From Your Pastor: Thoughts on the Assurance of Salvation

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. – ESV 1 John 5:13

As God’s people, we can be grateful that those who truly are believers can never be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus! NOTHING—absolutely NOTHING can separate you from His love for you!! (Romans 8:31-39; John 10:28-30). As believers, we can truly be joyful and confident in God’s love for us in Christ and so gain assurance of our salvation.

The Bible teaches us that assurance is a fruit of our faith in Jesus Christ, but assurance does not necessarily belong to the essence of faith (Col. 2:2; Heb. 6:11; 10:22). This means that one can possess true and saving faith, but not also possess assurance of one’s salvation. One can be a true believer in Christ with the slightest and smallest faith because she is taking hold of a great Christ, even if she is not fully assured! Salvation is about the greatness of Christ and His saving power, and willingness to save the repentant, not about how much faith we have (“Lord, I believe, help my unbelief”)!

But assurance ought to be sought. The Bible teaches: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5). “…Be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure…” (2 Pet. 1:10). We can rejoice that assurance of salvation is a fruit of our faith in Jesus, and it grows out of our growing faith as we grow in our understanding of the love of God for us in Christ. Assurance of salvation in Christ comes out of faith growing up and maturing in our walk with God (Eph. 4:11-16). Our Scripture from 1 John 5:13 tells us that the Apostle John wrote His first epistle to the churches so that they would have assurance of God’s love for them in Christ: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

     We can know that we know CHRIST, that is, we can have the assurance John tells us about in four important ways (1) Loving Obedience to Jesus: “We know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 Jo. 2:3). (2) Love to Other Christians: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love other Christians” (1 Jo. 3:14). (3) Fruit of the Spirit: “By [loving in deed/action and in truth] we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him” (1 Jo. 3:18). (4) Witness of the Spirit of God: “By this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (1 Jo. 3:19, 24). This is how we gain assurance in our faith as believers. Do we possess to some degree these four things? This is an important question for us to ponder.

We must acknowledge that there are many hypocrites and unregenerate persons in the visible church who presume that they are in an estate of salvation although they show no evidence that they have had any work of grace in their hearts. There are those who claim Christ as Savior, but deny Him as Lord in their sinful disobedience and blatant unrepentance. Therefore, because we know that our hearts can deceive us, and that there are truly hypocrites, and that we can easily play the hypocrite, we must seek to examine ourselves as Scripture teaches us (2 Cor. 13:5; cf. Matt. 7:14-24).

     You should never want your pastors or elders, nor anyone else to ever grant you assurance in the faith if you are not living by faith presently. To give assurance to one who is not living like a Christian may be to condemn one to hell. It is like the character Vain-Hope in Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ that walked the way with Christian and Hopeful, but who had never truly believed Christ and His Gospel, and ended up being cast into the outer darkness. As Bunyan taught there is even a door to hell at the gates of heaven! If you’re living unrepentantly right now in a sin, it may be that you’re a Christian who has fallen into a trap and you need immediate help through repentance (1 Cor. 10:12-13), but you may also be coming to realize you have never been converted. Seek God prayerfully for help on this.

If, or when you’re in this kind of struggle, you need to hear all of the Gospel promises for believers in Christ, but you do not need anyone to assure you first; God may be convicting you in your conscience to inform you of grieving the Spirit and calling you to repentance (John 16:8-11). You may truly be a Christian, but just have weak faith, and you need to be assured of God’s love. Don’t focus on yourself and your failures, but on Jesus Christ and His promises laid out in Scripture. Remember that all of our works, though weak and tainted with sin, are acceptable to God through faith in Jesus (Rom. 12:1; Phil. 4:18; 1 Pet. 2:5; cf. Westminster Confession, 16.6-7).

Let us all put aside the sins that so easily beset us and run the race with endurance fixing our eyes on Jesus alone to gain our blessed assurance and confidence in our faith (Heb. 12:1-2; cf. 4:14-16). This blessedness of assurance was described by one of our Reformed forefathers in this way:

“Assurance is glory in the bud, it is the suburbs of paradise, it is a cluster of the land of promise, it is a spark of God, it is the joy and crown of a Christian” (Thomas Brooks, Works, Vol. 2, 333).

Seek Christ Jesus through HIs Word to find assurance through the Spirit’s help. Remember it is the Spirit of God who not only regenerates us and unites us with Christ in our new birth, it is the Spirit of God who empowers us to live for Christ and become like Christ, resisting our sins, the flesh and the devil, and growing up into our salvation in Jesus. It is the Spirit of God who witnesses with our Spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:15-26). If children, then we are heirs, and we should live as in the very suburbs of heaven, rejoicing in Christ no matter what difficulty, trial or tribulation, knowing that it will only strengthen our endurance, hope and assurance (Romans 5:1-5).

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of love, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood” (F. Crosby, ‘Blessed Assurance’, 1873)

For further study with the family, see Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 18: Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation.

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs


From Your Pastor: Are You Assured of God’s Love for You?


Are you assured of God’s love for you? Do you have a firm and growing assurance of God’s love for you? Are you like Abraham who was fully convinced that the Lord is able to do what He has promised to you (Rom. 4:19-22)? You may have faith in Christ, and yet not have full assurance of faith. Sometimes it is easy to see how others can be loved by God, and not yourself. Do you want to be assured and grow into a deeper confidence and joy in God’s love?

First, are you a Christian? Are you trusting in Christ alone for your salvation apart from works? Do you believe that all of your righteousness and redemption is found in Christ alone (1 Cor. 1:30), and this is received by you through faith alone in Christ alone because of grace alone? If you have Christ, then you have faith. Yet there is an important distinction that should be made between those who have true and saving faith, and those who have the full assurance of faith (Heb. 10:22-24). The Apostle John wrote his first letter to help believers to be assured. He wrote: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (ESV 1 John 5:13). “…That you may know that you have eternal life.” Do you know…for sure?!

One of the most precious and practical things we can learn from Holy Scripture is that God truly loves us in Christ and makes this love known to us, and even felt in us by His Spirit. God desires His children to know His love for them in Christ by His Spirit.

Beloved, our Confession of Faith can help us tremendously in growing in our faith, and thus coming to assurance of faith. In fact, believers can have an infallible assurance of faith that can lead us into deeper joy and greater obedience to Christ out of gratitude!

Let us together as a congregation consider chapter 18 of the Westminster Confession of Faith (note the scripture references that you might be interested in looking up and studying further). I will briefly follow each section with a commentary to get you thinking prayerfully.

Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 18.1  Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and estate of salvation;(1) which hope of theirs shall perish;(2) yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace,(3) and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; which hope shall never make them ashamed.(4) (1)Job 8:13,14; Micah 3:11; Deut. 29:19; John 8:41. (2)Matt. 7:22,23. (3)1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:14,18,19,21,24; 1 John 5:13. (4)Rom. 5:2,5.

True Faith in Christ: Our confession pastorally teaches us that believers are saved only through the grace of God found in Christ alone for salvation. We must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in our union with Him we desire to serve Him sincerely. If one has true faith, then he will also have works (James 2:14-18). True believers desire for their faith to be seen in loving Christ “in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before Him”.

Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 18.2  This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope;(1) but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,(2) the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,(3) the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God:(4) which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.(5) (1)Heb. 6:11,19; (2)Heb. 6:17,18. (3)2 Pet. 1:4,5,10,11; 1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:14; 2 Cor. 1:12. (4)Rom. 8:15,16. (5)Eph. 1:13,14; Eph. 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:21,22.

Three Important Aspects of Assurance of Faith: We can have as believers united to Jesus Christ an infallible assurance of faith because of three important things: (1) Believing God’s Promises in His Word: The truth of God’s Word, particularly the promises of God found in Holy Scripture. This is the infallible foundation for assurance of our faith. Simply put, we believe God’s promises; we believe that God’s Word is true (2 Cor. 1:20-22). (2) Believing Fruits are Produced: There is evidence in possessing some fruits inwardly in the heart and conscience, and outward fruits that show forth that we are the sons of God. These marks of grace or good fruits should flow out of a sincere, regenerated heart (“You will know the tree by the fruit it bears…”- Matt. 7:16ff). A believer can know that they not only possess a desire to will to do good but they seek by faith with sincerity to do good in gratitude for what Christ has done (Phil. 2:12-13). (3) Testimony of the Holy Spirit: The Spirit of Sonship, or of Adoption testifies with our spirits, or our hearts that we are the children of God and we cry, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). The Spirit seals us unto the Day of Redemption, or gives us the assurance that we are truly possessed and loved by God the Father in Christ Jesus. This knowledge of God’s love can lead to deep experiential joy, like being loved by a spouse, or basking in the love of a faithful Christian mother or father.

Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 18.3  This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it:(1) yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.(2) And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure;(3) that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience,(4) the proper fruits of this assurance: so far is it from inclining men to looseness.(5) (1)1 John 5:13; Isa. 1:10; Mark 9:24; Ps. 88; Ps. 77:1-12. (2)1 Cor. 2:12; 1 John 4:13; Heb. 7:11,12; Eph. 3:17,18,19. (3)2 Pet. 1:10. (4)Rom. 5:1,2,5; Rom. 14:17; Rom. 15:13; Eph. 1:3,4; Ps. 4:6,7; Ps. 119:32. (5)1 John 2:1,2; Rom. 6:1; Tit. 2:11,12,14; 2 Cor. 7:1; Rom. 8:1,12; 1 John 3:2,3; Ps. 130:4; 1 John 1:6,7.

Not All with Faith Have Assurance: All believers possess saving faith, but not all believers with saving faith possess assurance of faith (“It does not so belong to the essence of faith”). This may take a long time, and this may be through much conflict against Satan and sin. But one can come to this assurance by using the ordinary means that Christ has kindly and generously given to His church, such as the word, sacrament, prayer, fellowship. These are means of grace that the risen-ascended Christ has given to His people so that they might mature in Him, and come to an assurance of God’s love. In fact, God has commanded His children that we are to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:3ff; 2 Cor. 13:5). This assurance of God does not make us loose in our walk before God, but makes us joyful, and prayerful, and watchful, and gives a deeper desire to please God in Christ. Maturing and growing in sanctification are not optional for the Christian life, they are required: “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him…” (1 Jo. 2:3-5).

Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 18.4  True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it; by falling into some special sin, which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation; by God’s withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness, and to have no light:(1) yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived;(2) and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair.(3) (1)Cant. 5:2,3,6; Ps. 51:8,12,14; Eph. 4:30,31; Ps. 77:1-10; Matt. 26:69-72; Ps. 31:22; Ps. 88; Isa. 1:10. (2)1 John 3:9; Luke 22:32; Job 13:15; Ps. 73:15; Ps. 51:8,12; Isa. 1:10. (3)Micah 7:7,8,9; Jer. 32:40; Isa. 54:7-10; Ps. 22:1; Ps. 88.

No Negligence: This assurance can be shaken, particularly when we are negligent and fail to watch and pray, and fall into temptation and sin against God. We should seek to please God and not to in any way grieve the precious Spirit of God who lives within us as God’s children (Eph. 4:30). God can remove His special presence and comfort for a season as a discipline to His children, that we might repent, and confess our sins, and seek prayerfully to return to a sweet communion with God our Heavenly Father.

Do you know that God loves you? Meditate upon His promises to you in Christ. Think about how he loves His own dear children. Seek in light of these promises to be faithful and grateful in your service to Him, seeking to please Him sincerely from the heart. Ask God to fill you with His Word and Spirit so that you might more fully know of the God the Father’s great, wide, deep, high, and broad love for you in Christ Jesus (Eph. 3:17-19). Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to have more joy as God has promised to you in Christ.

Meditate upon John 15:9-11 to ponder your assurance, and to seek prayerfully to reach full assurance of faith. Our Lord Jesus says:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Our Lord Jesus desires us to know that He loves us as the Father has loved Him from all eternity. That is a great amount of love! This is the love that should motivate and fuel all of our obedience to Him.

Christ teaches us to abide in His love (cf. Jude 20-21). But how? How does one specifically abide in Christ’s love? Our Lord Jesus teaches us that we abide in Him by doing His commandments, and seeking to please Him by being sincerely obedient from our heart. And note that He teaches us that we might not only glorify Him, but that we would also very much enjoy Him: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (15:11).

In other words, as Christ is loved by the Father, and lives in obedience to Him because He desired to please Him above all else. So, in Christ, we can have the joy that He had by the Spirit, and through this also to enjoy His joy in full as we live in Christ by faith. We can see here the foundation of our assurance in knowing the love of God for us in Christ, the evidence of our assurance as we keep (imperfectly, yet sincerely) Christ’s commandments from the heart, and come to possess a deeper and fuller *JOY* by His precious and beautiful Spirit.

In Christ’s love,
Pastor Biggs