Assurance



The topic of assurance is indeed a hot one. Each view claims to be Biblical. Even within the “free grace” camp, disagreements have resulted in splinter groups. We all should form our opinions from Bible study and not loud talking personalities. I have noticed that some from the Lordship camp get angry when their arguments fall on my deaf ears. The louder these types are, the less I pay any attention to them.


The question is, when do we get assurance that our new destination is Heaven and not hell. We will examine Scripture and find that assurance is the fuel to endure suffering. Why else would we go against societal norms and try persuade others to change their opinion of Jesus Christ. D. A. Carson points out that pluralism in our culture allows for multiple interpretations of facts. The result is a personalized religion based on personal experience. People are more interested in incorporating truth rather than accepting a single truth.[1,2]


While the predictions that religion, all faiths, would be replaced with some sort of secular understanding of the metaphysical world, Christianity still remains. History demonstrates the attempts to shove religion aside calling it magic or superstition.[3] This is the environment we live in trying to share the Gospel. Assurance allows us to continue anyway.


Arminian position on Salvation

This position has no assurance of Salvation — it can be lost by moral defection or by renouncing a person’s faith.[4] I teach that Salvation is an event, followed by a maturation process, ending in another event. Recall from our first Salvation lesson the three phases or tenses to Salvation. The first is final and cannot be reversed, not so with the Arminians. They spend their lives maintaining their faith hoping that they finish well. An example of this lies with the Methodist. Imagine the stress thinking one mistake takes your Salvation away.


Lordship position on Salvation

Like the Arminians, the Lordship folks have no assurance they will end up in Heaven. The Lordship crowd does not think you can lose Salvation, only that a person “obviously” was not saved in the first place. These measuring sticks are human based and subjective at best. Salvation is unknown until they either appear at the White Throne or the “Bema” seat. Both Hixson and Hodges point out that these folks always seek to generate evidence of Salvation and still don’t know their final destination.[5,6]


Assurance

Wilken points out that when we use subjective criteria to decide the state of an individual, it’s personal. Excessive introspection produces doubt. Healthy relationships cycle through good and bad times. The Lordship crowd would say bad times mean you were never saved, the Arminians that Salvation was lost. As we saw in our introduction, we are citizens of Heaven regardless of how we feel about God at any particular moment in time. I believe that assurance is a gift that God gives and not a source of stress or uncertainly. We can focus on glorifying the Lord. [7]


Let’s begin with a definition of “assurance:”

“Certainty or confidence about one’s beliefs or actions. The “assurance of hope” (Heb 6:11) and the “assurance of faith” (Heb 10:22; 11:1) are mentioned as qualities of wholeness that lead believers to responsible living. Paul spoke of an “assured understanding” of the gospel of Christ, which resulted in love in the community (Col 2:2), and of the “assured blessing” which was his in Christ (Rom 15:29).”[8]


John 3:16

Jesus Christ is now in Heaven so that we humans have an opportunity to be with Him for eternity. The sole criteria, per this passage, is that we believe or trust in Jesus Christ. He is the object of our confidence in eternity with Him. What we have learned about Jesus is true. The sense is to trust in Jesus as contained in the Gospel.[9]


Romans 8:31–39

The concept of assurance is found in the idea of condemnation. When the text says “If God is for us, who can be against us?” we have the assurance of protection of God. No matter what happens on Earth, we can’t be kept from God after death (vs. 35). Verses 37- 39 are clear about this includes spiritual realms as well. See also 1 Corinthians 15:20–27, 1 Thess. 4:13–14.


Colossians 2:1–10

The author Paul presents the idea that our assurance grows over time. In particular when we meet in community. Paul presents believers as being knit or sewn together. The closeness is the means to expel all ideas that are contrary to Biblical truth. This is an odd concept to a society that does not believe in absolute truth. We are told to tolerate other beliefs and behaviors contrary to absolute truth. This knitting allows even the most persuasive arguments to be disposed. The conclusion must be that these ideas are worldly and demonic at its source. While the attacks from the spiritual realm will constantly come from all kinds of directions, ultimately they cannot change our ultimate destination. Using the verbiage in the text, once we are God’s elect, nothing in the visible or invisible can change that. See also 1 Thess. 12–10.


2 Timothy 1:12

Paul encourages his protege to hold fast to what he has learned.[10] Using himself as an example, Paul carried out his role as preacher, apostle, and teacher to the Gentiles in spite of the suffering endured including his imprisonment (at the time of the writing of this epistle). The reason Paul presses ahead is the same word for belief we visited before. The tense that verse 12 uses is perfect, meaning that his belief in Christ is a done deal in the past and fuels what he does in the present.[11] You may wonder why Paul is not ashamed. It is an honor to suffer for Christ![12] For Paul, there is no shame in suffering for Christ even being in jail.[13] Paul’s assurance gave him confidence, inspite of suffering, to serve in the role God appointed him. See also 1 Pet. 5:5–11, 1 Pet. 4:1–6.


Footnotes

1. Robert Wuthnow, The Restructuring of American Religion: Society and Faith Since World War II (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1988); idem, The Struggle for America’s Soul: Evangelicals, Liberals, and Secularism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989).

2. Carson, D. A. (2011). The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Fifteenth Edition, pp. 15–16). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

3. Carson, D. A. (2011). The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Fifteenth Edition, pp. 28–29). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

4. Hixson, Whitmire, Zuck. Freely by His Grace: Classical Grace Theology . Grace Gospel Press. Kindle Edition

5. Hixson, Whitmire, Zuck. Freely by His Grace: Classical Grace Theology . Grace Gospel Press. Kindle Edition.

6. Zane C. Hodges, “Assurance: Of the Essence of Saving Faith,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 10 (Spring 1997): 7, 11.

7. Wilkin, R. N. (2005). Secure and Sure: Grasping the Promises of God (p. 24). Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society.

8. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Assurance. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 219). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

9. Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 817). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

10. Mounce, W. D. (2000). Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 46, p. 486). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

11. Litfin, A. D. (1985). 2 Timothy. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 751). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

12. Kelly, J. N. D. (1963). The pastoral epistles (p. 165). London: Continuum.

13. Minor, E. (2008). An Exegetical Summary of 2 Timothy (2nd ed., p. 30). Dallas, TX: SIL International.

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