Saved, Always Saved?
One of the
most precious promises found in Scripture is 1 John 5:13:
things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son
of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life."
verse, the Apostle John seeks to encourage his readers about the
doctrine of assurance of salvation.
If a teaching
is found in the Word of God, we are certain that it is part of the
Christian's heritage. A simple reading of John's words makes it
clear that a person may be assured that he or she has eternal life.
If we define assurance of salvation in other words, we can state
that it is a firm biblical confidence that a believer is an heir
to all the Scriptural promises given to the child of God.
article we will study the biblical teaching of assurance: its benefits,
how to obtain it, and some objections to the doctrine.
OF THE ASSURANCE OF SALVATION
we be concerned about the assurance of salvation? The benefits indeed
are great. It gives us the confidence that we have Christ as our
Savior and Lord. There are times in life when we can lose heart
or become discouraged. Being assured that we belong to the Lord
Jesus gives us true peace in the midst of the storm. As assured
believers, we are confident that, because we are the Lord's, nothing
can happen to us that lies outside of His permissive will. Romans
8:28-29 become far more than just verses quoted in the midst of
difficulties; they express the deepest convictions of our hearts.
We know that all things do work together for good to those that
love God. We are confident that, from all eternity, God has determined
to conform us to the image of His Son. We know that we belong to
Him and nothing can separate us from Him or frustrate His purpose
for our lives. Therefore, God's perfect and permissive wills ultimately
accomplish His absolute will for His creation.
also gives us a maturity of character in making decisions. We are
enabled to take a long-range view of life and the things that occur
to us. In the midst of difficulties, we desire to know the reason
why such things happen. Many times we demand to know the answer
immediately. However, if we are assured of our relationship to the
Lord, we can see these difficulties as part of a greater purpose:
God's sovereign will in conforming us to the image of His Son, Jesus
also is an encouragement to consistent growth in the Christian life.
It is tragic to note the number of professing Christians who appear
to have stopped growing in their faith. However, when we are assured
of our position in Christ, rather than making us secure and indifferent,
it serves as a spur to go deeper in our walk with Him. No one would
dispute that the Apostle Paul was a mature Christian, yet he confessed
that even he put all things aside in order to grow in his relationship
with the Lord. See Philippians 3:10-15.
TO OBTAIN ASSURANCE OF SALVATION
believe that the assurance of salvation follows immediately after
a profession of faith in Christ. After leading a person to Christ,
the counselor is encouraged to lead the person directly into assurance
as though salvation and assurance of salvation were two sides of
a single coin. Now this can indeed happen. There are individuals
who have professed Christ and have never doubted the genuineness
of that decision. However, there can be a danger here. There can
be the subtle temptation to think that one's salvation is based
on something the person has done. Frequently, we meet people who
believe they are saved because they went forward in an evangelistic
meeting many years before, they prayed to receive Christ as a child,
or they were baptized and joined a Bible-believing church. They
base their spiritual relationship with the Lord on a past action
although there may be little or no evidence of any change in their
lives. True assurance is always experienced in the present tense.
While the person may have accepted Christ years ago, the reality
of that decision is confirmed in the present. It is no accident
that the verbs in Scripture that express assurance of salvation
such as knowing or being confident are expressed
in the present tense.
does the Word of God teach us about the way to attain a true assurance
of salvation? First, it is important to state that the essence of
biblical salvation is not primarily that I have eternal life and
that I am going to heaven. While that is a true statement, biblical
salvation is, primarily, a personal and living relationship with
the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. New Testament salvation is never
given apart from the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. To have Christ
is to have salvation and all the blessings promised with Him. See
means of assurance of salvation comes by the testimony of the Word
of God. The purpose of John's first epistle is to assure believers
that they belong to Christ and to be confident of that relationship.
See 1 John 5:13. A number of verses in God's Word speak to this
fact. God promises that He will be God to those who believe in Him.
He tells them that their names are engraved on the palms of His
hands. The Lord Jesus promises that no man can pluck His children
out of His hand or out of the hand of the Father. See Isaiah 49:16
and John 10:28.
means of assurance is through the testimony of the Holy Spirit.
The primary ministry of the Holy Spirit to believers is not to equip
them with spiritual gifts, but to accomplish the sanctifying work
of conforming them to the likeness of the Lord Jesus. In Romans
8:14 we read that those who are being led by the Spirit
of God are the children of God. It is interesting to note that the
context of being led is not vocational guidance but a transformation
into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
there is the testimony of a changed life. Biblical salvation is
not a moral change that the person accomplishes through his own
power. Biblical salvation requires a new heart given by the regenerating
work of the Holy Spirit. While we cannot read the motives of people's
hearts, and there is the possibility of self-deception, we can make
a ministerial judgment that those who show the consistent evidence
of a changed life are Christians. This judgment can also serve to
encourage the person himself. The Bible states that those who desire
to do the Lord's will from the heart belong to Him. A saved person
does not have to be coerced into doing God's will; he has a heart-felt
desire to do it.
TO ASSURANCE OF SALVATION
been those who have strongly objected to the doctrine of assurance
of salvation. We will note some of their objections.
are those who seek to maintain spiritual control over others by
denying them any assurance of their salvation. They seek to make
the person dependent on a church or group. This attempt to control
is an abuse of pastoral authority. Paul states in 2 Corinthians
13:10 that the purpose of spiritual authority is to build people
up in their faith, not to exercise lordship over them. It is the
privilege of a minister to guide people into the state of a settled
conscience before God. It is never right to bring those whom God
has delivered from the power and penalty of sin into a worse bondage.
A true pastor teaches people that they are genuinely free in the
Lord. His responsibility is to show them the marks of a true Christian
from the Word of God. He is also responsible to warn them that the
one who violates those boundaries will experience the chastening
rod of God. Such chastening is the evidence that they are truly
the sons of God. The writer to the Hebrews warns that those who
do not experience chastening are in fact illegitimate children and
not true sons. See Hebrews 12:8.
there are those who are convinced that even a true Christian can
lose their salvation by voluntarily turning away from God. Thus
the doctrine of assurance would be a falsehood and not the truth
of Scripture. This teaching misunderstands what God's Word instructs
us about the nature of conversion. One of the most precious doctrines
found in Scripture is the teaching of our union with Christ. Paul
speaks of this in Romans 6. He tells us that the believer is now
united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. There
is an indissoluble spiritual union formed between the Christian
and Christ Himself. Does any person have the power to break such
a union? Why would a Christian, who has experienced the blessings
and joy of the Lord, even desire to have this union broken? While
it is true that even the most mature Christian can sin; God's Word
teaches that the true Christian cannot continue to live in sin.
The pertinent question is not whether such a person can lose their
salvation; it is whether that person has ever truly experienced
the saving work of God in their hearts.
there are those who have practical objections to the doctrine of
assurance. They are convinced that if a person is assured that he
is saved, he will live an ungodly life. According to this view,
assurance of salvation is a license to sin without any consequences.
However, this view of assurance demonstrates an impoverished view
of what salvation is and the power of God's work of grace. Biblical
salvation is a salvation from sin, not a salvation
in sin. We have been translated from the kingdom of sin and
unrighteousness into the kingdom of righteousness. See Romans 6:1-4.
In seeking to guard the Christian faith from ungodly living, people
who deny the truth of assurance take away one of the greatest means
God has given to help people live a holy life. This understanding
of the doctrine of assurance distorts the grace and power of God
in granting true salvation. A true Christian is not sorrowful because
he no longer can sin with impunity, instead he mourns because he
cannot live in a godlier manner. His life reflects an attitude of
gratitude to God for saving him.
of us determine that we will experience the biblical assurance of
salvation in order that we may "taste and see that the Lord
is good!" (Psalm 34:8)