Here’s a nice section on faith, the Spirit, the Word, and the Christian’s assurance of salvation. It’s found in volume one of Bavinck’s Reformed Ethics: (Note: if you want to know why the language is somewhat choppy, see below.)
“The Holy Spirit… brings us to that point; first, through the Word by making the major premise – God’s promises are true – clear to us. The Word, with the sacraments – in a word, the promises of God – are always the objective foundation of our assurance. Faith must ground its assurance in the Word. Those grounds are innumerable; think of all those passages that we mentioned in connection with the perseverance of the saints. God, his attributes (faithfulness, goodness, love, power, etc.), the permanence of the covenant of grace that is confirmed with sacramental oath, God’s delight in conversion; Christ’s love, grace, divine and human natures, his person and work, his office and state; likewise, the work of the Holy Spirit, how he remains within us, comforts, etc.
Scripture is full of promises upon which believers can base their existence. Now it is true that Holy Scripture speaks in general: whoever believes is saved. It does not say: You, Person A or Person B, are saved. But the particular is included within the general, the universal contains the singular. Nevertheless, no matter how firm and rich those promises may be, our eyes may well be closed to them. Doubt can enter our soul regarding those promises through various causes, including the whisperings of Satan, historical criticism, the misunderstanding and ignorance of Scripture, and through various doubts: Would God, Christ even, desire to have me, such a great sinner? Am I included among those called by God? Preaching from the pulpit and pastoral visitation must counter these doubts regarding the major premise by emphasizing the permanence, richness, extensiveness, omnipotence, etc., of God’s promises. This is foundational and must be established.
This is then the means whereby the Holy Spirit usually delivers people from those doubts. By means of sermons, home visiting, reading of Scripture, etc., the Holy Spirit occasionally allows new light to fall, so that we suddenly behold the permanence of the promises and are assured.
(Note: The manuscripts of Bavinck’s Reformed Ethics were seminary lectures that were not ready for publication. What has been published recently in English is the product of taking Bavinck’s own manuscripts and filling them out a using extensive class notes taken by two men in Bavinck’s ethics class.)
Hammond, WI, 54015