The one who has the Son has life; the one who does not have the Son of God has no life. These things I have written to you so that you will know that you have everlasting life; you who believe in the name of the Son of God -MGV
‘These things’, I am convinced, refers to the entire letter of 1 John. Thus, this statement gives us John’s intent in writing this letter, and is central to understanding this book as a whole.
So let us consider the pastoral impetus of John’s letter: that we may be assured that we are indeed saved. For the most part, I have attempted to focus on application in these devotionals rather than on theology, but this week, I must say a few words about the concept of assurance.
Now, against popular opinion, the rejection of the doctrine of eternal security is not a distinctive of Arminianism. Indeed, here at SEA, we do not take an official stance on the subject. However, it is true that many Arminians, if not most, do reject it, and I am one of those. I reject it because of passages like these. The doctrine of eternal security goes against the entire point of I John.
According to this doctrine, we can be assured that if we possess eternal life then we cannot lose it. However, what we cannot be assured of is whether or not we possess it, for the apostate were those who were merely fooled into thinking that they possessed eternal life.
But John is not concerned about us being assured of the indelibility of our salvation. Instead, he is saying that we need to be assured of where we currently are; that we indeed currently have salvaiton! This is essential to the entire epistle whose whole point is assuring its readers that the salvation that they entered into is real.
This is caught up in the Greek with ‘eidete’, perfect form of ‘oida’, which means “I know”. The perfect tense means that something that has happened in the past was completed, and thus continues to have relevance into the present. Here, it is the knowledge of our salvation. It is our knowledge that was completed. This is not true in eternal security, where the knowledge of our salvation is not complete until after we pass from this world. Yet, to John, this knowledge was complete, and it is supposed to continue till now, as he encourages his listeners to be confident in what they have believed.
To this end, he does not refer to the eternal decrees of God, nor does he refer to the indestructibility of God’s election. Instead, he refers to the reliability of Jesus Christ Himself, and the power in His life. Those who have the Son are truly saved, and thus it is in Christ, not in eternal election, that we are to receive our confidence. We know that we are in Christ if we see Christ in our lives, working through our bodies, minds and hearts. Thus, as we look to the promise of God to give eternal life to those who believe, and we see that we do indeed believe, then we can be confident that eternal life is ours.
It is for confidence that we have assurance, as John discusses elsewhere. This confidence gives us the power to act boldly and unafraid, for we know where we are going, and we are confidence that Christ is reliable, trustworthy; that the eternal life that we feel and believe in is no lie.
Therefore, consider the relevance of what you believe. Are you sure that you are saved? You should be, for that confidence is a promise of God. If you are not, then you better seek out that assurance, for God is reliable and good to those who believe in the name of the Son of God. To Him be all glory, honor and praise, Amen.