Romans 8:16 and Assurance of Salvation

I got a question in regards to assurance of salvation and Romans 8:16. I know the Church teaches that we may have a moral and reasonable certainty of salvation (otherwise who would partake of the Eucharist?) but that we can’t have an absolute assurance that we will necessarily receive the gift of perseverance. But I’m troubled about Romans 8:16 that says this, “For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God.” Now I’m troubled because the testimony is from the Spirit and since the Spirit cannot lie its witness must, of necessity, be infallible. If the Spirit then bears witness we are the sons of God then doesn’t that mean we can have absolute assurance? “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. For this is the testimony of God, which is greater, because he hath testified of his Son.” ‭‭(1 St John‬ ‭5:9‬). I tried looking at Aquinas’ commentary on Romans to see what he would say but he seems to accidentally skip it. Please help me understand this verse. Thank you all.

Btw, here is Aquinas’ commentary: “Then he manifests the same thing through the testimony of the Holy Spirit, to show that we are not deceived in our confession; hence he says: the reason I say that we cry, Abba, Father (v.15) in the Holy Spirit is that the Spirit himself gives testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God. He bears this testimony not with external words that reach men’s ears, as the Father gave testimony to his own Son in Matthew (Matt 3:17), but through the effect of filial love he produces in us. Therefore, he says that he gives testimony not to our ears but to our spirit: and we are witnesses of these things: and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32).”

Taking isolated verses of the bible and clinging to them as guarantee of our salvation is an error.

Christ says 'He who endures to the end will be saved." ~Matthew 24:13
and he also says “Depart from me… for I was hungry and you gave me no food…” ~Matthew 25:41-46

If you read further into Romans, in particular Romans 11:22, you’ll see that we must remain in Christ and do his will.

1 John 2:4 He who says “I know him” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him…
1 John 4:20 If anyone says he loves God but hates his brother, he is a liar…

We know whether we’re doing God’s will or not and whether the Spirit is with us, but we don’t presume in our salvation. We hope in our salvation and we trust in our salvation… but only if we remain in him and do his will. We ‘work out’ our ‘salvation in fear and trembling.’ :wink:


There is a very tiny word that pertains to all thoughts, actions, and perceptions of salvation.


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This is quite compatible with Catholic teaching. You and I cannot predict with 100% certainty, whether or not we will persevere in being sons of God. Everywhere in the New Testament believers are exhorted and encouraged and admonished and warned to remain in Christ, live by the Spirit, strive, persevere, be vigilant, do good works, be holy, be perfect, invest their talents, keep oil in their lamps, etc, etc, because of the very real possibility of failing to do so.

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I was thinking that the witness of the Spirit could be what the Catholic Church teaches that we can’t have 100% certainty, unless we have it by divine revelation. The Spirit then, bears witness, which seems to be about divine revelation. Not everyone gets this testimony however because not everyone is assured of their salvation. Even Protestants in their confessions acknowledge that not every Christian has assurance, thus they do not have the witness of the Spirit. Could this be a valid interpretation?

I’m not entirely sure what you’re meaning with your interpretation. We can have 100% certainty at this very moment, if we know we are doing his will, but we don’t have the foreknowledge that we will remain in his hand and not jump out when things get really tough, or we let temptation take hold of us in some way… we can certainly believe we will hold steady, and we can trust we will, but none of us can see the future, unless of course it has been divinely revealed to that person.

If you’re asking how we can know the Holy Spirit is testifying to us, we can recognise the signs: our trust in God and our reliance on him rather than on ourselves, our praise and thanks to him in our daily lives, our freedom from the slavery of sin, sacrificing our will for his will etc… as well as the seeing the gifts in our lives, such as: a strong faith, peace, joy, patience, love of neighbour etc.

We believe it is a sin against hope to either despair or presume in our salvation. Presumption stems from pride, such as believing that one is forgiven for sins without any form of repentance or penance… as though our sins don’t matter.

The question becomes …

But do all always hold tight onto their Faith - or have not some been shown to fall away?

Best not to be potentially falsely sure -
for then one can become easy game for Satan out of a sense of disruptive Vanity…

We should at least know by now that we can easily spend an entire lifetime - growing toward the perfection of God the Father - as we’ve been called by Jesus to be…


“Inerrant”, not “infallible”.

Nevertheless, ask yourself this question: are there any who are baptized – that is, who are “sons of God” – who will not attain to heaven?

“Not all who cry ‘Lord, Lord’”, right?

If that’s the case, then both Romans 8:16 are true and there’s no problem with the inerrancy of the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Hmm… I’m not seeing it that way. You might want to check out this site. You’ll find a thorough unfolding of Aquinas’ analysis, including a presentation that helps us understand how Aquinas’ argument unfolds.

In this case, Romans 8:16 fits into Aquinas’ argument in this way:

  • Paul gives thanks
  • Paul instructs them in the truth about the power of Christ’s grace, at ‘for it is the power of God’
  • Paul explains it, at “for the wrath of God”
  • Paul points out the efficacy and sufficiency, at “being justified therefore by faith”
  • and demonstrates what evils are freed by it, at “wherefore as by one man”
  • showing that through His grace we have been freed from condemnation, at “or know you not, brethren”
  • and, from the damnation of punishment, at “and if Christ be in you”
  • he shows that we are freed by the Holy Spirit in the future from bodily death
  • and proves his proposition (that the life of glory, which will exclude all mortality from our bodies, will be given to us through the Holy Spirit), at “for whosoever are led”
  • and shows each step of the argument…
  • … the minor premise of the proof
  • … proving it three ways,
  • … including the testimony of the Spirit, at “for the Spirit himself”
    • he manifests the same thing through the testimony of the Holy Spirit, to show that we are not deceived in our confession
    • he bears this testimony
    • and therefore, he says “he gives testimony”

These last three points specifically address Romans 8:16. So, I would disagree that Thomas glosses over this verse. In fact, he’s giving a rather thorough exegesis of Romans 8!

What I’ve bolded makes no sense for several reasons…

1… The Church does not actually teach anything to the effect that
we have a moral and reasonable certainity of Salvation…

2… The act of Receiving the Eucharist is not dependent upon 1.

  1. The Act of receiving the Eucharist is no guarantor of Salvation

  2. Faith in Jesus - is the Key which opens the Door to God’s Holy Spirit…

  3. Inheriting Eternal Life sits upon our Obedience to God’s Command - To Love in Action…


We receive sanctifying grace in baptism where we do indeed become sons and daughters.

But we have free will and can sin mortally, extinguishing the sanctifying grace.

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