Lewis Sperry Chafer defined assurance as a confidence that right relations exist between one's self and God. This should not be confused with the doctrine of eternal security, which is a fact due to God's faithfulness whether realized by the believer or not. On the other hand, assurance is what one believes to be true about himself at a given time.

Assurance is a recognition of the righteousness of God which is imputed to all believers. Isaiah 32:17 says, "The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever." Also, Colossians 2:2 speaks of the confidence which comes by understanding. Those who understand God's provisions and who have entered intelligently into them have this confidence and assurance. Hebrews 6:11 refers to "the full assurance of hope," and Hebrews 10:22 speaks of "full assurance that brings faith." Assurance may be experimental, resting on a true faith, a true hope, a true understanding, and an imputed righteousness. However, this feeling might cause one to say, "I know that I am saved," similar to Paul in 2 Timothy 1:12, "... I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. "Assurance rests not only upon God's Word, but also upon Christian experience, and both of these grounds of confidence need to be considered.

Assurance Based Upon Christian Experience

The inward witness of the Holy Spirit is a definite Christian experience. Romans 8:16 says, "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children." Also, 1 John 5:9-10 says, "We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son." Hebrews 10:2 says that those "cleansed once for all" should have had no more conscience of sins. So, the removal of all condemnation (Rom. 8:1) should create a corresponding experience.

1 John 3:10 illustrates a real experimental distinction between the "children of God" and the "children of the devil." The difference is in lawless sinning, which is sinning with no consciousness of its seriousness. The Christian lives with a either a grieved or an un-grieved Holy Spirit inside, and he cannot sin without an inner distress (Psalm 32:3-5). 1 John 3:9-10 says, "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister." This is not saying that Christians do not sin (1 John 1:8, 10). Instead, it teaches that the believer being indwelt by the Spirit of God cannot sin lawlessly.

The presence of this living Christ in the heart through the advent of the Spirit should cause a suitable experience, if the believer's relations to God are spiritual rather than carnal. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?" Chafer says, "It is inconceivable that Christ should dwell in the heart without some corresponding experience." So, Paul directs that self-examination be undertaken on the sole issue of the indwelling Christ. Chafer also says, "Certain results from that indwelling are normal:"

A Reality of the Fatherhood of God

Chafer also warns, "It is one thing to know about the triune God and quite another thing to know God." Knowledge of God as Father is achieved in the human heart by the work of Christ Jesus the Son. In Matthew 11:27-28, Christ said, "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." This rest is promised to the soul, and it results when God is known as Father. This knowledge is secured to all who believe in Christ as Savior.

A Reality in Prayer

Unbelievers attempt to pray, but without the ground of access to God which comes only through Christ. However, the believer (who has come to really know God) finds a new experience in prayer.

The Word of God Desired

When Christ indwells the believer, there will be a new interest created in his heart for the Word of God. The new spiritual life which came by the second birth, and that new life must be fed (just like a physical life). The Word of God becomes the "sincere milk" to some and "strong meat" to others, so all who are saved do have a desire for the Truth of God.

A New Passion for the Salvation of Men

Christ died so that lost men could be saved, and if He lives in a human heart, there will be a passion for the lost. Divine love is the first-named quality of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

A New Sense of Kinship

When one is born of God, he enters the family and household of God. It is because of the truth that saved ones are actually sons of God, and Christ is pleased to call them brothers (Rom. 8:29). This relationship is so genuine that there must be a corresponding sense of kinship in the heart. 1 John 3:14 presents this searching test of reality: "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death."

However, we must realize that it is possible to be saved and at the same time to be living a carnal life. Furthermore, when in the carnal state, no believer's experience can be normal. The evidence cited above, which is drawn from Christian experience, applies only to those who are adjusted to the mind and will of God. So, it is not that carnal believers are unsaved (which is, in itself, a contradiction of the terms "believer" and "unsaved"). Instead, since Christian experience depends upon the Holy Spirit working in one's heart, this experience will not be normal when the Spirit's work in the heart is hindered by carnality. So, for many believers, the evidence of assurance based on Christian experience is invalid because of carnality.

Assurance Based Upon the Word of God

Since God promises cannot fail, the evidence of one's salvation which is based upon the Word of God proves absolute, unlike such evidence which is based upon one's experience. 1 John 5:13 says, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." God has revealed that it is the divine purpose that everyone who believes to the saving of his soul may know that he is saved, not only through uncertain Christian experience, but primarily upon the ground of God's Holy Word.

Although the truth stated in the above passage applies to all of the promises of God for those who are saved, John is referring particularly to those that he referenced in verse 12, "Whoever has the Son has life..." So, it becomes a matter of self-knowledge whether one has had a recognized transaction with the Son of God regarding his salvation. When such a transaction occurred may not be known, but the saved one must recognize that he depends only on Christ as his Savior. He can say with Paul, "I know whom I have believed" (2 Timothy 1:12).John 6:37 says, "All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away." To those who have come to Christ for His salvation, they have been received and saved. The Word of God becomes a title deed to eternal life, and it should be treated as an article of surety, because God cannot fail in any word He has spoken.

Doubting One's Own Commitment

There are many who are not certain that they ever have had a personal transaction with Christ regarding their own salvation. Obviously the cure for any uncertainty about one's acceptance of Christ is to receive Christ now, realizing that no self-merit or religious works are of value, but that Christ alone can save.

Doubting the Faithfulness of God

Some lack assurance of their own salvation because they, though having come to Christ in faith, are not sure that He has kept His word and received them. This state of mind is usually caused by looking for a change in one's feelings rather than looking alone to the faithfulness of Christ. Feelings and experiences have their place, but the crowning evidence of personal salvation is the immutable truthfulness of God. He will do what He has said, so it is not commendable to distrust personal salvation after having accepted Christ.

Owen Weber 2012