a discussion between preacher friends. We were wrestling with the
question of how confident Christians ought to be, moment by moment,
about their salvation. Some were arguing for an absolute assurance,
others for a more cautious one. There is perhaps no concern which weaves
its way so pervasively through the history of God's people as does the
desire for assurance in one's relation ship with God. Christians seem to
vacillate between two contrasting themes of Scripture—assurance
(1 John 5:3)
and warning (1
subject of assurance has been hotly debated down through the centuries,
especially in the Calvinist‑Armenian controversies. Are all who have
been converted to Christ unconditionally assured of their eternal
salvation, or is the life of a Christian one of probation in which his
relationship to God is conditioned on faithfulness? Nothing is more
clearly established in Scripture than the possibility of apostasy. As
certainly as the wicked can turn and be saved, so can the righteous fall
and be lost (Ezekiel
18:21‑26). A Christian's fellowship with his Father is dependent
upon an ongoing spirit of obedient
11:19‑22; 1 Corinthians 15:1‑2; Colossians 1:22‑23; Hebrews 3:6, 14).
this mean that we must live our lives in daily uncertainty about our
relationship with God? Are we never, on this account, to experience any
moment‑by‑moment assurance of our hope? This is a question which
troubles many Christians and deserves study.
evidence of Scripture on this matter is unequivocal. The heavenly Father
clearly intends for His children to know assurance. The cry of "Abba,
Father" is a cry of joy and confidence which comes from being sons, not
slaves, of the living God
Paul affirms that the very essence of the kingdom is "righteousness,
peace and joy"
(Romans 14:17) and names "love, joy and peace" as among the
"fruit of the Spirit"
It goes without saying that there cannot be peace without assurance, and
no joy without peace.
apostle Paul himself is a great illustration of the confidence a
Christian may have of his relationship with God. In the final hours of
his life, he confidently affirms that "there is laid up for me a crown
of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me
at that day" (2
Timothy 4:8). In his heart there was a certainty about his
destiny, an assurance of his salvation.
be objected that the case of Paul, as an apostle, is different than our
own. It should not be. As a sinner, he was saved by the grace of God
just as you and I must be. Having no righteousness of his own
he was "justified by faith in Christ"
are only two ways to be justified before God—by my own perfect
righteousness or by God's grace. Since all men have sinned
(Romans 3:10, 23;
Ecclesiastes 7:21), seeking to find peace with God through our
own righteousness is a dead end street. Confidence in our salvation and
the peace it produces can come only from God's grace and assured
promises. It is what God has done, not what we have done, which gives
assurance of salvation. We are justified by faith—looking up to God, not
to ourselves (Romans
this mean that we no longer have to be concerned about sin in our lives?
To the contrary, the person who truly trusts in God as Father has never
before fought sin so ferociously nor hated it so intensely
True faith works the will of God
Galatians 5:6; James 2:14-26). True love keeps the commandments
of Christ (John
14:15). Any failure to please our Savior will bring grief (2
Corinthians 7:10) and result in penitent confession
(1 John 1:9).
what if I am deceived and sin ignorantly? A single‑minded will to do
God's will (John
7:17) and a genuine love of His truth
2:10) are an absolute defense against deception. If we trust in
God with a whole heart, all that we yet need to know of His way will be
revealed to us
(Philippians 3:13‑15). It is our task to bring to our Father a
true heart. It is His task to redeem His trusting child, and He is
liable to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think"
what if I study God's word and do all I know to do to serve Him and
still can't find peace in my heart about my salvation? Remember that "if
our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knoweth all
things" (1 John
3:19‑20). Put confidence in His promises, not your feelings.
intends that the heart of every humble child of His be guarded by a
peace which passes understanding
The assurance of our hope comes to us moment by moment as we live our
lives in faith. But it is not an assurance which is arrogant, cocky or
heedless. No true servant of God, trusting Him, loving Him, ever dealt
fast and loose with temptation or sin. The same one who said that
nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God" also said,
"I buffet my body and bring it into bondage lest after I have preached
to others, I myself should be rejected"
9:27). The assurance of God is a holy confidence joined to a
sober vigilance, in order that what we now assuredly hold, by His grace,
may never be lost.
Ever Changing Doctrines of Men