I feel it necessary to give some brief autobiographical note here about myself, that my reader might understand that the writer understands the agony and horror of a conscience that lacks the assurance of its salvation.
The Lord God, the Holy Spirit, converted me back in 2009, when I was in year 12 at school. However, as to having a strong certainty that I was indeed now no longer a son of the devil, I did not have such an assurance, and so sometimes believed I could well go to hell if I died. Joined to this lack of assurance, I also had a lively sense of the wrath of God, of hell, of my own sins, of the darkness of my own heart, of my own great sinfulness.
I was sometimes so terrified of God’s wrath that I wished, on numerous occasions, to end my life, and almost did so; for I thought, “If I will die and go to hell, I may as well go sooner than later, for this is my end.”
If I am not greatly mistaken, I was actually truly converted by the time I had had these experiences. (I do believe I had some of these experiences before I was converted. I am only saying that I do not believe that I had all of these experiences before I was converted, but I believe that I had some of them after I was converted. I am implying by this that I believe it is possible for a truly born-again individual to have such experiences. I, however, do not have the space to defend this view here. It will have to wait for a separate article, perhaps.)
This article cannot exhaust the subject of the Christian’s assurance of his or her salvation. I did, however, wish to share what I believe to be an important point in understanding this subject, and which I believe would go a long way in helping some particular kinds of individuals, who struggle similarly as I did.
The Christian’s Assurance of His or Her Own Salvation
This article will briefly explain and give Scripture proofs for the following points concerning the Christian’s assurance of his or her own salvation:
- It is part of God’s plan to save certain individuals and make them truly Christians, truly saved, truly converted.
- It is possible for true Christians to truly know that they are truly saved.
- Since it is possible for true Christians to truly know that they are truly saved, then we should not be surprised if any Christian actually has an assurance that they are truly saved.
- God commands people to seek an assurance of their salvation until they have it. Or, in other words, God commands people to aim to have an assurance of their salvation.
- It is possible for true Christians, people who are truly born again and who are on their way to heaven, to lack an assurance that they are true Christians.
- God’s word ordinarily describes Christians as having an assurance of their salvation, and rejoicing in it.
- Satan does not want true Christians to have an assurance that they are saved.
- Conversion is evidenced by faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross.
- A saved person wants to live for Christ the more he or she understands Christ and what He did on the cross for them.
- A saved person does not see the cross of Christ as a reason to live in sin.
- Conversion does not produce sinless people in this life.
Explanations of each point:
- It is part of God’s plan to save certain individuals and make them truly Christians, truly saved, truly converted. Time would fail us to number all the places which prove this. Nor do I think there is much doubt about it in general. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) The apostle Paul, moved by the Holy Spirit, wrote of the Jews as a nation, that “God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.” (Romans 11:32) And in Ephesians 1:13, the gospel of Christ is called “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation“.
- It is possible for true Christians to truly know that they are truly saved. This is evident from the fact that the apostle Peter, moved by the Holy Spirit, told the Christians to whom he wrote to “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure“. (2 Peter 1:10)
- Since it is possible for true Christians to truly know that they are truly saved, then we should not be surprised if any Christian actually has an assurance that they are truly saved. If we come across a person who is rejoicing because they have an assurance of their salvation, then we should not consider them sinful because of it. It is proper to the state of a Christian that they would know they are saved. Our Lord Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) And also, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My toke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
- God commands people to seek an assurance of their salvation until they have it. Or, in other words, God commands people to aim to have an assurance of their salvation. This is, once again, plainly taught in what the Holy Spirit moved the apostle Peter to tell the Christians to whom he wrote, in telling them to “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure”. (2 Peter 1:10)
- It is possible for true Christians, people who are truly born again and who are on their way to heaven, to lack an assurance that they are true Christians. This is, once again, evident from what the Holy Spirit moved the apostle Peter to tell the Christians to whom he wrote, in telling them to “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure“. (2 Peter 1:10) Since there is a possible need to make one’s call and election sure, then it is evident that it may not always be sure.
- God’s word ordinarily describes Christians as having an assurance of their salvation, and rejoicing in it. The Holy Spirit moved the apostle Peter to say that God “has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”. (1 Peter 1:3) And in 1 Peter 1:6 it is also written, “In this you greatly rejoice“, and in verse 8, “[Jesus Christ] whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory“. In 1 Corinthians 1:7, the Corinthian Christians are said by the apostle Paul to be “eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ”. And how could they await it eagerly if they had no assurance that they would be accepted when Christ comes?
- Satan does not want true Christians to have an assurance that they are saved. This is evident from a few considerations. (1) God wants His people to have an assurance that they are saved, as we have already shown. (2) Christians will face Satan’s kingdom with boldness if they are assured that they are God’s people.
- Conversion is evidenced by faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. The apostle Paul writes, in Galatians 6:14, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” And in 2 Timothy 1:12, the apostle Paul writes, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” A belief in the crucifixion of Christ includes a belief in the incarnation of Christ. The Holy Spirit says, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” (1 John 4:2-3) The person of whom Christ has taken hold and made His own, this person sees his or her salvation in Christ and in Christ alone. This person rests in Christ, and hopes in nothing else, for his or her own salvation. This person sees Christ as having come, having done, having worked, having lived perfectly, having been perfect, and as being the perfect sacrifice for God, bearing the wrath of God, pleasing God, to save sinners. The saved person sees Christ as his or her justification and satisfaction before God.
- A saved person wants to live for Christ the more he or she understands Christ and what He did on the cross for them. For this reason, the Holy Spirit implies that this should be a motive that will compel the saved person to obedience, by saying, in the words of the apostle Paul, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) If a Christian has been unmindful of the mercies of God, then the Christian will lapse into sin, senselessness and insensitivity. But when the Christian is then pointed to Christ, the Christian, the saved person, is sad and repents, and wants to follow after Christ, just because of the mercies of God, in gratefulness to God, and in total sacrifice to God, regardless of the consequences. This is one of the strongest evidences that a person is truly saved.
- A saved person does not see the cross of Christ as a reason to live in sin. The Holy Spirit says in Jude 4, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” The unbeliever’s attitude is as follows: “How good that God has made a way for me to sin without being punished for it! For look, Jesus was punished for my sins! So now I can go on and live in sin! How great!” If this is your attitude, you have good reason to doubt that you are saved.
- Conversion does not produce sinless people in this life. No person should conclude that they themselves are not a Christian because he or she falls into sin. God’s word frequently addresses sin problems in the churches, the sins of people whom God’s word says are Christians. The apostle Paul instructs the churches about how to deal with each other’s sin, saying, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1) And this passage also implies the possibility that “you who are spiritual” might also be tempted; for the words were, “considering yourself lest you also be tempted“. Also, as the passage we quoted earlier from Romans 12 implies, it is possible that Christians might not always be presenting themselves as living sacrifices, wholly acceptable to God; and this is sin; and therefore we need to be pointed to the mercies of God, and we need to meditate on them, and take them to heart, so that we might not sin.
There is much more that could be said on this subject. But I wished to share the things which seemed to me to be most pressing for the moment. I pray that it would be a blessing to you all.