Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Chapter 18: Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation

The Westminster Confession of Faith in Plain Language
1. It is possible for hypocrites and other people who have not been born again to fool themselves into thinking they are truly saved and blessed by God.  This is a false hope that will be destroyed when they find out the truth.  But that does not mean that true believers cannot know for sure that their hope is real.  Those who truly believe in the Lord Jesus, who really love him with a sincere heart, and who strive to do what they know to be right can be certain that God’s grace has saved them.  They can rejoice in the hope of eternal life without any fear that their hope is false.

2. This is not a weak hope that salvation might turn out to be true in the end. This is a rock-solid assurance of faith based upon God’s true promises of salvation. The proof of these promises is inside of us:  The Holy Spirit proves that we have been adopted by God by convincing us in our hearts that we are truly God’s children.   He is the present-day down payment for what God will someday give us in full. He is the guarantee that God will keep his promises.

3. This strong assurance does not always come automatically.  True believers can sometimes wait a long time and struggle intensely with their faith before they receive it.  But the Holy Spirit gives believers the ability to know what God has freely given them.  They do not need to look to God for extra promises beyond what he has already given to every believer. Since this is true, every believer should diligently strive to achieve the assurance that comes from being called and chosen.* It is not true that assurance of salvation leads people to think that they can sin and get away with it. Those who have this assurance will have hearts full of the Holy Spirit's peace and joy.  They will be full of love and thankfulness to God.  They will have the strength to obey God with joy, and their assurance will produce godly fruit in their lives.

4. True believers can sometimes struggle with assurance of their salvation. It can be shaken, fade, and come and go.  This can be our fault, for instance, when we give in to old sin habits and grieve the Holy Spirit.  Or perhaps it happens when we are suddenly confronted with very powerful temptations that almost overcome us. Or it might even be that God sometimes allows those who fear him to fall into times of darkness and despair, as if he has withdrawn his presence from them for unknown reasons.  Whatever the reasons, we are never so hopeless that our assurance is lost forever.  We will always have some evidence that God is at work in our lives.  We will never completely lose our faith, or our love for Christ or for our brothers and sisters, or our sincere heart for God, or our awareness of what he expects of us. The Holy Spirit may use these remnants to restore our assurance when the time is right. Until then, he will use them to keep us from losing all hope.

*Note that the original sentence that this paraphrases can be taken a different though similar way in the Confession. As I continue to study the original intentions of the Framers, I may rephrase this sentence.

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