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Absolutely Sure

Steven J. Lawson

Sisters, OR: Multnomah Press, 1999, 190 pages.

This is a very good book on the subject of eternal security. In his foreword to the book, John MacArthur said: “Assurance of salvation. Complete certainty unassailed by uncertainty and doubt. Is it possible? How may we know we are truly saved? I know of no single doctrinal issue that confuses people more than this one” (page 11). MacArthur went on to say that people who misunderstand the doctrine of eternal security go to one of two extremes. On the one hand, there are those who have a false confidence. Understanding that salvation is a gift of divine grace, they falsely conclude that self-examination is unnecessary, spiritual fruit is optional, and despite showing no evidence of a true union with Christ in their lives, they live in a smug self-confidence. On the other hand, there are those who are filled with doubts and anxieties, and see every failure as evidence that they are unsaved. To make things worse, each group tends to “hearken to instruction meant for the other” (page 11). Therefore, the smug tend to gravitate to teaching about justification by faith or sovereign grace, and feed their false assurance with comfort meant for others. On the other hand, the fearful hear the warning passages addressed to the self-confident, and fuel their doubts still further. As MacArthur says, “virtually every aspect of the biblical doctrine of assurance is therefore prone to being misunderstood and twisted. It is a difficult subject, filled with potential pitfalls” (page 11), and “the pure light of Scripture is the only antidote to the confusion on this and every other spiritual matter” (page 12). MacArthur concludes by saying that Lawson in this book does a good job by focusing that light where it is most needed.

Indeed, Lawson’s approach is to be guided through the pitfalls by using the path laid down by the Apostle John in his first epistle. As Lawson says, “First John is a book of Christian certainty written that we may be absolutely sure that we have eternal life…the first key word of 1 John 5:13, as well as of this entire epistle, is “know.” John writes, “in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (pages 21-22).

And like the vital signs such as pulse, heart rate, and breath, which a doctor looks for to determine if physical life resides within his patient, Lawson then goes on to set forth nine vital spiritual signs found in 1 John that give assurance that eternal life abides within. If you give yourself a spiritual checkup and see these vital signs alive within you, regardless of degree, then you may be assured that you possess eternal life. The nine signs are 1) communion with Christ, 2) confession of sin, 3) commitment to God’s Word, 4) compassion for believers, 5) change of affection, 6) comprehension of the truth, 7) conformity to Christlikeness, 8) conflict with the world, and 9) confidence in prayer (pages 32-33).

So as Lawson says: “Have you believed in Jesus Christ? Have you trusted Him alone to be your Savior and Lord? Receiving the assurance of our salvation is a clear-cut matter of reading your vitals. We can know that our faith is real as we see the evidence of a changed life” (page 33).

Before proceeding to discuss the vital signs, Lawson first exposes false assurance in a chapter entitled “The Ultimate Deception: Religious But Lost.” For as Lawson says: “Worse than a genuine Christian who lacks the assurance of eternal life is the person who is lost but has a false assurance of his or her salvation…this is the fateful delusion of being religious but lost…of presuming you know Christ, when in reality you merely know about Him” (page 37). After dealing with this issue, Lawson goes on to devote a chapter to each vital sign.

This book does a good job of setting forth the glorious Scriptural truths concerning the doctrine of eternal security. As Al Mohler said in comments quoted on the book cover: “Through reading this book, Christians will gain renewed confidence. Those uncertain of their salvation will come face to face with the power of the authentic gospel”.

Related Topics: Assurance

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