Perseverance and Assurance (Discipleship Training)
Perseverance and Assurance: If we have indeed been justified by faith, and if God is indeed in the process of sanctifying us toward holiness, how certain can we be about the truthfulness of these realities? How sure are the promises? How confident can we be that we will partake of those promises, even if others may?
The Scriptures teach two sides to our confidence for salvation. The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints teaches God’s objective promise that all true believers will persevere to the end, by God’s grace alone. Just as you were saved by grace, so you will persevere by grace. God’s true children will never fall away from salvation.
The doctrine of assurance, on the other hand, explains the subjective experience of this reality. We may indeed feel real, true, assurance of our faith, and this is something that we can and should pursue. On the other hand, believers will not always feel as confident of salvation at different times in their lives, and some believers may wait long to have any experience of assurance. Nevertheless, we are saved by faith, not by how we feel about our faith.
To recognize the two-sided nature of our hope: God’s objective promise that true believers will persevere, and our subjective assurance that we have been saved by faith.
Read and discuss:
- Deuteronomy 29:18–19: It is possible to be vainly deceived that we have salvation.
- John 8:41: It is possible to put our confidence for salvation in the wrong place.
- John 10:28–29: Salvation is not something we cling to in the hopes that we will not fumble it away; no one can snatch us out of God’s hand.
- Romans 8:15–16: The Lord sends us the Holy Spirit to bear witness to our adoption as sons of God
- Romans 8:28–30: There is an unbreakable chain from our predestination in eternity past to our future glorification.
- Philippians 1:6: God promises to bring his good work in us to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
- 2 Peter 1:10–11: We should be diligent to confirm the reality of our salvation.
- 1 John 5:13: If we believe, we may know that we have eternal life.
Read and discuss:
- Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 17–18
- Westminster Larger Catechism #79–81
- Westminster Shorter Catechism #36
- How does the doctrine of perseverance teach us the objective truth of God’s promises in salvation? When might those promises be helpful?
- How does the doctrine of assurance teach us the subjective truth of God’s salvation for me? When might that truth be helpful?
- How do the Psalms teach that our assurance of salvation may be shaken, diminished, and intermittent (e.g., Ps. 77:7–9)? What should we learn from that when we personally struggle with doubts?
- How do the Psalms teach us to pray for the restoration of our assurance of salvation and the comfort of God’s grace (e.g., Ps. 51:12)? How might that inform our prayers?
- Ask the Lord to lead you to put your confidence in Jesus Christ alone.
- Pray that God would restore to you the joy of your salvation.
- Pray for God’s grace of assurance to continue growing in your heart and mind.
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