In the midst of a world filled with uneasiness and insecurity, assurance of a person's security in God is one of the hallmarks of the authentic Christian life. Such assurance is not based on human resources, abilities, or ingenuity, but on confidence in the caring power of God for believers.
Such divine concern in the life of an individual or a community of faith is not to be likened to some superficial good luck charm or magical incantation that protects a person against the traumas and tragedies of human existence. Instead, assurance in God provides an anchor of confidence and hope ( Heb 6:18 ) in the midst of pain and sorrow, because the believer has learned the secret of casting all worries and cares on God, who is genuinely concerned for people ( 1 Peter 5:7 ).
Assurance can be linked to faith and faithfulness ( Heb 10:22 ), because it is one of the ways that the biblical writers describe an authentic relationship with God. While reliance on God is accompanied by the confidence that God is intimately involved in the lives of believers ( 1 John 5:14 ), faith in God does not earn a sense of security or assurance. Moreover, it cannot be achieved by attendance at church, by works of kindness, or by ecclesiastical pardon. The foundation for the assurance of one's salvation or well-being with God is rooted in a divine gift. God is the provider of salvation in Jesus Christ ( John 3:16 ; 2 Col 5:18-19 ). Moreover, it is God who will bring to completion this divine gift ( Php 1:6 ). It is this assurance that God continues to work in the lives of believers that is the basis for the Christian doctrine of perseveranceendurance or continuing response to God's leading ( Eph 6:18 ; Heb 12:1 ; James 1:25 ). Assurance and perseverance are two sides of the same message.
Assurance of a relationship with God in Christ is the way believers express the mysterious connection between the infinite nature of God and the fallible nature of humanity. Life with God (whether in ancient Israel or in Christianity) is a dynamic reality, not some chess game in which God moves all the pawns and kings without reference to human response (note the amazing conditional statement in Jer 18:7-10 ). Resisting temptation (with divine help cf. Matt 6:13 ; 1 John 5:14 ) is a key to sense of security in God (cf. 1 Col 10:13 ; James 4:7 ). Evil and the devil are not some toys with which believers can play ( 1 Peter 5:8-9 ).
But believers are not left to their own resources. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers is a guarantee or assurance that God is at work in believers' lives ( 2 Col 1:22 ; 5:5 ). It is through the Spirit that believers know the reality of God's presence in their lives ( 1 John 4:13 ). Forces external to them will never be able to separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus ( Rom 8:35-39 ); no power (symbolized by robber or wolf) is able to steal believers (symbolized by sheep) out of the loving arms of God's Son ( John 10:28 ).
This sense of assurance for believers is not merely limited to the present era on earth, but the resurrection of Jesus assures Christians that they are not deluded in their expectation of a future hope with their Lord ( 1 Co 15:17-20 ). The resurrection of Jesus is the powerful guarantee that Christian preaching and faith are not in vain (v. 14). The Holy Spirit's presence provides assurance that Christians will receive their promised inheritance with God ( Eph 1:14 ).
Gerald L. Borchert
Bibliography. G. L. Borchert, Assurance and Warning; D. A. Carson, Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility; I. H. Marshall, Kept by the Power.
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The resurrection of Jesus ( Acts 17:31 ) is the "assurance" (Gr. pistis, generally rendered "faith") or pledge God has given that his revelation is true and worthy of acceptance. The "full assurance [Gr. plerophoria, 'full bearing'] of faith" ( Hebrews 10:22 ) is a fulness of faith in God which leaves no room for doubt. The "full assurance of understanding" ( Colossians 2:2 ) is an entire unwavering conviction of the truth of the declarations of Scripture, a joyful steadfastness on the part of any one of conviction that he has grasped the very truth. The "full assurance of hope" ( Hebrews 6:11 ) is a sure and well-grounded expectation of eternal glory ( 2 Timothy 4:7 2 Timothy 4:8 ). This assurance of hope is the assurance of a man's own particular salvation.
This infallible assurance, which believers may attain unto as to their own personal salvation, is founded on the truth of the promises ( Hebrews 6:18 ), on the inward evidence of Christian graces, and on the testimony of the Spirit of adoption ( Romans 8:16 ). That such a certainty may be attained appears from the testimony of Scripture ( Romans 8:16 ; 1 John 2:3 ; 3:14 ), from the command to seek after it ( Hebrews 6:11 ; 2 Pet 1:10 ), and from the fact that it has been attained ( 2 Timothy 1:12 ; 2 Timothy 4:7 2 Timothy 4:8 ; 1 John 2:3 ; 4:16 ).
This full assurance is not of the essence of saving faith. It is the result of faith, and posterior to it in the order of nature, and so frequently also in the order of time. True believers may be destitute of it. Trust itself is something different from the evidence that we do trust. Believers, moreover, are exhorted to go on to something beyond what they at present have when they are exhorted to seek the grace of full assurance ( Hebrews 10:22 ; 2 Pet 1:5-10 ). The attainment of this grace is a duty, and is to be diligently sought.
"Genuine assurance naturally leads to a legitimate and abiding peace and joy, and to love and thankfulness to God; and these from the very laws of our being to greater buoyancy, strength, and cheerfulness in the practice of obedience in every department of duty."
This assurance may in various ways be shaken, diminished, and intermitted, but the principle out of which it springs can never be lost. (See FAITH .)
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.
(Hebrews 10:21,22; compare Hebrews 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 Holy Spirit .... shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour." Paul unhesitatingly said, "I know" (2 Timothy 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 Colossians 2:1-10.
Dwight M. Pratt
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