West London Alliance Church

The Whole Christ and Assurance

Let me begin this post by informing you, the reader, that it is and has been my intention to blog regularly. That being said, I have not done as I intended. Nevertheless, my intention remains and time will tell whether or not I my intentions become realities.
The following post arises from a spectacular book I recently finished entitled The Whole Christ. The book, written by Sinclair Ferguson, is described as follows: 

"Since the days of the early church, Christians have wrestled with the relationship between law and gospel. If, as the apostle Paul says, salvation is by grace and the law cannot save, what relevance does the law have for Christians today?

By revisiting the Marrow Controversy—a famous but largely forgotten eighteenth-century debate related to the proper relationship between God’s grace and our works—Sinclair B. Ferguson sheds light on this central issue and why it still matters today. In doing so, he explains how our understanding of the relationship between law and gospel determines our approach to evangelism, our pursuit of sanctification, and even our understanding of God himself.

Ferguson shows us that the antidote to the poison of legalism on the one hand and antinomianism on the other is one and the same: the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom we are simultaneously justified by faith, freed for good works, and assured of salvation.

I found the entire book helpful, and in particular I was significantly edified by Ferguson's writing in regards to assurance. Here is a summary of two chapters of The Whole Christ which focus on assurance."

What is assurance?

One possible definition for assurance of salvation can be deduced from a question presented by a Commission of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1721. Thus, assurance is the “knowledge, belief, and persuasion, that Christ died for me, and that he is mine, and that whatever he did and suffered, he did and suffered for me”.


Chief enemies of the Christian’s assurance:

  1. Drift from the fact that salvation is all of grace
  2. Difficulty in believing that Christians are freely justified
  3. Failure to recognize justification is final and complete


However, “high degrees of Christian assurance are simply not compatible with low levels of obedience.”


Four moral characteristics (from Apostle John) of the believer which encourage assurance:

  1. Obedience to the commands of God – 1 John 2:3-4
  2. Righteous living evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit – 1 John 2:29
  3. Not sinning – 1 John 5:18
  4. Walking in love – 1 John 3:14


Nine factors detrimental to the enjoyment of assurance of salvation:

  1. An unsure foundation – “confusing and confounding the foundation of salvation [grace, justification] with the means by which assurance of salvation is confirmed and developed [sanctification].”
  2. Inconsistent obedience – “the Christian who has developed a pattern of disobedience in his or her life will lose assurance.”
  3. Frowning providence – “Lack of assurance can be related to misunderstanding the role of affliction in the Christian life.”
    1. View your afflicitions “through cross-shaped lenses.”
    2. Afflictions can be corrective
    3. Afflictions produce character
    4. Afflictions create a context that reveal God’s glory and grace
    5. Afflictions make us long for, and be prepared for, glory
  4. Sin’s presence – “…through our union with him [Christ] in his death we are set free from the penalty of our guilt, which he has paid for us; in union with him in his resurrection a complete, final, and irreversible righteousness is ours; in union with him in his death and resurrection we have been set free from the reign of sin. Yet we remain sinners in ourselves.”
  5. Natural temperament – “Since assurance is a state of self-consciousness then, the truth of the Gospel presses itself into the lives of individuals each with his or her own history, understanding of the gospel, life context, and psychological makeup. That being the case it may face greater obstacles in some Christians than it does in others.”
  6. Attacks of the devil – “Satan knows he cannot ultimately destroy those whom Christ saves. He is therefore determined to destroy our enjoyment of our new relationship to the Lord.”
  7. An unreliable conscience – “…conscience can be unreliable. It can be misinformed. Indeed it needs to be reformed and recalibrated according to God’s Word.”
  8. Negligence in the means of grace – “God has provided us with important means to cultivate the assurance we enjoy in our fellowship with Christ. But misuse or neglect of these ordinances of god (so-called means of grace) may strangle assurance.”
  9. Withdrawal of conscious assurance – For the Puritans, “there was such a reality in the Christian life as: “God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light”.”

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