I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. ~ 1 John 5:13
Can we really be assured that we are saved – that eternal life has been granted to us? I was not raised with the idea that once you are saved, you are always saved. I still do not see that teaching in Scripture. Multiple verses urge adherence to the faith and warnings not to go back to the world. But I think that has left me with a bit of an itchy assurance. Is there such a thing as a not-so-sure assurance?
I don’t think so.
I really believe that an itchy assurance is a source of many spiritually unhealthy patterns of thinking that creates friction in our relationships with one another and with God.
If I can never be fully convinced of my salvation in Christ then how can I ever have a relationship with Christ? We can’t remain the outsiders … one hand on the doorknob of heaven and the other being pulled away by the demons of hell. This view is to say to God that we think Him incapable of saving us. In truth, if we say that we only think we are saved or that we hope we are saved, we are calling God a liar.
Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. ~ 1 John 5:10-11
Strong words! This itchy kind of assurance continues to haunt us for several reasons. Our own sin convicts us. Our own inconsistency of belief and inaccuracy of doctrinal preciseness is fodder for others who would condemn us. Feelings of not being good enough plague us. Oh that we would believe God! He has given us a testimony! He gave those who believe in the Son of God eternal life!
Belief in Christ sets in motion the life of faith … which includes obedience. No one, however, is going to obey perfectly. No one is of infinite wisdom and intelligence. No one possesses ultimate willpower. No one grasps the eternal truths of God without fault. It’s not your disobedience that leads to an itchy assurance, it is your disbelief!
…If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. ~ 1 John 1:7
Why do we want to argue with that? I know we must seek to live in such a way that reflects our love for God and for others. The idea that some ascribe to the “once saved always saved” crowd is that the Christian life is unconcerned with obedience. I don’t think that’s the point. I think that rather than being afraid of falling out of the grace of God … or torn unwillingly away from the door of heaven … we ought to embrace a comfortable assurance.
The kind of grace that calms the itchy assurance from which so many seem to suffer results from believing God. Out of the rubble of your sin He makes a new creation. He knows sins you have committed of which you are completely unaware! In the vast library of doctrinal treatises it is likely you are wrong about something – and maybe a lot of things. The fact of your own sin and failure to grasp the doctrines of Scripture does not negate the power of the blood of Christ to forgive your sins.
I think the reason we have such an itchy assurance is that deep down we believe that we ought to be able to come to a complete understanding of all of God’s ways and be able to scrape together a reasonably pleasing life before His throne. Not until we finally get down off of the throne of our own pride, can we finally accept the gift God has wanted to give us all along.
He can do anything, right? He can even save you. Utterly. Completely. Eternally.
Knowing that, follow Him wholeheartedly.
Thanks for reading, JD.