What is "assurance" of grace and salvation?

Discussion in 'The Pilgrims Progress' started by nwink, Dec 9, 2011.

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  1. nwink

    nwink Puritan Board Sophomore

    I've been doing some thinking and reading lately on the topic of assurance, related to WCF chapter 18 on the assurance of grace and salvation. In my reading (such as commentaries on the WCF, Joel Beeke, etc), I see that more is attributed to the term "assurance" than just simply "I am assured that I am saved" (which seems to be the common evangelical understanding of "assurance").

    In an article by Joel Beeke (http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj5c.pdf), he says, "personal assurance of salvation is recognizable by its fruits: a close life of fellowship with God; a tender, filial relationship marked with childlike obedience; a thirsting after God and spiritual exercises that extol Him; a longing to glorify Him by the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Where assurance abounds, mission-mindedness prevails. Assured believers pray for and anticipate revival, view heaven as their home, and long for the Second Advent of Christ and their translation to glory (2 Tim 4:6-8). Assurance, like salvation, is double-sided. It is the summit of intimacy by which the believer both knows Christ and knows he is known by Him. Assurance is not a self-given persuasion, but a Spirit-applied certainty which moves the Christian God-ward through Christ."

    Basically, I'm going to be teaching a SS class on "assurance," and I know some in the class aren't very theologically-minded...and might be confused thinking, "Well, I have assurance I'm a Christian, so how would some of those things be the fruit of assurance if I already have assurance that I'm a Christian? Wouldn't I be manifesting more of that fruit since I do have assurance that I'm a Christian? How could I get more assurance than I already have as an assured Christian? How is this relevant to me as an assured Christian?"

    The way I'm thinking to answer, besides showing the importance that we not be resting our assurance in some dangerous ground, is that "assurance" is knowing Christ and knowing he knows us as being one of his people. Assurance involves primarily looking at and resting on Christ even more, and secondarily meditation and self-examination to see if I am walking as one who has fellowship with the Son and the Father....and the more I see these things growing in my life as I grow and mature as a believer, the greater joy that brings me.

    I don't know if my question is making sense. I'm basically asking what "assurance" means. How can I, by definition, explain that we can grow in assurance to people who think that assurance is just something you have that doesn't grow? I know it's more than simply "I'm assured that I'm saved," but what more is it? (I'll be developing some of these questions in teaching on the WCF, but I want a solid definition of "assurance" to start with)

    Later thought: Is it accurate to say the following: that assurance grows or can be hindered...and that we desire to have "maximal" assurance. Basically, a "maximal" assurance is directly related to Christian growth...it is being more assured of the promises of God and salvation...and experientially seeing more fruit of sanctification in our lives. So is to say we should "grow in assurance" and that it is our "duty" (WCF 18.3), to be somewhat saying the same thing as that we should grow in sanctification? I mean, I know the terms have different meaning, but is that nor more or less what we are doing?
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2011
  2. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I think these WLC questions provide a good basis to help people understand sanctification's progressive nature in believers and how assurance is not of the essence of saving faith:

    This is also helpful:
  3. nwink

    nwink Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thank you for those quotes, Rich. Would it be accurate to say that sanctification and growing-in-assurance go hand-in-hand, in that they are essentially performing the same function in the believer's life? Would it be accurate to say that objective assurance is of the essence of saving faith but not subjective assurance?
  4. jwithnell

    jwithnell Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Since the confession notes that some may lag in their assurance for a season, it's a good bet that at least someone in your class will be struggling with his being in Christ. This is particularly painful in reformed circles if someone recognizes God's sovereignty and doubts his own genuine conversion in Christ. A dear friend of mine grew up in a Dutch Reformed church that taught virtually no-one can be assured and consequently only a few elders and an old lady or two were admitted to the Lord's table. It's possible you'll have now, or at some future date, someone carrying this kind of baggage. I have found this book to be extremely helpful : RC Ryle: Assurance
  5. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    Here are some good resources:

    Also, you can find great stuff on assurance in Thomas Boston's Works, Vol II, Pg. 16. It is available for free at Googlebooks.
  6. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    I think it would be important to read this article by Joel Beeke. http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj5c.pdf

    Many Post-Reformed divines, (including the WCF and WLC), write to deal with the experiential aspect of assurance, or the "secondary grounds" of assurance, rather than the "primary grounds", as Calvin and the early Reformers did, who taught assurance as the essence of faith. There can be harmony here when it is understood which they are talking about.


    Oh, I just noticed that this was the article you were referencing to begin with. Glad you have it available!
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2011
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