Bible Studies In The Christian Library
 
ASSURANCE

Can a Christian be sure of his salvation at any give moment? Or is salvation in this life only tentative? Is salvation a here and now concept or is it an ultimate concept? Or is it both?

Can one be absolutely sure that he is presently saved? Can oneís absolute assurance be clearly supported by scriptural teaching and example?

How can ones assurance be absolute in the light of teachings that warn Christians to live upright lives, lest they become backsliders and fall into condemnation.

My experience with the Church of Christ, tells me that as a religious body we are pretty sure of ourselves. We have been aggressive in promoting our claims of correctness, not only in profession to echo Jesusí terms of salvation, but also what we understand to be his unchangeable patterns for a congregations organization, worship and relations to society. We have in short presented ourselves to the world as the restored church of the new testament. Collectively, few religious groups have been so confident of themselves, possibly excepting R.C. and seventh day Adventists, Mormons, J.Hís and some minor sects. We have not only been quite interested in our corporate rightness, but we have been eager to debate the bibical correctness of our views on virtually every religious topic. We have been accused, not with out some justification, of being to cock sure, too dogmatic, even arrogant ion making our claims publicly. Thus in the aggregate we think of the church of Christ as being heavenly bound, having found in ourselves all of the marks of the identity that were also found in the Church of the first century. It would seem that no religious group on the NA continent believes more deeply in assurance , for we say we have done those things that the Spirit says do. The Spirit thus bears witness with our spirit (Romans 8:16) We have come to this assurance with our rationality, namely, our self knowledge.

But, setting all this aside we are paradoxically, hesitant to affirm our own salvation at any given minute. We find it awkward if not down right embarrassing if we are asked to express openly our assurances of personal salvation. Frankly, we are sure the issue has been settled because, after all, we drift into apostasy a la lessons from church history and the fall from grace.

The core of this paradox is that our brotherhood will pontificate salvation for our scheme of understandings -a away that is right and cannot not be wrong - while the hearts and minds of individual Christians are riddled with doubts about their own salvation.

Consequently, one of the most common characteristics of members of the Church of Christ is their nagging uncertainty about oneís individual spiritual condition. Christians living in this tradition have been conditioned to believe that true salvation is a future concept, that their own salvation is yet to be received - in the life to come - and if they even receive it will depend on how close they come to perfect obedience. Salvation is not thought of as a condition this life as much as it is as a promissory note to be redeemed, hopefully, after this life. Is this understanding a sound one?

Salvation is a now concept

The Bible speaks of the immediacy of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2). Christians are justified before God by their faith in Jesus Christ. Period. No ifs and or buts. Admittedly this is a tough hard doctrine for zealous members of the Church of Christ to accept fully. Yet the word of God proclaims it : Romans 5:1

Christians are offered peace with God through our trust in Christís atoning death. This is the basis for our assurance - PEACE NOW! In this life! As well as the promise of eternal life. This is why Christians are described as being free from condemnation in this life

ROMANS 8:1

Not free in the future or after death but now!

In our sermons on justification by faith we may fail to see the essential core of truth in passages like:

Romans 5:1

John 3:16 and similar ones because of our haste to qualify them - to but our spin on them if you want to use our modern speech. For in almost the same breath that we quote Romans 5:1, we rush on to add, "but it does not say we are justified by faith only". Then we quickly thumb over to the well worn passage, James 2, to support our attempt to qualify what Paul has plainly stated to the Christian at Rome.

Romans 5:1 clearly teaches that we are justified be faith and I want to underscore that the untarnished jewel of truth embedded in this passage does not need our disclaimers or qualifiers. In his epistle to the Romans, Paul is revealing two basic truths about the doctrine of justification:

1. The basis for our being able to stand as righteous before God, even though we may commit sins, is rooted in the moral excellence of the life of Jesus Christ and in His sin offering on the cross to atone for our sins - the past, the present and future sins of all mankind.

2. Our faith in the sufficiency of Gods action on our behalf at the cross, expressed but our commitment in Baptism, is the one and only way in which we may appropriate this free gift of salvation into our own lives.

God counts our belief in His action for us - if our faith is real, solid, active, alive and trusting - as a type of righteousness that will satisfy His justice: So, our believing in the efficacy of Godís free gift, without any reservation, becomes to God, the sole basis of our justification.

This quality of faith is the motivating power of repentance, baptism, worship and the whole Christian life. Indeed, we may believe with Paul that we have been justified, but do we believe with John that we are saved, now, in this life.

1 John 2:12-14

Paul clearly warned the Church at Corinth against overconfidence in them selves 1 Cor9:27

but reflected both calmness and certainty in his assessment of his personal salvation: 2 Tim 1:12

Jesus spoke of a more abundant life John 10:10 Was He speaking only of the reward of eternal life in the worlds to come, or was he referring to the quality of life that a Christian could live in this present world? If *He meant the possibility of an abundant life for Christians on earth, then His statement supports the doctrine of assurance or the security of the believer.

THE CAUSE OF OUR DOUBTS

What has caused such a widespread lack of assurance among members of the Church of Christ concerning their own salvation?

Basically the problem is one of deficient teaching. Basic bible teaching on grace, conversion and atonement have been neglected for our emphasis on our prooftext methods of Bible study and gospel preaching.

We have overstressed and overproven the doctrine of the possibility of apostasy. We have robbed of the power and Joy of doctrine that we are secure in Christ. How can we evangelize the world much less our neighbor hood if we are not ready to affirm that we are saved - now - at this very moment!!!

Until we truly experience the joy of our salvation - feel it in our souls - and express it daily in living, we will not desire to share it with others. Otherwise even our best personal work efforts are exercises in correcting some elseís religious doctrines or positions. Too often we have converted people intellectually to correct biblical positions more than we have converted them to Christ, the friend of sinners. Many of us can preach the Church, show film strips to prove what we believe, but too many of us do not know in whom we believe. Until we personally know Him, the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering, our evangelistic outreach will remain grossly immature. Assurance can never be ours if our faith is rooted in either the institutional church or in biblical propositions. We come to assurance only through a personal faith in the person of Jesus.

Some may think that in light of such scripture as that standeth take heed lest he fall", that such a confident expression our salvation presumes upon our own goodness, Gods favor and Gods grace. To the contrary -such an affirmation is actually stating that we are, by out efforts, by our own willpower, by our own human determination, TOTALLY incapable of meriting or earning salvation. Rather, by faith, we are relying upon the death of Christ to satisfy the justice of God - "that be the grace of God he might taste of death for every one" Hebrews 2:9

In reality, many of us lack the inner conviction in our own release from sin. We are afraid that our own good activities are not good enough, either in quantity or quality, to cancel out our misdeeds.

Here is a list. Have you ever though any of these things:

1. I am not zealous enough 
2. I donít attend worship enough and even miss sometimes when I could go. 3. I frequently have impure thoughts. 
4. I am too selfish. 
5. I donít teach enough. 
6. I am too full of pride. 
7. I am hypocritical. 
8. I donít visit and or encourage the brethern enough. 
9. I donít minister to the poor. 
10. I donít pray enough. 
11. I donít give enough of my money to support the cause of Christ. 
12. I am too materialistic.


And on and onÖ

This list constitutes spiritual liabilities. We canít find in our lives enough spiritual assets to offset our liabilities. Redemption via the balance sheet.

Our Lord makes it known that neither of these things, vital though they may be, nor our future acts of obedience represent the basis of our salvation. To believe that they are is to believe a lie. It is placing our salvation in our own hands - in our own capacity to keep law and accomplish good works. While obedience is stressed in the scriptures - see Romans 6 - obedience of human beings to Gods will - however perfect- is not the biblical basis for salvation..

Ephesians 1:8-9 For grace have ye been saved through faith.

There is no conflict in between the doctrine of the possibility of apostasy and the doctrine of the security of the believer.

1 John 1:7 If we walk in the light as He is in the light, the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin." 

The word Cleanseth is in the present tense, meaning that there is a daily, perpetual cleansing received by the Christian - even though we are unaware of it. This cleansing is based on the Lordship of Jesus and our sincere effort, however imperfect, to walk in the light of Christís will.

The biblical doctrine of grace and faith calls upon us to place our confidence and trust supremely on Jesus Christ! Does this assurance and trust grant us a license to sin? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Good forbid!

We engage in good works, participate faithfully in the life of the church and extend the news of our salvation to others - not the church - not how we take communion on the first day of the week or give of our means or any other basic biblical practice - but the news of the gospel of Christ and our own salvation through it. And not in order to attain our salvation, this gift has already been sealed by the earnest of the Spirit.

The Christian life in which the indwelling Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. The good news of the gospel is not in our promise of the future but in our deliverance now.

The true Christian life is lived in response to the gift of salvation. It is alife of joy, graduated and loving service lived in response to the one who has saved us.
 
 

Copyright 1999 by David Gladwell may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.


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