Sunday, April 27, 2014

Gospel Assurance and Warnings

Gospel Assurance and WarningsGospel Assurance and Warnings by Paul Washer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This appears to be the third book written in the author’s Recovering the Gospel series. The book is divided into two parts, the first on biblical assurance, and the second on gospel warnings.

The author situates his topic as matter of heaven or hell. He is concerned about a doctrine of easy believism that “opens the door for carnal and unregenerate people to find assurance of salvation by looking to the apparent sincerity of their past decision to accept Christ, even though their manner of living contradicts such a profession,” (loc 219). “Contemporary evangelicalism,” he states, “has been grossly affected by a ‘once saved always saved’ teaching that argues for the possibility of salvation apart from sanctification,” (loc 1793).

In the first part he goes through the numerous tests given in 1 John to examine ourselves to see if our profession in genuine. Tests such as whether we walk in the light, confess sin, keep God’s commandments, etc (there is a helpful summary list given at the end of Part One [locs 2911-2]).

If Part One primarily focuses on 1 John, Part Two goes through the conclusion to Jesus’s famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:13-27. Here we learn that today’s preacher, like the Lord Jesus himself, must give his listeners gospel warnings as well as gospel promises, and that “the idea that it is easy to be saved is totally foreign to the Scriptures,” (loc 3281). “It seems that the evangelical community no longer views conversion primarily as a supernatural work of God wrought through the miracle of the new birth” (loc 4277).


I agree with Washer’s overall message in the book. A changing life and submission the Lordship of Christ are not optional for the true Christian.

I also agree with him on interpretation of specific texts. He rightly interprets the distinction in 1 John 1:5-7 as being between those who are converted and those who are not. And in Matthew 25.31-46 the hungry, homeless, and naked are indeed “believers who are suffering for the sake of a good conscience before God and their loyalty to Christ,” (loc 1268).

But I do have some criticisms of the book. While I can appreciate that the author is dealing with somber truths, the book’s style does come across as repetitious (perhaps because it’s based on a collection of sermons [loc 51]) and a trifle pedantic.

Moreover there is repeated mention of the ills and shortcomings of evangelicalism. I completely agree with Washer’s assessment, but that didn’t stop me from wondering if he could have achieved the same effect with less recourse to the familiar “modern evangelicalism” refrain. This plus a few more positive and energetic appeals to the transforming power of the gospel would have gone a long way to fulfilling the author’s hope: that in his book readers would “rediscover the gospel in all its beauty, scandal, and saving power” (loc 111).

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