WCF 18: Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation

WCF 18: Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation

You don’t need “extraordinary revelation” to know that you are a child of God. Through the ordinary means of grace—listening to God’s voice and using his ordinances—true believers may “be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Only Jesus’s blood shed for us gives us the confidence to enter the holy places (Heb. 10:19).

People who believe in Jesus and want in all things to please God can still struggle with assurance of salvation. Circumstances like the transition from childhood to adulthood, major trauma, and the imminence of death can trouble believers with spiritual doubts and fears.

But Scripture urges us to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). To truly combat our doubt and gain rich confidence in God we have to be clear about what Scripture means by “assurance of faith.”

Assurance Is Different from Presumption

To presume is to take for granted that something is the case; to suppose without reason. One might presume that they have sufficient funds to write a check—that presumption could be false, and result in sad consequences. Many people, instead of experiencing genuine assurance of grace and salvation, simply “deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in favor with God.” The presumptuous put more stock in their own righteousness than in the righteousness of God which believers receive by faith. The self-deceived fail to reckon with God’s absolute holiness and human sinfulness. But God is holy. And we are sinful. It is the extremity of folly to simply declare yourself a child of God without warrant. Fabricated dreams of salvation will perish when hypocrites meet God.

And genuine assurance of salvation and mere presumption have different fruits. Hypocrites talk religiously, but lack the power of new life. Lacking a new heart and the Spirit working in them they continue to produce bad fruit, no matter their religious façade. Not so with real believers who gain true assurance. Contrary to the old objection proper assurance does not “[incline] men to looseness.” Instead, it results in “peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience.” Only by an assured faith can we know that our labors in the Lord are not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

Presumption is not assurance. A deep awareness of God’s holiness and our sinfulness will enable us resist taking grace for granted.

Assurance Is Possible

Scripture gives examples of believers who experienced genuine assurance of salvation. Job knew that his redeemer lives and that he would see God after he died (Job 19:25–26). Paul knew whom he had believed. He was convinced that God would guard him safely until he entered glory (2 Tim. 1:12). The Bible is written so that we “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God … and have life in his name” (John 20:31). “And by believing you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13). Scripture also calls us to pursue assurance. “It is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure” (cf. 2 Peter 1:10).

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