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True assurance

October 1997

Many people are uninterested in the gospel because they have a false assurance. For a variety of reasons they think they are already bound for heaven. What need do they have, then, for more? They believe that ‘a God of love’ could never send anyone to hell. They know nothing of his holiness, righteousness, hatred of sin, and justice. They do not understand that he is ‘of purer eyes than to behold evil’; that he ‘cannot look on wickedness’ (Habakkuk 1:13). They put their trust in rites and ceremonies, like baptism, confirmation, communion and in general religious observance. They trust ‘the church’ to secure their acceptance with God, or else rely upon their good works for salvation. Others, while recognizing they are sinners, draw their assurance from equally insubstantial things: a decision made for Christ, a commitment to Jesus, or emotional ‘spiritual’ experiences.

False assurance is the devil’s greatest weapon! If people can once be convinced that they are already saved, then they will not seek salvation. They will continue to live in ignorance of their true spiritual condition before God. Where, then, lies genuine assurance?

It lies first in a true understanding of the work of Christ. Biblical assurance rests on the knowledge that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, came into this world to meet perfectly the requirements of God’s righteousness and justice. He lived a perfect life; he offered up that life as a perfect atonement for sin; and he rose again to declare that those for whom he died are justified for ever. All this he did on behalf of God’s elect.

It lies, secondly, in a true experience of salvation. This involves the imparting to the sinner of the gifts of repentance and faith in Christ. This is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in spiritual regeneration. Faith teaches the sinner that salvation is in Christ alone and nowhere else, and that he must come empty-handed to the Saviour.

It lies, thirdly, in the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, who takes up residence in the believer at conversion, not at some later time. The Spirit gives confidence and trust in Christ for salvation; the ability to believe the promises of God; to believe that having saved us by the power of the gospel of Christ, he will continue to keep them by that same power. We are neither saved nor kept by our own efforts, but by the bountiful grace of God in Christ.

Jesus said, ‘I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand’ (John 10:28).