“For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them… That their hearts might be comforted… unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding…” (Col. 2:1,2).
There is nothing worse than running low on assurance! During the gas shortage of the ‘70s, I was traveling from Illinois to Minnesota for a fishing trip with my father, when we began to run low on fuel. As we looked for a place to fill up, we were alarmed to find that one gas station after another had posted an “Out of Gas” sign. Suddenly all assurance that we wouldn’t find ourselves stranded along the Interstate was gone!
While the assurance that a full tank of gas can give is a comfortable thing, the assurance of salvation is infinitely and eternally better! No wonder the Apostle Paul was willing to endure “great conflict” for the saints to whom he ministered, that their hearts might be comforted by “the full assurance” that can be ours with a proper “understanding” of how simple faith saves us in the dispensation of grace (Col. 2:1,2).
But as we rightly divide the Word of truth (II Tim. 2:15), we find that to obtain the assurance of salvation, God required more than just faith of the Hebrews. In Hebrews 10:22, for instance, we read:
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Here we see that in a day when God required water baptism for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4; 16:16; Acts 2:38; I Pet. 3:21), Hebrews could not enjoy “full assurance of faith” unless their bodies were “washed with pure water.” Of course! While men have always been saved by faith, when God required certain works as an expression of that faith, there could be no salvation without a performance of whatever work He required (except when this was impossible, as with the thief on the cross), and no assurance apart from that expression of faith.
We see this again in I John 3:17-19:
“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?… let us not love in word…but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we… shall assure our hearts before Him.”
Clearly, if John’s readers wanted to assure their hearts, they had to express their faith by sharing “this world’s good” (things like food and clothing) with fellow Hebrews in need of these things. Here it must be remembered that John wrote these words with the coming Great Tribulation in view. (The Hebrew epistles were written to 1st century Hebrews to instruct them as to how to be saved and enjoy the assurance of faith, even amid the terrors of the Tribulation. Had the dispensation of grace not interrupted God’s prophetic program, these people would have lived to see that terrible time. Even after the mystery was introduced, it was thought that the Rapture would take place quickly (as Paul’s use of the word “we” in I Thessalonians 4:15,17 indicates) and that the time of Jacob’s trouble would then come upon them.) After the Beast issues his mark, many Hebrews will find themselves unable to buy this world’s good without it (Rev. 13:17). Thus God has ordained that men seeking salvation in that day must express their faith by helping Hebrews in need (James 2:14-17 cf. Matt. 25:31-46). Under this arrangement, there can be no salvation without these works, and no assurance of salvation apart from these mandatory expressions of faith.
Nor could this brotherly benevolence be a one-time occurrence. Such charity will have to be maintained throughout the duration of the Tribulation, as we see in Hebrews 6:10,11:
“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love…in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.”
The words “unto the end” here help us understand the meaning of verses like Matthew 24:13, where Hebrews were told, “He that endureth to the end shall be saved.” In a day when “the love of many shall wax cold” (v. 12), true believers will maintain their love for their brethren by continuing to supply them with this world’s goods all the way to the end of the Tribulation. Of course, this will become increasingly difficult as Daniel’s seventieth week wears on, especially since true believers will themselves be unable to buy food or clothing without taking the mark. No wonder these Hebrews are exhorted to “shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.” There can be no assurance of salvation in that day without continuing in these necessary expressions of faith.
How then can believers today enjoy “the full assurance” Paul described in our text? Well, notice that Paul speaks of “the full assurance of understanding” (Col. 2:2). To attain the full assurance of salvation today, in the dispensation of grace, God does not ask us to do something, He asks us to understand something. And He doesn’t leave us guessing as to what it is we must understand, for Paul goes on to talk about “the acknowledgment of the mystery” (2:2). The only way to enjoy the full assurance of faith today is to acknowledge that the mystery has introduced an era in which works are no longer required as expressions of faith. There can be no assurance of salvation without an “understanding” and an “acknowledgment” of this dispensational change.
Many suspect that the gas shortage of the ‘70s was man-made, designed to drive up the price of gasoline. While we know nothing of this, we do know that if you are suffering from a shortage of assurance, it is a man-made shortage, caused by men (perhaps wellmeaning men) who taught you God’s Word without rightly dividing it. But we trust that the “understanding” we have shared in this article will enable you to rejoice with us in “all riches of the full assurance of understanding.”