At one point or another, we will all probably struggle with assurance of our salvation. Doubt creeps into our minds, “Am I really the Lord’s?” We can find ourselves being distracted by these doubts to such an extent that we become ineffective in our Christian life or we may start to give up. Doubt isn’t necessarily abnormal for a Christian in the sense that to have doubts isn’t an automatic sign that something is wrong with the Christian’s walk, but it could show that our grounds for assurance is incorrect. When doubts arise, where do we turn to gain assurance?
Why would we ever lose assurance as Christians? There could be different reasons for this. We may find ourselves neglecting the means of grace such as corporate worship. God has given us these things to help us in our Christian walk and to neglect them while expecting God’s blessing is a fool’s errand. Being in the house of the Lord on His day is vital to a Christian. We may also lose assurance because of unrepentant sin in our lives. Sin, by definition, separates us from God. Romans 5 makes clear that we are under Adam’s curse, being born with imputed guilt. This separates us from God since He is holy. If we as Christians go back to living in the way that is characterized by separation from God, why should we expect to be assured of His grace? If we live sinfully, we shouldn’t expect to have God’s countenance to be in our favor. Even if we are Christians, God does become displeased (imprecisely speaking) with His children. Hebrews 12 says this:
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?Hebrews 12:7 ESV
Even though God’s eternal love for His people never stops, this does not mean displeasure will not come. We see this time and time again with the people of Israel, especially in a place like Judges 19 where we see a very grim picture of Israel’s folly with the Levite and his concubine. And God would punish them, yet deliver them later on. He loves His people.
Let us start off with a section of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith:
Although temporary believers and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God and in a state of salvation, which hope of theirs shall perish; yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith 18.1
This opening paragraph displays what a true Christian looks like. They believe in Jesus, they walk in a way that is pleasing to God. These are ones who can have assurance they are His. The evidence is there. They have all that is needed for assurance. Now, we do need to be careful that our assurance is not grounded only in the evidences, but needs to be grounded in our Lord’s work via the inward work of the Spirit which will then bring itself out in good works. Paragraph 2 is clear on this:
This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope, but an infallible assurance of faith, founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel; and also upon the inward evidence of those graces of the Spirit unto which promises are made, and on the testimony of the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God; and, as a fruit thereof, keeping the heart both humble and holy.2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith 18.2
Notice the first thing that our assurance rests in is Christ’s work. We don’t look to our works for our assurance of salvation, we look to Christ and the finished work on our behalf. He died so we didn’t have to. He took our sin so we could be free. That is our hope and our rest. Not my good works.
The inward evidence of the graces of the Spirit unto which promises are made may be defined in these ways. The presence of the grace of faith (14.1) or repentance (15.4) as well as good works which are the fruits and evidences of a lively faith (15.2) provide a practical method of receiving the assurance of grace and salvation.Renihan, James M. “Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation.” To the Judicious and Impartial Reader, Founders Press, 2022.
This is not to say works don’t give us assurance in as much as they help us to know if we are really believing in the work of Christ. Anybody can say they believe the gospel, but it must be shown. 1 John 2:3 and James 2 are clear that simply claiming you have faith isn’t enough. We need to see the goods. And John says that we can know i.e. be assured we know Him if we obey Him. This is simply evidence giving us assurance while ultimately we gain our immutable assurance from Christ and the Spirit. The two are not mutually exclusive. Don’t take your eyes off of Christ. Rest in Him and your fruit will flow and help strengthen you.
Note: Thank you to The Particular Baptist team for feedback and edits to this article.