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Intro: Do you know that you are saved? Do you know that you are going to heaven? Although these two questions seem synonymous, if you can ask someone if they are saved and they will say yes, but if you ask them if they are going to heaven, their answer changes into I hope so.
It is unfortunate that many Christians do not feel secure in their salvation. They have difficulty expressing any confidence in their final destiny. How confident can we be? What is the basis of our confidence? We will explore these questions.
As Christians we are not to be arrogant, but confident. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9, “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…” Paul says that we are to wear about our head as a helmet the hope of our salvation. Why is that? Because God has not appointed us to wrath but to salvation.
God’s people are described as those who have confidence: 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” John says that he wrote to these Christians so that they could know that they have (present tense) eternal life.
I. Two Extreme Views of Assurance: As it seems with any issue to which there is disagreement, there are two extremes when dealing with this topic of having assurance of our salvation.
A. I Cannot Know if I Am Saved (no security) Many feel there is no way for them to know if they are going to heaven or not. They do not know if they are pleasing to God. This perspective derives from a false concept of how one is saved. When one believes that he is saved through his own meritorious works, there is little room for confidence. This is the perspective under discussion in Rom 7:22-24 – For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
1. One reason we find it difficult to feel secure in our salvation is we know that we have done things wrong. We have not been obedient to the Lord at all times. How can we be sure if we know we fail? We keep a ledger in our mind. We tally up the good things we have done and the bad things we have done and we think that if we have more good deeds than bad then we will be saved. We do not know if we have done enough good things to balance out the bad.
2. God does not want you to live in doubt of your salvation. Some Christians seem to think that God expects us to always be unsure of our position before God, as though there is some form of humility in such an attitude. But the humility God desires and expects is not evidenced through doubt. Eph. 3:10-12 – “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.” Paul says that confidence is a fruit of my faith in Christ.
a. Paul was confident of his promised reward. 2 Tim 4:6-8 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” In view of his ability to sin, possibly even in ways unknown to him, did Paul have a right to speak so boldly concerning his eternal salvation?
B. I Cannot Be Lost (False Security) – The other extreme teaches that once you are saved, it is impossible to lose that salvation. But this is false teaching as well.
1. Can One Turn from Righteousness? The issue before us is not whether or not a righteous person will be saved. I affirm that a righteous person cannot be lost (in his righteousness). The question is not whether or not a righteous person who perseveres to the end can be lost. Again, I affirm that a righteous man who perseveres to the end cannot be lost (Rev. 2:10). The question is, can a righteous man turn away from his righteousness? I don’t know of any passage which more clearly defines this point for us than Ezekiel 18. The whole chapter is significant to this discussion, but notice verse 24: “But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die.” The text states that a righteous man can turn away from his righteousness. It also states the consequences of the turning: he shall die. That alone ought to be enough to end the debate.
a. We can lose our salvation. That is why we are to contend earnestly for the faith, that we are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, that we are not to neglect so great a salvation. So then where is our hope in salvation and eternal life?
II. What is the Basis of Our Assurance of Salvation? How can we be sure? Our confidence is solely based in Christ in at least two ways:
Only His word will do: Would it be sufficient for you if I told you so? Will you take my word for it? Who will you trust? I need God’s word on it. My confidence must come from Him. Rom 8:16-17 – The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Only His work will do: The basis of our assurance must be the gracious forgiveness that is available through Christ alone. 5:1,2 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
John says much about the confident Christian in His epistle. He gives us an accurate basis for our confidence.
A. Abiding in the truth: We cannot know apart from the light of God’s word. Our presuppositions will not suffice. We must seek the Truth of God’s word and abide in it. 1 John 2:24-25 “Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us– eternal life. John writes to give his readers confidence that they can know that they have eternal life. John says that they had to let abide in them what they had heard from the beginning. To abide in the teaching of Christ involves a consistent lifestyle of obedience – what John calls a walking in the light.
B. Walking in the Light – 1 John 1:7-8 – 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. – John indicates that our continuing fellowship is based on a continuing walking. We cannot say we have never sinned or that sin is innocuous in our lives. We must continue to walk as Jesus walked. This necessarily involves a continual search for the light of God’s word. The tense of the verb here indicates continual action. John said that if we “keep on walking” in the light, the blood of Jesus “keeps on cleansing” us from our sins because we “keep on confessing” our sins. He is talking about our manner of life, our habitual practice. What else does this walk include?
1. A striving obedience to God’s word. One who is constantly striving to enter in by the narrow gate.
a. Acts 24:15-16 15“I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. 16″This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.
b. Phil 3:13-14 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
c. I Jn 3:18-22 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
2. Confession of sins I Jn 1:9-10 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. We must acknowledge our wrongs before God. This involves humility of heart and dependence on God’s forgiveness. Confidence is acquired through humbleness.
3. Repentance of Sins: Acts 17:30-31 30″Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
a. When Simon the sorcerer offered the apostles money to buy the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter told him to “repent of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven” (Acts 8:22). Simon acknowledged his sin and asked Peter to pray for him. When we are aware of sins we should confess them before those who know about them and pray for forgiveness. We may also confess that we are sinners. The publican prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk. 18:13). Jesus said that he “went down to his house justified.” I may not be aware of every sin that I commit, but I am aware that I am a sinner! When I confess the sins of which I am aware and that I am a sinner, that is all that is possible for me to do!
Conclusion: Standing upon the Grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9)“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” The conditionality of our salvation does not deny or even argue against the grace of God. We do nothing to pay for our sins, and there is not place for confidence in our perfect obedience. Our confidence rests in the fact of Jesus’ sacrifice, and the fact of my forgiveness. So we stand in the confidence of God’s grace.
Our confidence is secured in the constant intercession of Christ for us:
Rom 5:10-11 ” “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Heb 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.