The Assurance of Salvation
by Dave Breese
How can I know that I am saved?
More Christians and want-to-be Christians are plagued by this question than almost any other. We receive many letters with this serious concern pressed in one and another ways. It is certain that the question of the assurance of salvation has become a vital concern to believers in these days. What is the answer to that question?
How can a person have the present assurance of salvation and the certainty that he or she is going to go to heaven one day?
We can discover the answer to that concern by asking the preliminary question, “What must I do to be saved?” We know the answer to that question because it was specifically asked in Scripture of the Apostle Paul. After the occasion of the earthquake in Philippi, the jailor of the local prison asked in great anxiety, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). The answer that was given to this concerned sinner by the Apostle Paul was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).
What then must I do to be saved? I must believe in Jesus Christ. Christ Himself said most emphatically, “He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). So we see that salvation is based on one single requirement, faith in Jesus Christ.
What then does it mean to have faith, to believe in Jesus Christ? It means exactly this—to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died to take away our sins on the cross of Calvary. This very requirement was expressed by Jesus Christ to the woman at the well. He said to her, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that sayeth to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked him, and he would have given thee living water” (John 4:10). By so saying, Christ announced that the faith that saves is faith in who Jesus is and what He did for us on the cross; specifically, it is faith that Christ is the Son of the Living God and that His sacrifice on Calvary is the basis for our forgiveness.
It is in this vein that the Apostle Paul takes the time to carefully state what the Gospel is. Paul says that the Gospel is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3,4). Yes, there was an awesome price paid for the sins of all the world, as a result of which we have the good news that salvation is free, having been purchased by the Lord Jesus when He died for our sins. How amazing, therefore, is the wonderful truth of the Bible which says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
From whence, then, do I receive the assurance of salvation? It is from the fact that I have believed in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and accepted for my salvation His sacrifice on the cross. The assurance of salvation comes from having properly conformed to the divine requirement for everlasting life, faith alone.
So, the assurance of salvation depends on understanding the Gospel. There are millions of people in our world who think of themselves as being Christians, but they have no assurance of salvation. They fear, they tremble, they hope for the best, they wonder, and many times, they drop into despair because of the lack of assurance of eternal life. What is the problem? The problem is that they do not know the Gospel.
Being ignorant of the Scripture, but listening to the religious establishment, most Christians believe that we are saved by faith plus something else. In addition to a vague “believing” in Christ, they believe that one must also do good works, be baptized, join the church, live a perfect life, be constantly in prayer, give money to religious causes—the list is endless. Obviously, if salvation comes because of faith plus something else, no one can ever be sure that they are saved. This because we can never know if we have done enough good works, given enough money, prayed enough, or been good enough to add to our faith the thing that brings surety. Most systems of religion in the world today, even though they are a part of “Christianity,” are nothing but religions of good works. The theology of too many “Christian” churches is, “You are saved by faith, providing you keep the law.” These views can be named many things, like “Salvation by Discipleship,” “Lordship Salvation,” “Liberation Theology,” “Kingdom Now,” and many other concepts. Many churches, both Protestant and Catholic, liberal and conservative, fundamentalist and evangelical, independent and denominational, mix up the Gospel by adding one, seven, twelve, or a whole system, of requirements to faith alone. People who are a part of such movements and accept them may well be saved, if they initially believed the truth, but they can never have the assurance of salvation.
How then can I have the assurance of salvation? This is not some feeling or some warm glow or self-hypnosis—none of that. The assurance of salvation comes alone from having been saved by the grace of God and knowing it. If I look at myself, assurance will disappear. If I look at other Christians, the church, read the new books, attend the new kinds of meetings, these may all be interesting, but none will bring the assurance of salvation. Assurance comes from knowing I have exercised faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for me on the cross. This knowledge alone will bring steadfast confidence to the soul.
We bring, therefore, a word of warning and a word of assurance. To every reader, we would say that if your faith and hope is placed in anyone except Christ alone, and in any act save Calvary, the assurance of salvation will escape you for all of life. It is, therefore, good to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. “The faith” means that body of truth which makes Christianity what it is. The core is Christ and His work on the cross. Anyone who does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for our sins is not a Christian. A person who believes that Christ is God and Savior plus something else may be saved, but salvation’s assurance will always elude them.
The promise is this: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” In this very moment, you can exercise faith that Christ is the Son of God and that He died for the sins of the world, for your sins, on the cross.
But how can I have faith? Jesus said, “He that heareth my word and believeth”—that’s the one who gets everlasting life. One cannot have faith simply as a “gift.” He must learn from the Word how Christ is the Son of God and how He died for our sins. If you will take the time to read the Bible, your heart will be quickened in response to the Word and the Gospel that it presents. Believe it is true, and accept the Christ of the cross as your very own. Then, you will be saved.
Then, also, you will know that you are saved—the assurance of salvation will be yours.