A multifaceted word that encompasses within Christian thought a range of aspectsfaith in God, certainty and assurance of one's relationship with God, a sense of boldness that is dependent on a realization of one's acceptance by God, and a conviction that one's destiny is secure in God. To put one's ultimate trust or confidence either in human ability and power or in false gods and the things of this world is to discover with the men of Shechem the ultimate weakness of the mundane world (Judges 9:26). But to place one's confidence in the Lord rather than in the power of a human army is to begin to confront the mysterious power of the true God, who engenders in his followers genuine, growing confidence (2 Kings 18:19-19:13; Isa 36:4-37:20; cf. 1 Cor 2:1-8).
This developing sense of confidence in the Lord provided the basis for a sense of assurance to Israel for living in this world as a people of God. In the New Testament era confidence in God was also foundational for the expectations of a wonderful future in the hereafter in heaven with Christ (2 Cor 5:6-8; Php 1:6; 1 John 2:28; Rev 21:1-8). Rooted in the confidence that came through the resurrection of Jesus, the early Christians were willing to follow their Lord's example of suffering and even death. Although Paul had once found his confidence in his Jewish heritage and his personal accomplishments, he discovered that true confidence was to be found only through the power of God in Christ. The result of his newfound confidence was that instead of being a persecutor he willingly accepted the role of becoming a persecuted one for Christ (cf. Php 3:4-16).
Jesus Christ is alive for Christians and he will return to claim his own, both those who have died and those who are still living (1 Thess 4:13-18)! In this confidence the early Christians coined their Aramaic trademark prayer/greeting: Maranatha, "Come, our Lord!"/"Our Lord is coming!" (1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:20). As Paul realized the end of his life was on the horizon (Php 1:21-23), he echoed separately that great expectation of the coming day of the Lord (Php 1:6; 2:16; 3:20; 4:5). Christians at their best have always been an eschatological community of hope.
This eschatological confidence is not a "do-nothing, pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by" philosophy but is wrapped in a summons to authentic, active, moral integrity based on the model life of Jesus, the servant Lord who gave his life for others. Christianity is not a mere religion humans practice; it is a confident way of living based on what God has done in Christ. But Christian confidence does not mean that Christians cease to be human or lack human characteristics. Even Paul went through periods of discouragement when his troubles were almost unbearable (2 Co 1:8). But the resurrection of Jesus provides the key throughout life that confidence is based not on ourselves or our activity but on God who can raise the dead and give us the capacity to face adversity (2 Co 1:9-10).
Gerald L. Borchert
See also Assurance