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A Pause to Reflect

August 2, 2011

If someone were to ask you, “How can I know that I am saved?”, how would you answer them?  Or, on what is the assurance of our salvation based?  For the sake of this article I want to define two terms very carefully.  Assurance, in this article, I am defining as the internal comfort and peace of knowing that I truly am saved.  Security is that which certifies and protects my salvation, ensuring it will be fully accomplished.  Security is based only upon God, His promises and His character.  True salvation is unalterable because it is founded in the immutable character of the Holy God who cannot lie.  Assurance, the peace of knowing that my salvation is real and true, is based upon something else.

The book of 1 John is explicitly written to those “that believe on the name of the Son of God” for the express purpose “that ye may know that ye have eternal life.”  What a wonderful purpose this is!  What strikes me in this book is the fact that nowhere in the process of teaching these believers to know they have eternal life does John point back to a moment in which they, or he, were converted.  At no point does John offer assurance based upon their past profession of faith.  Throughout the book, John’s assurance is centered around one thing- living a transformed life in obedience to God’s Word.  For example, 1 John 3:19 offers this statement, “And hereby know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.”  Verse 20 deals with the security of salvation, because God is greater than our hearts and verse 21 offers the promise of confidence before God when we have that full assurance.  That which John says assures our hearts before God is found in verse 18, we love one another in deed and in truth.  The assurance of our salvation, in this passage, is found in practical, honest love for our fellow believers.  All throughout this book we find statements that base the truth of ones salvation on their changed life, not profession of faith.  The assurance of our salvation is found in a life that has been and is being changed by Christ.  John points out five marks, or evidences, that we have eternal life.  Honesty towards sin- not denying the reality of our sinful condition.  Separation from the world.  Full agreement with God concerning the deity of Christ.  A life that is lived in victory over sin and love for fellow believers.  John states each of these things so strongly that he says if you say you have eternal life and yet you live in opposition to these marks (denying sinfulness, living worldly, denying Christ, in habitual sin or hating your brother) you are lying and do not have eternal life.

In no way does this suggest that our possession or maintenance of salvation is based upon what we do.  Our salvation is kept secure in God, period.  What this teaches us is two fold.  First, when we are in sin we are not going to have the comfort of our salvation.  We cannot possibly expect to have assurance before God when we are living in violation of His Word. Second, if you can continue to live in sin, you had better check the reality of your salvation.  The ongoing expression of habitual, unrepented sin in your life is not evidence of your salvation.  It is in fact evidence that you do not have salvation.  Paul told the Corinthians to examine themselves to see that they were in the faith.  We do well to remember that challenge and reflect on how our life currently gives evidence for or against our salvation.

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