One annoying thing that keeps niggling at our assurance of salvation on occasions is whether we will be like some others who have at one time done their profession of faith but now seemingly have given their Christian faith away. One trap we fall into as Christians is looking for assurance of salvation in the wrong places. It is so easy to be what I call ‘belly-button’ gazers and continually look at ourselves to see if we can somehow qualify or quantify what God is doing in our lives. For instance, we may be looking at our own spiritual growth or whether we are being obedient to God’s will or even doing good works.
Now some of these things may be useful and be evidence of our salvation because Jesus Himself said that “by their fruit you shall recognize them” (Mat 7:16), but they are not what we should base our assurance of salvation upon. There may come a day when we can no longer do the good works, perhaps due to illness or even the frailty of old age. Nor should we place our trust in how we ‘feel’ for one day we may feel great and the next day we may feel lousy!
Rather, we should find the assurance of salvation in the objective truth of God’s Word and hold on tightly. The thief on the cross had no chance of doing any good works. In fact, his life was probably one of all ‘bad-works’ and yet Jesus assures him of his salvation that very day because the thief believed in Jesus and the objective promise given to Him by the Saviour of sinners. Abraham, years earlier, believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. This is the key to assurance of salvation. We can only be confident that we are saved based on the objective promises of God contained in His Word, and not because of what our hands have done or any other other subjective experiences.
There are many verses in Scripture which testify that God wants his children to be certain of their salvation and not to be tossed about ‘to and fro’ by the storms of life or their continuing self-doubt. For instance, John 20:31; “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Or again, 1 John 5:11-13, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (See also John 3:16; 5:24; 6:37; Acts 16:31. Rom 5:8ff; Rom 8:28-39; 10:9; 2 Cor 5:21 and others). Jesus gave this assurance, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:28-30).
Now it is one thing to know all this, it is another thing to hold onto it tightly. Yet even there, God preserves us so that we will continue to persevere and hold on tightly. The Apostle Paul encourages the Philippian Christians in 2:12-13 to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. It’s not that Paul doubted his salvation, rather, he understood that the sanctifying process calls for ongoing obedience (See WCF 16.3). Furthermore, Paul did not place any confidence in the things he ‘felt’ or ‘did in his flesh’, rather, he considered everything a loss, but rested in the righteousness gained by Christ, given by God and is by faith and kept working at it (please read Phi 3:7-14.)
So, yes we can have assurance of salvation, however, there is no room for being a ‘lazy’ Christian. Don’t neglect feeding on God’s Word, participating in the sacraments, spending time in prayer, gathering for worship. These are some of the means of grace God has given us to encourage us in our faith and walk of obedience. May we all be able to say with Paul, (2 Tim 4:7-8) “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Prayer: “Lord, thank you for giving us such great promises in Your Word. In light of them, forgive us when we doubt or do not trust your promises. Holy Spirit, please help us in times of doubt to trust in Jesus Christ and to recall to mind the wonderfully promises and assurances given to us in Holy Scripture of our eternal salvation. Amen. JZ