By: Pastor Tim James (Tim is a futurist not a preterist)
Coll. 2: 2; Hebrews 6: 11; Hebrews 10: 22
The Bible doctrine of assurance is one that is often the subject of lively conversation among brethren. There are those who equate even the mention of the concept as a proof of presumption if it is not born of plenteous visible evidence of personal righteousness and merit. Such are miserable folk who struggle all their life with doubts and fears that they have not done enough. Such rarely even mention assurance except in a sad and negative way referring to it as a thing that they have never truly had. Some hold that they have it because they are operating under the delusion that that have done and do produce sufficient honorable deeds in their lives to be assured. Such are Pharisees and are generally hard to live with on any level because they question your right to assurance unless you live up to their standards. Some people’s assurance is a kind of fatalism, a “what will be, will be” sort of confidence of those who have made predestination a kind of god. Believers generally confess that they have assurance but also confess that that they sometimes do not. Personally, I have assurance when I look to Christ and I don’t have it when I look to myself. I know this; that if I don’t have assurance the problem is with me and not with God. God has assured all men that He is and will judge all men by raising Christ from the dead (Acts 17: 31).
It is interesting to note that assurance, when mentioned in scripture, is never said to be a thing to be sought after. No one is ever told to seek assurance. However when the subject is spoken of by men, most seem to say that they want it and are seeking to have it. I have been asked many times, by sincere believers, “how do I get assurance?” There is a reason why one should not seek assurance. First of all, if you do you will not find it. Secondly, assurance is not a thing, a spiritual entity that stands alone. Assurance is a by product of something else. In our texts, which speak of full assurance (undoubtedly the best kind to have), full assurance is “of” something else. That precious and precise little preposition means “derived or coming from or caused by”. Full assurance is derived from, comes from of is caused by something else. Assurance then is not the thing sought for but rather it is the result of a thing possessed, from which that assurance is derived. Assurance is not even considered. It is not a goal or an aim or a wish. Where that which causes assurance is possessed, assurance is, just there.
The three things from which full assurance is derived are faith, hope and understanding. Full assurance is found where faith, hope and understanding exist. We will look at these things in the order that they appear in scripture.
The first mentioned is the full assurance of understanding. This is found in Colossians 2:2 “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;”. Understanding produces full assurance. This understanding is spiritual understanding born of the revelation of God. Only those who have been born of the spirit have it and all who have been born of the spirit possess it (I Corinthians 2: 9-14, I John 2: 20; 5:20; John 8: 45, 47). This is not an understanding derived from the efforts of the human mind, it is understanding that comes from God when He births you into His kingdom (Jeremiah 31: 33-34, Hebrews 10: 16-17). It is the understanding that when Christ, the perfect sacrifice offered himself to God, the issue of sin was forever settled for those for whom he made the sacrifice (Heb 10: 12-14). This understanding was given for the acknowledgement of that (See text; Eph 1: 17-18). This understanding is given for the acknowledgement of the Gospel, the mystery of God and with it, with the understanding of it, comes the full assurance of understanding. One writer said that this full assurance of understanding 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 second mentioned is the full assurance of hope; Hebrews 6:11 “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end”. When the Bible speaks of hope it is not referring to anything like a wish our desire that something might be. Hope, in the word of God, is a grounded confidence and expectation that things will be as God has promised. It is a sure and well-grounded expectation of eternal glory (II Timothy 4: 7-8). This assurance born of this hope is the assurance of salvation (Romans 8: 24). It is founded on the truth of the promises of God (Heb. 6: 18-20). It is testified to our hearts by the Spirit of adoption (Romans 8: 15-16). Such assurance of hope is the testimony of the believer (1John 2:3; 3: 14; Isaiah 32:17).
The third mentioned is the full assurance of faith; Hebrews 10:22 “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water”. The scripture declares that faith is in God, toward Christ. Faith is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Since the Bible says that all men have not faith, then this gift must be given to whom God is pleased to give it. Whom is He pleased to give it to (Titus 1: 1)? Faith is the Gift of God, born of the preaching of the Gospel of God (Romans 10: 13-17). Faith is the only thing given in the word of God as evidence of salvation (Hebrews 11:1). With faith comes full assurance. That faith is in Christ. It is not faith in faith. One may trust while doubting that he trusts. Trust itself is something different from the evidence that we do trust. One may doubt his trust while never doubting the object of trust. Faith’s object is Christ and faith is always sure that Christ has accomplished salvation. Full assurance is not the essence of faith it is the result of faith. One does not believe because he is sure, he is sure because he believes (John 6: 68-69). When by faith I see Christ in the glory of His accomplished, finished work, I have full assurance of faith.
Can this assurance be shaken? Indeed! It will be every time we take our eyes off Christ. The faith that produces it cannot be shaken because we didn’t produce it, cannot increase it or diminish it. Assurance is shaken when our unbelief looks to self. Belief, faith always looks to Christ and always results in full assurance while looking to Him.
You may say, well preacher, sometimes I don’t have assurance. What can we do when we find ourselves in doubt? Only believe (Mark 5: 35-36)! Look at I John 3: 20; 4: 4; 5:9-12.