Part 5: The Danger of False Assurance
To conclude this series, I would like to address the phenomenon of false assurance. This is the unsaved person who thinks that he or she is saved. There is a subjective certainty about it which is not grounded in reality. How could this be? There are biblical methods of gaining an infallible certainty that one is saved forever. There are also some truly saved Christians who at a given time may not have a full certainty (as far as they perceive) that they are saved forever, who need to use the God-given means to attain this certainty, particularly meditating on the finished work of Christ and living in faithful obedience. On the other hand, there are those who think they are saved but in reality they are not. These folks will be in for a rude awakening! These are like those described in Matthew 7:22, 23:
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
There is a biblical way to gain a full assurance that God is your eternal Savior, and there are other deceitful ideas that come from the imagination or from false teaching. The two most common categories of false assurance are as follows:
1. “I’m a good person, so I’ll go to heaven.”
Nothing comes more natural to sinful human beings than to justify themselves—to think they are better than others, and therefore, that God should accept them. One person thinks that being a good neighbor or civic service will save him. Another thinks that being a church-goer or donating to the needy will put him over the finish line. A third does not drink, smoke, or hang out with people who do, but spends all his time at work and with the family. All of these ideas fall short. The God of Scripture is holier than we sinners can even imagine. He is in the One whose eyes are too pure than to behold sin (Habakkuk 1:13.) The standard by which every one of us will be judged is not our peers, neighbors, or other humans, but we will be judged by God’s perfect standard of holiness, and none of us will measure up. And by this standard, there is none who does good, no, not one (Romans 3:12) and the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21.) Even the very thought that you are good enough to merit His eternal reward is sinful pride, a sin worthy of eternal suffering in hell forever.
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. Psalm 10:4
Only one who realizes his sinful misery knows that he needs the one Savior of the world. The self-secure will find themselves to have built a house on sinking sand rather than on the rock of God’s mercy to sinners in Christ. And there can be no doubt that God, being a just and holy Judge of all the earth, will do what is right by punishing forever every person who seeks to be saved by his own goodness.
2. “Prayed the prayer, got the date written in my Bible.”
This fallacy bases ones certainty of salvation on a past experience. Maybe one person has walked down an aisle and prayed the “sinner’s prayer.” Another has been baptized as an infant and confirmed in the church. None of these experiences in the past are a foundation of certainty that you are eternally saved. The means given in Holy Scripture for gaining assurance of salvation are a resting on the finished work of Christ the everlasting Savior and a continued life of faith and obedience to Him. Without these two pillars of assurance: the objective and subjective grounds given in Scripture for Christians to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are eternally saved, no past experience means a thing. For as the Lord says, he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 13:13) But there are tragically many people who are fooling themselves into thinking that they’ve got it made forever because they’ve gone through the right hoops, as if eternal happiness were a simple matter of box-checking. But the biblical picture is much more wholistic.
But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 1 Peter 1:10
It is possible for Christians, in this life, to get a full certainty of eternal salvation by using those ordinary means that God has given. By studying the Scriptures, we found out that the two foundational pillars of assurance of salvation are trusting in the finished saving work of Christ, and living a life of faith and obedience in thankfulness to Him. What a great and precious comfort it is for sinful humans to know that they will be happy with God forever! Although there are some true Christians who for various reasons lack full assurance, or may lose it from time to time, any true Christian using the God-given means can attain to a full assurance. There is a danger of false assurance, so we must be all the more dilligent to make use of those means God has given to gain certainty about our eternal destiny with God. None of His own can ever be lost. To Him be all glory in the saints forever and ever. Amen.