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 perseverance endurance 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.
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[T] indicates this entry was also found in Torrey's Topical Textbook
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Assurance'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".