Fellow blogger and Facebook compadre, Derek Rishmawy, just wrote a short article for the The Gospel Coalition’s blog (the only time you’ll find me reading something on TGC’s blog is when Rishmawy posts something of interest or I am researching for something specific) on why he enjoys reading John Calvin’s commentaries, and why he thinks others should or would too. In the comments to his article a commenter named Steve Martin wrote this about Calvin and the doctrine of the assurance of salvation:
Calvin was ok…. Luther was much better because he didn’t send you back into yourself for assurance of salvation…. Calvin had a weak understanding of the external Word and sacrament. If that were not so then Calvin would be a much more reassuring read. [see]
And so in response and clarification to that, I thought I would post Myk Habet’s and my seventh thesis from our edited book, Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church. We co-wrote this chapter (15), which is made up of fifteen theological theses or statements that Myk and I hold to as the contours of what we consider formative for our style of evangelical Calvinism. Without further ado (footnote numbering has been altered from its original for this blog post):
Thesis Seven.Assurance is of the essence of faith.
Coordinate with theses 2 and 3, Evangelical Calvinism understands assurance of salvation to be inseparably linked with union with Christ. Salvation is not understood as “our” salvation so that our subjectivity over-rides the objective ground in Christ; instead it is of upmost importance that we see both the objective and subjective sides of salvation rooted in the person of Jesus Christ. The basis for assurance of salvation, then, flows from the faith that is founded in Christ’s vicarious faith/fullness for us; so the subjective side of Christ’s faith becomes ours as we are united to Christ “spiritually” by the Holy Spirit’s inveterate movement of gracious action, co-extending from the once for all faith realized in the person of Jesus Christ. Commensurate with this understanding, John Calvin framed “assurance” through similar foci; as Charles Partee points out:
The conviction that salvation is not conditional but certain is an almost forgotten mark of the Protestant Reformation. According to Calvin, doubting the certainty of one’s salvation is sinful. We do not understand the goodness of God apart from full assurance (III.2.16). “[F]aith is not content with a doubtful and changeable opinion . . . but requires full and fixed certainty” (III.2.15). If salvation were not certainly known to believers, election “would have been a doctrine not only lacking in warmth, but completely lifeless.” In summary, Calvin insists, “Our faith is nothing, unless we are persuaded for certain that Christ is ours, and that the Father is propitious to us in Him. There is, therefore, no more pernicious or destructive conception than the scholastic dogma of the uncertainty of salvation” (Com. Rom. 8:33, 34). . . . Union with Christ is exactly the direction Calvin’s theology moves. For Calvin certainty is not to be found in a principle or a book but a person. That is, in union with Jesus Christ. Our task is “to establish with certainty in our hearts that all those who, by the kindness of God the Father, through the working of the Holy Spirit, have entered into fellowship with Christ, are set apart as God’s property and personal possession” (IV. 1. 3). . . .
With Calvin and early Reformed thought generally, assurance teaches us we are elect. Tony Lane clearly shows how Calvin considered assurance to be of the essence of faith and how this was coordinated with various other aspects of this theology, notably with the doctrine of election. Salvation is not salvation if one is unsure of possessing it. That, at least, was Calvin’s argument when he wrote:
Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
As it is for Calvin at this point, so it is for the Evangelical Calvinist. The root of assurance is found in Christ himself, and Christ’s faith and faithfulness is mediated to us through our union with him by the personal work of the Holy Spirit, a work which brings humanity into the effervescent and indestructible life of God’s eternal Logos.
 Partee, The Theology of John Calvin, 205–6.
 Lane, “Calvin’s Doctrine of Assurance Revisited,” Tributes to John Calvin: A Celebration of His Quincentenary, 270–313.
 Calvin, Inst., 3.2.7.