Tuesday, May 26, 2015

3 Tests for Assurance of Salvation

"Any questions?" Nah.

We had just finished our counseling session, and I led us in prayer. We praised Him as our Creator and sovereign Lord. We said thanks for the many blessings in our lives, but most especially for salvation in Jesus Christ. We asked for His grace to understand the gospel, to repent of our sins, and to love Him.

"Oh yeah," he said almost immediately after we ended, "I have a question. Can you be 100% sure that you're saved?"

It was a good question. After all, the apostle Peter urged Christians to "make your calling and election sure" (2Pe 1:10).

"Assurance of salvation is definitely taught in the Bible," I answered, "but I don't think it teaches 100%, absolute assurance."

I know of 3 tests we can use to check our calling and election.

Test #1: Grasp of the Gospel

This must be the first and most clear-cut test of our salvation. The apostle Peter said, "there is salvation in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) Salvation is God's free gift to sinful and rebellious humankind. But that free gift is offered only to those who will repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

To pass this test, one doesn't need to understand the nuances of the gospel. Only a basic, but accurate, understanding of salvation in Christ is necessary. A failure at this basic level disqualifies a person from thinking that he or she is saved. A pass means that one needs to move on to the next test.

Test #2: A Responsive Heart

Many people can understand the gospel intellectually, but according to the apostle Paul, only a true, born-again believer can embrace spiritual realities "because they are spiritually discerned." (1Co 2:14) Only a heart that has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit will ever see Christ as a treasure worth giving up everything else for (Mat 13:44-46).

In contrast, the unregenerate soul "loves the world and the things of the world," and "the love of the Father is not in him." (1Jon 2:15)

While test #1 focuses on the objective, verifiable teachings of Scripture, test #2 focuses on the Spirit's inner witness to every true Christian (Rom 8:16).

The problem is, it's so easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that we love God when we really don't. (Cf. Jer 17:9) So passing the 2nd test (at least, according to your own subjective assessment) still isn't enough to gain assurance of salvation.

Test #3: A Credible Life

The Lord Jesus said that "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." (Luk 6:45)

The apostle James wrote, "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." (Jam 2:26).

The reason why the 3rd test is so important is because we sinners are so good at making excuses for ourselves and appearing better than we are. A sinful, self-centered, immoral person can easily acquire a good intellectual grasp of the gospel message. He can even delude himself into thinking that he loves God, when actually he's really in love with a god of his own making. But the 3rd test separates the self-informed from the God-transformed.

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