How to Have True Assurance, Part 1

“How to Have True Assurance” part 1

When I embarked as a high school graduate from Atlanta, Georgia to Florida Bible College, one of my main concerns was to gain the assurance of my salvation. On my parent’s recommendation and sponsorship I planned to get a year of biblical training as a foundation for my future career–whatever that might be. Although I received Christ as my personal Savior at an early age and attended church with my family, I read only little of the Bible. In my middle teen years I lacked a deeper commitment to eternal values.

So off to Bible college I went. The school’s enthusiastic student body, the consistent Christian fellowship, and the effective Bible teaching made a lasting impact on my life. It wasn’t too long before I reaffirmed my faith in Christ’s finished work on the Cross and my allegiance to Him as my Lord. The promises of God’s Word made it clear that I had a solid basis for the assurance of my salvation. Thankfully, this blessed security has supported my growth in grace ever since.

I am often asked if the Bible teaches “once saved, always saved.” And, related questions: Can the child of God loose his or her salvation? What about those who are “backslidden”? Does belief in the eternal security of the born-again Christian tempt a believer to live as they please? Let’s seek a balanced, biblical answer to the question of having true assurance.

1. Consider THE DANGER OF FALSE ASSURANCE. Before exploring the Scriptures about security, we acknowledge that many people who think that they are Christians are not truly saved. This conclusion is based on Christ’s warning in the Sermon on the Mount: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it … Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” (Matt. 7:13-14,22-23). It would be tragic to have FALSE assurance and no salvation!

What is the difference between merely professing faith and really possessing faith? Saving faith opens the heart’s door to the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; Cf. John 1:12). The Holy Spirit’s presence will be evidenced by the believer’s good works and continued faith (James 2:14-19; Col. 3:23). Children of God have His love for their brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 4:7-16). [1]

So, going forward at a meeting, praying a sinner’s prayer, even being water baptized, does not prove someone is converted to Christ. Repentance is the “flip side of the coin” of saving faith in Christ (Acts 17:30). It involves conviction of our guilt before a holy God, our inability to save ourselves, and a cry for mercy to escape hell. There is a cost to following Christ, but it costs more to NOT follow Him! (Luke 9:23,57-62)

Some identify themselves as Christians, but their departure from the faith reveals that they never were born again. As the apostle John put it, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us” (1 John 2:19; Cf. John 3:3).

Let’s not miss this: good works are the FRUIT of salvation, not the ROOT. We are NOT saved by a mixture of faith and works of merit; we are saved by Grace through FAITH plus zero! “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5; Cf. Eph. 2:8,9). We are to fully depend upon Christ for salvation, not ourselves or a church.

In light of this, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize yourselves, that Christ Jesus is in you? –unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:4-5 NIV; Cf. 2 Pet 1:10).

Instead of telling a professing Christian “You are saved!”, you could say, “If you have true faith in the true Jesus, God’s Word assures you of salvation” (John 5:24; Gal. 1:8).

Now let’s study the Scriptural basis for true assurance.

2. Trust in the Scriptural basis for TRUE ASSURANCE. First consider the OBJECTIVE testimony for assurance of the believer’s salvation. This relates to the REALITY of our right standing with God–whether or not we personally feel saved or mentally grasp our security in Christ.

We are told that God’s promises are exceedingly great and precious (2 Pet. 1:4) and they equip us for Christian living (2 Pet. 1:3). Here are some promises for YOU if you are IN CHRIST:

a. Salvation is given to you in this life, not just on Judgment Day: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed [past tense] from death into life” (John 5:24).

b. Christ will never loose you: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).

c. Jesus will never cast you out or lose you: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day” (John 6:37,39).

d. Eternal life is your present possession: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has [present tense] everlasting life” (John 6:47).

e. God is faithful to keep you: “… for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim 1:12).

f. You are spiritually united with Christ Himself: “If [since] then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col 3:1,3-4).

g. You can KNOW that you HAVE eternal life: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).

This episode in Wilbur Chapman’s life demonstrates the importance of objective assurance: “When Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman was a student for the ministry … he heard the famous evangelist D. L. Moody speak. Charmed by Moody’s simple presentation, Chapman followed him from one service to another. Finally he told Moody that he didn’t have the assurance of salvation. Though he was studying for the ministry, one day he was sure that he would be in heaven, then the next day was in despair for he did not know for sure if he were saved. Moody pointed to the verse, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death into life.’ [John 5:24]. Moody asked, ‘Do you believe on the Son?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the young student. ‘Will you come into condemnation?’ ‘That’s just what I don’t know for sure. That’s why I came to see you.’ answered the young man. Then D.L. Moody said in his firm way of dealing with people, ‘See here, young man, whom are you doubting?’ In a flash it dawned on young Chapman that he was doubting none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, whose word is truth and cannot be broken. That was the beginning of better days for young Chapman. He never doubted his salvation from that day on, and became an evangelist known the world over.” [2]

Objective assurance is nothing less than TAKING GOD AT HIS WORD: “In hope [anticipation with joy] of eternal life which God, who CANNOT LIE, promised before time began” (Titus 1:2; Cf. 1 John 5:9).

As the hymn declares,

Standing on the promise of Christ my King, Through eternal ages let His praises ring; Glory in the highest I will shout and sing, Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail, When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail; By the living Word of God I shall prevail, Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord, Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong chord; Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword. Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall, List’ning every moment to the Spirit’s call; Resting in my Savior as my all in all, Standing on the promises of God. [3] So, fellow believer be encouraged that God will never cast you out or lose you. He is the ultimate promise keeper!


vol. 3 #35 November 14, 2003 (revised from August 28, 2000. Part 2 is scheduled for next week.)


[1] For further study on this theme you may consult the Grace notes: “The Nature of Saving Faith” and “Motivations for Choosing God’s Best.”

[2] Leslie Flynn, Come Alive with Illustrations. (Baker), p.115.

[3] Text and music by R. Kelso Carter, “Standing on the Promises”

Grace Notes (c) 2000 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Capital letters in Scripture quotations are for added emphasis.