Last Sunday, our Sunday school topic brought us to the topic of assurance of salvation. Assurance (along with predestination) seems to be a perennial favorite when it comes to hot topics for debates within evangelical circles. Is it possible to lose your salvation? Once saved always saved?
In the following post, I won’t be offering my own position about whether one can lose salvation. Instead, I’ll offer some reflections that developed out of our Sunday school, which will hopefully encourage us to think about the topic of assurance from a different angle.
There seems to be two ways of framing the question of assurance. One may ask, “Am I really saved? How do I really know? Was my conversion genuine?” On the other hand, one may ask, “What does God promise when it comes to salvation? How is God going to be faithful to his promise to save his people? How do we know that He is going to be faithful?”
Notice that the first way of framing the question is focused on the self and his/her individual state, whereas the second way of framing the question puts the focus on God and His work. When it comes to assurance and our day to day conversations with each other, it seems to me that we have become preoccupied with the first way of thinking about assurance at the expense of the second (and, I think, more biblical) way of thinking about it.
Consider the narrative arc of the Bible. God makes a promise to Abraham that He will bless all the nations through his seed. Thus, the nation of Israel is born, as God calls his “son” out of Egypt (who does that sound like?) and brings the Israelites to the Promised Land. Sadly, after the golden age of David, Israel falls into sin and is eventually forced into exile. At this point, the nation of Israel is effectively gone; it seems that God’s promise to bless all people through Abraham’s descendants has been made void. For an Israelite, the question is, “Where is God? How is He going to be faithful to His promises?”
The good news of the Gospel is that God has proven Himself faithful by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Christ is the faithful and obedient son to the point of death, even death on a cross. And it is through Christ that the blessing of salvation finally passes to all the nations. He has conquered sin and death, and we know that if we have died with Him, then we will also be raised with Him. He is the one in whom God’s promises have been fulfilled.
So when it comes to the issue of assurance of personal salvation, the main way that the Bible encourages us to think about the issue is to look to Christ. A practical implication of this is that we should spend less time analyzing ourselves and more time in praying and reading the Word. Now, there is certainly a time and a place for introspection, and perhaps some folk really must ask whether they have genuinely accepted Christ in faith. Still, the ultimate ground of assurance rests in Christ. Our assurance of salvation should never be dependent upon our own assessment of our status before God. Instead, we must turn to Christ and be found in Him and in Him alone.