Assurance

ASSURANCE. The internal and external evidence by which Christians may have confidence to believe that God is their Father and Christ their Savior and Lord. Thus they know that what the gospel declares about Jesus is true and that in Jesus they have a new relationship with God.


There is also the internal witness of the Holy Spirit bringing the knowledge that the believer is truly a child of God (Rom.8.15-Rom.8.16) as well as the external testimony of a changed life (1John.2.3-1John.2.5, 1John.2.29; 1John.3.9-1John.3.14, 1John.3.18-1John.3.19; 1John.4.7). Because of the presence of the indwelling Spirit, assurance in the new covenant is of a much deeper order than in the old covenant. However, assurance was a reality for believers within the Mosiac covenant (Isa.32.17).

Bibliography: J. C. P. Cockerton, To Be Sure: Christian Assurance—Presumption or Privilege? (1967).——PT


The English word is used to translate two Greek words: pistis, “faith” (Acts 17:31), and plemrophoria, “full confidence” (1 Thess. 1:5). That assurance was necessary for the full enjoyment of salvation was dimly recognized in the OT (cf. Isa. 32:17). In its NT context, the word has both objective and subjective references. As objective it denotes the ground of the believer's confidence and certainty (Acts 17:31; cf. 1 Tim. 1:15). This external ground of assurance is the “so great salvation” wrought by Christ, His heavenly session at the right hand of God, and the Scriptures of truth which make wise unto salvation. As subjective, assurance has reference to the actual experience of the believer. Saving faith brings an experience by the nodetitle of the Gospel with “full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:5 RSV) and a firm certainty (Col. 2:2). Living in “full assurance of hope” to the end (Heb. 6:11 KJV), the trusting soul can come to God with a true heart in “full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22; cf. Eph. 3:12). But inward assurance must be checked by moral and spiritual tests (cf. e.g., 1 Cor. 6:9; Eph. 4:17; 1 John 2:3-5, etc) by which we know that we are of the truth and that our hearts are assured before God (1 John 3.19).

In contrast with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the decrees of the Council of Trent,* and with some Arminian declarations, Reformed theology generally has stressed the possibility of, and blessing attendant upon, the assurance of salvation. Recent Lutheranism, however, has weakened, if not denied altogether, full assurance, while the influence of Schleiermacher and Ritschl on modern theology has been in the direction of a revived Pelagianism.* The subjectivism of many present-day charismatic movements has, in some evangelical circles, tended to move the ground of assurance from the objective Word to the inward state of the believer. The result has led, in several instances, to an unhealthy introspection and a clouding of the full biblical perspective.

J. Arminius, Works (1825), II, pp. 725-26; W. Cunningham, “The Reformers and the Doctrine of Assurance,” in The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation (1862), pp. 111-48; J. Calvin, Institutes, III, 2; A.S. Yates, The Doctrine of Assurance (1952); G.C. Berkouwer, Faith and Perseverance (1958); I.H. Marshall, Kept by the Power of God (1969).


ASSURANCE is an essential ingredient of personal Christian faith. Faith is the kind of knowledge of God in Christ that carries within it an absolute confidence that what it knows is surely true, and therefore, completely trustworthy and reliable. Paul knew whom he had believed, and was therefore persuaded that Christ was able to keep what Paul had committed to Him, against the day of destruction (2 Tim 1:12).

Because the content of the assured knowledge of faith is good news, assurance is a profound sense of relief and a buoyant sense of joyous freedom. Faith is confident of the good news that God in Christ has once and for all, and in a manner that cannot be undone, overcome sin, death, judgment and hell, and provided a freedom from the past that justifies and forgives and opens up the future to eternal life. The believer, therefore, experiences a joyful sense of liberation. Assurance is the quiet joy and joyous cry that nothing can separate the believer from the love of God in Christ. Knowledge without assurance is a contradiction in terms, as faith without certainty would be spiritual torture. The Christian who believes that faith is a risk, a leap in the dark, a decision made against the odds, is of all men most miserable, for it is then himself, his life and his future which is at stake, being suspended on a hairline of uncertainty between heaven and hell, life and destruction. Nor does faith, understood as a human decision, carry the needed assurance, for the assurance is then grounded merely in a human action.

The assurance that characterizes Christian faith derives not from the believer, nor from his believing action, but from the object in which it believes. Nor does assurance rest on extra-Biblical evidence. The certainty and absolute confidence that adheres in faith derives rather from the nature of that Word of God, to which the nodetitle bears witness. The Word of God imparts to faith its knowledge, and no less that Word imparts the quality of its own assured inherent certainty and truthfulness. There is no adequate external evidence to support faith. Faith rests upon that internal evidence of the Word of God which gives rise to faith, and by which the knowledge and assurance of faith is shaped and informed. It is the Word which creates faith, and it creates faith in its own image.

In actual life, the believer is often anxious, vacillating between faith and doubt. The joyous, liberating assurance of faith is often lacking in the true believer’s life. He is often caught between storms without and doubts within. This lack of assurance does not flow, however, from the nature of faith, but from his disbelief and faithlessness. With the disciples he often must have cried—“I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). But being a believer he lives by faith not by sight, by faith in God’s history in Jesus Christ and not by his own internal or external experiences. Though the night of struggle be long, he knows that joy will come in the morning. Even when the judgment of God is upon him, he cries—“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15, KJV) as did Christ Himself on the cross.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

a-shoor’-ans:

A term exceptionally rich in spiritual meaning. It signifies the joyous, unwavering confidence of an intelligent faith; the security of a fearless trust. The original words have to do with the heart of vital religion. baTach, "trust"; ’aman, "to prop," "to support," hence to confide in, to trust. Jesus repeatedly used this word "amen" to express the trustworthiness and abiding certainty of his sayings. pistis, "faith"; plerophoria, "full assurance." The confidence of faith is based, not on "works of righteousness which we have done" (compare Titus 3:4,5 the King James Version) but on the highpriesthood and atoning sacrifice of Christ.

(Heb 10:21,22; compare He 10:19, "boldness to enter .... by the blood of Jesus," the King James Version). Assurance is the soul’s apprehension of its complete emancipation from the power of evil and from consequent judgment, through the atoning grace of Christ. It is the exact opposite of self-confidence, being a joyous appropriation and experience of the fullness of Christ--a glad sense of security, freedom and eternal life in Him. This doctrine is of immeasurable importance to the life of the church and of the individual believer, as a life of spiritual doubt and uncertainty contradicts the ideal of liberty in Christ Jesus which is the natural and necessary fruitage of "the washing of regeneration and renewing of the nodetitle .... shed on us abundantly, through nodetitle our Saviour." Paul unhesitatingly said, "I know" (2Ti 1:12)--a word which, oft-repeated in 1 Jn, furnishes the groundwork of glad assurance that runs through the entire epistle. For the classic passage on "full assurance" see Col 2:1-10.

Dwight M. Pratt