Do you know that you are saved? Do you know that you are going to heaven? These two questions are the same yet you can ask someone if they are saved and they will say yes, but if you ask them if they are going to heaven, their answer changes into I hope so. I believe that this is unfortunate that many Christians do not feel secure in their salvation, do not have a biblical hope of heaven, the desire and earnest expectation of heaven. As Christians we are to confident, not arrogant, but assured of the salvation we have. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9, “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…” Paul says that we are to wear about our head as a helmet the hope of our salvation. Why is that? Because God has not appointed us to wrath but to salvation.
Two Extreme Views of Salvation
No security in salvation
As it seems with any issue to which there is disagreement, there are two extremes when dealing with this topic of having assurance of our salvation. One extreme is that there is no security in salvation. People go around feeling that there is no way for them to know if they are going to heaven or not. They do not know if they are pleasing to God. They do not know if their salvation is secure. 1 John 5:13, “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, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” John was very clear that the words he had written and his reason for writing was so that we would believe and we would know that we have eternal life. The point I want to show is that it is possible to know and we should know if we have eternal life.
The reason we may not know if we have eternal life even though they have obeyed the Lord’s commands for salvation is usually because we look at our lives and see that we have done things wrong. We have not been obedient to the Lord at all times. We fall short. The problem is that we are trying to be justified by our own good works. We look at are lives and since we have not been perfect in our living for God before coming a Christian and after becoming a Christian, we then doubt our salvation and doubt that we have eternal life. But we need to come to the understanding that salvation is not merited. It is impossible to earn our salvation. And the faster we give up the notion that we are going to get on God’s good side by doing good things, the better off we will be. Let it sink into our minds, we cannot be good enough. You and I cannot do enough good things to blot out our sins.
Another way we look at this is we keep a ledger in our mind. And we tally up the good things we have done and the bad things we have done and we think that if we have more good deeds than bad then we will be saved and have eternal life. So we live our lives in doubt because we do not know if we have done enough good things to balance out the bad. This is what the Pharisees believed it took to have salvation. This is exactly what the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16 was asking when he said, “what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” He was looking to tip the scales. He needed a big plus on his sheet. But this is a false notion. There is not enough work we can do. There is not one good thing that will put you over the top in the face of sin. The reason for obedience is not to try to merit salvation. We need to resign ourselves to the fact that it is not earned. It was the point Paul was trying to get across to the Jews when he said in Romans 3 that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and there is none righteous, no not one.
Salvation cannot be lost
The other extreme teaches that once you are saved, it is impossible to lose that salvation. There is absolutely nothing you can do to lose the salvation you have received. Now we need to think about the consequences of such a view. You can do anything you want and not lose your salvation. As I put it to one person, you are telling me then that I can go over to the local convenience store, rob the register, and shoot up the store and I would still be saved. The person said yes. But this is false teaching as well.
This is exactly what Jude was telling his readers to beware of when he wrote his letter. Notice Jude 4, “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” What were they doing? They had taken the grace of God and said that you can practice any immoral act and still be saved. But Jude says they are condemned.
Paul was very clear that our salvation can be lost. In Galatians 5:4, “You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen from grace.” They say that you cannot fall from grace. Paul says that they had fallen from grace. We can lose our salvation. That is why we are to contend earnestly for the faith, that we are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, that we are not to neglect so great a salvation. So then where is our hope in salvation and eternal life?
Our Assurance of Salvation
1. Holding to the truth (1 John 2:24-25)
John writes to give his readers confidence that they can know that they have eternal life. John says that they had to let abide in them what they had heard from the beginning. What did these people hear in the beginning that they were to abide in? Let us look and see the answer. 1 John 3:11, “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another,” 2 John 6, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” Read also 1 John 1:1-3. The message that was heard from the beginning that they were to abide in was Christ and his teachings. There is no other place for salvation. We cannot write our own way and hope that we will be saved. It will not happen. We must abide in Christ and his teachings. Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Thus, we can go to the teachings of Christ and we find that repentance from sins is necessary (Acts 3:19). We see that we must confess Jesus Christ is Lord (Romans 10:9). We must be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21; all the examples of Acts). And so we must hold on to his name and not let it go. When we do notice again 1 John 2:25: “This is the promise that He has promised us-eternal life.” Our assurance of salvation and eternal life begins by letting the teachings of Christ abide in us.
2. Confession of sins (1 John 1:5-2:6)
Verses 5-6: Here we will see more of the message that was declared that we must abide in for eternal life. God is light and no darkness is tolerated. If we say we have fellowship with God and yet live a life in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. We do not have fellowship with God and we do not have eternal life if we walk in darkness.
Verse 7: But if we walk in the light and follow his teachings, we have fellowship with God. This is not saying fellowship with each other. Notice in the previous verse who the fellowship is with: us and God. The same here as well: if we walk in the light we have fellowship with God. This means we have eternal life, because the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. Now we will say, but we do not always walk in the light. Notice what John says in verse 8.
Verse 8: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. During John’s day people were teaching that what one did in the body did not affect the soul. The soul then did not have sin because it was unaffected by the body. John says this is a lie. But it is a lie that is still being perpetuated. Teaching that once you are saved you can never lose your salvation is the very same teaching in different wrapping. It is saying that what is done in the body, like shooting up the mini-mart, has no effect on my soul. John says if we say we have no sin, we are deceived and do not have the truth that we are to abide in.
Verses 9-10: Our sins are forgiven and we are cleansed of all unrighteousness when we confess our sins to God. If we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar. Why? Because he said in Romans 3 that all have sinned and fall short. He said we need the blood of Christ. We make God a liar and we are not abiding in his word.
Verses 1-6: This is not a denial game. These things are to keep us from sinning, but if we do sin, we know what we ought to do. The hope we have is not in living perfectly. We are deceive ourselves and do not have the truth when we think we can justify ourselves this way. Our hope is in confessing our sins that God will forgive us and we again have fellowship with the Father.
3. Abiding in the Son (1 John 5:2-3, 11-13)
Here again we see that we are keep the commands of God. Never do we see salvation pictured as a license to fulfill our own desires, to do what we want to do, or the ability to reject the commands of God. If we love God, we will keep his commandments. We noted earlier that the reason that we keep his commandments is not to try to earn our salvation. It is not that we have done something so great that eternal life is deserved. Why do we obey God? Because we love him. This is how we show love to God. We are deciding in our minds to love God and our actions and decisions are carrying out that choice.
Notice now verses 11-13. God has given us eternal life. We have it. It has been given to us. If we have the Son and we continue to be obedient to his word, confessing our sins, then these things are written so that we can know that we have eternal life. It is when we stop believing on his name, and by that we mean not holding on to the truth of God’s word, holding on to Christ and following his teachings, that we have lost eternal life.
4. Striving obedience (1 John 3:18-24)
Here John tells us more about the hope that we have in Christ and the assurance of our salvation. How will we know that we are of the truth? Holding on to the truth is how we know we have the promise of eternal life. How will we know that we are of the truth? Verse 18 says that we love, not in word, but in deed and in truth. When we show true love for God and for one another. We say, but I do not do that perfectly. We have already covered that terrain. We will not live perfectly, so we must confess our sins and the blood of Christ cleanses us.
Now notice verse 20. God knows our hearts and knows all things. Sometimes our hearts condemn us, even though we have been doing all the things we have talked about. We have been holding on to the truth. We have been confessing our sins and we have been loving in deed and truth. But sometimes our conscience is wrong. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:4 that just because he knew nothing against himself did not mean he was justified. By the same token, we may be justified yet our heart may condemn us because of past forgiven sins.
Here is our confidence and assurance of salvation. God is greater than our hearts and knows all things. God knowing our hearts and knowing all things is a positive for our lives. Just as God knowing the hearts is a terror to those with unclean hearts, it is a comfort and confidence to those who have clean hearts. But read on and we will see when these conditions are true.
Verses 21-24. Here we read a picture of striving obedience, walking in the light, and obeying his commands. We are trying to do things that are pleasing in his sight (vs. 22). This is how we know that he abides in us (vs. 24). Do you see how all the questions of doubt are to be removed? John over and again is saying this is how we know. This is the confidence we have. This is the promise made to us.
The example of Peter. I can think of many people that may have been too hard on themselves. One person that I can think of is Peter. He denies the Lord three times (Luke 22:62). And afterward he went out and wept bitterly. That word bitterly only occurs twice in the whole New Testament, both times referring to this account of Peter’s weeping. Can you imagine the grief that struck him, as Jesus looked at him as the Luke account tells us? Can you imagine what was going on in him? Let me ask a question. Do we have confidence in Peter’s salvation? Do we have confidence that we will see him in eternal life? Why? It was not because he lived perfectly, was it? It is because we see the godly sorrow toward sin. We see his love for God shown in action over and over. We see him striving for the Lord, putting him first in his life. Doing the things we have talked about this morning. If we have confidence in his salvation, if we are doing the same thing, we should have confidence in ours.
5. Allow for the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9)
There is one more thing we must remember as we are looking at the confidence we have in eternal life and that is the grace of God. We see Jesus show grace and mercy toward Peter after the denials. In Mark 16:7, “But go, tell His disciples–and Peter–that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” Jesus wanted Peter, even though Peter had denied Jesus. We also need to allow for the grace of God in our lives. Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Many denominations have distorted and twisted this passage that we are nearly afraid to use it. But we must see that we are saved by grace. We need the grace of God. Our need for that grace is the whole reason for the sacrifice of Christ. If we did not need it, then he did not have to die. If we did not need it, then the Lord’s supper is pointless. We need grace. We need Christ. That grace is given to us so that we can have confidence in our salvation. We have confidence by accepting the terms God has given to receive his grace. It is not unconditional. God has told us what we must do.
If we have been striving to obey, confessing to God when we fall short, and continue to hold on to Christ and his teachings then we have full assurance of eternal life with God. We should not doubt this. The only reason for doubt and fear is if something is lacking. If you have not repented of sins and been baptized for the forgiveness of sin, then something is lacking and you have no hope for salvation. If you have turned your heart away from and he is no longer first in your life, that you are not striving first for his kingdom and his righteousness, then something is lacking and you have lost your hope. But it is not too late to put on the helmet which is the hope of salvation.