Why discuss assurance of salvation? Is this not just the promotion of unhealthy and unnecessary introspection on life? Will I not just become gloomy at the end of the reading? Well, I do not think so!

I think that if there is an area in a Christian’s life and experience that causes a lot of anguish, it is the area of assurance of salvation. However, we need to understand that the most agonising problem about the assurance of salvation is not the problem of whether the objective facts of Christianity are true. That is, facts like God exists, the Bible is God’s word, Christ is both God and man, Christ was born of a virgin, Christ died for sinners, Christ rose from the dead, Christ saves forever all who believe in Him, et cetera. Such Bible truths are the bedrock of our Christian faith. But the really agonising problem of assurance is whether I personally am saved by those objective facts. This comes down to whether I have saving faith or not. What makes this painfully agonising is that there are people who think they have true saving faith but simply do not. For example, think for a moment about the words of Jesus Christ: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21–23 NIV).

So the distressful question for some is: ‘Do I really have saving faith? Is my faith the real thing? Am I self-deceived?’ Some well-intentioned pastors may try to lessen the problem by making faith a mere decision to affirm certain facts, such as these truths: Jesus Christ is both God and man; he died for my sins; and he rose from the dead on the third day. Others will try to assist assurance by asserting that any kind of life-change is totally unnecessary for one to demonstrate the reality of saving faith. Therefore, they find a way to make James 2:17, for example, mean something other than what it seems to mean: “So also faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (ESV).

However, these pastoral counselling strategies meant to help assurance only backfire. They deny some Scriptures, and even the minimal faith they preserve can be agonised over and doubted by the tormented soul. They do not solve the problem, and they undermine the power of the truth. Moreover, perhaps worst of all, they sometimes give assurance to people who should not ever have it.

In this issue, we will be discussing questions that arise around the important subject of assurance of salvation. How are we to understand this topic? What does the Bible teach concerning assurance of salvation? Is there anything like a false assurance of salvation? How can you biblically ascertain that your faith is the real thing, without falling into self-deception? We trust the chapters following will not only try to provide biblical answers to these types of questions, some of which you may at some point have asked yourself, but also give you a spiritual feast that will enrich and revitalise your walk with the Lord, enabling you to join in the glorious worship of God for our great salvation.

Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong, a perfect plea.
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on his hands,
My name is written on his heart.
I know that while in heaven he stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died,
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on him and pardon me.

Behold him there the bleeding Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One with himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by his blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Saviour and my God!

Pastor Oswald Sichula deals with the biblical teaching of assurance of salvation in the article “Assurance of Salvation: What is it?” Pastor Francis Kaunda guides us pastorally by the hand through the treacherous waters of doubt to arrive safely on the shores of assurance in “Handling the Doubt of Assurance of Salvation” and Pastor Raphael Banda expertly unmasks the hideous imitations that lurk in the shadows in “The Counterfeits of Assurance of Salvation”. Hey, let me not delay you any further: go for it, this is rich gospel stuff!