If we are ever wavering between confidence and doubt with regard to our standing with God, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to be decisive in spiritual matters. Obedience often requires earthly sacrifice, and if we are unsure that we possess eternal life, we will be unable to endure earthly trouble for the sake of Christ. Assurance is essential to the Christian life. If you have fallen into a pattern of doubt and have neglected the assurance of your salvation, let this be the day you heed the Scripture’s exhortations and, by God’s grace, find your footing through faith in God’s sure promises.
I remember a conversation during college in which a friend confessed to me that he did not think it was necessary, or even possible, for a believer to gain assurance of their salvation. I was surprised by his comments, especially because we were attending a Christian college that emphasized all the biblical truths related to assurance of salvation: election, grace, faith, repentance, substitutionary atonement, the fully deity and humanity of Christ, and eternal security.
As it turns out, this was not an isolated incident. Over the past several years as I’ve wrestled personally with the issue of assurance and had opportunity to speak to others about it, I’ve found that many Christians do not rightly understand the biblical basis or importance of this doctrine. Assurance is essential to genuine Christianity and central to the New Testament’s theological framework, yet plenty of Christians are content to walk through life without the sure knowledge that they belong to Christ. There are, of course, those who claim assurance who have no right to do so; but it seems that there are an equal number of professing Christians who have either resigned to the fact they will never have assurance or that they don’t really need it.
What is assurance?
When I use the phrase “assurance of salvation” I am referring to a professing Christian’s confidence that he is, through the gospel, presently in right standing with God and will, upon his death or at the return of Christ, enter into eternal life and be delivered from the penalty of eternal condemnation. Assurance is the present intellectual and heart-felt conviction that I am, at this moment and for eternity, at peace with the living God through Jesus Christ.
But is such assurance really that important? In light of our sin and struggles with faith, shouldn’t we be content with the reality that we may or may not achieve assurance in this lifetime? While Scripture acknowledges that we will wrestle with sin and a lack of faith, it also consistently calls professing believers to gain assurance of their salvation. Scripture doesn’t suggest that those who are without assurance of their right standing with God are not necessarily saved, but neither does it applaud those who lack it, as though being without assurance was a mark of spiritual humility and maturity. Here are five reasons why assurance is essential for the Christian life.
1. Assurance is God’s will for you.
The first reason we must say that assurance is essential for the Christian life is because assurance is God’s will for you. Listen to the language of the New Testament (emphasis added):
Colossians 2:1-3: For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Hebrews 6:11-12: And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Hebrews 10:22: Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.