ASSURANCE OF SALVATION
Once Saved Always Saved
Assurance of salvation is an important aspect of the Christian life. Assurance has to do with being positive and confident. How does this relate to God's gift of salvation? Once saved always saved? Some object to such teaching. But we need to consider what the Bible says.
Picture yourself sitting in a fine restaurant. You have just finished a delicious meal. But wait a moment. How do you know that? How do you know that you've just eaten a meal? Yes, it's a silly question. But think about it.
"Well," you might say, "there are the dirty dishes. There are the chicken bones, and my soiled napkin. And, oh yes, there's the bill for the meal, sitting there. And anyway, I feel full. I know I've just eaten because my stomach tells me I have." And more than that, over a period of time, the strength and energy the food provides will show in the productivity of your life.
Now, let us make an application of that. Are you a Christian? And if so, how do you know for certain that you are? What is the basis for your assurance of salvation? Because the Bible says we can know it. The Apostle John says, "Beloved, now [right now] we are children of God." And later, "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" (I Jn. 3:2; 5:13). And the Apostle Paul testifies, "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day [the day of Christ's return]" (II Tim. 1:12).
So again, the question is, how? How can one be so confidently "persuaded"? In answer, we should be able to see three kinds of evidence producing assurance of salvation. One that is outside ourselves--like the empty plates on the table (what we might call objective evidence). Another that is inside--like that full stomach (subjective evidence). And still another comes from what happens in the longer term.
1) OBJECTIVE EVIDENCE Giving Assurance of Salvation
Our objective evidence is what Christ has done for us, and what God has said about it. That is our soul's great anchor. "[Christ] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree" (I Pet. 2:24). Do you believe that is so? If you do, then personalize the following verses. Insert your own name, as indicated. And keep reading them over thoughtfully, until the wonderful truth strikes home.
"All we [including...your name] like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him [Christ] the iniquity of us all [including your name]" (Isa. 53:6).
"For God so loved the world [including your name] that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever [including your name] believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (Jn. 3:16).
"As many [including your name] as received Him, to them [including your name] He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name" (Jn. 1:12).
And Jesus says, "He [meaning your name] who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" (Jn. 5:24).
Now, can you say you have assurance of salvation. That you are indeed a Christian? And can you explain how you know that you have God's gift of eternal life? If you were standing at the gate of heaven today, what is the one reason you could give, based on these verses, for being allowed into God's heaven?
2) SUBJECTIVE EVIDENCE Giving Assurance of Salvation
The subjective evidence of salvation is the witness of the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit. That too can give assurance of salvation. Though this is not the foundation of our faith, it should flow naturally from it, bringing further assurance of our spiritual condition.
"The Spirit [of God] bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God," says Romans 8:16. That speaks of a growing inward confidence, generated by the indwelling Spirit of God. "Because you are [now, present tense] sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!'" (Gal. 4:6--"Abba" is a child's term of endearment for a parent, like "Dearest Pappa").
3) CONFIRMATIVE EVIDENCE Giving Assurance of Salvation
In the life of the Christian there should be confirming evidence that he is born again. Inwardly, the Spirit of God will begin producing the fruit of Christian character. Outwardly, among other changes, there will be a fruitful ministry for Christ, according to the individual's gifts and abilities, that affects the lives of others. These can give ongoing assurance of salvation. Consider the following passage:
I John 5:9-12.
"Every good tree bears good fruit," Jesus tells us. And "by their fruits you will know them" (Matt. 7:17, 20). The fruit, or results of God's salvation are such things as:
¤ New confidence in prayer (Heb. 4:16; I Jn. 5:14-15)
¤ A desire to study God's Word (I Pet. 2:2; cf. Ps. 119:97)
¤ A sense of kinship with God's people (I Jn. 3:14; cf. Ps. 119:63, 79)
¤ A desire to attend the house of God (Ps. 122:1; Heb. 10:24-25)
¤ A sensitivity to sin in our lives (Gal. 5:17; I Jn. 1:5-10)
¤ Growth in Christian character, and such qualities as love, joy, and peace (Gal. 5:22-23; II Pet. 1:3-8)
¤ A heart to serve the Lord and see others come to Christ (I Cor. 9:16; Rom. 10:1; cf. Ps. 40:8)
Though such qualities will not appear in an instant, fully developed, they should begin to manifest themselves more and more, in who has trusted in the Saviour. If they do not, we need to reexamine our commitment to Christ, because "faith without works is dead" (Jas. 2:20). True saving faith will reveal itself in our lives. These things provide an outward evidence of the inward reality. But the rock of our confidence is not a "think so" or a "feel so." It's what Christ has done on our behalf, and what God has promised.
When we put our faith in Christ, we are saved because God says so. Once saved always saved--because God's work in the one He saves is eternal. That settles it. See also