What is the relationship between the grace of God in the gospel and assurance? Why is the doctrine of justification by faith alone so important? J. Gresham Machen writes,
Such is the glorious certainty of the gospel. The salvation of the Christian is certain because it depends altogether upon God; if it depended in slightest measure upon us, the certainty of it would be gone. Hence appears the vital importance of the great Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone; that doctrine is at the very centre of Christianity. It means that acceptance with God is not something that we earn; it is not something that is subject to the wretched uncertainties of human endeavor; but it is a free gift of God. (What Is Faith?, p.200-201)
That is just one more reason why the doctrine of justification by faith alone is so important. It is not just a matter for ivory tower theologians or fodder for theological debate – far from it! It makes all the difference in the world to each and every believer in Christ. Why? Because it is the only real way to true certainty and assurance in the Christian life.
Justification by faith alone presents us with a choice between the “glorious certainty of the gospel” (i.e. knowing without a shadow of a doubt that you have been fully forgiven and accepted by a holy God) or “the wretched uncertainties of human endeavor.”
If our salvation depends upon our works in even the slightest degree, all certainty and assurance are cast aside. But if salvation is a free gift of God (which is ultimately what justification by faith alone entails), then & only then can the believer truly have the peace and assurance that comes with believing the gospel of Christ.