5. Assurance of Salvation
Purpose: The purpose of this session is to help the disciple know that he has eternal life. He need never doubt his salvation.
1. The disciple will understand that it is God’s will that he know he has eternal life.
2. He will see that there are experiential ways that can give us assurance, although these are subjective.
3. He will see and understand that there are objective ways one can have assurance, and these ways can never fail.
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life. I have written 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 5:11-13
1. Prayer, sharing, and mutual accountability.
2. Discuss the worksheets and questions.
3. Discuss any new terms.
4. Share Scripture memory verse.
Assurance of salvation is the first essential in living an effective Christian life. Without assurance, one is self-centered, anxious, and unable to focus totally upon Christ. Lack of assurance will disable his walk in the Christian life.
Two Basic Means of Personal Assurance
I. Experience — indicators — what may be true of us.
A. What we love, 1 John 2:15. I am told that if I love the world, the love of the Father is not in me. An indicator of personal salvation can be “what” I love. Certainly things related to the world-system will not be a controlling factor in my life.
B. Those we love, 1 John 3:14. This tells us we know we have passed from death to life because we love “the brethren.” My joy will relate to my fellowship with believers.
C. The general tenor of my life concerning practicing obedience is an indicator. 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 2:3. Salvation with commitment to the Lordship of Christ will bring a change in the life of the individual. Obedience becomes a reality.
D. The witness of the Spirit, Romans 8:16-17. Witness is born by the Holy Spirit with my spirit that I am a child of God. It’s like “I’m standing in Jesus’ shoes and He’s standing in mine.”
E. Scripture takes on new meaning, 1 Corinthians 2:14-15. I now seem to understand Scripture and it speaks to me. I am developing a love for it.
It must be remembered that each of these is only an indicator .
II. The Scripture itself is the ultimate basis of assurance. God is faithful to His Word. Psalm 119:89 says,
“Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven.”
With this assurance and trust in the written Word, see 1 John 5:10-13; John 5:24; John 6:37, you can reason your way to assurance. The following are crucial in the use of these verses:
A. The Savior casts none out when they come to Him.
B. If He doesn’t cast us out, He takes us in, and we have Him!
C. If we have the Son, we have life. We can’t have one without the other. His life is eternal.
D. We receive the witness of men — for example, we use a notary public to verify a document. The Scripture is the witness of our Father God. 1 John 5:10-13 is our legal document. To disbelieve is to call God a liar and doubt the most ultimate source of truth in all the universe. When all else fails, I can firmly rest upon the Scriptures for assurance.
“Eternal life” refers to both endurance and quality of life. Please note that it is a present possession. This is very important to emphasize. Being a present possession, there is not a time in my future that I will ever be in a position where I cannot have fellowship with God the Father. There is no reality in the doctrine of “soul-sleeping.” See John 11:25-26. “Soul sleeping” is the doctrine that says there is no consciousness beyond death until Christ returns. This teaching is erroneous.
You have recently worked through the “Bridge” illustration of salvation on your own. Hopefully, in doing this, your understanding of the gospel should be much clearer. You have a rather concise and personal outline you will be able to use in sharing Christ with another person.
The next most important thing is that you have assurance that what you have learned is your own experience. You need to have no doubt about it and it is truly yours. It is not presumptuous to say that “I know that I have eternal life.” In fact, it is most important that you do know. Without assurance, one will be continually looking within himself, wondering if his life is good enough or if he has really “done” enough to have obtained God’s salvation. Salvation does not, of course, rest upon what we have done apart from faith. It is what God has done. The intent of this session, however, is to give you a foundation upon which you may be assured that you have eternal life, and that the issue of your destiny is settled forever.
List the ways you think you might know you have eternal life before proceeding further. After doing this study, come back and see if what you have written above is included in this study.
There are several things the Scripture says about knowing we have life. These we are going to look at and analyze. But let’s do some review first. If salvation were a matter of my works, I could never have assurance. I would not find out until I die and experience judgment. But there is no teaching in Scripture that would lead me to believe that. If I had to work my way into God’s favor, I would have to be _________, James 2:10 and Galatians 3:10. Therefore how “good” I am really does not help assure me that I have eternal life. Others feel they are saved because they see God as “good,” and a ___________ __________ would not condemn them. There is, of course, no basis for an argument like this, nor can one gain assurance from such an argument. It is the _______________ of God that leads men to ____________________, Romans 2:4, and this means an acknowledgment of sinfulness and a desire to turn from it. Repentance means changing my attitude or thinking about sin or a particular sin. It leads me to turn to God from that sin or lifestyle.
The Basic Means of Assurance
The first means has to do with changes that have taken place in my life as a result of my acceptance of Christ. But I must be careful as I look at these things. While it is true that in all probability, most or all of these things may be true of a life sometime, it is likewise certainly true that most may be missing from a life from time to time if he is walking as a carnal Christian. So we call the indicators experiential because they have to do with what I ___________ . Therefore, we call them _________________ because they are related to my experience as a Christian. They are merely indicators that may or may not be present in my life. Their presence is often related to the quality of my Christian life...whether I am carnal or spiritual. This is enlarged upon later.
I. Experiential Indicators
A. The first experiential indicator is found in 1 John 2:15. This verse says the love of the Father is seen to be in me if I do not _____________ the _____________. It is obvious that the word “world” in this context does not mean the physical world in which I live. We are at home on this planet and adapted to living in the environment as we know it. We speak of loving the mountains, the ocean, flowers, fresh air, etc. This verse has to do with a ______________ system. It speaks of an age over which the “god” of this world system rules. This ruler is none other than ________________ , the chief enemy of God, Jehovah. The devil is behind the world system involving materialism, pleasure, money, etc. As a true Christian, my chief involvement in life — my goals— are not those of this present evil world. In contrast to the goals of an ordinary man, a Christian’s goals are God centered. If this is true, this is an indication that I am a Christian. This is an _______________ indicator. So we are taught that understanding ______________ we love will also help us know that we have eternal life.
B. The second ________________ indicator is seen in 1 John 3:14, where it says we _______ we have eternal life because we love _______ _________. In the previous verse, what we love is a crucial indicator. Now we see that ______ we love also plays an important part in my assurance of salvation. This is a verse that relates to “inter-family” relationships. What groups of people in this world do I most enjoy being with? The present verse says I know I have eternal life if I love my brothers. This is a very special group. When I came to Christ, I be-came a son of God. Anyone who ____________ Jesus becomes a child of God, John 1:12. This means that as sons and daughters in a family, I have many sisters and _______________. The point of this verse is that if I truly am a child of God, I will know it because I __________ my brothers and sisters, and I feel most at home with them.
C. The third point involving how we know also relates to an ___________ indicator. We mean by this that it may or may not be true, but if things are as they should be, it will be true. Again we look at this Scripture in 1 John (which was written for the expressed purpose of helping us know we have eternal life). This time we go to chapter 2:3. This has to do with my behavior overall or in a general sense. I will be assured I have eternal life if I keep ____________ _________________________. Once again we look at something that has to do with my ____________. And because experience is not the most dependable thing in the world, and because I am yet a ____________, Romans 3:23, this is not always true of my life. This verse probably speaks of my attitude more than anything else. Psalm 119: 97 says “O how I _______ __________ _________.” There will be a desire to be obedient. This is what brings about what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 5:17. As a new creature, the old things ______ ____________, _________ _________ have come. There will be change in my life, and that change will take the form of more careful ___________ to Christ, John 14:21.
D. Closely associated with the previous thought is one that is inferred in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15. These verses teach me that a ___________ _________ does not understand the things of God. Actually they are _______________ to him. But this is not true of a _______________ man. The spiritual man is one who __________ _______ _____________, vs. 15. As I begin to study Scripture and have its truth opened, I can be assured that I am a child of God. Nevertheless, there are times when my life becomes dry and I lose something of the ability that I have to understand the Scriptures. Therefore, since this too is tied to my experience, we see it as more ex-___________, and not an absolute indicator.
E. We have looked at indicators that are more _______________ because they are tied to human experience. There is a final experiential indicator to be introduced. Romans 8:16-17 tells us of a permanent Heavenly Guest who comes to indwell us. This One is the _______ __________. The Holy Spirit comes to indwell every believer. No believer is without the Holy Spirit, Romans 8:9b. He is in my life for many purposes, but basic in His indwelling is His desire to be manager of my life. As He fulfills that purpose, He assures me of my salvation and as such _________________________ with our spirit, vs. 16. This is a mutual witness that He bears with my spirit. It is fragile and probably depends upon my not ____________ or ____________ Him, Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19. And because of this — because it will vary in terms of my walk — this is only an experiential indicator, though one which we would not want to be without.
II. Objective indicators
The second broad category is more objective and does not relate to what I experience on a daily basis. It is, rather, based upon the faithfulness of God to His own Word. Several statements from Scripture provide the planks in this platform of assurance.
A. Psalm 119:89 says that the Word is ____________ ____ __________.
B. 1 John 5:13 states that the things written in 1 John were written in order that I might _______ I have ______________ _________.
C. Again, the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father comes into the picture. James 1:17b says that with Him there is no __________ or __________ ___________. We can depend on Him. His very nature and reputation are at stake when we trust Him and His Word.
D. And what does His Word say? 1 John 5:11-12 make it clear that eternal life is related to __________ the Son. Let’s look at 1 John 5:9-13 very closely. Vs. 9 says we accept man’s ______________. What are some of the testimonies of man that you or others accept? If I want to prove I am married, I must ultimately produce, not my wife, nor the minister that married us, but my ________ _________. This becomes a witness of man and anyone will accept it. If I go to the grocery store and buy groceries and write a check, I must produce proper identification, usually in the form of a current _____________ _______________ and this becomes a “witness of men.” It is accepted. I am a university graduate. I produced my framed degree which has on it the name of Arizona State University and the board of regents’ signatures. That diploma or degree is a _____________ of men and attests that I am a graduate of that university. Everyone accepts it. There can be no doubt that we generally do accept the witness of men in good faith. Vs. 9 tells us that if we accept the witness of men, and we do, the witness of God is _____________, so we are anxious to see what the witness of God is concerning us and His Son. Vs. 10 says that not believing the witness of God causes us to accuse Him of __________. We accept the witness of men — not to accept God’s witness is to put our finger in His face and say, “Father, you are lying.” And what is His witness? See vs. 11. God has given us _______________ ________ and this life is in His __________. What is central as far as having life is concerned? _________ _______ __________. How can I have the Son? John 1:12 If I receive Him, Who do I have? __________________What promise is crucial in John 6:37? If He doesn’t cast me out, what does He do? _____________ __________________ Who has whom? ____________________________ And of what does this assure me? _____________ _________ 1 John 5:11,12. Therefore, 1 John 5:11,12 is the witness that we must believe or else we make God a liar. The purpose of all this is found in vs. 13, which says?
Someone once asked Luther, “Do you feel your sins are forgiven?” He replied, “No, but I’m as sure of it as heaven, for feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving: My faith is in the Word of God, nothing else is worth believing.”
Questions for Review and Discussion
1. Why is it absolutely essential to effective Christian living to know that you have eternal life? Write a statement that will give adequate reason.
2. Write out word for word what the “witness of God” is.
What is the absolutely crucial factor in this witness?
3. There are two kinds of indicators or ways we can know we have eternal life. What are these?
4. Write a statement about the failure of experiential indicators in our lives.
5. What effect will unconfessed sin have in the life of an individual who desires to have assurance?
6. List other things or conditions that could rob an individual of assurance.
7. What effect will “backsliding” have on assurance?
The first thing that is significant in this material is the importance of “knowing” that I have eternal life. Try to understand that a person not having assurance will be a person who will not experience the rest that Jesus promised, and over time, this can lead to much anxiety. Being self-centered does not translate into a healthy Christian life. Christ-centeredness must accompany a healthy Christian life. Only with assurance will I know this life. The matter of my assurance must be settled forever through my ultimate faith in what God says.
There are two basic ways one can experience assurance of salvation. Of course, the new birth is an essential precursor of assurance. It is probably possible for one who has never studied the Bible to generate his own ideas about God and assume that a God of love will never damn anyone. Assurance of salvation assumes that one has experienced the new birth as presented in the “Bridge”. The first are called “experiential” indicators since they relate to our experience. They will vary, depending upon our knowledge and experience in the life. They are simply indicators that may or may not be present during periods of time. The second indicator is more objective and relates to what the Scripture says, and the very nature of Scripture which is unchanging.
We need to emphasize again 1 John 5 which states that we can know we have eternal life. Think through the process that took place when you accepted Christ. “If He didn’t cast you out what did He do?” “Who has whom?” “What does having Him mean?” The witness of God is in 1 John 5:9-13. This is God’s legal witness given to us that we have eternal life.
Feelings are important, but they have little to do with assurance which in a final sense, rests upon the Word of God and nothing else. When all experiential indicators fail, I still have the witness of God, the Scriptures.