Assurance of Salvation

"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." 1 John 5:13

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A very basic step new Christians must take is to understand that personal assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ is not only possible, but fundamental to becoming a mature believer. The Apostle John stated one of the purposes of his writing was that we might know that we have eternal life. 1 John 5:13

The basic issue is the answer to this simple question. "Can a person be sure they are saved." Satan wants you to answer that question with a NO! Sadly, many Christians teach the answer is no as well. This stems from a flawed view of how we are saved. Many Christians fail to understand grace and therefore fall victim to a false teaching that says Jesus only made salvation possible and we must actually take the final step ourselves.

This idea certainly appeals to our human nature and we would all like to think we are not only good enough to be pleasing to God but in fact, we have positioned ourselves before Him. Additionally, this view seemingly gives the glory to Christ as He did 90% of the work of salvation, but in fact without our 10%, His 90% is not sufficient, so in actuality, the individuals 10% is 100%.

When Christ said "It is finished" in John 19:30 (When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, "It is finished," and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. ESV) did He mean the work of salvation is indeed finished, or did He mean, it is almost finished and it is up to the individual to follow-up on what He had done and now close the deal for themselves?

The historic Christian teaching is that salvation is a free gift of God's grace to which we add nothing. If we did add something to make salvation final, that would then be the basis for us to boast about what we had done. The "good works" we do are not in order to earn our salvation, but are the fruit of our being saved.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

Some Reason Believer's Lack Assurance:

  • Because of struggles with sin in general and specific sins in their lives. They ask themselves, "If I am a true believer, how can I have these struggles?" The reality is that if they were not truly saved, they would not care about their sins. It is the Holy Spirit within them that produces the guilt with which they are struggling.

  • A second reason is a failure to understand man's sinful condition. Much preaching and teaching suggests that man's condition is one of the sickness of sin. By contrast, Paul says, And you were dead in the trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1 ESV) If one reasons that he is only sick, then he can take steps to make himself well and if he continues to struggle with sin, he must not be trying hard enough or worse yet, he is not a true believer. When one understands they were not merely sick, but dead, then they realize that their strugggles, far from showing they are not true believers, in fact reveal a new life that is dealing with sin in Spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-20). In Romans 7, Paul states this in relation to his own life So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. Romans 7:17-20 (ESV)

  • The mindset of many is, "If I were a true believer, I would have these kinds of problems." The real problem is ignorance of man’s sinful nature, the spiritual warfare we are in, God’s means of deliverance, and the need to grow and mature in Christ.

  • People often lack assurance because they cannot remember or point to a specific time when they received Christ. Some doubt or wonder if they were ever really saved. There is a specific point in time when salvation occurs—the point when regeneration takes place. The issue for people is to know if they now really trust in the person and work of Christ.
  • People often lack assurance because they question the procedure they went through when they accepted Christ. Many evangelists and preachers emphasize the need for some form of public confession of faith like going forward at the end of a service or raising your hand. If people receive Christ privately, they may wonder if they should have made a public confession or prayed a different prayer.
  • The primary reason behind a lack of assurance is doctrinal misunderstanding and the consequent lack of faith in the finished work of Christ. This means a failure to understand the Word and its teaching regarding mankind, his sin and inability to work for or maintain his salvation, God’s perfect holiness, and the finished nature and sufficiency of the work of Christ.
  • Finally, people often lack assurance because they have erroneously been taught that they should look to themselves and their works as the primary proof of their salvation. This is a major issue today

    Other helpful Scriptures (all from ESV):

    • 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. 1 John 5:13

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