Assurance refers usually to the assurance of the believer (or unbelievers in offers of salvation) in God and his promises. Salvation is the greatest issue over which assurance is fought, that being, that once a person is saved, can they lose their salvation, or do they have the assurance that once saved always saved.
If we address this biblically, neither of the positions are biblical. The Bible does not support the idea that once saved you can lose your salvation. This is an unbiblical extreme. The other extreme is also unbiblical. This is the idea that once we “are saved” (usually repeating a prayer and/or being baptized) you can live as you please. The Calvinist idea of perseverance is basically in practice the idea that no matter how sinful you are, because you are elect, you will still go to heaven. This also is not biblical.
Biblical assurance speaks more to the confidence in God that (1) the believer CAN CONFIDE in the promises of his Savior, and (2) God’s surety and faithfulness in fulfilling what he has promised to do. In the end analysis, we do not yet actually “have” salvation (although it is right to say that), but we have the hope that God will save us in the day of eternal judgment of all humans.
[N] [T] [E]
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
See also Confidence; Endurance
Bibliography. G. L. Borchert, Assurance and Warning; D. A. Carson, Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility; I. H. Marshall, Kept by the Power.
[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
“faith,” has the secondary meaning of “an assurance or guarantee,” e.g., Act 17:31; by raising Christ from the dead, God has given “assurance” that the world will be judged by Him (the AV margin, “offered faith” does not express the meaning). Cp. 1Ti 5:12, where “faith” means “pledge.” See BELIEF, FAITH, FIDELITY.
“a fullness, abundance,” also means “full assurance, entire confidence;” lit., a “full-carrying” (pleros, “full,” phero, “to carry”). Some explain it as full fruitfulness (cp. RV, “fullness” in Heb 6:11). In 1Th 1:5 it describes the willingness and freedom of spirit enjoyed by those who brought the Gospel to Thessalonica; in Col 2:2, the freedom of mind and confidence resulting from an understanding in Christ; in Heb 6:11 (AV, “full assurance,” RV, “fullness”), the engrossing effect of the expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promises; in Heb 10:22, the character of the faith by which we are to draw near to God. See FULLNESS.
lit., “a standing under, support” (hupo, “under,” histemi, “to stand”), hence, an “assurance,” is so rendered in Heb 11:1, RV, for AV, “substance.” It here may signify a title-deed, as giving a guarantee, or reality. See CONFIDENCE, PERSON, SUBSTANCE.
Note: In Act 16:10, for the AV (of sumbibazomai), “assuredly gathering,” see CONCLUDE.
“to trust or give assurance to” (cp. A, No. 1), has a secondary meaning, in the Passive Voice, “to be assured of,” 2Ti 3:14.
akin to A, No. 2, “to bring in full measure, to fulfill,” also signifies “to be fully assured,” Rom 4:21, RV, of Abraham’s faith. In Rom 14:5 it is said of the apprehension of the will of God. So in Col 4:12 in the best mss. In these three places it is used subjectively, with reference to an effect upon the mind. For its other and objective use, referring to things external, see FULFILL; see also BELIEVE, KNOW, PERSUADE, PROOF. In the Sept., Ecc 8:11.
“to persuade,” is rendered “assure” in 1Jo 3:19 (marg., “persuade”), where the meaning is that of confidence toward God consequent upon loving in deed and in truth. See BELIEVE, CONFIDENCE, FRIEND, OBEY, PERSUADE, TRUST, YIELD.
means (a) “safely,” Mar 14:44; Act 16:23; (b) “assuredly,” Act 2:36; the knowledge there enjoined involves freedom from fear of contradiction, with an intimation of the impossibility of escape from the effects. See SAFELY.
God wants believers to be assured of their salvation. He wants them to know without doubt that, having repented and trusted in Jesus, they have eternal life and will never perish (Joh 3:16; 6:47; 10:28; Heb 6:11,17-20; 7:25; 1Pe 1:23; 1Jo 5:12-13). God promises believers eternal security, and his promises are certain. God is faithful, and his promises can be trusted (Joh 6:37; Rom 10:13; 1Th 5:24; 2Ti 2:19; Heb 10:22-23; 1Pe 1:5).
What God has done
Believers have this assurance because their salvation depends not on anything they have done, but on what God has done for them in Christ. Through Christ’s death, God has forgiven their sins and brought them into a new relationship with himself. God now accepts them as being ‘in Christ’ (Rom 3:24-25; 5:1; 8:1,33-34; Eph 1:7; Heb 10:14,17-18,22; Jude 24; see FORGIVENESS; JUSTIFICATION).
Further assurance comes from the fact of God’s election. In his sovereign will and grace, God has elected, or chosen, believers to be his children, to have eternal life, to escape the wrath of God, and to share with Christ in the full blessings of the age to come (Joh 1:12-13; 6:37-39; Rom 8:29-30; Eph 1:4; 1Th 1:4; 5:9; 2Ti 1:9; see ELECTION). Nothing can separate them from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39; Eph 2:4-5), and they receive from God the gift of the Holy Spirit as the guarantee of their eternal salvation. The Holy Spirit is God’s mark of ownership upon them (2Co 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30; 1Jo 4:13).
The response of believers
These great facts are all concerned with what God has done, and they are the basis of true assurance. In addition, however, believers are aware within themselves that they are children of God (Rom 8:16).
This added assurance within believers comes from a variety of experiences relating to their new life. Such experiences include their desire to obey God (1Jo 2:3-6), their sensitivity to sin (2Ti 2:19; 1Jo 3:4-10,19-21), their awareness of God’s discipline in their lives (Heb 12:5-8), their love for others (1Jo 3:14-15), their desire to know more of God and his Word (1Pe 2:2-3), and their constant perseverance in the faith (Mar 4:18-20; 1Pe 1:6-9; Heb 6:11-12). Without these evidences of a changed life, those who claim to have assurance of salvation are deceiving themselves (Tit 1:16; 1Jo 2:4,9-11; 3:10; cf. Mat 7:22-23, 25:41-46). (See also BACKSLIDING; PERSEVERANCE.)
The resurrection of Jesus (Acts 17:31) is the “assurance” (Gr. pistis, generally rendered “faith”) or pledge God has given that his revelation is true and worthy of acceptance. The “full assurance [Gr. plerophoria, ‘full bearing’] of faith” (Heb. 10:22) is a fulness of faith in God which leaves no room for doubt. The “full assurance of understanding” (Col. 2:2) 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 “full assurance of hope” (Heb. 6:11) is a sure and well-grounded expectation of eternal glory (2 Tim. 4:7, 8). This assurance of hope is the assurance of a man’s own particular salvation.
This infallible assurance, which believers may attain unto as to their own personal salvation, is founded on the truth of the promises (Heb. 6:18), on the inward evidence of Christian graces, and on the testimony of the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:16). That such a certainty may be attained appears from the testimony of Scripture (Rom. 8:16; 1 John 2:3; 3:14), from the command to See k after it (Heb. 6:11; 2 Pet. 1:10), and from the fact that it has been attained (2 Tim. 1:12; 4:7, 8; 1 John 2:3; 4:16).
This full assurance is not of the essence of saving faith. It is the result of faith, and posterior to it in the order of nature, and so frequently also in the order of time. True believers may be destitute of it. Trust itself is something different from the evidence that we do trust. Believers, moreover, are exhorted to go on to something beyond what they at present have when they are exhorted to See k the grace of full assurance (Heb. 10:22; 2 Pet. 1:5-10). The attainment of this grace is a duty, and is to be diligently sought.
“Genuine assurance naturally leads to a legitimate and abiding peace and joy, and to love and thankfulness to God; and these from the very laws of our being to greater buoyancy, strength, and cheerfulness in the practice of obedience in every department of duty.”
This assurance may in various ways be shaken, diminished, and intermitted, but the principle out of which it springs can never be lost. (See FAITH)
A term exceptionally rich in spiritual meaning. It signifies the joyous, unwavering confidence of an intelligent faith; the security of a fearless trust. The original words have to do with the heart of vital religion. baTach, “trust”; ‘aman, “to prop,” “to support,” hence to confide in, to trust. Jesus repeatedly used this word “amen” to express the trustworthiness and abiding certainty of his sayings. pistis, “faith”; plerophoria, “full assurance.” The confidence of faith is based, not on “works of righteousness which we have done” (compare Titus 3:4; Titus 3:5 the King James Version) but on the highpriesthood and atoning sacrifice of Christ.
(Heb 10:21; Heb 10:22; compare He 10:19, “boldness to enter …. by the blood of Jesus,” the King James Version). Assurance is the soul’s apprehension of its complete emancipation from the power of evil and from consequent judgment, through the atoning grace of Christ. It is the exact opposite of self-confidence, being a joyous appropriation and experience of the fullness of Christ–a glad sense of security, freedom and eternal life in Him. This doctrine is of immeasurable importance to the life of the church and of the individual believer, as a life of spiritual doubt and uncertainty contradicts the ideal of liberty in Christ Jesus which is the natural and necessary fruitage of “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit …. shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” Paul unhesitatingly said, “I know” (2Ti 1:12)–a word which, oft-repeated in 1 Jn, furnishes the groundwork of glad assurance that runs through the entire epistle. For the classic passage on “full assurance” see Col 2:1-10.
Dwight M. Pratt
This word has in the O.T. a different application from that which it has in the N.T. In the former it is ‘confidence or trust,’ and agrees with the hopes of God’s earthly people in connection with the security in which Israel will dwell when restored to their land, when all their enemies shall have been put down by divine power: the effect of righteousness will be “quietness and assurance for ever,” Isa. 32:17: whereas in their disobedience they should fear day and night and have no assurance of their life. Deut. 28:66.
In the N.T. the Greek word plhroforia implies ‘full assurance’ and refers to eternal salvation. The gospel reaches a soul in power, and in the Holy Ghost and in ‘much full assurance.’ 1 Thess. 1:5. We also meet with:
1, the full assurance of faith, Heb. 10:22; the reception of God’s testimony respecting the work of Christ and the glory He now enjoys:
2, the full assurance of hope, Heb. 6:11, issuing in continued diligence of the saints in their work and labour of love: and
3, the full assurance of understanding, Col. 2:2, for full knowledge in the mystery of God.
• Produced by faith
Eph 3:12; 2Tim 1:12; Heb 10:22
• Made full by hope
Heb 6:11; Heb 6:19
• Confirmed by love
1John 3:14; 1John 3:19; 1John 4:18
• Is the effect of righteousness
• Is abundant in the understanding of the gospel
Col 2:2; 1Thess 1:5
• Saints privileged to have, assurance of:
– Their election
Ps 4:3; 1Thess 1:4
– Their redemption
– Their adoption
Rom 8:16; 1John 3:2
– Their salvation
– Their eternal life
– The unalienable love of God
– Union with God and Christ
1Cor 6:15; 2Cor 13:5; Eph 5:30; 1John 2:5; 1John 4:13
– Peace with God by Christ
Ps 3:6; Ps 8:1-9; Ps 27:3-5; Ps 46:1-3
– Answers to prayer
1John 3:22; 1John 5:14-15
– Comfort in affliction
Ps 73:26; Luke 4:18; 2Cor 4:8-10; 2Cor 4:16-18
– Continuance in grace
– A support in death
– A glorious resurrection
Job 19:26; Ps 17:15; Phil 3:21; 1John 3:2
– A kingdom
Heb 12:28; Rev 5:10
– A crown
2Tim 4:7-8; Jas 1:12
– Saints give diligence to attain
– Strive to maintain
Heb 3:14; Heb 3:18
– Confident hope in God restores
• Exemplified by:
Ps 23:4; Ps 73:24-26
2Tim 1:12; 2Tim 4:18 Faith
David Cox’s Topical Bible Concordance
Produced by faith Eph 3:12; 2Ti 1:12; Heb 10:22
Made full by hope Heb 6:11,19
Confirmed by love 1Jo 3:14,19; 4:18
Is the effect of righteousness Isa 32:17
Is abundant in the understanding of the gospel Col 2:2; 1Th 1:5
Saints privileged to have, of
Their election. Ps 4:3; 1Th 1:4
Their redemption. Job 19:25
Their adoption. Ro 8:16; 1Jo 3:2
Their salvation. Isa 12:2
Eternal life. 1Jo 5:13
The unalienable love of God. Ro 8:38,39
Union with God and Christ. 1Co 6:15; 2Co 13:5; Eph 5:30; 1Jo 2:5; 4:13
Peace with God by Christ. Ro 5:1
Preservation. Ps 3:6,8; 27:3-5; 46:1-3
Answers to prayer. 1Jo 3:22; 5:14,15
Continuance in grace. Php 1:6
Comfort in affliction. Ps 73:26; Lu 4:18,19; 2Co 4:8-10,16-18
Support in death. Ps 23:4
A glorious resurrection. Job 19:26; Ps 17:15; Php 3:21; 1Jo 3:2
A kingdom. Heb 12:28; Re 5:10
A crown. 2Ti 4:7,8; Jas 1:12
Give diligence to attain to 2Pe 1:10,11
Strive to maintain Heb 3:14,18
Confident hope in God restores Ps 42:11
David. Ps 23:4; 73:24-26
Paul. 2Ti 1:12; 4:18