the bible, to be sure
As long as I have been a Christian I have had trouble with the way many in the Church have framed the assurance of salvation.
Popular Christianity seems to have given the most attention to two particular views on this subject. On the one hand, there are those who stress the doctrine of assurance in terms of eternal security. These people will say, “If you believe, no matter what tempest of doubt or sin may overcome you tomorrow, you are still saved, now and forever. Even if you walk away from God, He will never walk away from you, because He will never leave you nor forsake you.” On the other hand, there are those Christians who place very little value, if any value at all, on assurance. This camp will often describe salvation in terms of the present. These people will say, “Indeed, today, if you believe, you are genuinely saved. Yet tomorrow, if you rise from your bed without faith, you are lost, and are in danger of hell and in need of salvation once again.” As with many controversies, the pattern has been to preach fervently the Scriptures that support one view, and ignore the other Scriptures.
Yet, as we seek God in his Word, we see degrees of truth in both the above explanations, and also particulars in both explanations that are deeply troublesome. In our final analysis, we find both of these explanations entirely unsatisfactory.
Yes, it is true that Jesus keeps those who have faith in Him (John 10:27-29, John 6:37-39). Yes, it is true that once I am joined to the love of God, no created entity or thing can ever separate me (Romans 8:35-39). Yes, it is true that God who has started the work in me will finish it (Philippians 1:6). Yes, it is true that from the moment we believe we are given eternal life (John 5:24, Romans 10:9). Yes, it is true that we are sealed until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30, Ephesians 1:13-14). But, we see that it is also true that there are those who think they have saving faith in Jesus, but are not saved (Matthew 7:21-23). And it is also true that there are those in the visible church, who will fall away and not inherit eternal life (1 John 2:19). And it is also true that Paul himself was given to regular self-examination as to his own salvation, lest he be disqualification from eternal life (1 Corinthians 9:27). And it is also true that our salvation is contingent on continued belief (1 Corinthians 15:2). And it is also true that, though we have once believed, we are to examine ourselves to see that our faith is genuine (2 Corinthians 13:5).
So we find another way… a third option that has received less attention in many Christian circles. Perseverance of the saints.
The gift of salvation, by grace through faith, received at a point in time, is evidenced by a faith that perseveres to one’s dying breath. Though the true Christian will have severe times of struggle, his faith is rugged. And though his faith, once a flaming fire, may during certain times of testing be reduced to a small flicker, it is a faith that is never extinguished. We must continually recenter ourselves, holding on to the glorious assurance of God’s work of salvation accomplished in us the moment we believed, and encouraging ongoing personal examination of the evidences of true saving faith. Everyone who possesses true faith in Christ for the salvation of their sins is completely and entirely saved, forever. More than this, we can be assured of whether we do or do not have this true faith… we can indeed know whether we are saved.
God gives us assurance by his Spirit, in his Word.
The Bible gives many great witnesses of what a true faith looks like, what a true faith feels like, and what a true faith does. We can read the Bible and know whether we have been saved! Let us examine ourselves by immersing ourselves in the Word of God! In the light of God’s Word let us make certain that He has indeed begun to do a gospel work in us, so that we can also be certain that He will complete it. The Scriptures center us in this way.
So the answer to the assurance controversy? The Bible. The answer to our own assurance? The Bible.
Filed under: bible, theology | 1 Comment
Tags: 1 Corinthians 15:2, 1 Corinthians 9:27, 1 John 2:19, 2 Corinthians 13:5, assurance, bible, calvinism, Ephesians 1:13-14, Ephesians 4:30, eternal security, examination, examine ourselves, examine yourself, John 10:27-29, John 5:24, John 6:37-39, Matthew 7:21-23, perseverance, Romans 10:9, Romans 8:35-39