It is possible for one to be saved, but at the same time
not to have the assurance of his salvation.
One's sins may be blotted out in the blood of Christ so that he
is righteous before God and a legal heir of
that eternal inheritance which God has reserved in the heavens for
His own; while at the same time his
conscience testifies against him and condemns him. One may
yet be the object of God's loving kindness
and tender mercy, yet experience God's wrath and hot displeasure
against his sin. At times the child of God
finds himself on the mountain tops of faith so that the personal
assurance of salvation is strong. But just as
often, if not more often, he finds himself in the spiritual valleys
of doubt and despair where God seems far
away and the matter of personal salvation is brought into question.
Scripture is replete with examples of this. Consider
Adam and Eve in the garden immediately after
the eating of the forbidden fruit. When God appears to them
in the cool of the day they hide themselves
amongst the trees of the garden in fear and trembling. Turn
to the Psalms. The examples abound. Think of
David's cry in Psalm 22:1. "My God, my God, why hast thou
forsaken me?" What of Peter when he denies
the Lord thrice in the courtyard of the palace of the high priest?
He flees out into the darkness of the night,
weeping bitterly. Surely his soul was void of any personal
assurance of salvation. And what of the Apostle
Paul after the appearance of the glorified Christ to him while on
the way to Damascus to persecute the
church? What assurance of salvation fills his soul as he sits
in blindness for three days in the house of
Judas? But Adam, David, Peter, and Paul were all children
of God. They were saved in Christ from all
eternity. Yet at certain moments and periods in their lives,
the assurance of this was as elusive as the
butterfly. And there are many more examples in Holy Writ which
could be added to these.
The personal knowledge and assurance of salvation is of all
things most wonderful and precious.
To have this assurance is to have everything. For the assurance
of salvation will provide one with perfect
comfort in the midst of all the sorrows and miseries of this life.
It will give the sweet peace that passeth all
understanding. It will enable one to overcome any hurdle in
life's path, to dry every tear, and to be
victorious over all his enemies. The man that has the assurance
of salvation is of all men most blessed.
This is easily seen if we understand what the assurance of
It is, first of all, the assurance that our sins are blotted
out in the blood of Christ and that we appear
before the throne of God in white robes, righteous in His sight.
The Lord does not behold iniquity in us.
We are sinless before Him. Therefore, He no longer deals with
us in His consuming and destructive wrath,
but rather in His love and mercy. And in His love He blesses
us with all spiritual blessings of life and
peace. The assurance of salvation is to know and experience
within our heart and soul.
But, in the second place, it is also the assurance of our
eternal and therefore also of our continued
preservation. Salvation is never a temporary thing so that
we can be saved today but lost tomorrow. Once a
child of God, always a child of God. It is impossible to fall
away from God's grace. Small comfort of the
assurance of salvation would afford if sometime in the future it
were possible to fall away. But this is
impossible, because of our salvation is rooted in the eternal decree
of God's election. To look at it from a
different point of view, salvation is the inevitable fruit of election.
In eternity God chose a people unto
Himself in Christ, whom He purposed to bring to full and final salvation.
Upon this people He set His
sovereign, unchangeable love. In this love He sent Christ
to the cross to remove their sin and guilt. In His
love He irresistibly bestows the blessings of the cross upon them
so that they believe on Him, repent and are
converted. And in His unchangeable love, He continues working
in them by His grace so that they can
never fall away, but are preserved alive until the great day of
our Lord Jesus Christ when they shall be
presented without spot and blemish before God in the assembly of
the elect to inherit the new heavens and
the new earth. The personal assurance of salvation, therefore,
is the assurance that I am one of God's elect
whom He not only saves, but will also sovereignly preserve to the
But, in the third place, the assurance of salvation is the
knowledge that all things work together for
our good, i.e., our salvation. Often it appears otherwise.
Often it seems as though many things which befall
us work for our destruction and ruin. There are the innumerable
temptations which the ungodly and the
Devil set before us. There are also sickness and death, poverty
and want, war and strife. We face
frustrations, disappointments, and failures to one degree or another
every day. All these appear as so many
obstacles which impede our progress as we journey to the heavenly
land of promise; obstacles which we
and the God of our salvation must somehow work around if salvation
is to be fully attained. But he who has
the assurance of salvation knows that such is not the case.
He knows, rather, that all of these "obstacles" are
set before him by God, Who sovereignly controls all things.
He knows, further, that God sends these things
upon him in love and to the end of his salvation. All things,
the good but also the bad, are but means in
God's Fatherly hand to save and preserve him to the end. And
so the assurance of salvation is the assurance
that God will avert all evil or turn it to our profit. It
is the knowledge that "All things work together for
good to them that love God, to them who are called according to
His purpose" (cf Romans 8:28).
Small wonder then that the man who possesses the assurance
of salvation is of all men most
blessed. To know that the living God has chosen us to all
eternity, that He has sovereignly saved us in
Christ, that He will preserve us in His love till the day of Christ,
and that He causes all things to work to that
end certainly provides perfect comfort in the midst of all the sufferings
and trials of life.
But how do we attain this blessed assurance?
Like salvation itself, so also the assurance of salvation
is a gift of God. It is a gift of His grace. He
must give us this assurance. But He has called us to live.
If we turn to instances in Holy Writ where the
saints of God lost the personal assurance of salvation, then we
find that their loss of assurance is generally
connected to some sin in which they lived. This is striking.
There is no assurance of salvation when one
walks in the way of sin and darkness. Conversely, the Scriptures
invariably connect this assurance with a
sanctified and godly walk.
In harmony with this, the Canons of Dordt, in speaking of
the assurance of our election and
preservation (which is inseparably connected to the assurance of
salvation), instructs us that this assurance
is to be attained by observing within ourselves "the infallible
fruits of election pointed out in the Word of
God - such as true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow
for sin, a hungering and thirsting after
righteousness, etc." (Cf. l, 12). Also, "from a serious ad
holy desire to preserve a good conscience, and to
perform good works." (Cf. V, 10).
Let us, therefore, strive against and turn away from our
sins, walking in a new and holy life. For in
that way God will most certainly give us the blessed assurance of
our own salvation.