By Colton Corter
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13 ESV)
The Christian can know for certain that he is, in fact, a Christian. Assurance of salvation is a beautiful reality and is a fountain of holiness and happiness in Christ. Unlike all other systems of thought, the gospel motivates joy and obedience by giving certainty. Islam, Roman Catholic and any other man-made religions reject the notion of assurance of whatever they deem to be salvation. Wouldn’t assurance lead to presumption and moral laxity? Not in the gospel that creates joy in God and works from the inside out. The gospel, really the whole Christian life, is based on certainty.
Assurance is possible first because of the objective work of Christ on our behalf. The gospel lies ever outside of us. Again it is the objective person and work of Christ that happened 2,00o years before many of us were born that is our confidence before God. God is ferociously holy. God created out of an overflow of His own glory and enjoyment of that glory with the Godhead so that He might display the riches of His glory in the gladness of a redeemed people. God’s worth demands His creatures total pleasure and worship. But we have all sinned and decided that our own glory is the goal of our universe. We have rebelled against a holy God and have lied about the worth and character of the only eternal God! For this reason, God’s wrath hangs over against us as the only good response to the heinous sin that we all have committed. Sin is the disatisfaction in God that begins in the affections and hearts that only then is expressed in thought, word and deed. We are very evil people. Our only hope is that God sent His Son Jesus to live a perfect life unto the Father. He, unlike us, relied on his Father, enjoyed His Father and glorified the Father on our behalf. He fulfilled the righteous demands of the Law. But then He was drowned by the wrath of God that was reserved for us. Like the Passover lamb, Jesus died as a substitute for all those whom the Father would call to Himself. Jesus rose from the dead, proving His power over death and the Father’s acceptance of His payment for our sins. Now everyone who comes to Christ as Savior, Lord and Supreme Treasure, forsaking their sin and running to superior joy in Jesus, will be saved! This is really good news. It is the work of Jesus on our behalf, through the instrument of saving faith, that serves as our only confidence before the Father. No one will boast before Him on that Last Day.
But the question of assurance is often not asking about this type of assurance. Many know the glory of the gospel and that Christ is there only plea. Their question, our question, is how we can know that we have true saving faith in that work? How can we have confidence that we should be confident in the gospel? We all know people who have proven that they were not really in the faith. Biblically, we know that we cannot lose our salvation but sometimes we struggle with our own sinful hearts to really know that we are children of God.
1 John 5:13 says this is the purpose of the whole book. This verse is near the end of the book as so the “these things” he says are to give them assurance in his letter are the things found in the previous four chapters. We’ll be looking at these for the duration of this series, Lord willingly. All of these things that John writes are evidences that we have repented and trusted in Christ. Again, our confidence before God is ultimately the righteousness of Christ. But we can know by our lives that we have been born again. Justification is proceeded by sanctification. Being set apart as holy leads to real life holiness in everyday life.
John wants us to know that we have eternal life. He gives us these Spirit-inspired criteria so that we can examine ourselves to see if these things characterize our lives. The fruit of the Spirit is recognizable and grows. The emphasis on knowing contributes to something we saw earlier. Assurance begets enjoyment of God and obedience to God. Holiness and happiness may not be separated in the Christian life. When we lose assurance, for any reason, our souls shrink. But when we see these things in our life and the Spirit testifies with our Spirit that we are really children of God who are hidden with Christ, we can boldly live lives that display the glory of God!
Colton Corter is from Arkansas, a student at SBTS, and a member of Third Avenue Baptist Church.