It has often been said, “No man can know for sure that he is going to Heaven.” This is usually backed up by several objections. It is said that things we do in life might cause us to lose our salvation. On what basis can we know for sure that we possess eternal life? This question must be answered by the statements of Holy Scripture.
Possibility of Assurance
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). You will note that it does not say that you may feel—or hope—or think—or imagine. It says, “ye may
know that ye have eternal life.” Over 30 times in his first epistle John repeats the word “know” in some form. Consider these phrases: “know that we know Him” (1 John 2:3), “know that we have passed from death unto life” (1 John 3:14), “know that He abideth in us” (1 John 3:24), “know that we are of the truth” (1 John 3:19), “know … that we dwell in Him” (1 John 4:13).
It is certainly true that “not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Moreover, some who profess to be believers and have associated themselves with Christians will be turned away by the Lord (Luke 13:25-27). “By their fruits ye shall know them,” said the Savior (Matthew 7:20). Yet, if there has been true spiritual rebirth sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), and evidenced by a persons life (1 John 2:6), a believer can be confident of eternal life right now (2 Timothy 1:12; Romans 8:38-39).
Assurance is defined as “confidence” or a “state of certainty.”
Assurance of salvation is the confidence or state of certainty a Christian has about his own salvation (eternal life). The Scriptures clearly indicate that God wants the Christian to know that he is heaven-bound. Assurance of salvation is not merely human optimism or presumption. It is a fact based on adequate (divine) testimony that we are in a right relationship with God.
Three Witnesses for the Believer’s Assurance
God has given the Christian three witnesses that testify to his relationship with God, and on which he should base his assurance:
1. The Word of God.
This is our strongest witness. Just as our salvation is based on belief in God’s Word (Genesis 15:6; Romans 10:9-10), so also our assurance is based on His Word. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life (John 3:16, 36; John 5:24). Our salvation is based on
the. fact that we have the Son of God, not that we have a certain
feeling (1 John 5:12). Nowhere do the Scriptures speak of “feeling” saved. If we come to Jesus, we have His word that He will not cast us out (John 6:37).
2. Objective Tests of Reality.
Another important witness is the reality of a
changed life. The thief on the cross had limited opportunity to stand for Christ, but he did publicly confess his faith and rebuke the other thief (Luke 23:40-43). Although there are believers who live a carnal (fleshly) life (1 Corinthians 3:1-4), of whom Lot is typical (2 Peter 2:7-8); that is not to say their lives show no evidence of spiritual life. Human failure has Scriptural provision (1 John 1:9; 2:1-2), but this is not a license to sin. The following are Scriptural tests of divine life in the individual:
a. Confessing Christ (Romans 10:9-10)
b. Good works (James 2:14-26; Ephesians 2:10)
c. Obedience to the Word (1 John 2:4-5; 1 John 5:2-3)
d. Not loving the world (1 John 2:15)
e. Practicing righteousness (1 John 3:7, 10)
f. Not practicing sin (1 John 3:9-10; Galatians 5:21)
g. Love for fellow-believers (1 John 3:14) h. Affirming Christ’s Deity (2 John 9)
i. Willingness to admit and confess sin as a believer (1 John 1:8-9)
3. Inward Witness.
A third witness is our own feelings. This witness is the weakest of the three because it is subjective and a person may deceive himself. Yet, taken with the other two, it is a significant witness. The following are subjective tests of reality of divine life:
a. Witness of the Spirit with our spirit (Romans 8:16)
b. No more consciousness of sin as an unpaid debt (Hebrews 10:2)
c. Distress when we sin (Psalm 32:3-5)
d. Our own way of life has changed (see objective tests); we sense a reality in prayer; we have a concern for the lost; we have a desire for the Word, etc.
Doubting Christians Versus Unsaved Professors
Although doubts concerning our salvation are serious (and even sinful), most Christians are plagued with such doubts at one time or another in their experience. The following guidelines may prove helpful for those who question their own salvation:
Doubting Christians: Unsaved Professors:
1. Are concerned about their relationship 1. Tend to be careless, even confident.
to God (they raise questions).
2. Often show repeated concern 2. Vigorously affirm their salvation
about their salvation. in face of contrary evidence in their
life. Are resistant and resentful at any
questions in this area.
3. Identify with Christians, though 3. Often criticize believers and the
they often feel their own unworthiness church—blame them for various
to be one of them. things, often in harsh language.
4. Often question their salvation 4. Show little or no recognition of
during mental, physical “lows”— need at these times.
problem times in their lives.
Dealing with Doubts
1. Recognize Doubts.
You may have had questions similar to the following: “When I accepted Christ, nothing happened—I did not feel different.” “I don’t know whether I believed in the right way.” “I don’t have the witness of the Spirit.” “ I believe I have committed the unpardonable sin.” “ My life does not show I am a Christian. I have failed so miserably.”
2. Examine Yourself.
The following questions may help pinpoint a person’s true spiritual state: “Have you ever known conviction of sin during your life?” “On what are you basing your hopes of heaven?” “When and under what circumstances did you receive Christ?” A true believer has known conviction of sin and repentance and is basing his hope of salvation solely on Christ and His work. Generally, he will be able to recall a point where he made an unconditional commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; if he does not know the time, he will at least know that the commitment has been made.
3. Confirm by Prayer.
Consider a prayer of commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior if there is doubt. Repeated praying in this way, however, is no substitute for coming to the point of believing God’s Word and resting upon it, rather than relying on feelings.
The Value of Self-Evaluation
Jesus warned against self-deception in regard to salvation. Many will claim to have known Him and to have done much in service for Him,
yet they will be cast into outer darkness because they were not true believers (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 13:23-28). Therefore, if we should have any doubts, we should examine ourselves whether we be in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5) using the objective tests of reality given above. Commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior can be made if there are still doubts.
Study Guide Assurance Of Salvation
The next best thing to knowing God is having an assurance that we are His forever. How can we know for sure that we have eternal life? Carefully consider the following questions:
1. Which of the following statements best reflects the Biblical concept of assurance of salvation?
a. I think I have eternal life.
b. I hope I have eternal life.
c. I know I have eternal life.
d. I’ll find out when I die if I have eternal life.
2. Answer by circling True or False.
a. It is impossible for a person to know for sure he has eternal life. (True or False)
b. It is possible to have assurance based on false reasons. (True or False)
c. Some who say they believe will be lost. (True or False)
d. Assurance of salvation is merely human optimism and presumption. (True or False)
3. Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) 1 John 5:10-13.
4. What do the following verses indicate about a person s ability to know he has eternal life?
1 John 2:3
1 John 3:14
1 John 3:19
1 John 3:24
1 John 4:13
5. Which of the following are the best witnesses of the reality of our relationship with God? List in order of importance from most reliable to least reliable.
a. Witness of friends
b. Word of God
c. Objective test of reality
d. Inward witness
6. From Matthew 7:21-23, why is it important that our assurance of salvation be based on sure grounds?
7. Which of the objective tests of reality listed in the chapter are true of your life?
8. Have you ever had doubts about your eternal destiny since receiving Christ as Lord and Savior? How did you deal with them?
What do you say? If someone were to ask you, “How do you know for sure you have eternal life?” what would you say?
What do others say? Contact at least three people this week and ask them the following questions. You may wish to say something like the following:
“I’m involved in a Bible Survey here in (name city). Could you help me by sharing your opinion on three important questions? (1) Do you think it is possible for a person to know for sure that he has eternal life? (2) What do you think the Apostle John meant when he wrote, “These things have I written that ye may know that ye have eternal life?” (1 John 5:13) (3) Have you ever come to a place in your own spiritual experience where you knew for certain that you have eternal life? Thank you so much for your help. Would you like for me to mail/e-mail you a copy of the survey results? Thank you.”
Record their names and addresses on the 3x5 cards provided by the class leader. Record the answers on the back, indicating if the survey results are desired. Then return the cards next class meeting. Results of the survey will be tabulated by the class leader and mailed to each person indicating an interest.