Last time we looked at the Reformed teaching concerning faith from the perspective of faith as a certain knowledge. It remains for us to consider briefly the remaining aspect of true saving Christian faith. Faith does not consist solely of knowledge, but also as our Catechism teaches, “an assured confidence which the Holy Ghost works by the Gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits” (HC Q. 21). Although the topic of consideration in this post is faith as it is an assured confidence, it is unavoidable that we will consider knowledge as well. Faith is not something that can be divided and sectioned off into distinct parts. They are two aspects of one “spiritual power,” which are inseparable from each other (Triple Knowledge, 322).
From where does the confidence of faith arise? The confidence of which the Catechism speaks does not simply come through knowing about God. By nature we all are at enmity with God, and God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom. 1:18). The unregenerate man can have neither true knowledge of God nor confidence, the only surety for such a man is that God’s wrath abides continually upon all workers of iniquity (John 3:36). Rather, assured confidence is the immediate result of the possession of the true knowledge of saving faith; it is not enough for the Christian simply to know about what God has done in Christ, he or she must know and experience these benefits personally. It follows that regeneration is necessary for true faith and therefore assured confidence. It is God who works this confidence in his people, just as he works the knowledge of faith in them, and this work is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. The power of faith must first be implanted in the heart of the elect sinner by the Spirit, and then cultivated into a full, conscious, and saving faith that leads to the assured confidence of salvation of which the Catechism speaks. Often the means by which the Holy Spirit accomplishes this work is through the power of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit breaks the elect sinner’s pride and drives him or her to repentance and the mercies of Christ by applying the keen edged sword of the preaching of the Word to the heart of the sinner. Even as saved believers how often do we not experience this while sitting under the preaching on the Lord’s Day!
The personal nature of this confidence is exceedingly rich, and is the cause for great comfort. Having this assured confidence in the Lord does not mean that we believe that God saves an undifferentiated mass of people, nor even that he saves a certain body of believers. Rather the believer who has received the gift of true faith from God confesses confidently, even boldly: “I am Christ’s possession, I am righteous before God, and there is no more wrath only God’s benevolence in store for me.”Hoeksema Writes: “Confidence is an act of friendship whereby I draw unto Him without fear, make known to Him the secrets of my heart, flee to Him for refuge in all my miseries, cast myself upon Him laying hold upon His promises, assured of His goodwill toward me, and of his power to save me to the uttermost. The knowledge of God’s favorable attitude toward me is personally is the indispensable ground of confidence” (Triple Knowledge, 323).
This confidence is assurance that our very own sins have been entirely washed away by the blood of Christ. Indeed, the confidence which of true faith is that of personal salvation. Every child of God finds rest and the peace that passes all understanding; peace which consists of having peace with God. And this peace with God is irreversible. God’s attitude of love toward us is unchanging. And since our confidence rests in the Lord and his sure promises, we stand unshakable and able to endure every storm which assails us; “for the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken” (Prov. 3:26). We have no confidence in the flesh that is weak, sinful, and soon to perish. Rather we hold fast to Christ, “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him” (Eph. 3:12). And indeed, this confidence “hath great recompense of reward” (Heb. 10:35).