By Pastor Riley Fraas
In the last part of this series, I talked about Jesus Christ the Savior being the objective ground of assurance, that is, the believer’s foundational certainty of his or her eternal salvation. The person who truly believes in Jesus Christ can never be lost because Jesus is his Savior, and Jesus is not a temporary, but an eternal Savior. Jesus lives continually interceding for His own; and we can be confident that the Father always hears Him. As a result, they can never be lost. In this part I would like to talk about the subjective evidence of assurance, in other words, the evidence in the life of a believer that may be seen as proof that one is eternally saved from sin.
In Matthew 7:18, Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” Notice that Jesus is presenting the fruit of the tree as evidence of it being a good tree. This is an analogy applying to Christians. Those who believe in Christ, aka. Christians, who have been born anew and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who are truly connected savingly to Christ by faith, cannot help but produce certain fruits in their lives. A true Christian cannot fail to live in a way that pleases God any more than a good tree can fail to produce good fruit. If the tree doesn’t produce good fruit, it’s proof that the tree is corrupt. In the same way a person who is not living for God shows evidence that he or she is not a true believer in Jesus Christ. Because of this, bearing spiritual fruit is an important aspect of being sure that one is saved. One is not saved because of the way one lives—any more than good fruit is what makes a tree good inside—but the way in which one lives for God is evidence that one can point to of a true relationship with the Savior. So one important way to be sure of one’s salvation is to examine one’s life for the distinguishing characteristics and behaviors which accompany salvation.
This is what Peter is talking about when he writes, “give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” in 2 Peter 1:10. The way to make sure that one has truly been called inwardly by the Holy Spirit, and that one is truly “elect” unto salvation as the apostle here terms it, is to give diligence to do “these things.” But what are “these things”? They have just been named in verses 5-8 of the same chapter:
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
There are seven qualities or characteristics listed here which describe those who are truly saved forever:
Virtue – Termed “excellence” in some translations, this trait refers to fulfilling God’s purpose for your being. When you are living a life in sync with God’s instructions and commandments in Holy Scripture, this is true manhood or womanhood, an evidence of salvation.
Knowledge – Knowing God by studying the Bible and hearing His word in church. You can’t very well make a case that you have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, if you’re not diligently seeking to know Him better in the way that He’s given us to learn about Him, can you? That would be like me saying that I love my wife by not getting to know her. It’s ridiculous.
Temperance – A sober, self-controlled life, free from slavish service to the lusts of the flesh and the temptations of the world is a fruit or evidence of salvation.
Patience – Patient perseverance in faith is a sign of salvation. Faith in Christ that is here today, gone tomorrow is not a sign of salvation. Continuing in faith and obedience to Christ, is.
Godliness – Having a God-ward orientation, living for Him, reflecting His character.
Brotherly Kindness – Being kind, gentle, and gracious to other believers in Christ is a sign of one who really has been saved by His grace. If you’re not gracious to other Christians, have you really experienced God’s grace? If you know the kindness of Jesus to you, you will also be especially kind to those for whom He shed His blood.
Charity (or love) – One who personally has firsthand knowledge of the love of Christ will be loving to others, whether they are Christian or non-Christian. If not, it’s evidence that one doesn’t know that love.
Peter lists these traits or characteristics not only as something to look for to tell if you are eternally saved or not, but as something to cultivate in your life to gain that certainty and assurance that you are truly saved. He goes on to say,
For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ
A label on a can of soup is not the source of ingredients. The ingredients are put in before the label is ever glued on. But, if you want to know what’s inside, you can look at the label. In the same way, the lives of Christians offer the evidence or proof that they are eternally saved, in relationship with the Savior. If you want to be certain of your salvation, therefore, it’s necessary to cultivate and reflect the kinds of characteristics and traits that come with salvation. And we have the promise of God’s word, that if we do these things, we “shall never fall.”…Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:10, 11