Over the years, I have received more inquiries regarding assurance than any other matter. It’s a joy to offer help by pointing people to the object of faith, Jesus, based on the sure Word of God. The only infallible assurance is the infallible Word of God.
A simple pattern is evident in most (if not all) cases where people are unsettled and question whether they have been genuinely saved. Individuals who are trusting the Lord for salvation begin to doubt upon hearing preaching with a particular emphasis. They are shaken when well-meaning preachers preach for doubt. Ironically, doubt was the tactic used by the devil in the Garden of Eden.
Confusion arises when focus is placed on the subject of faith rather than the object of faith. Preaching for doubt often leads one to focus on personal performance—something that might cause any honest person to question things. Some preaching induces doubt by zeroing in on the language employed in one’s prayer. Did I cover everything; did I say it right? Whether a message highlights performance or prayer language or elements of both, this type of preaching misses the mark for want of a proper focus.
It’s strange, is it not? We know that justification is by faith and not works, but too readily we make assurance to be by works, whether it be how well we prayed at the moment of salvation or how our performance measures up after that point. Such a focus on you, the subject of faith, is where the doubt originates.
The key to faith is Christ, the object of faith. Preachers will help people when they focus properly and preach for faith. They risk hindering people should they preach for doubt. Faith is what pleases God (Heb. 12:6). Obviously, people need to have a clear understanding of the Gospel and a real decision of faith. But salvation is simple. Sin is the problem, Hell is the consequence, and Christ alone is the answer (1 Cor. 15:1-11, John 16:8). Jesus said when you believe on Him you have eternal life (John 6:47). When you believe not merely about Jesus, but on Him, trusting Him to save you, He does. Then you can have assurance of this salvation because the Bible says so!
John Van Gelderen