By Pastor Riley Fraas
Is it possible for a truly reborn Christian to be unsure of his salvation? In short, yes. For although a true believer in Christ is truly saved by faith in Him, yet since the faith of the Christian can sometimes waver and experience serious doubting, the Christian in this case will wonder if he even really believes at all. If the subjective evidence of salvation by a life in obedience to God is lacking or not evident, one begins to wonder about the root of faith. Not that the Christian indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit will ever entirely cease believing; this lack of assurance of salvation may come for various reasons.
The new Christian who first begins to believe savingly on Christ will often require time and hearing of the word to become absolutely sure that not only is Jesus the one Savior of sinners, he is also my Savior. In some cases, grievous sinning against the Lord can cause even a longtime Christian to doubt his salvation. We see this in the case of David, who, because he had committed murder against Uriah and adultery with Bathsheba, seemed to fear that God would have taken his Spirit away from him. He says, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.” and “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Psalm 51:11-12
While it impossible for a saved individual to ever be lost, yet it is very possible for a saved person to not be 100% sure he is saved.
David here describes this as having lost the joy of salvation. The Christian who has backslidden and lost the subjective evidence of good fruit that accompanies salvation in his life, who does not experience the love, peace, and joy of the Holy Spirit anymore, has lost his assurance of salvation. He knows that Jesus is the Savior, but is he my Savior? And did I ever really believe at all? Or was my faith just some emotional excitement that is here for a time and gone tomorrow like the seed that falls on stony ground in Jesus’ parable of the sower, which springs up quickly but then withers in the hot sun? (Mark 4:1-20) These questions swirl in the mind of the Christian who has fallen to temptation. In situations like this, it is a merciful providence of God that removes the seal of assurance from the individual; for by means of this newfound lack of assurance, the backslidden Christian is brought back to his knees, and back to Christ.
For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee. Psalm 31:22
The Christian who has lost his certainty of his salvation has nothing on which to lay his hopes but in Christ and his finished work: no good works, fruits, or past experiences can help in a time like this. Only Christ can help. In this way the Christian is made to rekindle, reignite, and reengage his love and faith in the only Savior of sinners, Jesus Christ, and in time he will once again regain that blessed assurance of eternal salvation by using the means God has given: the hearing and reading of the word, the sacraments, and prayer. Taking away assurance for a time is one of the means that God uses to bring Christians back to their knees when they sin. For though he has promised that true believers in Christ can never fall, (“him that is able to keep you from falling,” Jude 24) yet he may take away their assurance of their own personal salvation from time to time.