Let’s briefly review what we have said in previous articles about this verse. In the inner person of the heart of everybody, there is a capacity for self-judgment, which the Bible calls the “conscience”. As Paul writes in Romans 2:15, the conscience has the function of either accusing or defending us in reference to guilt. We saw that guilt is “the fact of having performed a wrong act”. Since we are guilty, the conscience produces bad feelings—a sense of guilt. The emotional pain produced is a warning signal of our guilt. We also considered the human problem: “How can a person be rid of guilt and so the sense of guilt?” and mankind’s attempted “solutions”. Then we examined God’s solution to the problem of guilt, which is the finished saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ. But this led us to another question, “If I am a believer, why do I still have a sense of guilt?” Next, let us enlarge our thoughts of faith and assurance.
God invites us to draw near in full assurance of faith. We see here the total necessity of approaching God by faith. God is only pleased when we come in faith (Hebrews 11:6) in what he has done for us in Christ. The Lord wants us to rely totally on him. Faith in God is of great concern to the Lord. Consider Christ’s great question (Luke 18:8). Look at the way Jesus interacted with people: the man born blind (John 9:35) or the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:28) for only two examples. Think about God’s purposeful use of the trials in our lives (1 Peter 1:6-7).
God has established faith as the nourishment and support of other spiritual graces. Faith is like the oil producing companies that sell part of their product for gasoline, part for heating, and part for other uses. If they quit producing, then other industries shut down.
- Faith stimulates the fruit of repentance (Jonah 3:5).
- Faith stimulates love for Christ. Love to Christ is extremely important (1 Corinthians 16:22). But it is faith that lays hold of the truth of Jesus, considers his surpassing value, which in turn yields love for Christ (1 Peter 2:7).
- Faith lays hold of the Lord Jesus Christ to nourish and restore other graces (Psalm 42:5).
We must join assurance with our faith. Faith and assurance are not identical. Faith is reliance on God, but assurance is confidence or boldness in that reliance. You can have faith without assurance and you can have assurance without faith. Let’s contrast two different people. One person may truly believe in Christ but be greatly troubled due to a weakness of understanding, such as being troubled over the unpardonable sin. Their faith is real, but their assurance is very weak due to incorrect teaching. Another person might be very confident that his or her good works and faithful attendance on religious ritual will save, but without faith in Christ, he or she is not saved. They have great confidence, but have never placed their trust in Christ alone.
True, saving faith is made up of three elements: knowledge, assent and trust. In true faith there is some amount of certainty or conviction about what God has revealed about himself and the gospel or else there is not really faith.
Assurance rests on three bases: the testimony of the Scriptures, the testimony of a changed life, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit. How do I know that I’m married? I have a marriage license. I have a beautiful wife, and three great children who are the fruit of our union, a wedding ring that Sharon gave me on June 15, 1974, and the public testimony of living together as husband and wife. And I can just smile because I know that I am married! Do not confuse faith and assurance, though true assurance flows out of true faith in Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace, David