Tony Evans says, “A great spiritual malady permeates the church of Jesus Christ today” (Totally Saved, page 145). Evans calls this spiritual disease ADD: Assurance Deficit Disorder. Many good people lack assurance of salvation.
When someone comes to me who is not sure about his/her salvation, I respond in one of two ways:
1. If I don’t think the person is saved, I tell him how to be saved and help lead him to Christ.
2. If I think the doubting person is saved but is lacking assurance, I ask him to read 1st John over and over again. John wrote his first Epistle to help believers with assurance according to 5:13. John uses the word “know” 39 times in First John. The word “know” is found over 700 times in Scripture but the word “guess” is not found once.
Theologians teach the doctrine of preservation of the saints. More commonly it is called “Eternal Security.” The Bible, however, calls this truth “Eternal life” as in 5:10-11.
But there is a Difference between Eternal Security and Assurance of Salvation
The Gospel of John was written so sinners would believe Jesus is the eternal Son of God and possess eternal life (20:31). John wrote his First Epistle so believers who are already eternally saved would also enjoy assurance of their eternal life (5:13).
A. It is possible, therefore, for a believer to enjoy eternal life and but not assurance of salvation. Tim Challies quotes Don Whitney’s six examples of doubts with which Christians struggle.
There are many examples:
1) John the Baptist in prison sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one that should come or do we look for another” (Matthew 11:2-3).
2) Doubting Thomas on resurrection Sunday said, “except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
3) G. C. Morgan quit preaching for two years because of doubts.
4) Believers who suffer ill-health or nervous disorders. Sometimes women going through the change of life and men going through mid-life crisis doubt their salvation.
5) Believers who had no great emotional experience at conversion. I had a very emotional conversion but one of teachers at BJU, Dr. Robert Bell saved at age 3 did not. But he was just as much saved as I was because salvation is not based on feelings but faith.
6) Believers brought up in false teachings find it difficult not to let that false teaching cause doubts. John addresses false teaching in 3:7 and 4:1. Some teach that if you sin you lose salvation.You can be saved today and lost tomorrow, they say. One day you are a Peter and the next day you are a Judas. Read John in 1:8-9. What about those who were raised in church and once believed the truth but now disavowed the truth? John says they were never believers to begin with in 2:19. Also in 2:15, if they forsake God for the world they were never believers. Paul would have agreed with John when he wrote, “Demas has forsaken me having loved this present world.”
7) Believers living out of fellowship with God. John writes about fellowship in 1:7. But if we are out of fellowship our sins are not cleansed and our communion is broken and it is like being unsaved as far as the blessings of God in our life are concerned. For example, our prayers are not answered just like the unsaved do not have their prayers answered (Psalm 66:18). About the carnal Corinthians, Paul said, “are you not carnal, and walk like men (unsaved men) (1 Corinthians 3:3). Bill Slick has a great article at CARM on assurance of salvation and he discusses this point.
B. It is also possible for people to have assurance (a false assurance) of salvation but not eternal life. John Piper addresses this issue in The Agonizing Problem of Assurance of Salvation.
It was this possibility that caused Jesus to rebuke the religious people of His day (John 5:39-40). They are like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. Some church members have built their lives on the sinking sands of church membership and good works.
Charles Spurgeon heard a preacher spiritualize the text in Leviticus 11:16. He was preaching truth just from the wrong passage: “The owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind.” The preacher said that the owl is a very small bird when plucked; he only looks big because he wears so many feathers, so many professors are all feathers, and if you could take away their boastful professions there would be very little left of them” (Lectures to My Students, page 107).
There are Three Tests or Evidences in First John for Assurance of Salvation
1. The Moral Test: Do I obey Christ and live righteously (2:3-6)?
2. The Social Test: Do I love one another because I love God (2:7-11)?
3. The Doctrinal Test: Do I believe Jesus is God’s Son (2:18-27)?
John repeats these three tests, but this time he expands on them.
1. Moral Test: Do I obey Christ and live righteously (2:28-3:10)?
2. Social Test: Do I love one another because I love God (3:11-18)?
3. Doctrinal Test: Do I believe Jesus is God’s Son (4:1-6)?
The last repetition of the three evidences give the order in which they occur in ours.
1. The Doctrinal Test: Do I believe Jesus is God’s Son (5:1a)?
We must believe that Christ was incarnate (4:1-3). We must believe that Christ is God (4:15). We know this because we know God’s Word (5:13).
In 5:1, John says faith Christ produces the irreversible new birth. That should give us assurance. Just as physical birth is irreversible so is spiritual birth. Nicodemus asked Jesus, “How can a man when he is old be born again? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born? Jesus replied, “No, that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Bill Maher, the atheist comedian, was debating Bill O’Reilly about Christianity and they both got it wrong. Bill Maher said he could not believe in a God who put people to death for working on Sunday in the Old Testament. The Law dealt with the Sabbath not Sunday(Exodus 31:14). Bill O’Reilly said most of the Old Testament was not literal. Have we studied God’s Word so that we could answer these men?
George Whitfield, the great British evangelist, was speaking to a man about his salvation. He asked him, “Sir, what do you believe? “I believe what my church believes” the man replied. “And what does your church believe?” “The same thing I believe.” “And what do both of you believe?” the preacher inquired again. “We both believe the same thing” was the only replied he could get.
2. The Social Test: Do I love one another because I love God (5:1b-2a)?
A. Love for God is the first evidence of salvation (5:1a).
When someone makes a profession of faith, I don’t ask them, “Do you feel saved?” but “Do you love the Lord now?” Before salvation we feared the thought of standing before God at the judgment. Look at the change salvation brings according to 4:17-18. Now with Fanny Crosby we can sing “I want to see Him and look upon His face and sing the story ‘Saved by Grace.’”
B. Love for God results in love for God’s people or family (5:1b-2a).
Do you love Christians (3:14)? Would you rather be with believers or sinners (2:19)? Every church service is like a family reunion.
3. The Moral Test: Do I obey Christ and live righteously (5:2c-3)?
Believers do not live in sin because they love God (5:2c-3). This gives us assurance.
In John’s first statement of the Moral test in 2:3-6, he said Christ life on earth at His first coming was our example: “He that says he abides in him ought himself also so to walk even as He walked” (2:6).
In John’s expanded second statement of the Moral test in 2:28-3:10, he said Christ’s second coming should motivate us to live holy lives. There are two potential responses to Christ’s future return in 2:28-29: confidence if we have passed the Moral test or shame if we have not passed the moral test. The coming of Christ should encourage us to live righteously (3:1-3).
In 1937, the famous Golden Gate bridge was completed. At that time it was the world’s longest suspension bridge. The entire project cost the U. S. government $77,000,000. During the process of constructing the first section of the bridge, very few safety devices were used, resulting in 23 accident as workers fell helplessly into the waters far below. The toll was so significant, something had to done before the second section was built. An ingenious plan was arranged. The largest safety net in the world (it alone cost $100,000) was made out os stout manila cordage and stretched out beneath the work crews. It prove to be an excellent investment in view of the fact that it saved the lives of a least ten men who fell into it without injury. Furthermore, the work went 25 percent faster, since the workers were relieved from the fear of falling to their deaths. God has stretched out beneath the believer His everlasting arms (Chuck Swindoll).
Do you have these evidences of salvation in your life? If so, take these proofs of salvation and help someone else who is struggling.