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A primer on the topic of Assurance of Salvation

Introduction

One of the distinguishing features of true biblical, historic Evangelical Christianity is our belief in the doctrine of Assurance of Salvation. In other words, we believe that a person who is truly saved can be fully assured that s/he is truly saved, and that from thence on, s/he can rest in the full assurance that s/he is a child of God. Since that is so, its effect on believers would be one of comfort and joy. To put in simply, a saint who is saved by Christ is saved forever (Once saved, always saved), and will never need fear the punishment of hell anymore. In more technical and precise terms, the saints will persevere forever in their faith in Christ and will thus be saved by him and taken into glory into His presence, never again fearing the outpouring of the wrath of God against their sins but loving God who saves them from their sins and the consequences of their sins.

The classic proof-text normally used to prove the reality of believers being able to have an Assurance of Salvation is the familiar passage of 1 John 5:13, which is shown below:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you eternal life. (1 John. 5:13)

In a normal bible study studying this particular subject, emphasis is placed on the phrase "that you may know", indicating that Scripture is here telling us that we are able to know that we are saved, and thus we should have the assurance of our salvation. Questions are typically asked of the person who may be doubting whether they believe in the name of the Son of God, i.e. the Gospel message of our Lord Jesus Christ, and upon the basis of an answer in the affirmative, assurance of their salvation is said to be attainable and has thus been attained, since they profess belief in 'the name of the Son of God'.

Now, for such a bible study, the usage of the proof-text of 1 Jn. 5:13 is definitely correct, insofar as the text in question does say that we can know that we are truly saved. However, by just leaving it as this level, it is no wonder that oftentimes our assurance of salvation is just so shallow, and we can thus begin to question and doubt our salvation even. Why is that so? Well, as we begin to grow in Christ, we come to see our own sins and know our own failings more and more. The more we know about God and about ourselves, the more we hate our sins and even ourselves. We may start to question whether we are truly saved, especially if we do not have the victory over sin that we have been taught to expect. So, does God really love us? When we see ourselves in the light of Scripture, we see the barrenness in ourselves, and our fruitlessness in ministry, and we wonder why that is so. Since Jesus says that by their fruits you shall know them (Mt. 7:19-20; 12:35), and that every branch that does not bear good fruit would be thrown into the fire and burned (Jn. 15:5-6), we start to worry as we see our barrenness Are we actually false believers, we may start to ask ourselves. We then return to the verse which had seemed so familiar at that time: 1 Jn. 5:13. OK, yes, it does say that we can have assurance of salvation, but now I am not so sure about the believing part. Am I truly believing in Christ, or just paying lip service to Him? After all, I may well be deceiving myself, since the heart is deceitfully wicked and cannot be understood. (Jer. 17:9). So the believer's assurance starts to falter, and his/her walk with God may suffer as a result, nevermind about ministry.

It is my opinion that such a thing should never need to occur, if we come to know and understand, and to take to heart the deeper things of the Lord in Scripture concerning the subject. As we grow deeper in our walk with God, to stop at the surface level exposition of 1 John 5:13 is to invite the shipwreck of our faith, as the flesh, the world and the devil conspire to destroy our effectiveness for our Lord and if possible, to destroy our faith in Him also. To such believers who are truly shaken and tossed to and fro due to various reasons, I empathize with all of you and my heart breaks for the many people who may be at this stage, and others also who may even be contemplating quitting the Christian faith altogether. To all of you, I submit this. But first, we must set the background first; the entire basis for the doctrine of the Assurance of Salvation, which is the Gospel work of our Lord Jesus Christ by His death on the cross of Calgary. So what is the Gospel?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

The Bible consistently proclaims the sinfulness and depravity of Man, who though knowing the things which God commands and the penalty of death attached to disobedience, nevertheless violate God's laws and furthermore give approval to those who do the same (Rom. 1:32). It proclaims the sinfulness of Man (Rom. 3:10-18), destroying Man's pride by showing his total depravity in the eyes of an all Holy God who burns with wrath against them and their sins (Rom. 2:5). It furthermore declares that NO ONE seeks God, that there is no fear of God in their eyes (Rom. 3:18), and that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). In other words, the situation of Man as stated in the Scriptures is one of utter despair and without hope. Man, despite his intellect, achievements, wealth, etc, is utterly lost, condemned to hell by his own sins, and that willingly too; he willingly chooses to go to hell and would not have things any other way. Such is the plight of Man, who can control almost anything but his own eternal destiny.

Into this hopeless situation, we see the precious and marvelous words in verse 21 of Romans chapter 3: "But now". But now what? "... the righteousness of God has been manifested... " (Rom. 3:21) For what purpose? "[for all] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (Rom. 3:24-25a) To what end? That we might be "saved by him from the wrath of God" (Rom. 5:9) and received reconciliation through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:11). Faith, redemption, justification, propitiation, reconciliation. What do all these words mean? And what do they have to do with us having assurance of salvation?

Faith is the "assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). Redemption is the process whereby a price is paid to redeem something which is yours (i.e. redeem a pawned watch). Redemption in the theological sense is thus the process whereby God paid a price to save a people for Himself. Justification is the process by which a person is deemed to be innocent. It is typically used in a legal context, and thus the picture is that of the accused being declared innocent before the court by the Judge (no Jury here) and thus is considered guiltless of the charges which are brought against him. In the biblical sense of the word, Justification is the process whereby a sinner is considered as being sinless in the sight of God the Judge. Propitiation is the means by which God declares the sinner righteous in his sight. Closely linked to this concept is the idea of substitutionary atonement, that God died for sinners as a substitute in their place, which is the means by which an all Holy God could ever justify anyone in the first place. So what is propitiation? Propitiation is the process described in 2 Cor. 5:21, where it is written:

For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21)

He (God) made Him (Jesus Christ) to be sin; that is, God imputes to His Son Jesus Christ the sins of His people. Even though Jesus "knew no sin", i.e. was sinless, He became the sin bearer, the Lamb who was slain, in order to pay the penalty for our sins, which is death. Thus, he was sentenced to death on the Cross for our sins and died on our behalf. In the words of Scripture:

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed (Is. 53:5)

He took our place. Even though we deserve to die, he died in our place, so that we do not need to die. And what's more, he gave us life in him. In 2 Cor. 5:21b, it is further stated that he died "so that we might become the righteousness of God". What, you say? Become the righteousness of God? But we are still sinful! We sin daily, and the more we try NOT to sin, the more we sin. But this is what Scripture says, that we through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ might become the righteousness of God. Not based on our own effort, but based on the righteousness of Christ alone, which theologians have termed the "active righteousness of Christ". As the Westminster Confession of Faith states:

Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God (WCF, Chapter XI — Of Justification, Sentence I)

Thus, propitiation includes the process whereby our sins are imputed to Christ, and Christ's obedience and satisfaction made on our behalf is imputed to us (Double imputation).

Finally, what is reconciliation? Reconciliation is the effect of the death of Christ, which is that those of us who were once alienated from God, are now brought near to God, the dividing wall of hostility that once stood between an holy God and depraved sinners (Rom. 5:10), and Jews and Gentiles, are torn asunder (Eph. 2:13-16). Whereas before we were enemies, God has become our friend.

Therefore, biblically, the basis for our salvation is Christ and his work on the Cross. As we shall see later, it is all of Christ, none of us. It is Christ that redeems us; it is God the Father who justifies us based upon the propitiation by the blood of Jesus, and thus saves us; it is Christ who reconciles us with God. Everything is from God and by God.

Basis of Assurance of Salvation

So what has all of this profound theological stuff got to do with the (simple) doctrine of Assurance of Salvation? Plenty! Tell me, upon what basis is a person saved? By works, or by faith? Based upon something on Man's part or everything on God's part? If we don't even know the basis of our salvation, then how can we even begin to understand how we can go about having assurance of salvation? If we are saved by works, then how does anyone ever be assured of their salvation? Shouldn't they be afraid that, regardless of all the good works and obedience they have done unto the Lord, they might apostatize on their death bed, thereby sending them into an eternity in hell? More pertinent to us historic Evangelicals, if the basis for our salvation depends partly on our choice, therefore one can choose Christ one day and then reject him the next, then shouldn't we be afraid that we might just deny Christ on our deathbed, and therefore spend the entire eternity in hell? After all, we ALL have free will, right?

The question regarding the basis of our salvation, and thus the foundation upon which we can have the assurance of our faith for us historic Evangelicals, is regarding the role of God and Man in salvation. Definitely, we believe in salvation by faith alone apart from works (Eph. 2:8-9). However, do we contribute anything of value to the entire process? If we do, then salvation is partly by us, and therefore, we can undo our salvation also. However, if salvation is not in any way determined by us, then we can't "undo" our salvation, so to speak, and therefore full assurance of salvation is possible.

This question is at the core of one of the most controversial debates in Church history; — the Calvinism/Arminianism debate, controversial not because the issues are difficult to resolve, but because humanism is such a strong force even within those who turn to Christ, and bring their humanism with them to the study of God's Word. It is not my wish to re-exposit the various verses to prove the Calvinist/Reformed position as the correct one (Interested readers can look at the two articles here and here), so here I would by and large assume the position as the biblical one and post some relevant verses relating to the topic.

With regards to the basis of our salvation, verses like Jn. 6:37 are a constant comfort to the saints, which would only make sense within a Reformed soteriological matrix. Here are some verses that I would like to concentrate on later:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out (Jn. 6:37)

For this is the will of the Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (Jn. 6:40)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day (Jn. 6:44)

Truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life (Jn. 6:47)

And those whom He predestined, he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then shall we say of these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justified. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the cone who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

"For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, no heights, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:30-39)

So how can we know?

Now, knowing that the basis of our salvation is fully of God, and not by anything that we can or ever will do (since although we receive Christ by faith, yet we do so because he chose us first and the Holy Spirit regenerates us in order that we might have faith in Him), we cannot lose our salvation, since it is not our choice to begin with. In verses like Jn. 6:37, 40, 44 & 47, we can see that Jesus promises that whoever believes in Him will DEFINITELY have eternal life, and this promise is based on the unchangeability of God (and that is why Open Theism is heresy, but that's for another day). Of course, however, such promises have a condition attached, which is that of faith (which has similarly being purchased for us) and it is at this point that we come to the practical difficulties that we face in our everyday lives, including all the part about bearing fruits, about not knowing if we are deceived when we claim to have faith etc. And to this we will turn to now.

Let us look at the area of bearing fruits. Now, the main passages to look at here are Mt. 7:19-20; 12:35, and Jn. 15:5-6, which are as follows:

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits (Mt. 7:19-20)

The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil (Mt. 12:35)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I am him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (Jn. 15:5-6)

As we can see, good trees bear good fruits and bad trees bear bad fruits, with those who are bad trees; bad branches destined for destruction. The worry for some Christians is obviously that there don't seem to be bearing fruit, or at least they don't think they are bearing fruit, and thus they worry they are bad trees/branches who may be destined for destruction. All the marvelous promises made to them who believe in Christ "loses its power" as doubt begins to be planted as to whether they are saved in the first place. Since Christians ought to bear good fruit, and they don't seem to be bearing good fruit, they reason that they couldn't possibly be Christians, or that there is something desperately wrong with their Christian life, since they are not producing fruit in conformity with the teachings of Scripture. Coupled with a realization that their hearts are desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9) doesn't exactly help things out either.

First of all, let us look at the issue of Jer. 17:9 first, followed by looking at what exactly are the fruits that Jesus is talking about, what exactly are the fruits of conversion, and thus the marks of a true Christian.

For Jer. 17:9, it is true that the heart is desperately wicked, and we do have the propensity to deceive even our ourselves. However, we do have a helper with us, even the Holy Spirit who dwells among us. Jesus promises ALL his disciples that the Holy Spirit would indwell us and guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13), so therefore IF we are truly saved, then the Holy Spirit would be with us and would help us see through our deceitful heart, and thus we would not be deceived by it, if we follow Him. Of course, this leads us to the question that then could it be that one is not saved, without the Holy Spirit, and therefore the person could still thus be deceived into believing s/he is saved? Perhaps, but there is a test that the person would definitely fail, and even his deceitful heart would not be able to deceive him/herself. Such a test would look out for the marks of true Christians, which the false Christian could fake to a certain extent but never be able to fulfil them, seeing that such characteristics could only arise out of a regenerated nature (2 Cor. 5:17; Jn. 10:3-5).

So what are the marks of a true Christian, and how does that relate to the fruits mentioned by Jesus in the passages above?

The marks of a true Christian

In order for someone to know whether one is truly saved, there are a few marks which would so indicate the person's salvation. These marks make up part of the fruit of the Spirit, indicated by passages like Mt. 7:19-20. As fruits, there are not in any way meritorious for salvation, but they are the results thereof.

So what are the marks of a true Christian? How can one be certain of his salvation? Definitely we have seen earlier that a person who is truly saved would remain forever saved, kept and preserved by Christ through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and I will return to this point later on also. The question thus now to be tackled is how does one know if s/he has faith in Jesus Christ and has believed in Him. This question is thus especially pertinent for new believers, who would especially need the assurance that God has indeed kept His word and save them from the wrath due their sins.

The Bible does give us certain practical guidelines as to how a new convert, and also those who have been Christians for some time, can know that they are truly Christians. Since regeneration is a work of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3: 5-8), and we know that there may be false brethren in our midst even (Acts 20:30; 1 Jn. 2:19), it is not anyone's job to give anyone assurances of their salvation, since we DO NOT know and thus CANNOT judge anyone's heart and therefore their salvation, unless the evidences are so obvious (knowing embrace of heresy, apostasy, denial of the faith, conversion to another religion etc.). Therefore, for most normal people, we are not allowed to judge their salvation, and this would definitely include judging whether they are saved or not. [What we can only do is judge their profession of faith —whether they say that they believe that Jesus if God etc., and upon this profession of faith, we are to regard them as brethren in the Lord.] Since giving false assurances of salvation has very serious consequences, what we only can do is to show them the signs of a true Christian and let their conscience either acquit them or condemn them (Rom. 2:15); to know for themselves whether they are saved or whether they are not yet saved.

With this said, let us look at the signs of true conversion, as seen primarily in Acts 2:37-38; 41-46, and exposited in the booklet Seven Certain Signs of True Conversion by Peter Masters[1], of which I will only summarize the points here.

The first sign is a conviction of sin. True believers will always be convicted of their sins, and know that before the Lord, they are as nothing before Him. They see His holiness and feel exceedingly sinful. Their hearts are broken over their sin and they always repent of them. Thus, for new believers, are they broken and contrite over their sin? Have they repented and continue on repenting of their sins before the Lord? For Christians who may doubt their salvation, is that caused by the increasing realization of your sinfulness? Is it because you know you have sinned, and perhaps even grievously, such that you are afraid that God would not forgive you? Despair not, for the fact of the matter is that, as you produce godly sorrow over your sin, you show that you are His. Paradoxically, those who realize their great sinfulness are the ones who should be the most assured of their salvation, because the Lord has promised, He who never changes His mind, that forgiveness of sin and eternal life will be given to all who repent of their sins (Acts 2:37). And He is the Glory of Israel will absolutely make good on His promise.

Of course, sorrow for sins are not sufficient in and of themselves. Sorrow must be godly sorrow and not worldly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10). The difference is that godly sorrow is sorrow over disobeying God whereas worldly sorrow is only the experience of sorrow because the person does not want to go to hell.

The second sign is that the person can understand the Scriptures. Yes, the Scriptures are written in English (or whatever language your Bible is written in) and it is not esoteric, having hidden tones in them. In theological speak, the Scriptures are perspicuous. You do not need to be a professor to understand the Scriptures. What this sign is saying is not that the truly regenerated person cannot understand the Scriptures before and now he can, but that the truly regenerated person can now believe in the Scriptures. Whereas before, all unbelievers will never to able to understand the logic of Scripture (after all, how stupid is the idea of God dying like a criminal to save Man), now as believers they can understand the logic of Scripture. As it is written,

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)

Note especially the word 'folly'. Unbelievers are able to intellectually grasp the truth of Scripture if they so wish to, but it would be as foolishness to them, unless they repent and turn to Christ.

Therefore, for new believers, do they have a new found understanding of the Word of God? For all, are we able to grasp the reasonableness of Scripture, to see its truth as truth? If so, then you are truly of Christ.

One word of caution here: Having a new found understanding of Scripture and loving the Word of God does not necessarily mean that a true Christian will never interpret Scripture wrongly, nor that he must immediately understand everything there is to know about the Scriptures. Just because you may make certain errors in interpreting the Scripture does not make you an unbeliever!

The third sign of true conversion is the feeling of kinship with fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. As stated in 1 Jn. 3:14 also, the presence of the feeling of kinship and love towards other Christians marks one out to be of Christ. To check whether this love is genuinely from God, do not check whether you love your friends and family who are Christians, (though if you hated them before, that could be valid), since it could be normal family and friendship phileo love. Do we love Christians whom we don't know? Do we have a strong desire to be with the people of God, even if they are strangers? Yes, we are weak, but is there some form of love for the brethren, however imperfect it may be? If you have that, it is a sign that you are truly a Christian.

The forth sign of true conversion is that of a personal discovery and delight in prayer. As we are saved, we are adopted into God's family, and we thus have this desire to talk and commune with God. As Gal. 4:6 tells us, we who are saved will have the spirit within us crying "Abba Father!" This is especially so in the early stages of our walk with Christ. Therefore, for new converts, are they having this desire to spend time with God? For older converts, they may neglect this, especially if their love grow cold. However, was there ever a time where you had such desire and delight in communing with God, such sweet communion with Him? Is there still a desire in you that loves to talk to Him, who is the joy and delight of our souls? If there is, then we are most likely saved in Him. Of course, for those who are have hearts that are cold, we must need repent and return to our first love (Rev. 2:4-5).

The fifth sign (which I think actually should be the first sign as it is the most important) is that of a new heart. Those who turn to Christ are a new creature; the old has gone, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). The believers, whether new or not, has been transformed. Obviously, this is not to say that suddenly, the believer becomes perfect, or is without sin, or necessarily that the believer will experience breakthrough in certain pet sins, but that the believer has new priorities in life. We have a new master and Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ and we live to serve and obey Him. Our ultimate motive is for the glory of our Lord, and whatever we do, we seek above all to please Him. Of course, believers could over time lose their first love, but the initial love for Christ must be there, and as with the forth point, they are to repent and turn back to their first love.

The sixth point is an initial measure of assurance of salvation, which Eph. 1:13 and 2 Cor. 1:22 speaks of. As Masters put it succinctly:

We have no right to expect new-born babes in Christ to have enormous certainty and complete assurance, but we do expect to see the seal. ... It is God's maker of ownership impressed upon the believer In every true conversion the Holy Spirit will place His authenticating seal upon His work. (p. 13-14)

Of course, however, there may be true believers who may not have such a strong sense of certainty of their salvation, and for them they would need to seek it. In the meantime, they could check for the presence of the other signs which have been mentioned so far.

The seventh, and last, sign is the experience of attacks of Satan. Satan does not attack one of his with doubts over their salvation, because they are not saved. Allow me to quote Masters once more:

True converts, ..., are no longer in Satan's stronghold. They have been emancipated, and so for them, a great battle has begun. They now 'wrestle... against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world' (Eph. 6:12). ...

Satan's strategy will vary. One moment he will plague the young believer with doubts about the Christian faith. Another moment he will switch his attack 'O yes,' he will say, 'it is all true! The Bible is true, the faith is true; salvation is true; but you are not converted. You are deluded!' Sooner or later the believer will fall into sin and the devil will seize this opportunity to press home the accusation — 'How could you possibly be a child of God?'

The very fact that young believers may be worried about whether they are truly saved is itself an evidence of conversion. If they are genuine Christians, then the state of their souls is the most important matter in their lives. (p. 15-16. Bold added)

We can thus see that the attacks of Satan are itself an evidence of conversion. The part in bold above should be always emphasized. If someone is worried over their salvation, chances are they are truly saved. Unbelievers & reprobates DO not worry about their salvation. Yes, the more contemplative type may worry about where they would go after they die, but they will not care one bit whether they are right with God. Thus, doubts about salvation, as long as the person is worried whether s/he is right with God, is actually in itself a proof that the person is saved, and thus should stop worrying over his/her salvation, as long as s/he has done all that is commanded to do (i.e. repent of sins, receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior) and has in some measure or the full, fulfilled the other signs of true conversion.

With that said, let us return to the basis of our assurance of salvation, which is in the fact that Christ has made full 100% purchase of our salvation on our behalf.

 

Foundation of our assurance of salvation (Exposition of Rom. 8:30-39)

The basis of our assurance of salvation lies in our redemption by Christ in the propitiation through His blood. It is because Christ has died for us that we can be saved. Through the changes in our lives, we can know whether we are saved or not, and therefore are not deceiving ourselves. However, assurance of salvation is not only in knowing that we are saved, but also in knowing that we will never fall away, ever.

As I have stated earlier, salvation must be of God from beginning to end for there to be any possibility of assurance of salvation. Otherwise, what we have is a conditional assurance of salvation, since we must continue to keep the Christian faith in order to be saved, otherwise we are lost. Such was the error of the Judaizers as anathemized by the apostle Paul, and such is the error of the Romanists when they anathemized the Gospel in the Council of Trent. It is no secret that Arminians of all stripes and colors, including the Wesleyan holiness movement (especially after the times of the heretic Charles Finney), deny the possibility of having an assurance of salvation. After all, if there is a possibility of losing our salvation, then how can we have assurance that we would continue in the faith? Oh, how different is the situation of the true Bible believer, who takes God's Word as it is, and sees the power of God working in his salvation, through his sanctification, and onwards towards his glorification.

One reason why believers are sometimes weak in their faith and lacking in assurance of their salvation could very well be due to their weak theology, or more specifically, their soteriology. After all, a 'God' who tries to saves, who depends on our choosing Him to save us, is really a powerless deity and can never give us assurance of our salvation. After all, how can He keep us from falling away, since we all can exercise our free will to do so? However, how blessed and wonderful it is for saints to be properly rooted in the truths of God's Word, who know that their security and assurance of salvation is in God alone, not based on their abilities and/or weaknesses, but purely based on the truth of God's personal election of each one of us to eternal life before the foundation of the world. It is because we have been personally predestined in eternity to be His children, that the Son came down and died for us as a propitiation for our sins, having paid the full price for us all, including unbelief, and that the Holy Spirit comes down and regenerates us individually, and now indwells us personally, that we have this full assurance of our salvation. This is the only consistent matrix upon which believers can have full assurance of their salvation.

I would end this entire series off with an exposition of Rom. 8:30-39, which, as I have said before, is the passage that offers the most comfort to us all true believers and assures us of God's eternal, unchanging love for us as expressed through our salvation, and in the provision of every good thing.

And those whom He predestined, he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then shall we say of these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justified. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the cone who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

"For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, no heights, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:30-39)

In verse 30, we can see that ALL who are predestined would be called and justified, and furthermore ALL who are justified will be glorified. I would like to concentrate on the latter part of the verse for this exposition, but suffice it is to note that the latter part makes no sense if the former part wasn't true, that all those whom God chooses from eternity are indeed saved. The latter part of this verse makes the claim that every single person who is justified WILL indeed be glorified. Therefore, all of us can have full assurance of salvation in Christ, since we who are saved will most definitely persevere in the faith and will one day be glorified with Him.

In verses 31 and 32, we can see the arguments that the apostle Paul bring to bear on this topic. We are pressed on the issue further. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" The answer is, of course, no one. "He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" In this, we should trust God in everything. After all, after giving us His Son Jesus Christ for us, why wouldn't he give us the lesser things that we need? We can thus trust God for everything, since He has already given us the most valuable thing, His Son Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross for our sins.

In verse 33, we are pressed further by the force of Paul's logic and rhetoric. "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect?" Answer: Obviously, no one. It is God who justifies. God being God, the highest authority, absolutely no one has the right, nevermind the ability, to bring any charge against any of us believers who are of the elect of God. Since God is the one who saves us, who is in charge of our salvation from beginning to end, we cannot but be saved by him absolutely and totally. In verse 34, similarly, "Who is to condemn?". Answer: No one. Furthermore, we are here informed that Jesus Christ is ever interceding before the Father on our behalf, and thus we shall never fall away, if we are truly His true followers.

In verse 35, the question is asked, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Answer: Obviously, no one and nothing. Notice the list of things which follows: all kinds of severe hardship in this present age which could come upon us, and yet they do not have any power whatsoever to separate us from the love of Christ. This list is followed up with the list in verse 39, of which the mention of the two extremities encompass all that is in between — "Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, no heights, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation", which covers everything, including Satan (powers). Did you read that, beloved? Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! Nothing! We are more than conqueror through Him who loved us (Rom. 8:38)! Our salvation is fully secured in Him; it will never fail. It is more likely for heaven and earth to pass away then for any one of us to lose our salvation! O, how we should always thank God for our so great salvation, and this full, unchanging assurance of salvation which we have in Him, and which is as unchanging as His very nature itself! Beloved, are you learning to put your full trust in Him, to surrender all to Him, and to embrace the teachings of Scripture on this topic? Then you will know and experience the full assurance of our salvation in Him, knowing that though we are weak, yet we will never fall; though we are desperately wicked and sinful, we are reckoned righteous always in the sight of God. Nothing can ever "unsave" us, and our glorification is absolutely guaranteed in the beloved, Christ Jesus our Lord, and shown forth in his resurrection from the dead (Rom. 8:34)

I would like to post the lyrics of a hymn Before the Throne of God above[2] which captures the essence of biblical soteriology. It is my personal favorite since I know myself and need to remind myself periodically of the ground of my salvation, which is not in myself, depraved person that I am. Pay attention to the bold parts and meditate especially on them.

1
Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong and perfect plea
A Great High Priest whose name is Love
who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart

I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

2
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardoned me
to look on Him and pardoned me

3
Behold Him there, the Risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless Righteousness
The great, unchangeable I AM
the King of glory and of grace
One in Himself I cannot die
my soul is purchased by His blood
my life is hid with Christ on high
with Christ my Savior and my God,
with Christ my Savior and my God
!

Amen!


References:

[1] Peter Masters, Seven Certain Signs of True Conversion, Sword & Trowel, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Elephant & Castle, London SE1 6SD

[2] Before the throne of God above, words by Charitie Lee Bancroft, Music © 1997 Vikki Cook, Sovereign Grace Music (BMI)