The Surprising Effects of Blessed Assurance
When the Christian contemplates the blessed assurance of salvation, afforded to him by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, it has an effect. Those who disregard the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints argue that the effect is the spirit of pride. Not believing that God assures His adopted children that He will never leave them nor forsake them, they suggest it is arrogant to hold such a position.
The Arminian objection is that blessed assurance, in the promises of God, makes one carnally secure. They are convinced this produces an antinomian spirit in the Christian. We would argue, however, that the antinomian spirit is produced by a wrong view of God’s grace. It views the doctrine of perseverance of the saints as a cheap, eternal life insurance policy. In other words, God saves us, so we can live as we want because we are saved. This is not the effect we see in the saints of the Bible or in history.
The correct view of grace that saves God’s elect, redeemed, regenerate, believing people, is grace that saves us unto holiness. God begins the good work of salvation in the Christian, and He continues His work of sanctification, until that work ends in glory (Rom 8:30; Phil 1:6). The effect, in the attitude of the saint, is far from licentiousness. In fact, it is exactly the opposite of what the Arminian claims.
The authentic effect of a genuine conversion is Christian piety. One must only look to the saints in Scripture to see the evidence of an encounter with the Holy One of God. Consider Simeon, the devout worshipper of God, in the temple at Jerusalem. His heart was filled with joy, as a result of holding the Christ-child in his arms, on the eighth day. Yet, he also had a solemn word for Mary and Joseph about Jesus’ effect on others (Lk 2:21–35).
After the death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement of our Lord Jesus, one must only see the transforming effect He had on His disciples, who became bold apostles. They were transformed by a conversion of heart and renewal of mind (Ezek 36:26; Rom 12:2), brought about by the Holy Spirit baptizing and indwelling them (Mt 3:11; Jn 14:17). Growing in holiness is not a work of the Christian, nor is it a joint project between God and the saint. It is God, willing and doing His good pleasure (Phil 2:13), to mature the Christian into conformity with the image of Christ (Rom 8:29).
The life of Jesus Christ shows us the model for Christian living. In Christ, we observe a man of sorrows with diverse sufferings, yet there is joy in Jesus, even as He approaches the cross (Heb 12:2). His words of warning to the wicked are complemented by His comforting, hope-filled communication with His followers. This should be true of us, believers, too.
Jesus was a man of fervent prayer, a sure sign of one in humble submission to God above. Was Jesus lacking the assurance of God at any point in His earthly ministry? On the contrary, there was a confidence in the predetermined plan of God and eternal purpose for Him to fulfill (Acts 2:23; Eph 3:11). It is true, we put no confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3), but the presence of the Holy Spirit is ever heightening our confidence in Christ.
The effect of the Spirit of Christ, in us, is seen in the spiritual fruit He produces through us (Gal 5:22–23). Good works were also prepared beforehand by God, for us to walk in (Eph 2:10). The life of the Christian is one of faith (Gal 2:20), living, by walking in the Spirit’s wisdom and power (Gal 5:1). Christians are eye-witnesses to the work of the Spirit in themselves, but they are also privy to seeing the Spirit at work in their brethren.
Each Christian is being watched by other Christians, who revere the spiritual development produced by the Holy Spirit. To miss these examples of development in other saints, or to miss the examples in the Bible, will produce a deficiency in gratitude to God, for the great things He has done. The typical result of Arminian doubt of blessed assurance is a works-based sanctification that never achieves assurance. It is a life of slavish fear, indicative of unbelief.
Therefore, we can agree that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, and its accompanying blessed assurance, produced by the Spirit of God, is the source of Christian confidence in the God of our salvation, who is at work to produce a life of holiness, godliness, love, joy, confession, humility, patience, and piety. Giving thanks in all things, for all things, we can only marvel at what grace produces in us (1 Thess 5:18).
Christian, you have a great cloud of witnesses in the Bible (Heb 11), and throughout church history that serve to demonstrate the effect our Holy God produces in the ones who trust in Him (Ps 118:8; Prv 3:5–6). Of course, there is no better example of blessed assurance in God, than Jesus Christ our Lord, who lived in perfect assurance. May God instill that same confidence in us — that come what may — our hope, confidence, and assurance rests in Christ, alone.
Spokane Valley, Washington
October 18, 2022