I have written this because our Lord desires you to be “certain” of your salvation.
First though, this morning I was asking the Lord, “please Lord, for the sake of Your Name, and for the sake of Your children, make this issue very, very clear.” A little while after praying this, the book of “1 John” popped into my mind. So I opened it and began studying. And I found my answers! On one of the pages was this, “Can a Christian Have Assurance of Salvation?” (HCSB, Apologetics Study Bible). I’ll begin here: “How can we receive this assurance? Just as medical technicians test vital signs to look for indicators of health, so there are several “vital sign indicators” in Scripture for spiritual health” (HCSB, 2007, pg. 1868).
I have decided to begin by quoting the study bible:
- The Bible says we are to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith (1 Co. 9:24-27; 2 Co 13:5). There is nothing wrong, and everything right, with a Christian stopping from time to time and asking the question “Am I doing okay, spiritually?” We are not looking for perfection at such times, just signs that God is making a difference.
- Are we walking in obedience to God? Those who love Him obey Him (1 Jn 2:3). This is an objective test. Again, we are not looking for perfection, since becoming like Christ is a process that lasts a lifetime (Rm 8:29-30; 1 Jn 3:2). The question is, is obedience to Him what I want more than anything else?
- Do we have a sense that we truly belong to the Lord and He to us? Scripture teaches that if we are Christians, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rm 8:9), a Spirit who “testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Rm 8:16). It is this same Spirit who enables us to cry out, “Abba, Father,” to our Father in heaven (Rm 8:15; Gl 4:6). Scripture gives both objective and subjective vital signs. When it comes down to it, as John Calvin once noted, assurance comes with faith. If we are trusting Jesus alone for salvation, that brings assurance with it (HCSB, pg. 1868).
Those are some pretty assuring answers! Yet, some of us noticed that it said, “Those who love Him obey Him” and, “Is obedience to Him what I want more than anything else?”. Those kinds of questions tend to cause us to ask ourselves more questions. And that can feel uncomfortable for sure!
So as I read carefully through 1 John, highlighting and underlining, these are some things that stood out: “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:5-7). “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments (love God and love the brotherhood of Christians). Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” (1 Jn 2:3-4). “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 Jn 2:6). “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother (through unforgiveness, refusing to feed/clothe/house/care for them, or through wrath/bitterness, unloving, etc) is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 Jn 2:9-11). “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world … but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn 2:15-17b). “But you have been anointed by the Holy One” (1 Jn 2:20). “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you (those who are tempting them to believe in a different gospel). But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and … —just as it has taught you, abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence (assurance of our salvation) and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 Jn 2:26-28). “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning (ongoing, deliberate, sinful rebellion against God); no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous” (1 Jn 3:6-7). “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 Jn 3:10).
There are many encouragements here in 1 John and ways we can “measure” our salvation, but I want to end this section with this: “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that” (1 Jn 5:16) and his very last exhortation here … “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 Jn 5:21). These last two statements show that their salvation is secure as long as they never “leave” the true gospel of Christ, which if they do, that would be committing a sin unto eternal death, or idolatry, with both meaning “apostasy” (John is probably using Jer 7:16 and 11:14 for his reference). Now, there is a warning I want to share here because I believe it fits. Quite a few years ago while I was researching the subjects of predestination, election, and eternal security, I came across an article that spoke of how adoption took place in first-century Rome. This individual said that they found evidence that the ONLY way one’s “seal of adoption” could ever be broken was by the individual themselves. By that person making a conscious decision to break the seal by choice. NO ONE else could ever break the seal. And so, just as Jesus warned: “Remember Lot’s wife” (Lk 17:32). So, do not go back to the world through “loving the world” and forsake your faith.
I know I have shared a lot here. But before I finish, I want to explain some of the reasons we notice some letters written by Paul which seem to carry no warnings, or exhortations to “not leave the faith” and to be sure to “endure to the end!” being simply comforting and reassuring letters. Here is why: As the first century was moving forward into the late middle century things began to spin out of control and the Christian found themselves facing great persecution for Christ. For though things began peacefully … How things had changed as the end of the first century was drawing near! For instance, we see the progression of the gospel going throughout the world in the book of Acts, and salvation exploding all over the Roman world. We also see Paul encouraging the faith of Christian Jews and Gentiles in the books of Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians, along with correcting doctrine and uniting everyone under “Christ as LORD.” But there appears to be a drastic shift when we come to 2 Timothy, Hebrews, 1-2 Jn, 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation. The drastic shift for which I am speaking is that the writers of these letters are no longer just explaining doctrine and teaching Christians the basics of the faith (and know this: “Faith” is always placed in the present tense form in the Bible). But they are warning, exhorting, reminding, comforting, and encouraging these Christians in these churches to “continue in the faith!” They are exhorting them to not “throw in the towel” regarding their confession and faith in Christ! Basically, they are warning them to not leave their salvation. In other words, in these letters, the authors are calling for the “endurance of the saints” and warning them to not “leave” their faith even if their life depends on it. But you see, most of us live in a world in which we do not experience persecution, to the death, for our faith in Jesus. But those in these last letters in our New Testament were experiencing this from Rome and they were being tempted either to go back to their lives before Christ (back to Judaism) or they were tempted to join the politics of Rome and worship idols, which would equal apostasy (denying that Jesus alone is LORD). But we in the West grow old, get sick, and die of natural causes most of the time. And because of this, we have a “strange mindset” when it comes to our “eternal security.” What I mean is that this question of eternal security, it just was not a question in the first century. First of all, since they clearly understood the definitions of faith and of repentance it was impossible to be a “halfway Christian.” Sure, they struggled against sin, with family issues, and with the difficulty of putting off the old self and putting on the new self in Christ, just like we do. But their definitions of repentance from sin, and of faith in Jesus as both Savior and LORD were much clearer than ours. To “be saved” was to die to this world, pick up their cross, and follow Jesus. Both their wills and their emotions (permanently) left one way of life and walked in the exact opposite direction. Their definition of “faith unto salvation” was Hebrews chapter 11 (go read it!). And honestly, I am convinced that if that is our definition of “faith” in Christ, we will not be insecure about our eternal security.
And so, what you have read above expresses how one can be “presently” assured of their salvation. But how can one be “eternally“ assured of their salvation? Through living every…single…day “presently assured.” Or just as I have stated in the past, by “resting” in Jesus Christ alone as both Savior and LORD through the power of the Holy Spirit who is in you … and not by your own strength, then you will endure! So let me leave you with this: That it has always been, and always will be, His love for us that compels us to love and obey Him. Since we, as beloved children of God, live by love and not by fear.