In the next few weeks in our Wednesday evening Bible study, we are spending some time dealing with the issue of assurance of salvation as found in the epistle of 1 John. This is a very important doctrine and one that is quite controversial among various “Christian” groups. The issue centers on one of the core doctrines that makes Baptists different from many others. We have always taught that once a person receives Christ as Saviour, he is eternally secure in his faith. Some have described this as the “once saved always saved” doctrine, which is a true description yet does not do justice to the whole story.
Most of the time the emphasis is placed on the last part “always saved” rather than the first part “once saved.” The epistle of 1 John deals with both parts but with strong emphasis on the former part of the statement rather than the latter. We must be sure that we are “once saved,” and John proposes various tests to prove we are “once saved.” When this part has been convincingly discovered, only then can we begin to seek assurance in the doctrine “always saved.”
The method John uses to approach this problem lies on two fronts. He argues against those that are convinced they are saved with no real evidence as proof, while at the same time using evidence as a means of assuring our hearts before God (3:19). Since lack of assurance is a common problem among Christians, it stands to reason there are barriers in the way of assurance. We discussed some of these on Wednesday night and I believe they are important enough to repeat here for those that did not attend.
We discussed three pitfalls in the way of assurance: God’s presence, God’s perfection, and God’s punishment. God’s presence is His watchful eye over every moment of our lives. In scripture, those that were aware of God’s presence were often traumatized by it. Every person should fear God as the omnipotent Creator who holds life and death in His hands. God’s perfection refers to His insistence of strict obedience to His commands. God’s law contains no basis for forgiveness. Every transgression has a just recompense of reward (Heb. 2:1-4). This leads to fear of God’s punishment. The scripture says “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
These are legitimate barriers that stand in the way of assurance. It is a foolish person that does not rightfully understand nor carefully consider each of these. How are these barriers overcome? Truthfully, they are hurdles far too high for anyone to surmount; and yet assurance of salvation is dependent upon crossing these barriers. If you are the least bit curious to understand the answer to these problems, I encourage you to come to the Wednesday evening Bible study. Complacency concerning these pitfalls is one marker that you are in the group of those convinced of salvation with no real evidence as proof.
Pastor V. Mark Smith