A Review of Washer’s “Gospel Assurance”

Gospel Assurance & Warnings by Paul Washer Paul Washer’s book, Gospel Assurance & Warnings (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014) is the third book in the “Recovering the Gospel” series.  Basically, it is a collection of Particular/Strict Baptist sermons on the themes of true and false assurance and conversion found in 1 John and Matthew 7:13-27.  The book has two main parts: 1) Biblical Assurance (1 John) and 2) Warnings to Empty Confessors (Matt. 7:13-27).  There are a total of 19 chapters covering 252 pages.  The book doesn’t contain a Scripture or topical index.

I appreciated the fact that Washer explained the gospel clearly in this book.  He mentioned the deity of Christ, the redemption we have in Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, and the truth of the forgiveness of sins.  There are several clear presentations of the gospel in this book.

However, I hesitate to recommend this book for various reasons.  First, the overall tone of the book was too harsh in my opinion.  Over and over (and over!) Washer talked about the millions of unconverted people sitting in Church pews; over and over he attacked Christians for “carnality;” over and over he questioned whether a Christian’s conversion was true or not.  I agree that many churches proclaim a false gospel, and many people say they are Christians but they are not; however, Washer’s negative tone will turn off the very people who need to read this book (he might be preaching to the choir in this book).  I would not use this book for “outreach/evangelism” or give it to a nominal Christian because the emphasis is more on judgment than grace.  The book wasn’t even edifying for me to read since Washer made me think more about myself and my conversion than God’s grace in Christ. In fact, the book ends on the topic of Hell.

I also hesitate to recommend this book because the sermons are not at all exegetical sermons on 1 John and Matthew 7:13-27.  Rather, they are sermons that focus only on the topics of true and false assurance and conversion found in those texts.  Washer didn’t exegete the texts fully and redemptive-historically; rather, he picked a theme from the text and expanded upon it using other Scriptures.  Several times this topical approach left me with a less-than-satisfactory understanding of the text at hand.

One final note: the book is repetitious and wordy.  Washer kept saying the same things over and over; I believe the book could have covered the same points 150 pages rather than 250.  Some editing down would have been helpful.

In summary, although I agree with the doctrines of grace presented in this book, I do not recommend it because it didn’t leave me looking at Jesus with confidence in him.  Instead, it left me with the repeated reminder of the worldliness of the church and the need to examine myself and think about my conversion.  FYI, if you’re looking for Reformed resources on this topic, see Herman Bavinck’s The Certainty of Faith, Thomas Watson’s The Doctrine of Repentance, Louis Berkhof’s The Assurance of Faith, or many of John Newton’s letters.

Paul Washer, Gospel Assurance & Warnings (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014).

This book was reviewed as part of the CrossFocused Review program.  I was given the book in exchange for an honest review.

shane lems

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10 comments on “A Review of Washer’s “Gospel Assurance”

  1. Richard says:

    I think we make a mistake when we lump Paul Washer into the Reformed category, as I see on many web sites. “Sinners and Saints” recently had a discussion about Washer and why he is not Reformed, found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tMLOxtHCNQ His constant questioning of one’s assurance is pretty troubling.

    • Richard: You’re right. That’s why I noted that Washer was a Particular Baptist; I wasn’t being derogatory – just noting it. Since I wasn’t expecting a Reformed presentation of Assurance/Conversion, I didn’t critique the book based on that. However, I am wondering why RHB publishes Washer; I’d have thought a Baptist publisher would publish these instead.

      • Richard says:

        I’m wondering why he gets a forum on Reformed sites. I see that Ligonier has written him up in Tabletalk, and he is linked to on a number of places; I don’t get it.

    • I think it is prudent to review books that Reformed Christians will read – regardless if the author is Reformed. Paul Washer may not be Confessionally Reformed, however he is good friends with men like Joel Beeke and Tim Challies, and thus has a large-ish following in Reformed circles. I appreciate this review and hope that Reformed Christians do not doubt their salvation after reading this. I also think that this book is aimed the larger fluffy part of the evangelical SBC and not the general confessionally reformed Christian. :)

  2. The textual-topical form of a sermon is very prevalent in historic puritanism.

  3. johntjeffery says:

    This is the kind of review that we need more of! I really appreciate your willingness to “take the gloves off”, and tell it like it is. Too often in the rarified atmosphere in the ivory towers of academia the scholars are merely patting each other on the back, and “making nicey-nice”, instead of exposing misplaced emphases, and failures to edify. I especially appreciated the alternative sources you direct the reader to in your last paragraph.

  4. Solid review, brother!

  5. What did you make of his views on sanctification? I was thinking your review would have something to say about it.

    • Timothy: I wrestled with Washer’s usage of language – sometimes he seemed to equate conversion with regeneration, and vice versa. But I was glad he talked about Christians struggling with sin. Was there something specific you noticed? Thanks! shane

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