May 22, 2011 Q & A

Assurance from scripture?


Is it possible for a Christian to know that Christ died for him from scripture alone?


The Bible does not give us a list of all those names who are written in the Book of Life; God alone truly knows that. I suppose it would be nice if we had access to that knowledge, but then we might simply walk by sight instead of by faith. That being said, I cannot help but think of Paul's wonderful words in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (ESV, emphasis mine).

What I want to underscore here is twofold. First, Paul seems to see the work of Christ as not being merely comprehended as for the church in a corporate sense, but for himself in a very tender, personal sense. He does not say "for us" but "for me." That Christ died for "us" or "for his church" is true, but to say Christ died "for me" is also just as true. How can one know? Well, Paul is not, to my knowledge, basing this reference on any particular revelation. In other words, I do not believe such confidence belonged to his apostolic office. There is no reason I am aware of to think that, neither from Galatians or elsewhere. But positively, how would Paul's words been of any pastoral benefit for the Galatians if they were only something Paul could utter? Paul's goal was to pastor them and not merely himself. Notice his use of "you" and "we" in Galatians 3. The personal reference is not unique to Paul, but something Paul hoped would take shape in the heart of each believer. Christ has loved me and given himself for me, and the way in which I know this is through faith; a faith that is built up through the ministry of the word, sacrament and prayer.

It is right to point out that not every believer will enjoy this sense of assurance. It is certainly something we grow in, and something that may even wax and wane depending on our faith and trials. This is why the Westminster Confession is careful to guard the reality that assurance of salvation is not of the essence of saving faith. Real Christians may and should have genuine assurance, but some real Christians for one reason or another may lack it.



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