If you died today, are you confident that you are prepared to meet your Maker?
I believe the Bible teaches that Christians are to be confident, not arrogant, but assured of the salvation we have. Yet, I have found that there are too many Christians who are not confident. Each time I ask this question on a personal level, more times than not I get an “I’m not worthy” kind of response. I would then say, “you do know that there is a big difference between being worthy of salvation and being confident you have it. No one is worthy of Jesus dying on the cross, but He did suffer and die on the tree for you and me, and I am determined not to let that death be in vain for me (2 Cor.6:1), even though I am not worthy of it. How can we be “worthy” of forgiveness? I don’t think we merit forgiveness, but I am sure that we can humbly and thankfully receive it, and on the conditions expressed by the Savior we can receive this freely given grace of God and be confident we have been justified, washed, and sanctified.
There are too many scriptures that tell us that we should enjoy “full assurance” of faith. Hebrew 6:11 mentions this. When you consider that “hope” is “confident expectation”, not an empty wish, you have to begin wondering why we have so many members who are not confident of going to heaven. Hebrews 10:22 mentions that brethren can have “full assurance of faith”. Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for”. 1 John 2:28 mentions that we can have “perfect confidence” and 3:21 shows that our heart can condemn us or it can trust God toward giving us confidence.
Two Extreme Views of Salvation
1. I cannot know if I am saved (no security).
2. I cannot be lost (false security).
The first view is wrong as well as the second view. The first view is wrong because it flies in the face of too many scriptures. John wrote “that you may KNOW you have eternal life”(1 John 5:13). The first view denies the word of God. The first view is therefore demonic or Satanic. It does not come from God. Any view that contradicts the word of God should be discarded. John wrote his books by inspiration of God, and God said through John “you may KNOW” you have eternal life. Paul wrote that we may have “boldness and access with confidence”(Eph.3:10-12). Paul had no fear of his destiny, and it was not because of his worthiness but because he trusted and utilized the spiritual blessings that are in Christ (Eph.1:3,7). So, without any doubt he could say “there IS laid up for me a crown of righteousness”(2 Tim.4:6-8), and he knew “the Lord WILL give me in that day”. There was confident expectation in Paul.
One thing I know is that this “chief of sinners” did not think he had attained any state of “worthiness” that gave him a unique basis of confidence. He felt unworthy to be called an apostle, and certainly felt unworthy of Jesus’ death for his sins, but he did not doubt that Jesus “was crucified for me”(Gal.2:20). He accepted that as unworthy as he was, Christ died for him. He accepted that truth and enjoyed the benefits of believing in Jesus’ worthiness and in Jesus’ love for him on the personal level.
The second view is also incorrect. There is a false security being taught. It is the false doctrine of “once-saved-always-saved”. It teaches people to believe they cannot be lost no matter what they do or fail to do. This doctrine perverts God’s grace and “turns it into license” to sin(Jude 4-5). It denies the word of God that said apostles and angels can do things that would cause them to be “accursed”(Gal.1:6-10). If it is possible to pervert the gospel (and it is possible), then it is possible to be accursed. If it is possible to be influenced to start binding the law of Moses, it is possible to “fall from grace”(Gal.5:1-4). Paul said it took discipline to “buffet my body and bring it into subjection lest after I have preached to others I myself would become disqualified for the prize”(1 Cor.9:24). Paul certainly did not teach that he could never be lost again after he was saved. He warned in Hebrews of developing “an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God”(3:12). The whole book of Hebrews gives warnings about “crucifying Jesus afresh” and how much worse the punishment when one trods underfoot the Son of God and does despite to the Spirit of grace (6:3-5-6; 10:25f). There is clearly some danger of losing our way, becoming entangled again in the things of the world (2 Pet.2:20ff) and be worse than we were before we believed. A false assurance is not what we need. We need assurance based upon a correct handling of grace and faith, not assurance based upon abusing and misusing God’s word and deceiving ourselves.
What is the Basis of Our Assurance of Salvation?
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. My own WORTHINESS is not the basis of my assurance. I don’t read of men in the Bible who felt that they were worthy. John the Baptist said he was not worthy to even untie Jesus’ shoes (Matt.3:11). Jesus was impressed with a centurion who said he was not worthy for Jesus to come to his house (Matt.8:8). The Prodigal Son, when he came to himself, said he was no longer worthy to be called his father’s son (Luke 15:19), yet His father welcomed him home with accepting and loving arms. Paul did not feel worthy to be called an apostle. Why? Because he remembered his sins (1 Cor.15:9). In Revelation 5:2-5 there was no one worthy to open the scrolls except Jesus. There is a common consensus of feeling unworthy. But, worthiness is not the basis of assurance. It never was and never will be. So, how did all these unworthy people still have confidence of their salvation?
The ONLY way to confidence and assurance is through faith or trust in Jesus. He died for sinners like me (John 17:8; Gal.2:20f). If he loved me at my worst (Rom.5:8), when I was not even trying to please Him, should I believe that He no longer loves me when I do concern myself with sin and serving God? In Romans 8:31 Paul shows us that God is for us and will freely give us all things we need. Need forgiveness? Got it! Need strength? Got it! Here we are relying on HIS benefits, not our own worthiness. John says “if we confess our sins, He is faithful (you can count on it) and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”(1 John 1:7-9). Having a partner like Jesus is the only way to deal effectively with sin. Confess it, try not to do it any more, and when you fail, confess it and try again. The confidence grows as the relationship, partnership, fellowship grows closer and closer, richer and deeper. Perfect love casts out fear. God is greater than our conscience. He will clean us up and let us start again, and that will always be a dependable quality of our Father.
Why Should Our Conscience Condemn Us?
If we stop hungering and thirsting for righteousness and stop growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, then our conscience should condemn us and we should lose confidence and want it back enough to return to our first love, Jesus. If we stop seeking to do God’s will, we do not need to give ourselves a false confidence that God will automatically cleanse us from all unrighteousness even as we plan to continue in sin (Rom.6:1f). If we become lukewarm in our hearts and service toward God, then we need to know that God will spew us out of His mouth (Rev.3:16). If we hate our brother, we should not deceive ourselves that God is pleased with us. John addresses this self-deception at length in 1 John 3-5. There are conditions to be met and some absolute principles and characteristics that we have to employ, utilize, and obey in order to have confidence that we are in good standing with God. Our conscience should not condemn us if we have confessed our sins (1 John 1:7 – 2:2) because we can count on God’s faithfulness to forgive. Our conscience should not condemn us when we know we love God and our brethren (4:17-21). Because we HOLD confidence in Jesus (Heb.3:14). If I can be confident that Jesus forgave me of past sins when I was baptized (Acts 2:36-41; 22:16), then I can be confident He forgives each time I ask. If He forgives me all those times in the past when I was not trying, He is certainly willing to forgive me now that I AM trying but often failing.
So, when I ask, “are you confident of your salvation?” I am not asking if you feel like you DESERVE salvation. No one can deserve it. I’m not asking if you think you are perfect. No one is sinlessly perfect, but forgiven is a daily and regularly obtainable state of being. I’m not asking if you feel you are worthy, or if you feel you have obtained perfection. I’m asking if you are in Christ and regularly washed in His blood as you strive to be more like Him? Are you saved by grace through faith? Have you taken His yoke, learned from Him, and found “rest for your soul”?(Matt.11:28f). Have you been holding your confidence in Jesus? You certainly can “do all things through Christ who strengthens”(Phil.4:13), and therefore we can do the things to “make our calling and election sure”(2 Pet.1:3-11). In progressing and growing we know we are spiritually alive, and in washing in the blood regularly when we sin, we should be confident that we are forgiven, justified, and sanctified. Each day we should “know we have eternal life” unless we know we are disregarding some sin we intend to keep practicing. Let us hold fast our confidence firm unto the end. - Terry W. Benton