"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.." Romans 8:1a
"that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and to all riches of the full assurance of the understanding, to the full knowledge of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;" Col 2:2
"For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake." 1Thes 1:5
"let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies having been washed with pure water" Heb 10:22
Assurance of Salvation
Do You Doubt? Why?
by Scott Price
Many times when the topic of salvation assurance comes up the conversation is directed to what the reasons for doubt are. A popular response that people use as their excuse to doubt salvation is that they do not doubt Christ but rather doubt themselves. They see that their obedience is weak, their love is cold, their fruit is not flourishing, and they "feel" unsaved because of guilt over sin. What makes things even more confusing, other people trying to comfort them, go further wrongfully, saying these doubts are probably the best evidence that a person is saved. Let's look at a few issues that might help to unravel this mess and hopefully will direct us in a proper gospel focus.
1) We are NEVER direct anywhere in God's word to look within ourselves, look to ourselves, our performance, or even the work of the Spirit in us as we perform to be the basis of our assurance of salvation. Christ and Him crucified as our Representative, Substitute, and Mediator is our only hope and confidence for acceptance with a holy God. Satan will always try to get us to look inward instead to Christ alone. Doubt is simply what it is ----- unbelief.
2) We must ALWAYS doubt ourselves. If we get to the point that we have confidence in ourselves, then we are in big trouble and headed for no small fall. Hard lessons will no doubt follow if God's people venture off track on the issue of assurance. The Lord has a way, many ways, of squeezing out the remaining self-righteousness and bringing it to the surface so as to be repented of.
3) Faith is sometimes weak, very weak. God guides and directs our lives in His providence in such a way that He teaches, molds, conforms, and lovingly causes us to grow in His precious grace. The word of God, the gospel, is the means whereby God causes our faith to be strengthened. This is a means not to be neglected.
4) As mere human creatures we cannot trust our feelings. They are constantly changing whether we admit it or not. We are changeable. We are encouraged in the gospel of grace to trust Christ, the One who NEVER changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.
Assurance Based on What? The Foundation
The gospel is the promise of the absolute certainty that salvation is conditioned on Jesus Christ alone without any contribution of works and merits from the sinner. This is without doubt good news, especially when it is revealed to us the condition of man's inability in a condemned state. This promise that all of salvation is conditioned on Christ, the Representative of God's people, was established in the eternal Covenant of Grace when He was declared to be the Son of God as High Priest forever. Because God could swear by no greater He swore by Himself that Christ was to be such a Priest to fulfill all the terms and conditions of this covenant.
There is a rich source of assurance to be drawn from the eternal purpose of God in promising salvation only by the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The covenant of grace is really only the beginning of the overflowing spring of assurance, which we tap into by God given faith. That promise actually was fulfilled as Christ finished the work.
How Does Assurance Fit In?
During the initial believing of that promise and also after, in our daily believing of that promise by faith, should our assurance be based on something other than what our God given faith is in? If Jesus Christ is the object of our faith, which all God given faith is, do we look to something inside ourselves for assurance? Even if what we are looking inside ourselves to the work of God in us, is it safe to look there?
Does God given faith cause us to look inwardly, introspectively, to bolster our assurance? If we are looking to Christ alone and His accomplished work what assurance would we be lacking? Do we not believe the promise of the gospel? In assurance do we not trust that His work is good enough to feel secure in our walk of faith or do we need more to motivate us?
What is Our Standard?
What takes away the wrath of God and gains His favor? The proper and true gospel answer to that question is: the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ is. He established and brought in a perfect, everlasting righteousness that would answer every demand of God without exception that His holy and perfect standard requires. Shouldn't the answer to that question be the very same basis of our assurance in salvation?
What Motivates Us?
Are we to leave what some have termed "tension" between salvation by grace alone and the biblical teaching that faith without works is dead? Does this "tension" promote fear of punishment to motivate us or is God's grace enough to motivate us? Are we to persevere out of fear of not being preserved or even as a reward to be preserved?
Are these so called tensions threats that move us along in hopes of finally making it in the end? Can we really be assured of the certainty of our salvation before we die based only on Christ? Are we letting legalistic theologians and preachers set up commandments of men as new standards to be assured by? Do the Scriptures teach us to look to Christ in faith for our assurance or look to ourselves in faith of our obedience for assurance?
The Bible tells us that the commandments of men actually "turn from the truth" (Titus 2:14). Do we maintain salvation in any way shape or form by our obedience? God forbid! I am now not just talking about the legalistic commandments of men; I mean too that we do not maintain any part of salvation by even keeping the commands of God. Salvation is wholly in every part by grace alone, apart from our works of obedience by faith. Is grace enough for assurance?
We Should Obey
Is faith without works dead? Of course! Are we called to be zealous of good works and to be careful to maintain good works after believing the gospel? Yes, of course! Are we to be concerned with doing those good works out of the proper motive? Most definitely! Are we to do all our works of obedience by faith? You know it!
Wrong Views on How
Now that we have anticipated and answered most of the fears of many that would accuse us of being Antinomian (anti-law), the question is just what is doing works of obedience towards God by faith? Is it faith in your works as you do them? No way! Is it faith in the fact that you are doing the right thing? No.
Take careful note that the man in Matthew chapter 7:21-23 has much assurance he had even up to the very end as he faced Christ as his judge, but his assurance was in his "wonderful works." Christ called this man's best deeds, iniquity or lawlessness. These same deeds kept this man falsely assured of salvation based on his obedience, thus deceiving himself all the way up until he was judged.
How Do We Obey?
Then what is doing good works by faith? To perform acceptable obedience by faith the first thing we see is: We are fully complete and accepted by the a work totally finished for us and outside of us by the only qualified Person, Christ Jesus the Lord. We obey by faith knowing that our obedience does not contribute to our acceptance but that our acceptance has previously been taken care of and always will be by Christ. We start the walk of faith as a full saint, not in order to become a saint.
In a justified state our acceptance with God is not conditioned on our character or conduct at any time. That truth not only establishes the parameters for our obedience by faith, but it also shows the effects and results of the gospel itself. This should be our clear tone as we preach. The most concise biblical phrase that captures this is; "He has made us accepted in the Beloved" Ephesians 1:6. That means the Father wisely designed salvation in such a way that He only accepts His people in Christ, on Christ's behalf, for His sake, because of Him, or conditioned on Him.
That is How God Works in Us
God given faith always looks to Christ. Why would we think that when we do works after conversion that faith should be focused on something besides Christ? We are to look to Him every moment as He is said to be the Author and Finisher of our faith. That takes in everything in between, even our assurance. Notice carefully, that if we look to Christ and are assured by Him as we obey, then we will have consistent and sound assurance.
If we look to our obedience while claiming to look to Christ, our looking is divided and faith is not in the proper object. Assurance in that case wavers and turns into doubt because we constantly fail, giving us a guilty conscience from not looking to Christ alone. This is not recommended unless you enjoy torturing yourself and being miserable. More importantly it is not pleasing to God. Doubt and unbelief is nothing short of sin.
The bottom line is our assurance should be in the very same place that the ground and basis of our salvation is: Jesus Christ and Him crucified, buried, resurrected, ascended, and exalted. Do not lean on the arm of the flesh because it is self-righteousness. Paul warned folks not to think they begun in the Spirit then become perfect in the flesh.
Our faith should not change after initial conversion, but rather should strive constantly and intensely clinging to Christ for our acceptance before God till our dying day. *Note closely that we should also cling to Him for assurance of that same acceptance. That is pleasing to God as well as peaceful for God's people. Looking only to Christ by obedient faith is what it is to "live by faith" (Romans 1:17), establish the law through faith (Romans 3:31), to obey the gospel (Romans 6:17), and to "walk in the Spirit" (Romans 8:4). To God be the glory for free salvation by grace!