The Basis of Assurance
“What must I do to be saved?” The biblical answer to this all-important question is relatively simple and straightforward. But the biblical answer to the second all-important question “How may I know for certain that I am saved?” is more multifaceted and liable to misunderstanding or distortion.
In my judgment, any teaching on this subject would be incomplete if it did not draw upon the answer to this second all-important question given to us in the Westminster Larger Catechism. Question 80 asks, “Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?” The answer given is:
Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavor to walk in all good conscience before him, may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God’s promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.
This answer can be readily understood as a biblical response to two simple questions:
(1) Who can attain a certain conviction of his or her salvation?
(2) On what basis does this certain conviction rest?
The answer to the first question is that anyone who truly believes in Christ and is seeking to walk in obedience to Christ, may, without any direct or further revelation from God, be certain of his or her salvation.
The answer to the second question includes three distinct elements:
(1) Our assurance is grounded on the truth of God’s promises. One such promise that has helped untold numbers of troubled believers attain full assurance of their salvation is the promise given by our Lord in John 6:37: “And whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” Another such promise is found in Romans 10:13: “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
(2) Our assurance is dependent on the Holy Spirit’s ministry enabling us to discern in our hearts and lives those graces that only the Holy Spirit can impart to the human heart. For example, the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:2–11 are a description of the character traits of all who are born again and have entered the kingdom of God by that heavenly birth (see Gal. 5:22–24). As the Holy Spirit enables us to discern these graces in our lives as a pattern of life, we are assured by the Word of God that we are indeed the children of God.
Next month, we will address the third element of a scriptural assurance that we are in a state of grace.