Assurance, Doubt, and Guilty Fears

Kenneth J. Morgan

April 2009

Bible believing scholars, whether Calvinists or Arminians, believe that a Christian can and should have assurance of his salvation. Many verses can be cited to demonstrate that God wants every believer to have absolute assurance that if he were to die, he would go to heaven, a sinner saved by grace.

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom. 5:1.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Rom. 8:1.

However, it is one thing to give intellectual assent to a theological proposition; it is sometimes quite a different matter at the emotional level. There personality traits come into play, and some people have a tendency toward self doubt. “Do I really believe fully?” “What if I’m not sincere enough in some way?”

The great hymn writer, Charles Wesley, captured Rom. 8:1 in the last verse of one of his greatest hymns, “And Can It Be”:

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Behold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ, my own.

But evidently Wesley also had to deal with some of those same nagging questions that plague personalities prone to self-doubt. He found he had to rouse himself to face his fears and doubts and call them what they truly were: “guilty fears.” In one of his lesser-known hymns, he describes his soul-searching in a way that should encourage and admonish those of us who may have similar doubts.

Arise, my soul, arise, shake off your guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my Surety stands,
Before the throne my Surety stands,
My name is written on his hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede,
His all-redeeming love, his precious blood to plead;
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds he bears, received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers, they strongly plead for me.
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears him pray, his dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away the presence of his Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; his pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for his child, I can no longer fear;
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father!” cry.

That is why we should have no doubts.

Hear the Music

Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Arise, My Soul, Arise” has been set to several different tunes. Here it is set to music written by Louis Edson, arranged and played by Carol Morgan. Click the screen or the triangle at the bottom left to start the hymn.