Tag: The Perseverance of the Saints

What is the Assurance of Salvation

What is the Assurance of Salvation

Assurance is the state of being sure or certain about something; it is a strong and definite statement that something will happen or that something is true. But how can you know anything for sure, especially when it has everything to do with where you will be spending eternity? What assurance do Christians have with regards to their salvation?

I still remember the day when I took the board examination for Medical Technologists years ago. Stepping out of the examination room, I wasn’t sure if I was going to pass and be given a license to practice. Well, I thought I did well and I could tell you that I really gave it my all but I was still uncertain about the outcome. That feeling of uncertainty definitely made me anxious over the next 3 days while waiting for the result to be released.

In a similar way, how do you know your hope of heaven will hold up when God’s earth-shattering judgment comes? What guarantee do you have that you will not fall away from Christ, remain a Christian until you die and will in fact live with God in heaven forever?

What does it mean to have assurance of salvation?

To have assurance of salvation is to be absolutely confident that we are saved and that if we die suddenly, we would go immediately to heaven. Assurance of salvation means possessing salvation – possessing the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:36). Salvation is eternal life; it is the life of God; it is Divine life. If we possess eternal life, then we are saved!

However, many Christians do not believe that it is possible to be sure of salvation now. They feel that they need to keep working in order to meet God’s standard. If we were saved by works then they would be correct. But salvation is a gift received by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).

It should be noted that this is one significant disagreement among evangelical Christians for a long time. Many within the Armenians and Wesleyans have held that it is possible to lose your salvation, while Reformed Christians held that it is not possible for someone who is truly born again.

Scope of the doctrine of assurance of salvation

The doctrine of assurance of salvation also referred to as the perseverance of the saints, means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere until the end, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again.

This definition has two parts:

A. First, it indicates that assurance is given to those who are truly born again, for it reminds them that God’s power will keep them “in Christ” until they die, and they will surely live with Christ forever in heaven.

There are many passages that teach that those who are truly born again, who are genuinely Christians, will continue in Christ until death and will then go to be in heaven with Him.

1) In John 6:38-40 Jesus says that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. He says that He will raise that person up at the last day – which, in this context of believing in the Son and having eternal life, clearly means that Jesus will raise that person up to eternal life with Him (not just raise him up to be judged and condemned).

Moreover, this text emphasizes that Jesus does the will of the Father, which is that He should “lose nothing of all that He has given Me” (John 6:39). Once again, those given to the Son by the Father will not be lost.

2) Also in John 10:27-29 Jesus says that those who follow Him, those who are His sheep, are given eternal life. He further says that “no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (v.28).

Although some have objected to this and reasoned that even if no one else can take believers out of Christ’s hand, we might remove ourselves from Christ’s hand. But it’s important to note that the most forceful phrase “they shall never perish” (v.28) is emphatic and might be translated more explicitly as, “and they shall certainly not perish forever.”

3) Paul’s writings and other New Testament epistles also indicate that those who are truly born again will persevere to the end such as in Romans 8:1 where it says that no condemnation remains for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the entire penalty of their sins has been already paid.

4) Another assurance of true believers persevering to the end is Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:6 that the work God has begun in them will continue and will be completed at the day of Christ’s return.

B. The second half of the definition makes it clear that continuing in the faith is one of the evidences that a person is truly born again. This aspect of the doctrine must be well understood and kept in mind to avoid giving false assurance to people who were never really believers in the first place.

While Scripture repeatedly emphasizes that those who are truly born again will continue to the end and will certainly have eternal life in heaven with God, there are other passages that speak of the necessity of continuing in faith through life.

1) 1 Peter 1:5 says that God does not guard us apart from our faith, but only by working through our faith so that He enables us to continue in Him. So those who continue to trust in Christ gain assurance that God is working in them and guarding them.

2) In John 8:31-32 Jesus said to the Jewish believers that “if you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” Jesus is saying that one evidence of genuine faith is continuing in His words, that is, continuing to believe in Him and living a life of obedience to His commands.

Similarly, Jesus says in Matthew 10:22 that “he who endures to the end will be saved” as a means of warning people not to fall away in times of persecution.

3) Other passages that emphasize the importance of continuing in Christ include:

  • Colossians 1:22-23 – those who continue in the faith show that they are genuine believers.
  • Hebrews 3:14 – this verse provides an excellent perspective on the doctrine of perseverance. We can know that we have come to genuine faith in Christ if we continue in faith until the end of our live.
  • 1 John 2:19 – John clearly states that when people fall away from fellowship with the church and from faith in Christ, it shows that their faith was not real in the first place and that they were never part of the true body of Christ.

It is evident from Paul’s statements in Galatians 2:4, 2 Corinthians 11:26 and 2 Corinthians 11:15 that many false believers are being ushered into the church and disrupt the fellowship. But this does not necessarily mean that all unbelievers within the church are false brothers and sisters. Some of them could be in the process of moving towards genuine saving faith.

What can give believers genuine assurance of salvation?

If those who finally fall away are said to have never been saved to begin with, then what will serve as evidence of genuine conversion? What can give real assurance to a genuine believer?

A. Present trust in Christ for salvation

Do you trust Jesus today for the forgiveness of your sins and have confidence that He will take you without blame to heaven for all eternity? John 3:16, the most famous Bible verse about salvation, uses a present tense verb that maybe translated “whoever continues believing in Him” may have eternal life. A continuing present relationship with Jesus is evidence of genuine salvation.

B. Evidence of a regenerating work of the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:16 says “the Holy Spirit bears witness within our hearts that we are God’s children” and this is just one aspect. (See also Galatians 4:6) But if the Holy Spirit is genuinely at work in our lives, He will be producing the kind of character traits that Paul calls “the fruit of the Holy Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Do you see these character traits exemplified in your life? Do you build others up in the church and not tear them down or discourage them? Do you edify others in every conversation, every prayer and every work that you put into your ministry?

Another evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit is continuing to believe and accept the sound teaching and doctrines of the faith. Those who begin to deny the major doctrines give serious negative indications regarding salvation.

Finally, a major area of evidence that we are genuine believers is found in a life of obedience to God’s commands (1 John 2:4-6). Of course, we will never live a perfect life while we’re on earth but we must strive to imitate Christ every single day and aim to be like Him.

C. Long-term pattern of growth in our Christian life

Peter tells us that there are some character traits, which if we keep on increasing them, will guarantee that we will never stumble or fall. He tells us to add to our faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love. He then exhorts us to be more zealous and diligent to confirm our call and election (2 Peter 1:5-10).

The way to confirm our call is to grow in these character traits; for us to grow in our Christian life (sanctification). This implies that our assurance of salvation can grow and increase over time. Thus, young believers can have a stronger assurance in their salvation as they grow over the years toward Christian maturity.

Conclusion

Assurance of salvation is necessary because a person is either saved or lost. Either he’s “in Christ” or outside. If we are “in Christ” then we ought to have assurance of salvation. Assurance of salvation is not presumption or pride but taking God’s word for it.

On the other hand, the doctrine of the assurance of salvation, if properly understood, should cause genuine worry and concern to anyone who is backsliding or staying away from Christ. Such person must be warned that only those who persevere to the end have been truly born again. Anyone who falls away from their profession of faith in Christ and life of obedience in Him was never really saved.

Only in Christianity is there assurance of salvation because of the finished work of Christ. Jews who practice Judaism are doing their best to follow the Law while Muslims could only hope that at the end of their journey here on earth, their good deeds will far outweigh their bad deeds.

Things to ponder: Do you have assurance of salvation? Are you continuing in your faith in Christ? Are the fruit of the Holy Spirit evident in your life? Are you growing in your spiritual walk with God?

Recommended Resources:

Saved Without a Doubt: Being Sure of Your Salvation – eBook   By John MacArthur

Am I really saved? Am I going to heaven? How can I know for sure? Every believer has wrestled with these questions at some point in their journey. Saved Without A Doubt tackles this challenging topic by examining scripture to uncover the truth of salvation, while addressing tough questions that can hinder our faith. Readers will develop a Bible-based theology of salvation and be encouraged to securely rest in their personal relationship with Christ.

For Pastors and Preachers:

The Assurance of Our Salvation (Studies in John 17): Exploring the Depth of Jesus’ Prayer for His Own – eBook  By Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Known as the ‘Thursday night discourse’ chapters 13-17 in the gospel of John constitute what is perhaps the most intimate teaching of the disciples by Jesus. But chapter 17 is of particular interest because it records an the most intimate interaction–a prayer–between Jesus and God the Father. It is striking, revealing, and intense.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, widely regarded as one of the finest and intense expositor’s of the Bible is perhaps the ideal preacher, for unpacking and opening up this prayer both to our hearts and our minds. In The Assurance of our Salvation: Exploring the Depth of Jesus Prayer for His Own Martyn Lloyd-Jones provides his customary verse-by-verse exposition of John 17 and in doing so lays before us the richness, the depth, the wonder–and teh assurance–of God’s plan of salvation.