1 John 5:13
Remember when we talked a couple of days ago about repentance? I mentioned the controversy started by some teachers/preachers who taught that it’s possible for someone to believe in Jesus as their Savior and yet reject him as their Lord. Let’s talk a little more about that today, because it affects the aspect of soteriology we’re going to discuss, namely assurance of salvation.
How do you know that you’re saved, that you’re really going to heaven? You might say, “I walked down an aisle, said a prayer with someone, and I even got baptized. Isn’t that enough to know that I’m ‘in’?” Um, no. This is why I tried to emphasize before that it’s not the prayer that saves you, it’s the faith in Christ that saves you. That prayer, at best, is an official way to declare in your own mind and before all the earthly and spiritual witnesses around you as to what you’re doing, and it helps for you to understand exactly what’s happening. Those words are not some magical incantation that you have to get exactly right.
Let’s be clear here, like the Bible is: You're saved by grace through faith in Christ plus nothing. But how do you know that this faith is genuine? How do you know that you weren’t fooling yourself (and everyone else around you)?
That’s what we mean by the term assurance of salvation, and that’s where the controversy I mentioned comes in. Advocates of what they call “Free Grace” position (which claims that you don’t need repentance) say that all that’s needed is an acknowledgement of certain facts about Christ: He died for your sins, he rose from the dead, etc. Advocates of “Lordship Salvation” (like me) claim that there are some other criteria that need to be met. If not, then the Bible offers you no assurance.
The book of 1 John, like his Gospel, has an explicit purpose stated right there for you: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Yes, there are other issues, like Gnosticism (don’t worry about it if you aren’t familiar with it), but that’s his openly stated goal for this book. He wrote this so that genuine believers would know that they have eternal life. And as you read the rest of his letter, it's obvious that the converse is true as well: He wants to warn people who've fooled themselves to turn away from false assurance. He has three tests for you to take so that you can know that you’re actually a redeemed child of God.
First, there are right beliefs. Yes, that is necessary. Yes, we have a personal relationship with Christ, but that does include knowing certain things about him. For example, John says that we need to understand that Jesus came into the flesh from the Father. We also need to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Second, there’s the right love. In fact, this is the test that he harps on the most in his letter. It's impossible for you to belong to God and hate your brothers in Christ. You have to love your siblings in Christ, and you need to demonstrate it through practical service. If you don’t, no assurance.
The third is the right lifestyle. I tell you what, let’s get into that tomorrow, since that’s something that needs some time to do it any justice. I think we’ve gone into enough for us to absorb today, right?
Father, I believe that I belong to you. You’ve claimed me as your child, and I thank you. I want to show that, please.