Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Quick Scrawl on Assurance

Just a few thoughts attempting to encapsulate the Bible's overall teaching about assurance.

1. There are both true and false believers in the visible church
2. Some false believers have a false assurance
3. Some true believers lack assurance
4. True believers CAN have full assurance in Christ from “day 1″ of their conversion.
5. We can’t tell FOR CERTAIN whether a fellow professing Christian is a true or false believer
6. We must test ourselves to be sure we aren’t self-deceived.
7. We must encourage and provoke our brothers so that if they are self-deceived it will come to light and they can repent unto true belief and thus gain assurance.

I believe there is Scriptural support for each statement. But is anything missing or misguided in my list?



  1. Derek,

    Good list. May or may not be necessary to add (you be the judge), but it is Scripture (via the illumination of the HS) that gives us assurance. Jn 20:31, 1 Jn 5:13, others?



  2. Richie,

    Thanks for commenting. You make a great point. We stake our hope on the truthfulness of the Word of God! This can be viewed the objective side of the equation, while our experience of conversion and resulting "sense" of assurance are the subjective. When our hearts condemn us, as John says (or when our feelings just aren't cooperating), we cling to the objective Truth of God's Word and work, and maintain assurance in them.

    Some believers rely too heavily on the subjective side and suffer from plaguing doubts as a result.


  3. Doesn't the Reformed doctrine of limited atonement destroy the possibility of assurance? Faith needs an outward, historical foundation. It can't base assurance upon itself, which is typically what classical Reformed guys say. That's solipsism, and imo limited atonement leads Reformed types into mysticism and solipsism. For faith to be saving, it needs to look outside itself with confidence at God's redemptive act in Christ on the cross. The sick were told to look at the bronze serpent to be healed; not to look, then say to themselves, "Hey, look at me looking!" Limited atonement makes that impossible, since no one but God knows who Christ died for.

  4. Of course, on the other hand you have centuries of people getting saved without any explicit understanding of the cross.

  5. Jack,

    I think you make a good point. As you may know, my own conviction is that Limited Atonement teaching has mutated into something unbiblical through the influence of theologianslike Owen and Turretin. However, I also believe it expresses a truth, but tries to place that truth in the wrong context (IOW, Limited Atonement, as it is often presented, wrongly applies the limitations of election to the sufficiency or extent of Christ's sacrifice rather than to its purpose or intent).

    That said, I've seen both teachings (election and LA) can cut both ways when it comes to assurance. One person says, "God elected me from eternity and gave Christ for my sins," and has unshakable assurance. Another person says, "I can never be sure that I am among the elect or that Christ really died for me," and becomes riddled with doubts.

    Could this reveal more about the human heart than the effect of the theology?

    In any case, I agree with your well stated point that faith must be in Christ and His work, and not merely faith in faith itself. I'm not so sure I agree that LA necessarily makes assurance impossible. Although in some cases it has certainly exacerbated the problem of doubt.


  6. I like the list. I think the fallacy is found in man trying to assure man/self of his salvation. Assurance comes from the Word of God. Our faith points us to God, not to our "self-understanding." God keeps to His Word. Paul spoke of us testing/checking ourselves-- our faith. The check is to Holy Spirit and Christ. Do we share His Spirit: humbleness, giving, sacrificing, discernment of God's word, the seeking and holding of the Righteousness of God, forgiving, merciful, and being charitable? Seek the nature of God not the nature of man which is rooted in pride, arrogance, self-righteousness and self-declaration, quarrelsome, bitter, hating, haughty... (I could go on but I'm sure you get the picture.)


    1. PenguinTodd,

      Thanks for the excellent comment. I'm enjoying all of the responses on this post!



Feel free to respond to anything written in the posts, or to the comments left by others. All comments are reviewed before they are published.

Please be charitable. If you disagree, do so with grace. Keep your words positive, focused, and on-topic. We don't expect everyone to agree, but we do expect everyone to treat everyone else with respect and grace, speaking the truth in love.