Gospel Assurance & Warnings. By Paul Washer. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014. 252 pp. Paper, $20.00.
Paul Washer has done lots of videos which are available online. He promotes a strong form of Lordship Salvation.
This book has essentially the same title as a book I read years ago by Gerald Borchert (Assurance and Warning). He takes the same position as Borchert does, the Lordship Salvation position.
One theme runs through the entire book: In order to have assurance of everlasting life, we must see a life-long pattern of conformity to God’s nature and will. The book is filled with ideas on how to examine yourself, what to look for, and how to become the type of person that will come out on the good side at the final judgment.
For Washer, there is no such thing as certainty. The best one can hope for is having such a strong pattern of growth over decades that it is highly probable that one is really born again.
Here are some of Washer’s key points:
- One must submit to the Lordship of Christ to be born again (pp. 8, 89, 186).
- Assurance can be greater (p. 11), and there is even a type of assurance called “full assurance” (p. 20).
- Assurance is by degrees. It depends on “the degree that” one “walks as Christ walked” (p. 56). “To the degree that these qualities are growing and observable realities, we may assume that we possess eternal life” (p. 232). But, “to the degree that they are lacking, we should be concerned about whether we are truly Christian” (p. 232).
- Genuine believers can fall many times (“no matter how often he may fall,” p. 83), can have “even periodic falls” (p. 215), and at any time in his life “a Christian may be running, walking, crawling, sliding, or even falling” (p. 225, emphasis added).
- But “genuine believers do not fall away” (p. 94). Genuine believers continue their entire lives “believing, repenting, and following” (p. 136; see also pp. 88-96).
- The key to assurance is “gradually growing in conformity to God’s nature and will” so that “there would be discernible evidence of greater and greater conformity to the nature and will of God” (p. 27; see also pp. 83n, 92, 93, 115, 149, 151-53, 165).
- Assurance depends on self-examination (pp. 11, 15, 27, 56, 69-71, 85, 94, 111, 114, 163, 188, 211, 215).
- No one can be genuinely born again who “lives a life of open sin and rebellion” (p. 125).
- First John gives us a dozen tests of whether we are born again (pp. 139-53, esp. pp. 152-53 where the twelve are summarized).
- Like many Calvinists, Washer equates the Judgment Seat of Christ with the Great White Throne Judgment (e.g., p. 242).
- Unregenerate people “will perform good deeds and even reflect a resemblance of righteousness” (p. 215). “However, over time, both the righteous and the wicked will be revealed by their ongoing behavior” (p. 215).
Unfortunately, there are no subject or Scripture indexes in this book.
I do not recommend this book for new believers or believers who are not well grounded. However, I do recommend it for Free Grace pastors, teachers, leaders, and any who wish to be aware of the extent to which some in Lordship Salvation make certainty of one’s salvation impossible.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society