The Bible makes it clear that we can have the assurance of our salvation. For example, Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (ESV). John 20:31 says, “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (ESV). 1 John 5:11-13 says, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (ESV). These verses clearly show that we may know that we have eternal life in Jesus Christ.
So why do we often feel like we are not saved? We must realize that we are not to be led by how we feel, for our heart can deceive us (Jeremiah 17:9). Is it any wonder that John the apostle wrote, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20 ESV). Our heart is often so attached to this world (1 John 2:15-17) and we must learn to resist it and its feelings (Romans 12:1-2). Feelings, like the wind and rain, come and go so easily, but the Word of God remains forever (1 Peter 1:22-25).
Assurance of Salvation in Calvinism
Calvinism teaches us that God has predestined some to salvation. The elected ones are the truly saved (Matthew 7:21-23); therefore those who truly are the elect of God will endure to the end (Matthew 24:13). Those who fail to endure reveal that they were not truly regenerated by the Spirit or may be under the Lord’s discipline (Hebrews 12:5-11). God keeps those whom He loves (John 10:27-30; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24-25).
But the tough question about Calvinism and assurance of salvation is: How do I know that I am elect? By perseverance in holiness? By perseverance in faith? By perseverance in obedience? And if I do fall into continued sinning, does this mean that I was never part of the elect to begin with? So how can I truly know that I am part of the elect without feeling like I am not doing enough to prove that I am part of the elect?
Assurance of Salvation In Arminianism
Arminianism teaches that the elect are those who have faith in Jesus (Titus 1:1-2). The elect are not chosen simply by arbitrary means but God gave His Son to show His love for humanity (John 3:16) and thus all men are capable of being the elect (1 Timothy 4:10). By being baptized into Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), the believer becomes a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the Holy Spirit gives us the assurance of our adoption (Ephesians 1:13-14). By persevering in faith we demonstrate our election (2 Peter 1:10).
But what about sinning? Does sin rob us of our assurance? I believe that it does (Isaiah 59:2) [ed. note: the author appears to mean that it does when a professing believer clings to a sin and stubbornly refuses to repent, i.e., lives in sin]. Sin grieves the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). By continuing to live in sin, the believer demonstrates a lack of faith in Jesus’ cross (Hebrews 10:19-39). Sin is nothing more than disobedience to God (1 John 3:4) and thus continued sin and disobedience only leads to death (James 1:12-13). The one who practices righteousness is righteous (1 John 3:6-10) and keeps His commandments (1 John 5:1-5).
So can the Arminian know that they are saved apart from perfection (Matthew 5:48; 2 Corinthians 7:1)? Yes! Simply by continued faith in Jesus. The Spirit will convict us of sin (John 16:8) and we must repent of our sins through Christ (1 John 1:9). We must pray and ask God to help us to be more like His Son (Ephesians 5:1) who is our example (1 John 2:6).
So Can You Be Sure?
Whether you are a Calvinist or an Arminian, you can be sure of your salvation. According to the Word we can know that we have eternal life because:
We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23-24).
Jesus’ blood washes away all our sins (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 10:10,14).
Jesus is our Mediator (Hebrews 4:14-16; 9:14).
The grace of God teaches us to say no to sin (Titus 2:11-14).
We love the brethren (1 John 3:11-18).
We seek to faithfully obey God’s commands (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6; 5:2-3).
We repent of our sins when convicted by the Holy Spirit (Proverbs 20:9; 1 John 1:9).
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