Assurance of Salvation
Am I a real Christian? There is not a true Christian who has not asked himself or herself that question, in fact every Christian should be examining his life to see if redemption is his or her privilege and eternal blessedness.
As we come to the Lord’s Supper we do so renewing our awareness of our true condition and our thanks for the glorious true condition of the blameless Son of God who became the Lamb of God and took away the sin of all who are joined to him, even if that faith that joins them to Christ is as thin as a spider’s thread. Oh that such a union of me a sinner, and Him the Savior, were mine for ever and ever!
Am I a Christian?
Am I one such Christian?
There is a Book that can help me. It is the Bible, the word that God has given us. It helps us first of all by telling us what a real Christian believes, that God is our Creator, that he is three persons, the Father, the Son and the Hoy Spirit, that this holy Father loved sinners in this groaning world so much that he sent his only begotten Son, Jehovah Jesus, to save us from the judgment that we deserve by he himself living on our behalf the life we have not been living, dying the death our sins deserve, exchanging our stony hearts for new hearts that love him and want to serve him perfectly. To those who put their trust in him God gives his Holy Spirit who strengthens and energises us to live brand new lives that please and honour him. We are enabled to fulfil our real end in living, to thus glorify God and enjoy him. So through our union with Christ we shall be made fit to be declared righteous in the coming Judgment and be welcomed into the presence of the one before whom the angels hide their eyes and cry ‘Holy, holy, holy!’ This is what the Bible teaches and what true Christians believe.
Can you say, “Well, I believe that, not perfectly alas, but these are the truths that are very, very important to me. This is what I want to hear from the pulpit whenever I attend church.” Then be encouraged! You believe what real Christians believe. You can enjoy no assurance of your salvation unless you believe these doctrines that God has taken such pains to give us in the Bible.
What the Bible Says
The Bible also tells me how a real Christian lives. He or she is in earnest about keeping the law of God. That law is first simply summarised in the ten commandments but then it is amplified in Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel chapter five. A Christian’s behaviour is also described in Romans chapter 12 and Ephesians chapters 5 and 6. Reading these parts of God’s book sustains in every Christian two feelings, a longing to live that way and a sorrowful confession that his life does not match up and that he is so glad that the Lord Jesus’ life did. He kept God’s law. He was poor in spirit, and hungered and thirsted after righteousness; he was pure in heart, he was meek and lowly, he was a peace maker. He lived like that in spite of the suffering it brought into his life. He loved his neighbour as himself. He loved his enemies and prayed for them when they had nailed him by his hands and feet to the cross. He did not overcome evil by evil; he overcame evil with good. That is the life every Christian esteems and admires. ‘I want to live that life by the power of grace, but how far short of attaining it I am, alas!’
Every Christian feels like that. No other way of life is attractive to him. His conscience convicts him when he falls short of the law of God in his inward desires, let alone in his outward behaviour.
The book that the one living God has given to us defines for us what we are to believe and describes for us how we are to live. There can be no assurance that we are real Christians unless we will find some confidence in our hearts, some conviction, that these truths are what we want to believe and also this new heavenly conduct is how we want to live. These are the two foundations of attaining a feeling of assurance that we are the children of God. There can be no certainty without the desire to believe and behave as God has described for us.
The Holy Spirit
But there is something more. God’s Holy Spirit must inwardly deal with our minds as we consider these things, and our affections as we respond to the wonder of being sure that we have been saved by the grace of God, so that there can be occasional eruptions of joy inexpressible that are created by the Spirit of God assuring us even on our worst days that we are real Christians behaving as we do. This is God’s prerogative, his gift; it is God speaking to our inmost being challenging our conduct, or he is telling us that he loves us and he wants us to feel loved.
It cannot be otherwise. We Christians make this claim that Father, Son and Holy Spirit have come to us personally and individually and that the living God indwells us, that we have illimitable access to him. Do you think you can have this absolute reality within the dispositional complex of our inmost beings – our hearts and souls – and not know of the indwelling God? Do you think it good or even possible to have him for years in our lives and yet possess no conviction that he is there? A Christian is married to Christ. Would such a Christian not know the stirrings of affection of the Lord Christ who is husband of the one the Savior loved and died for, to whose life the believer is joined for ever, whose body is his home, his temple?
How does the Lord of glory make himself known to us? Certainly he does so by making us understand and believe and love the truths of Christian teaching. By him we know what is true and what is erroneous. Certainly also God increases our assurance by making us hunger and thirst for righteousness, and sorrow over our daily sins.
But there are also occasions when a certainty springs up in our hearts. We are reading the Bible and some words of promise are made peculiarly comforting and personal to us. Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings. When we are hearing the preaching of the word we might be blessed with a renewal of joy at hearing of the Lord Jesus in the glory of his person and work as he is being offered to us in the gospel, and once again we receive him by faith. Sometimes as we drive the car we may be overwhelmed with the love of God and need to stop. We can watch a sunset over the ocean, or look at the majesty of the Grand Canyon, or see our daughters talking seriously together listening intently and showing such affection to one another and the Spirit takes our love for them and they for us and overwhelms us with what his grace has given us. He gave us his Son and with his Son he freely has given to us – to me – every wonderful thing that has enriched my life.
I do not personally think of such moving experiences as being higher forms of assurance than those that come from reading the Bible and knowing that these truths are what I believe, or gaining from Scripture the confidence that this holy way of life is all my desire. They are just other wonderful privileges of the Christian life, a growing delightful relationship with a heavenly Father, and the best Friend, and the love of the Spirit for us.
The Bible’s teaching on assurance is an invitation. It is saying, “Come now and trust what you read. If you are trapped in a background of easy believism or trapped in the opposite fear of assurance being a certain sign of being presumptuous and so crushing the young shoots of hope and assurance as they appear.” Take the Bible and read it! Take and read now. Pray that you will be given deliverance from your doubts and have confidence to believe – just as the Biblical writers believed the honest and kindly promises that our one loving God has made to sinners whose hopes are all set in the lovely uniting one.
‘Come to me for rest,’ he says. ‘I am meek and lowly of heart. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.’