When Assurance Is Not Assurance -- By: Robert N. Wilkin

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 10:2 (Autumn 1997)
Article: When Assurance Is Not Assurance
Author: Robert N. Wilkin

When Assurance Is Not Assurance

Robert N. Wilkin

Associate Editor
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society Irving, TX

I. Introduction

There are many people today who say that assurance of salvation is possible, but that certainty is impossible. Unless one is very familiar with that way of thinking, this argument is puzzling. How can one have assurance and yet not be certain? Isn’t assurance certainty?

As we shall see, the answer for many is No. Assurance is not certainty.

II. Various Ways of Explaining an Assurance Which Is Not Certain

A. Uncertainty with Jesus Is Better than Any Other Option

Dr. R. C. Sproul is a very articulate spokesman for the view that assurance is not certainty. A few years back he described his own struggles with assurance, and in so doing he explained his view of assurance:

There are people in this world who are not saved, but who are convinced that they are. The presence of such people causes genuine Christians to doubt their salvation. After all, we wonder, suppose I am in that category? Suppose I am mistaken about my salvation and am really going to hell? How can I know that I am a real Christian?

A while back I had one of those moments of acute self-awareness that we have from time to time, and suddenly the question hit me: “R.C., what if you are not one of the redeemed? What if your destiny is not heaven after all, but hell?” Let me tell you that I was flooded in my body with a chill that went from my head to the bottom of my spine. I was terrified.

I tried to grab hold of myself. I thought, “Well, it’s a good sign that I’m worried about this. Only true Christians really care about salvation.” But then I began to take stock of my life, and I looked at my performance. My sins came pouring into my mind, and the more I looked at myself, the worse I felt. I thought, “Maybe it’s really true. Maybe I’m not saved after all.”

I went to my room and began to read the Bible. On my knees I said, “Well, here I am. I can’t point to my obedience. There’s nothing I can offer. I can only rely on Your atonement for my sins. I can only throw myself on Your mercy.” Even then I knew that some people only flee to the Cross to escape hell, not out of a real turning to God. I could not be sure about my own heart and motivation. Then I remembered John 6:68. Jesus had been giving out hard teaching, and many of His former followers had left Him. When He asked Peter if he was also going to leave, Peter said, “Where else can I go? Only You h...

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