May 2018  
SMTWTFS
  12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  
     
This Week's Events
Bible Search
February 25, 2018 Assurance of Salvation

Assurance of Salvation

 

Scripture reading: I John 5:13; 2 Peter 1:10.

 

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13, ESV)

 

            Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:10)

 

We recently saw that, according to God’s sovereign design and plan, those whom he has elected to come to Christ will endure until the end of their lives. They are preserved by the power of God so that they will persevere under trials and temptations. This is a promise that carries with it comfort and reassurance.

 

At the same time, though, there are many warnings in Scripture that indicate that there are perils, even great perils, that face the one who professes faith in Christ. The greatest of these perils is self-deception which will result in eternal separation from the Lord and an eternity filled with sorrow and agony. 

 

With respect to knowledge of one’s salvation there are four categories of people.

 

[1.] There are those who are not saved and they know they are not saved.  There is a rock band named AC/DC that personifies this group. They came out with a song many years ago that still gets airplay. It was titled “Highway to Hell” and it promotes the wicked idea that hell is a place that one can look forward to. The original singer of that song died not long after recording the song and is now in Hades. He now knows that his present suffering will only become worse on the final Day of Judgment. There are some people who are not saved and they know that they are not.

 

Not all boast in their condition like AC/DC. Many are genuinely concerned about it. In fact, every person who is a Christian now went through this phase prior to coming to faith.

 

[2.] There are those who are saved and know that they are saved. This is the position where every true child of God needs to find themselves. If we are saved we need to know that we are.

 

[3.] There are those who are saved and they either don’t know that they are or have doubts that they are. This is a condition that needs to be remedied. Doubt and ignorance will rob one of the comfort that is theirs to have.

 

If it were only these three categories of people then there would not be too much of a problem. But it is the fourth category that poses a big problem.

 

[4.] There are those who are not saved and  “know” that they are saved. Of course, they do not really know they are saved but they think they are. These have an “assurance” that they are saved but they are not!

 

A proper understanding of assurance will help move people from categories 3 and 4 to categories 1 and 2 where they belong.

 

The most frightening passage in the Bible alludes to those who have a confidence that they are saved but, in actuality, are not.

 

            “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22         On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23         And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ [1]

 

These words of our Lord inform us that many will be self-deceived, thinking that they belong to Jesus when they do not. Because there will be many who thought they were genuine followers of Christ but were not, this possibility is a near danger to all of us. If you have any fear of God in you, you will seek to ensure that you are not among the self-deceived. If you have no fear of God then you already have the evidence that you need that you do not belong to him. Those who do not fear God are not his.

 

This is what we read from the apostle Peter in our Scripture reading. He writes to be diligent to confirm your calling and election. This is a duty for everyone who supposes that they are a child of God. We ought not to simply confirm what we believe to be true about ourselves, but we should be diligent about it. Our election needs to be confirmed with diligence!

 

It can be! In John’s letter he tells us that the reason he is writing is so that we can know that we have eternal life. Therefore, we see that it is the Lord’s will that we know that we have eternal life – that we have an assurance of our salvation.  Some Christians, especially those from the more liberal denominations, will try to tell you that it is arrogant to think you know your eternal destiny. But, we can know! It is not arrogant because it all depends on God and not upon us. Once we have an assurance of our salvation then we can appropriate the promises of perseverance.

 

Thus far, we have seen that we can know if we have eternal life but there is also the danger of thinking that we have it when we do not. How can we truly know? The Scriptures give us five conditions that provide assurance.

 

[1.] Assurance rests upon understanding the nature of our own sin and of salvation. A great many false professions arise because a person does not understand that they are sinners in danger of condemnation and a false profession may be further attributed to a failure to understand what constitutes salvation.

 

READ Matthew 13:3-9; 18-19.

 

Note that in verse 19 some hear the word of the kingdom but the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in their hearts. The reason that he is able to snatch it away is because they do not understand what they heard. Understanding is essential. A person must understand the seriousness of sin, their guilt, and the necessity of forsaking sin - called repentance. Any preaching that neglects repentance fosters misunderstanding and makes the hearer liable to a false profession of faith.

 

 A person must also understand that Christ’s death is accepted by God as payment for their sins and that his resurrection insures their ongoing salvation from the power of sin.

 

Understanding is the first condition of assurance. If you wish to avoid being one who has the word stolen from your heart then understand sin and understand salvation.

 

[2.] Genuine assurance is obtained when we keep God’s commandments. We saw from our Lord’s words that it is those who do not follow His commandments that show that they were never known by the Lord (Mat 7). The apostle John reaffirms this truth from the positive side.

 

3          And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. [2]

 

John here echoes not only the words of our Lord in Matthew 7:21-23, but also his words in the same discourse when he said, “You shall know them by their fruits” (7:16-20). A person’s life reflects what is really in their heart. If a person loves their sin more than the One who they claim is their Lord then they reveal the absence of divine life within them.

 

I often meet people who are living in sin for extended periods of time. I mean, for years. They are either living with their boyfriend or girlfriend or they are drunkards or take illicit drugs or refuse to work (yes! That is a sin.) Yet, they think that they are Christians because they said some kind of a prayer as a teenager and someone then told them that they were “saved.” What a deception! One can be delivered from any of these sins if they believe and repent, but practicing these sins, or any sin, is the evidence that the apostle gives that shows a person does not truly know the Lord.

An important part of the New Covenant, promised hundreds of years before Christ even came, is that the members of the covenant would walk in God’s laws by His power (Ezek 36:26-27; Jer 32:40).

 

Those who practice sin do not belong to Christ regardless of what they think they know. The apostle is explicit about this.

 

            Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, [3]

 

A child of God will take sin seriously and will also take measures to flee from sin. A man was in a field looking down at the ground. He noticed a spider and a grasshopper much bigger than the spider nearby. The grasshopper walked towards the spider and must have seen it. For he reached out with one of his feelers and touched the spider probably to determine what it was. Quick as a flash, out went one of the spiders legs, and when he had withdrawn it a web had been attached to the antennae of the grasshopper. Instead of jumping away, as he might easily have done, the grasshopper reached out with his other antennae with the same result – another web line attached. Then it reached out with a leg as if to push the spider away. But the spider just attached another web this time to the grasshopper’s leg. The insect seemed to realize it was getting into trouble and tried to get away. Yet, ever time he raised an appendage to move the spider just attached another web to it. Finally, the spider jumped on the grasshopper and started rolling him over and over, coating him with his web. The grasshopper was bound and helpless and the spider made a meal of him. This is the way sin is. Being overtaken by sin starts with just a feeler. “I wonder what it is like to…” But, once sin is tasted, there arises an attachment to it. The attachments grow stronger until one is covered and controlled by sin.

 

Those belonging to Christ will fear sin and flee from it. Those who do not fall into the spider’s trap and are devoured.

 

Keeping God’s commandments is the second condition that brings assurance.

 

[3.] Loving the brothers and sisters brings assurance. The apostle John had experience with false Christians. He reveals things about them that displays their profession was not in line with what they really were. Besides not following God’s commandments the other characteristic that he observed was that they did not love the brothers and sisters.

 

   If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21          And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. [4]

 

Just as there are many unbelievers who will never admit to hating God (even to themselves) when they actually do, there are many who profess belief but will never admit to hating anyone. But actions speak louder than words. How you speak about others reveals whether you love them or not.

 

John says that if we do not love the brothers and sisters then we do not love God though we may think that we do.

 

He says, “whoever loves God must also love his brother” (or sister).

 

The apostle thought that this was so important that he repeats himself in his second letter.

 

And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. 6         And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. [5]

 

This was a commandment that the apostles received from the beginning – from the Lord Jesus. In verse 6 he writes that we should walk in all his commandments but then he writes, “this is the commandment…you should walk in it.” The commandment is that we love one another! Do you see what he is saying? We should walk in all the commandments but there is one commandment above all that we must walk in – that we love one another!

 

If we are not loving all the brothers and sisters, not just the ones that are easy to love (some are not so easy to love!), then we have no assurance that we truly belong to Christ.

 

This is the third condition that brings assurance – that we love the brothers and sisters.

 

[4.] We must be actively involved in a local church in order to have assurance. This condition may seem strange to us in the Western world. But it is only because we are so independently minded. In America we have an even greater sense of individual independence than in Europe. Yet, it is not simply cultural differences that determine whether this is true or not. It is attested by the beloved apostle John.

 

19      They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. [6]

 

Here the apostle makes it clear that when some leave the church it reveals that they were never truly part of God’s covenant people. I believe that this truth is related to the one about loving the brothers and sisters.

 

I will put it plainly. If you are not regularly meeting with a local church (not just on a membership roll somewhere) then you have no assurance of your salvation. I will go even further. If you are not regularly meeting with a local church then you likely do not belong to Christ at all despite your feelings to the contrary and despite the bad teaching that you may have received in the past.

 

The fourth condition that brings assurance is meeting with and being active in a local church.

 

[5.] The Spirit within us confirms that we are in Christ. It brings assurance. I am purposely going to say very little about this because, although it is both true and important, it can also be imitated. The human heart is deceitful above all things. It can lead a person to think that they have the Spirit when they do not. Whereas the first four conditions of assurance are objective, this one is subjective.

 

Still, the Spirit is real and He brings an assurance to the believer that they belong to Christ. My experience has been that this inner testimony of the Spirit comes at time of discouragement, in times of being downcast.

 

We have learned that it is God’s will that those who belong to Christ have an assurance that they do. We saw that there exists a category of people that is quite troubling. There are those who have an “assurance” of salvation and yet are not saved! So, we are to have an assurance but we must tread lightly. Our assurance must be real. That means it must be based on God’s revelation and not on our feelings nor upon the teachings of men.

 

In order to have genuine assurance we must have five things. If even one of these things is missing then we have no ground upon which to have assurance.

 

  • We must understand sin, especially our own, and we must understand what salvation is.
  • We keep God’s commandments.
  • We love all the brothers and sisters. Not just some.
  • We regularly meet with the church.
  • We possess the Spirit.

 

If you have these five things then you have assurance. Rejoice in it! You can know that your names are written in heaven and Jesus said that you can rejoice in that! (Luke 10:20)

 

If you are lacking one of these five things then read and meditate upon the Scripture that was provided and see if it is not so – that a true disciple of Christ practices the very thing that you do not. Then go to the Lord with a repentant heart and give that part of your life to Him. When you do you will find both assurance and joy!

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 7:21–23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 2:3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 2:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 4:20–5:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Jn 5–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 2:19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.