurance in the Protestant Reformation

In this video, Mark Dever—senior pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and president of 9Marks—on the role of assurance in the Protestant Reformation.


Interviewer: So authority, Scripture, from that came justification. Is assurance related to any of this?

Mark Dever: Well, yes. I mean, the Reformers and the Puritans referred to, regularly in their rhetoric, “the damnable doctrine of doubt.” That was their phrase. That’s how they dismissed the way the Roman Catholic Church talked of salvation. The Roman Catholic Church officially taught, and by their current catechism still teaches, that it is errant presumption for any individual to be confident that they will go to Heaven when they die because they don’t know they won’t commit a mortal sin, and even if they don’t commit any mortal sins, they have other sins to work off in Purgatory. The only people we can know are in Heaven are those the Church has told us that by canonizing them. Those are the saints.

So when you tell a Roman Catholic friend that you know you’re saved, your Roman Catholic friend, in all innocence, hears a very prideful statement. They hear you saying that you think you’re perfect and it’s an offensive statement. Of course, the evangelical means a very humble, common statement that, “I trust in Christ, and I trust him to save me.” But it sounds very different in the Roman Catholic system. And that shows how big the divide is.

Assurance, then, was one of the doctrines that was worked out, and because this idea, and friends, I mean, this is precious, that you can go to sleep tonight knowing that you are okay with God. There wasn’t a person in Europe in 1500 who could do that. At least not according to the Church and what the Church taught. That would have been heretical pride. So when this gospel first started being declared of the free grace of God and Christ, it was no way for Presbyterians and Catholics to fight. It was, “Oh, my goodness. I can know that God loves me and that I will spend forever with him? I don’t die in some kind of doubt, fearing this horrible century after millennium after 10,000 years in Purgatory to be purged and cleansed and then come to Paradise? But I actually can die with the same confidence the thief on the cross or Paul in Philippians has, that today I will be with Christ in paradise? I can know that?”

Yes. Oh, friends, there’s a reason the Protestant Reformation lit up Europe.