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ASSURANCE OF SALVATION

© Rosemary Bardsley 2002

There are Christians who deny the possibility of assurance of salvation. This underlying presupposition colours their understanding of the Bible. The result of this is that certain passages are seen to teach that a person with genuine faith and salvation today can lose that faith and their salvation tomorrow, depending on the ability of that person to live up to certain standards of obedience.

There are Christians who maintain 'once saved, always saved' irrespective of post-conversion behaviour.

There are Christians who believe that assurance of salvation is part and parcel of salvation; that once a person in truly saved, that person can never return to a state of lostness; that true faith endures and perseveres despite its fluctuations; and that the role of obedience/behaviour is not to gain or maintain salvation, but the evidence of genuine faith. On this understanding, the passages used by the first group above to teach that salvation can be lost, are seen to teach that people who revert to life of on-going, unrepentant disobedience to God were never saved in the first place, even though for a time they may have appeared to be believers.

The third view is the perspective of God's Word For You. The following table lists Scripture references, quotes or summarizes the content of the passage, then comments on that passage. For the underlying understanding of salvation which makes this confident assurance of salvation possible go to the Words of Salvation studies on this website. Also on this website are Studies in Romans, which give an extended and comprehensive insight into the incredible work of salvation which God accomplished through the death of his Son on the cross; it the light of this God-wrought salvation the thought that it can be lost by us is, at the least, ludicrous, and at the worst, blasphemous.

REFERENCE
CONTENT OF PASSAGE
COMMENT

Matthew 7:15-27

Jesus words about false prophets in the church, and his teaching about the two houses.

This passage indicates the presence of, and the difficulty of detecting, the non-genuine among the genuine believers. We read here of 'wolves' dressed like 'sheep' right in the flock of God. These are the 'false prophets' whom Jesus says it is very difficult to recognize so closely do they resemble genuine believers. We also read of 'trees' whose only differentiating quality is the 'fruit' they produce - and fruit takes a long time to grow on some trees. And we read of two houses which differ only in their foundations, and only when rough times come does the significance of difference become evident. As well as these three pictures are the powerful and penetrating words of Jesus in verses 21-23 in which he points out that a real relationship with him will be obvious in a life lived in submission to him.

Matthew 11:28-30

'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'

Note the repetition of the word 'rest'. Rest is possible only when there is assurance of salvation. Compare the letter to the Hebrews, where in chapters 3 & 4 the writer urges his readers not to miss out on the rest that God has for them by failing to believe the word of God (the sin of unbelief) as the Israelites did in the wilderness. See note on Hebrews 3 and 4; also wait for Studies in Hebrews, which are under preparation for this site, but won't be ready until after Studies in Romans.

Matthew 13:1-23

Mark 4:1-20

Luke 8:1-15

The parable of the sower and its meaning taught by Jesus Christ

This passage is frequently used to teach that it is possible to lose salvation: the second and third 'soils' being interpreted to refer to people who became Christians then fell away. Once you discard the presupposition that it is possible to lose salvation, it becomes obvious that the second and third soils teach of people who made a superficial, thoughtless, non-genuine response to the message. Their response was a mere human response; no regenerating work of the Spirit had taken place. As Jesus mentions, only the fourth soil 'hears the word and understands it'.

Matthew 13:24-29; 37-43

The parable of the weeds in the wheat field.

Its explanation.

Like the parable of the sower, this parable clearly teaches the presence of non-genuine people right in amongst the genuine believers. It doesn't suggest these once were genuine and became non-genuine; the weeds were always weeds; they didn't start as wheat then change to weeds; they were non-genuine right from the start, but their true nature, and how to distinguish them from the genuine, was not evident from the start.

Matthew 13:47-49

Parable of the net.

Again indicating the presence of non-genuine among the genuine.

Matthew 20:1-16

Parable of the workers in the vineyard

Teaches that in the kingdom of heaven it is not a matter of the amount of work done, but of what the Master promised. That is the Master's choice.

Luke 1:77

'to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins'

Salvation is known through the forgiveness of sins, not through works.

Luke 2:30

'for my eyes have seen your salvation'

To see Jesus Christ is to see salvation; salvation cannot be separated from Christ. If we have Christ, we have salvation, as verses further down clearly teach. This is one of the truths about salvation that make the thought that it can be lost invalid.

Luke 4:18-19

Quote from Isaiah 61:1-2, in which Jesus claims that it is He of whom the passage is speaking.

The richness of this passage outlaws any thought that our salvation is at the mercy of our own efforts: Christ sets us free, Christ opens our spiritually blind eyes, Christ releases us from the oppression of the law/sin/death trilogy of condemnation (see below on Romans), and Christ proclaims to us the 'year of the Lord's favour' that is the reality prophesied in the Year of Jubilee of Leviticus 25, in which all of our sin debt is cancelled, in which our slavery is replaced by freedom, and which our spiritual destitution is reversed and we receive our inheritance of all that God has for his children.

All of this is clearly the work of Christ, which he accomplishes. If obedience is necessary to gain and maintain salvation then Christ has not set us free; we would be still bound to keep the law in order to be saved.

Luke 9:57-62

Various people deciding to follow Jesus.

Here we have three examples of people who decided to follow Jesus, but whom Jesus immediately recognized (because of his omniscience) as non-genuine. He gave them no encouragement. Evangelists have no failproof means of knowing who is genuine and who is not, and often assume that all who 'come forward' are genuinely saved. Jesus has no such illusions. He knew there were many false responses. See John 2 below.

Luke 15:11-31

The parable of the lost son

The lost son, repenting and enjoying his father's forgiveness, has assurance of his acceptance, without anything good deeds to depend on; the older brother, focusing on his good deeds, has no assurance of his acceptance with his father, nor any joy and peace. This lack of assurance will always be present when a person is looking to his/her actions to merit acceptance with God (unless, of course, like the Pharisee below, that person is full of pride). It is precisely because Christians know that their relationship with God has nothing to do with their actions that they can have complete assurance of salvation.

Luke 16:19-31

The rich man and Lazarus

Lazarus had nothing but his faith.

Luke 18:9-14

The Pharisee and the tax collector

The Pharisee brags about his religious resumé, thinking that thereby he will gain acceptance with God; the tax-collector, knowing that he has nothing to brag about, casts himself on God's mercy, and goes home with the assurance that he is justified before God. Trusting in God's mercy gives assurance; trusting in our own merit gives no assurance.

John 1:12

'Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.'

Identity as children of God is dependent not on works but on receiving/believing in the name of Jesus Christ - this receiving/believing is the result of the will of God, not of any human will. The fact that a person has true faith means that God has been, and is, at work in that person. It is not something that I can undo.

John 2:23-25

.. many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

Here John records that many 'believed' in his name. Jesus however knew that their belief was non-genuine - because he knew what was in their hearts - so he did not commit himself to them - the Greek says 'he did not believe in them'. These people later fell away - because they were not true believers in the first place; they 'believed' for superficial or physical reasons. They did not lose salvation: rather, they never had it to begin with. See note on John 6.

John 3:15,16,36

Whoever believes in him has eternal life

The one condition = believing in him.

John 3:18

'whoever believes in him is not condemned'

The one condition = believing in him.

John 4:14

'whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst'

Permanent spiritual satisfaction - never thirst. The degree to which one is unsure of one's salvation is the degree to which one is thirsty; yet here Jesus promises never thirst. This speaks of confident assurance and completeness - an assurance and completeness which is the blessing of everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ and not in their own performance.

John 5:24

'whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.'

Note: has crossed over from death to life. This does not speak of the possibility of being alive one day and dead the next, then alive again, dead the next, dependent on our works of obedience. It speaks of a once for all, permanently effective state. The tense in the Greek perfect tense: which means that something has been done, and the results of that action are still effective right now. So - here we have people who, at some time in the past (when they believed) crossed over from death to life, and that is still their present position. The earlier part of the verse states 'has eternal life' - present tense: not will have, not might have, but, like the verses in John 3 'has' - at this present moment. This is grand assurance. Added to that, Jesus prefaced these words with the solemn words of assurance - 'amen, amen, I say to you' - indicating something utterly trustworthy and utterly significant.

John 6:27 .. 29

'Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. ... The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'

Note: the work of God - which results in eternal life - is that we believe in the one he sent: Jesus Christ. [We need to compare this verse with Jesus' words in Matthew 7:21-23 where he referred to those who do 'the will of my Father' as entering the kingdom of heaven.]

John 6:35

'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in my will never be thirsty.'

Again, permanent spiritual satisfaction - nothing lacking, no emptiness - promised to those who come to Jesus/believe in him. Any teaching that denies assurance of salvation unavoidably creates an emptiness, a hunger and a thirsting. To have Jesus Christ is to know fullness and satisfaction permanently. If one thinks about it, it can be no other way, for Christ is God himself - how can we have God himself and still be empty? How can we be united to him, and still have no assurance?

John 6:37-40

'All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. ... This is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in; him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.'

God's will is eternal life for all who believe in Jesus. Jesus will never drive away any who genuinely believe in and come to him.

Note that the Father gives us to Jesus. Our salvation is his doing not ours.

John 6:44

'No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.'

Our salvation is in God's hands, not ours: the Father draws us - that is why we come to Jesus. Note that Jesus promises to raise us up at the last day.

John 6:47

'I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.'

Note again: has eternal life, present tense. Eternal life is eternal - if it can be lost it isn't eternal.

John 6:51

'I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.'

Note the assurance: he will live for ever. On what basis? 'eating' this bread - which is Jesus Christ himself. [The passage that follows is full of many such assurances, all centering around our response to Jesus Christ.

John 6:65

' ... no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.'

After this many disciples stopped following him: they couldn't stomach his claims about himself: they did not believe them. These are most likely those with non-genuine faith in John 2:23-25.

John 8:31-32

'To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Here again we see that Jesus does not automatically accept apparent belief as genuine belief. He makes a statement here which throws light on the question of assurance of salvation: if you 'hold to (the Greek is 'remain in', 'have your habitual dwelling place in') my word' you are really my disciples. In other words, there is the possibility of people beginning to follow Jesus without really belonging to him. Persistence, perseverance, is the necessary evidence of salvation. To start and not continue is an impossibility for a true follower, and the indication that what appeared to be faith was not true faith.

John 8:36

'If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'

A clear statement of assurance grounded in the liberating (redeeming) work of Jesus Christ.

John 10:9

'I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.'

A clear statement of assurance, grounded on Christ's being the gate/door. This whole Shepherd/door passage is full of assurance.

John 10:27-29

'My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.'

Another clear statement of assurance, this time grounded in the fact that the Father has given believers to Christ.

Note: no one can snatch us out of either the Son's or the Father's hand.

Note: they shall never perish.

Note: I give them eternal life - eternal life is by definition eternal - it cannot be stopped, it cannot be ended, it cannot be lost - or it never was eternal.

John 11:25-26

'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.'

One condition: believing in Jesus Christ.

Promise: will never die.

John 12:46

'I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.'

There are many things that are characterized as 'darkness' from which the Light of the world saves us - among them uncertainty. Lack of assurance - uncertainty if we are going to heaven or not - is darkness.

John 14:1-4

'Do not let your hearts be troubled ... trust ... in me ... I am going .. to prepare a place for you ... I will come beck and take you to be with me ..'

Christ's words of assurance.

John 14:6

'I am the way ... .no one comes to the Father except through me ..'

We come to the Father only through Christ - in that there is assurance - for we don't come through our own merits.

John 14:27

Also: 16:33

'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. ... Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.'

Words of comfort and encouragement quite incompatible with the possibility of losing one's salvation.

John 16:27

'The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.'

God's love for us not based on our performance but on our response to his Son

John 17:3

'This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.'

Eternal life is knowing Jesus Christ and God the Father.

John 20:31

'These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.'

John's assurance to his reader is this: Life is inseparably linked with believing in the person of Jesus Christ and his name. It is not the result of our performance.

Romans 1:5

'To call people ... to the obedience that comes from faith'

There is obedience - but is comes out of faith - it never replaces faith as the condition or cause of salvation.

Romans 1:16-17

Summary of the gospel

Salvation is something dependent on God's power.

Righteousness - which is a legal declaration of acquittal - is from God not from our own actions.

It is by faith from first to last - that is it never depends on our works or performance.

Romans 3:20

'Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather through the law we become conscious of sin.'

Impossibility of acquittal by performance of law. Law was never meant to identify our goodness: its purpose is to identify our badness. If we use the law to justify ourselves we are completely missing the whole point of the law.

Romans 3:21

'A righteousness from God apart from law has been made known'

Our right legal standing in the presence of God is

[1] from God - not from our own works,

[2] apart from law - it has nothing to do with our ability or otherwise to keep the law.

Romans 3:22/24

'This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference for all ... are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.'

Every believer is equally in right legal standing in the presence of God - because our justification, rather than being on the basis of our obedience, is freely, is by his grace, and it is through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. In other words, every single believer stands in the presence of God equally acquitted, equally justified, equally righteous - because it has nothing to do with them - it has everything to do with Jesus Christ - and with the redemption - the setting us free - which he accomplished through his blood.

Our little works of goodness and obedience pale into insignificance, indeed pale into sinfulness, when placed beside that great and awesome death which Christ went through to secure our salvation. It is that in which we trust - not our own puny handful of good works. And this is Paul's whole point here, for the Jewish believers were thinking that because they had the law they were in better standing than the Gentile believers who didn't even know the law. Paul says there is no difference. You can obey the law all you like, but it makes no difference to your salvation, for your salvation depends on Christ, your salvation is by grace, it is free, it is by faith. It is, therefore, assured.

Romans 3:27-28

(plus 4:1)

'Where, then is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.'

Any assurance of salvation based on my performance gives me a cause for boasting - but Paul says that the principle of faith - by which we are justified - outlaws boasting.

Romans 4

About Abraham

This whole chapter makes it clear that Abraham's blessing of justification by faith came totally apart from anything that he did - and it is this same blessing that the person who believes in Christ has received.

Verses 19-25 make it very clear that Abraham knew that there was nothing in himself that could bring about what God had promised - 'being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised' - all Abraham did was believe, and it was that belief that was credited to him as righteousness.

Romans 4:16

'Therefore the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring - not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.'

Note: guaranteed - because it is by faith and by grace - not by works.

Romans 5:1-2

'Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.'

Note: peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ - not on the basis of our obedience.

Note: through Christ we have access into this grace.

Note: we now stand - something sure and certain - we stand in this grace.

Romans 5:2

'We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God'

Not possible without assurance, in fact biblical hope is assurance.

Romans 5:3

'We rejoice in our sufferings'

Not possible without assurance, for otherwise one would always be fearing that one's sufferings were punishment for some sin or for some failure of faith. But the believer can rejoice in sufferings, because the believer knows that God no longer relates to him/her on a tit-for-tat performance basis, but always, only and ever through Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:9-11

'Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.'

Paul is here addressing the very question of lack of assurance: his argument is: when we were powerless, ungodly, sinners and enemies (verses 6,8,10) Jesus died for us. How much more, now that we are reconciled to him through the death of Jesus, is he going to be favourable to us! He did all that he did in the death of Christ - when we were on the other side - now that he has brought us onto his side, he is certainly not going to pour out his wrath on us and cut us off! He went to all that trouble to get us when we were disobedient - he's not going to let our present sins undo all that Christ did. The whole idea is preposterous and reflects a complete failure to grasp the reality of the gospel.

The person who has this assurance of present salvation can rejoice in God - through Jesus Christ.

Through him they have assurance of present reconciliation.

Romans 5:17

'For if, by the trespass of one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.'

Assurance: [1] God's abundant provision of grace (his grace is more than sufficient to cover our present sins) and the gift of righteousness (legal acquittal) - a gift not something merited or earned by our life of obedience.

[2] 'we reign in life' - lack of assurance does not produce that!

Romans 5:21

'Just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.'

Assurance: [1] grace reigns [2] eternal life [3] it's all through Jesus Christ not us or our obedience. Lack of assurance assumes that my sins are more powerful than God's grace; but Paul here teaches that grace reigns, that is, is in control.

Romans 6:1-11

'all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death' (Compare 1 Corinthians 12:3)

'were buried with him'

'we were united with him like this in his death we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection'

'our old self was crucified with him'

'any one who has died has been freed from sin'

'if we died with Christ we believe we will also live with him.'

'in the same way count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.'

All of these verses speak of the believers identification with Jesus Christ our substitute: his death is our death, his resurrection life is our resurrection life; just as he died the death penalty legally imposed on sin once and will never die that death for sin again - even so the believer, in Christ our substitute, has died to sin, that is, has died the death penalty imposed on sin - has been crucified, has died, has been buried, and has been raised to life in Christ. Legally, the sin penalty of death, has already been paid by the believer in Christ our substitute - as Hebrews points out: once for all.

The implication of this identity with Christ our substitute in his death and resurrection is twofold: [1] it makes salvation absolute secure for those who truly believe in Jesus Christ, and [2] it means that to think that it is okay to sin is absolutely to miss the point and absolutely incongruous: we are no longer under the dominion of sin: we are under the dominion of God and of righteousness: therefore we should not listen to sin.

Romans 6:15-23

'we are not under law but under grace'

'you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness'

'you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God'

Paul here continues to point out the incongruity of sin - based on the fact that, in his union/identification with Christ his substitute in his death and resurrection, the believer now lives under a different master - not under the jurisdiction of law, but under the jurisdiction of grace - not under the old master, sin, but under the new master, righteousness. - not under the old master, sin, but under the new master - God. Paul is here pointing out that sin is now incongruous - completely out of place, but he is not saying that sin nullifies the work of grace, he is not saying that sin nullifies the work of Christ on the cross, he is not saying that sin has the power to undo our union with Christ, that it undoes all that grace has done. All that he is saying is that we have changed masters, and ought not to be still obeying the old one.

Romans 7:1-6

'you died to the law through the body of Christ so that you might belong to another'

'we have been released from the law so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code'

Here Paul teaches that because we have been united with Christ in his death - which was a death in which the full requirements of the law upon the sinner were met - the law has no more authority/power to condemn us, to accuse us, to legally cut us off from God - we have died to, and therefore been released from - the legal jurisdiction of the law. Our union with Christ in his death means that legally we are dead - the law's penalty has already been exacted, and will never be exacted from us again - this is grand assurance.

Romans 7:7-25

After much to say about the sinfulness and disqualification of the human being standing in the presence of God confronted by the law, Paul exclaims:

'Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!'

Here is any man - seen as he is, apart from Christ, naked and exposed in his sinfulness - with nothing to give him credit in the presence of God - only debit. Here, in himself, he has no hope of ever fulfilling the requirements of the law.

There is only one way out, one way to find freedom, liberation, deliverance, from this impossible disqualification: Jesus Christ. Because this one way out is Jesus Christ and not our own actions it is completely secure.

Romans 8:1-2

'There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death.'

1. No condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

2. Set free from the law of sin and death. The 'law of sin and death' states that the 'soul that sins shall die', that is, the soul that sins is cut off from God. The Christian is released from that law - not because the law has been set aside, but because the law has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ our substitute.

If, as Paul teaches here, the believer has been 'set free from the law of sin and death' then no transgression of the law has the power or the authority to ever again sever us from God. This is one more statement of assurance.

Romans 8:3

'What the law was powerless do ... God did ... '

The law - and our obedience of the law - could never justify us - but God did in sending Jesus as a sin offering. Again Paul teaches that our acceptance and acquittal in the presence of God has nothing to do with our keeping of his law.

Romans 8:4-17

we live 'according to the Spirit'

'live in accordance with the Spirit'

'mind controlled by the Spirit'

'controlled ... by the Spirit'

'Sprit of God lives in you'

'have the Spirit of Christ'

'body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness'

'Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you'

'his Spirit, who lives in you'

'those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God'

'For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children then we are heirs ... '

This passage distinguishes two groups of people: those who live kata sarka (according to flesh) and those who live kata pneuma (according to Spirit). This is not talking about two levels of Christians distinguished by their piety/goodness, but of two ways of standing in the presence of God. The person approaching God and life kata sarka is one who trusts in his own human activity to merit his acceptance (even though God states that such human activity cannot please God). The person approaching God kata pneuma is the one who trusts in what the Spirit of God has done to him in uniting him to Christ, a union in which there is no fear of rejection or dismissal because of sin's judgement and condemnation because all the judgement and condemnation have already been taken by Jesus Christ. [Studies in Romans will be on this site soon; check them out for further teaching on this.]

This chapter is often used to instill doubts and fears regarding one's salvation, or at least, regarding one's level of spirituality/level of acceptance, but this is the very opposite of what Paul is seeking to achieve: he is seeking to assure us, not to frighten us. In giving us this grand assurance he also points out again the incongruity of one who is so united to Christ, and so assured of salvation, ever again thinking that its okay to sin, in fact, he says, we have an obligation to deny sin any right to direct us.

Romans 8:28-39

'called', 'predestined' 'justified' 'glorified'.

'If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?'

'Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.'

'Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.'

'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble ... ..etc'

These are all Aorist tense in the Greek, indicating a once-for-all action, no-need-to-be-repeated action.

The impossibility of anyone or anything - even our sin - ever being against us.

God justifies us - no one (not even his own law) has any authority to accuse us ever again (see Col 1:20).

Similarly, no one has any right to condemn.

Nothing can separate us from Christ, or from God's love. Note that all the things listed - suffering of all kinds - were commonly seen as the judgement of God upon sin. For the believer this is can never be the case - his love for us is always 'in Christ Jesus our Lord' - it is never conditional on our obedience.

1 Corinthians

1:28-31

'he chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore as it written 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.''

Note: Christ is our 'righteousness, holiness and redemption.'

We have nothing to boast about. It is not our obedience that gets us saved. It is not our obedience that keeps us saved.

2 Corinthians 5:14

'We are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died'

Same as Romans 6: we are considered to have already paid the death penalty for sin in the death of Christ our substitute.

2 Corinthians

5:16-17

'So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view( Greek = kata sarka=according to flesh). Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ ... '

Paul is here pointing out that because we died in Christ (verse 14) every thing has changed. We no longer are to regard ourselves and others and our relationship with God kata sarka - according to our own human performance. No. Everything has become new: it's a whole new ball game, a whole new way of looking at reality, a new creation, a new world. (The Greek says: 'if anyone (is) in Christ - new creation'). This is speaking of an entirely new paradigm shift in which we cease to relate to God and others on the basis of performance and relate always, only and ever, in Christ.

Note: 'has reconciled us to himself through Christ' this takes our relationship to God completely out of our hands. God has reconciled us to himself through Christ - we do not do it, nor maintain it, by our obedience.

2 Corinthians 5:21

'God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.'

Note: in him we become 'the righteousness of God'.

This verse speaks of an incredible exchange that has taken place - Christ become sin for us: we in him become the righteousness of God. Note well that it is 'in him' - it is not that we are righteous in ourselves.

2 Corinthians 6:1

'we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain'

Any one who has no assurance of salvation, and is depending on their own obedience for their relationship with God today, has actually received God's grace 'in vain' that is, in an empty, futile, meaningless way - as Paul states in Galatians, Christ will profit them nothing. For all the good it has done them, Christ might just as well not have died for they are still depending on their own good works or obedience or observable spirituality to maintain their good standing with God.

Galatians

All of this letter is written to oppose and root out a law based relating to God that produces lack of assurance.

Galatians 2:16

We 'know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.'

Very clear!

Galatians 2:19

'For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!'

Very clear. See notes on Rom. 6:1-14.

Note: 'I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law (that is through my obedience of the law) Christ died for nothing!'

To deny assurance of salvation, or, to put it another way and say that we can only be saved if we maintain a stated level of obedience, is to say Christ died for nothing.

Galatians 3:1-5

'Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law or by believing what you heard?'

'are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?'

'does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?'

Paul is here attacking head on the idea that salvation is maintained by our own effort.

Galatians 3:10-14

'all who rely on observing the law are under a curse'

' ... clearly no one is justified before God by the law because 'The righteous will live by faith'

'He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit'

Impossibility of being right with God on the basis of obedience to law. The whole reason God redeemed us was to release us from that impossible necessity.

Galatians 5:1-12

Read and digest it all

Very heavy passage against those who demand obedience to the law, and in doing so wreck the faith and assurance of others

Ephesians 1:7

'In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding'

Note: we have redemption and forgiveness - they are our present, constant possession. Note also: God has lavished his grace on us.

Ephesians 2:8,9

'For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.'

Very clear.

Philippians 3:1-10

Paul gives part of his testimony.

Paul rejects a works/law based righteousness.

Colossians 1:12

'giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light'

God qualifies us - we don't qualify ourselves; therefore we cannot undo it by our imperfect obedience.

Colossians 1:13

'He ... has brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves'

Again - it is God's work not ours.

Colossians 1:14

'In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins'

Note again - have - present tense. Redemption and forgiveness are our present, continuous possession.

Colossians 1:20-22

An impactive passage. Read it.

Reconciled.

Peace.

Presented 'holy in his sight' 'without blemish' and 'free from accusation'. These words speak of the completeness and permanence of salvation which is so beyond our human way of thinking that it is almost too good to be true. God presents us to himself, in Christ, holy in his sight, without blemish, and free from accusation. Incredible. Fantastic. Totally assuring.

Colossians 2:10

' ... you have been given fullness in Christ'

KJV = 'you are complete in Christ' - that speaks for itself! Assurance to the max!

Colossians 3:3

'for you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.'

Great assurance. In a very real way, we are dead - having died in Christ our substitute - and our life is hidden with Christ in God - safe and secure from all the law's accusations. All that our life is - all of its imperfections, all of its disobediences, all of its sins - hidden with Christ in God. As safe in the presence of God, as safe before the judgement seat of God, as Jesus Christ is safe.

2 Timothy 1:12

'I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day'

Great assurance

Hebrews 3 & 4

A lengthy passage making reference to the Israelites' sin of unbelief which caused them to fail to enter the promised land. This is used by the writer to encourage the Christians he was writing to to be sure their faith was genuine.

These chapters speak of the believers rest. This rest is for all who believe - as opposed to those who commit the sin of unbelief, and because of that unbelief fail to enter or enjoy this rest. Assurance means rest. Lack of assurance means no rest. Lack of assurance is actually a failure to believe the promises of God in the gospel.Studies in Hebrews are under preparation for this website. When they are on-line check them out for further information.

Hebrews 9:12

'he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption'

The completeness and 'finishedness' of what Jesus did.

Hebrews 10:10

'we have made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all'

Assurance with a capital A!

Hebrews 10:14

'Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy'

Assurance based on the work of God in Christ.

Hebrews 10: 17

'Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more'

Assurance based on God's forgiveness.

Hebrews 10:19ff

'Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful'

Note the confidence and assurance based on the work of God in Christ: 'we have confidence', 'full assurance of faith', 'he who promised is faithful'. It does not depend on us, it all depends on God.

1 Peter 1:3-6

'In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.'

Certainty. These verses contain at least ten points of assurance. See if you can identify them.

1 John 1:8-2:2

'If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.'

Confidence of salvation and the presence of sin both existing at the same time. These verses are often used to make forgiveness conditional on our making itemized lists of our sins. But the word translated 'confess' actually means more like our word 'acknowledge'; it is the same used in Romans 10:9. Acknowledgement of sin is the opposite of the denial of sin in 1:8 & 9. It is the attitude of the tax collector in Luke 18 who went home justified. The person seeking assurance of salvation through his perceived personal sinlessness will never receive from God the assurance he is seeking. The person who acknowledges that he is a sinner knows with full assurance that he is saved by God's mercy and not by his own merit.

1 John 3:1-3

'How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! ... now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is ... '

Confidence of salvation, assurance of salvation, present at the same time as the command to purify oneself. The presence of sin in the believer does not negate his salvation, but it is incongruous. It doesn't fit, and we are told to get rid of it. But the assurance of salvation is still there.

1 John 4:15

'If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God'

A word of assurance based on right acknowledgement of Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:1

'everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God ...

Assurance based on right belief in Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:10-12

'Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. ... He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life'

Strong words of assurance.

There are many other passages in the Bible teaching assurance of salvation. There are others, especially in the letter to the Hebrews, which, because our hearts and minds are naturally legalistic or law-based in approaching God, tend to unsettle Christians and make them wonder if it is true, as some teach, that salvation can be lost. These passages will be dealt with comprehensively in the Studies in Hebrews currently being prepared for God's Word For You. You will need to be patient while you wait for these studies, and meanwhile rest in the grand assurance demonstrated above. Jesus died so that we can have present peace with God. Grasp hold of it and be thankful. Don't allow his death be 'in vain' for you.

 

 


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