Assurance of Salvation
The Greek word for assurance in the New Testament is ‘plerophoria' - full assurance. It occurs four times: 1. Thessalonians 1:5; Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22; and Colossians 2:2. Assurance of salvation is the firm and full conviction and knowledge of being saved, eternally secure, and of sins forgiven, once for all; the settled disposition of peace relying only on the grace shown us on the basis of the accomplished work of Christ on the cross (see Rom 5:1; Eph 2:5b; 1. John 5:13).
9.1 Does assurance automatically come with new birth?
No. Where a full gospel is preached and received, the two may well coincide in time, but in many cases it will take time for the new-born believer to receive this assurance. This lack of assurance is not the normal condition of a believer (which is why the Bible does not speak much about this case, if at all), but, sadly, it is a frequent one today. What is stated, though, is that John wrote his first epistle with the declared objective that the recipients might ‘know' that they had eternal life (1. John 5:13).
9.2 How is assurance brought about in a believer?
Essentially, assurance is brought about through the work of the Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom 8:16). He uses the Word of God in order to bring about that assurance - just as He first uses that Word to bring about a conviction of sins, and new birth.
9.3 What can I do to obtain assurance?
The first step is to take note of the fact that the believer has two natures, and that the old nature is irremediably bad, beyond repair, reform and improvement [See the article Deliverance in Romans 8:1-4 by W. Kelly]. Once this is taken hold of in faith we need to stop looking at ourselves and start looking at Christ and at His work. If our sins are forgiven then it is ‘for his name's sake' (1. John 2:12). Assurance will not be found in our feelings, our spiritual growth (we would be badly positioned to form a judgment on this anyhow), our faithfulness, or our service. We can only find assurance in considering and trusting the plain statements of God's Word. Only God is competent to judge the value of the sacrifice of Christ. He raised Him as the sign of His approval and appreciation, and exalted Him at His right hand (Heb 10:12; Rom 8:34). Already in type it was a matter of God's appreciation of the blood, and no one else's (Ex 12:13) .
9.4 Does 2. Corinthians 13:5 not exhort us to prove ourselves?
At first sight it appears to do so. The verse reads: ‘ Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. ' However, one needs to read the whole sentence, which actually starts in verse 3: ‘ Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me ... ' As always the context gives the answer. There were those who questioned Paul's apostolic mission, and tried to discredit him. Paul essentially says, ‘This is utter nonsense — just look at yourselves! The very fact that you are believers is the stamp of approval on my ministry and mission.' Paul exhorted the Corinthians to prove themselves because they were saved, not in order for them to find out whether they were saved.
9.5 What is the consequence of assurance?
Assurance gives settled peace and an appreciation of the favour in which we stand (Rom 5:1-2). This will enable us to enjoy our salvation and to boast in the hope of the glory (Rom 5:2b). As C H Mackintosh once said: ‘To be happy without this, is to be happy on the brink of a yawning gulf into which I may, at any moment, be dashed forever.' Also, it is only with assurance of salvation we can receive instruction and learn the truth. Hence John says: ‘I write to you, children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake ' (1. John 2:12). Assurance of salvation is also vital if we are to be able to live in the enjoyment of access to, and communion with, the Father and the Lord, to walk in the Spirit (Rom 8:4), and to draw near in worship (Heb 10:22).