Being Sure of Your Salvation, part 1
By Pastor Riley Fraas
Is it possible to know whether you are saved? I mean, really, for sure? This is the first of a series on the topic of assurance of salvation, or, in other words, the certainty of the individual Christian believer that he or she is eternally saved.
This is no small question, and different groups, denominations, and authors have given very different answers to the question over the years. What interests us is not first and foremost, what do people say about assurance, but what does the Bible say? Certainly this is a topic that is addressed in Holy Scripture, so there is obviously something that God wants to teach us about this. If we scooted by every single topic which has been disputed, we would have very little of the Bible left to learn from! In 1 John 5:13, John writes by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” The purpose of John’s letter is to make those Christians who would read it or who would hear it read aloud in the churches certain of their salvation in Christ. Based on his purpose in this letter, we find that it is possible for one to be absolutely sure that one is saved forever. And, indeed, the purpose of the whole Bible (including but not only John’s epistles) is to bring true believers the comfort and assurance of knowing that God is their God forever, that Jesus Christ will save them on the last day, and they will enjoy a blessed covenant relationship with Him, not just for a time, but everlastingly. In terms of comfort and consolation in the Christian life, when it comes to having a full assurance of one’s own eternal salvation, that one belongs to Jesus Christ the everlasting Savior and will surely see Him one day, what could possibly be more important for the fullness of joy, faith, and hope of any Christian?
The 17th century Congregationalist puritan, Thomas Brooks, sums it up this way, “It is the very drift and design of the whole Scripture, to bring souls first to an acquaintance with Christ, and then to build them up to an acceptance of Christ, and then to build them up in a sweet assurance of their actual interest [meaning part or inheritance—RF] in Christ.” (Thomas Brooks, Heaven on Earth, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1654, reprint. 2008, p. 17.) The Holy Bible is given to make those who are saved know for sure, without a doubt, that they are saved in Christ eternally. We find the evidence for this in every part of Scripture where the Bible describes salvation as being rooted and grounded in Christ’s finished work: in His life, death, resurrection, and intercession. (Psalm 16:10, Romans 8:32-34, Titus 1:2, Ephesians 2:6) The Apostle Paul writes to Titus in the opening of that epistle, “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;” (Titus 1:1-3) Notice that the apostle references the hope of eternal life, stating that it is based on the promise of God, and that this expectation or “hope” in God’s promise is communicated through preaching. We see several things here. First of all, we know that God’s promises never fail. If our hope is in God’s promise, it is a full certainty. God never changes. Secondly we note that this promise, which is the basis of the hope of eternal life, is communicated by preaching, not by any extraordinary and special word of prophecy. In other words, it is possible for Christians, even on this side of heaven, to know that they have eternal life in Jesus Christ: to have full certainty of their eternal salvation, just by carefully considering what the Bible has to say about it, (without a direct word from Heaven.) The one who has this full assurance enjoys an advance, a foretaste of heaven here on earth in his or her soul, and nothing that the world, the flesh, or the devil can do to him or her can dampen his or her joy in Jesus Christ. He or she is “persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38, 39)
In future articles of this series we will continue exploring the topic of assurance of salvation to learn what the Bible says about assurance of salvation. In particular we will look at how this certain, full assurance or complete and secure confidence of eternal life is to be gotten according to Scripture, whether in this life there may be some Christians who are eternally saved but still have personal doubts about their own salvation, and the dangers and pitfalls that exist for those who seek assurance by methods other than that which the Bible teaches. My hope is that this series will be an encouragement for many people, stirring up for them greater joy and love for Jesus Christ.