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IS ASSURANCE OF SALVATION POSSIBLE?

[Or, IS MY SALVATION IN MY HANDS OR GOD’S?]

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020

The certainty of salvation is not a theoretical question to be discussed in a vacuum; it has to do with who God is and what God has said he has accomplished in and through the death of Jesus Christ. Any understanding of salvation that puts it in our hands, depending on our spirituality, righteousness, etc, reduces salvation and robs us of the joy and peace God wants us to have in his Son.

The Biblical images of salvation fix it firmly in the hands of God. They are images that shout out a security and confidence as certain as God himself.

A. SALVATION AS ‘ETERNAL LIFE’

The concept of ‘eternal life’ assumes continuity. ‘Eternal life’ cannot come to an end – it is life beyond and outside of the boundaries of time. It stands in stark contrast to our physical life that is temporary and limited.

A.1 Eternal life is inseparable from Jesus Christ
How do the verses below teach that Jesus Christ is eternal life, and that to have him, to know him, is to have eternal life?
John 17:3

1John 1:2

1John 5:11,12

1John 5:20

A.2 Eternal life is the ‘gift’ of God
In giving us himself in his Son, God, at the same time, give us ‘eternal life’. It is his gift – not something earned, deserved or merited; because it is a free gift it is not dependent on our merit.

What do these verses say about eternal life as a gift?
John 10:28

John 17:2

Romans 6:23

1John 5:11

Jude 21

A.3 Eternal life exists only in a faith relationship with Jesus Christ
We must not understand this ‘result’ as a ‘reward’ for doing the right thing, but as the inevitable and automatic impact/outcome of believing in Jesus Christ. If one believes that Jesus Christ is the one true God, one automatically has eternal life – because eternal life and Jesus Christ cannot be separated.

Describe the necessity of faith in these verses.
John 3:16

John 3:36

John 4.14

John 5:24

John 6:40

John 6:47

John 6:50

A.4 Eternal life is made possible by the grace and righteousness of Christ
[That is, it is not a reward for our own righteousness, and is therefore secure; more on this in the following sections.]

Check these two verses for the relationship between grace and eternal life.
Romans 5:21

Titus 3:7

B. SALVATION AS GOD’S GIFT – THE PERSPECTIVE OF GRACE

As we have seen already in relation to eternal life – salvation is a gift of God: it is sheer grace, independent of any merit on our part, totally free. Because salvation is God’s gift, unrelated to any merit or performance or law-keeping of ours, it is guaranteed, as Romans 4:16 tells us. It is super-abundant, more than enough to cover all of our sins. Salvation is no measly thing that can be threatened or undermined – it is great beyond measure. As Ephesians 1:8 tells us, God ‘lavished’ his grace upon us ‘with all wisdom and understanding’ – in other words- he knew and understood how incapable we are to save ourselves, how incapable we are of keeping ourselves saved, so he gave us a salvation that depended on him – an absolute and incomparable gift. We did nothing to get it and nothing we do can take it away.

What do these verses teach about the role of grace in salvation?
John 3:16

Romans 3:24

Romans 4:16

Romans 5:2

Romans 5:15-17

Romans 5:21

Ephesians 1:7,8

Ephesians 2:5-9

Titus 2:11

Titus 3:7

Hebrews 4:16

C. SALVATION AS ‘JUSTIFICATION’ OR ‘RIGHTEOUSNESS’

Bound to this concept of salvation as a gift of God’s grace is the concept of salvation as ‘righteousness’ or ‘justification’.

The two words ‘justification’ and ‘righteousness’ translate the same Greek word, which refers to the declaration of legal acquittal. In terms of the Gospel, God justifies, or declares in the right, the ungodly – he acquits us of guilt. Salvation understood in these legal terms means that, even though I actually am guilty, God, because of the Christ’s death for my sin, acquits me – justifies me, declares me not guilty, credits me with the legal righteousness of Christ. My salvation thus depends wholly on this amazing act of God in Christ. It is therefore secure – unrelated and undetermined by my personal ability or inability to be ‘right with God’. My perceived personal righteousness does not gain or maintain my salvation, nor can my real personal unrighteousness lose my salvation. My salvation is out of my hands – it is in God’s hands, who credits to my account the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

What do these verses teach about gospel justification/righteousness?
Romans 1:17

Romans 3:20-24

Romans 3:28

Romans 4:3-6

Romans 4:23-25

Romans 5:1

Romans 5:9

Galatians 2:15-16

Galatians 2:21

Galatians 3:11

Philippians 3:9

Hebrews 11:7

D. SALVATION AS THE RESULT OF GOD’S ACTION

The Bible also teaches that I am saved because God saved me – not just that he sent his Son to die for my sins, but that he called me, he opened my eyes and ripped away my blindness, he shone his light into my darkness, he drew me to himself, took me out of the dominion of darkness and put me in the kingdom of his Son.

How do these verses describe God’s active involvement in my salvation?
Matthew 11:27

John 6:37

John 6:44

John 10:29

John 15:16

Romans 5:6

Romans 5:8

Romans 5:10

2Corinthians 4:6

Ephesians 1:11

Ephesians 2:4,5

Colossians 1:13

E. SALVATION AS FORGIVENESS

Many Christians have the idea that forgiveness is something that is on-again/off-again, depending on whether we have confessed our current sins in an itemized list to God. Such a concept is foreign to the Scriptures, and seriously minimizes the effect of the death of Jesus Christ for our sins.

There are two Greek words translated by the one English word ‘forgive’:

aphiemi I take away – meaning that our sins have been taken out of the way; they do not, and cannot, create a barrier between us and God ever again.
charizomaiI bestow an unconditional favour (l grace over). Instead of treating our sins in the way they deserve, God has ‘graced over’ our sins.

In addition, ‘forgiveness’ is something the Bible says the believer has. It is the present personal possession of all who believe in Jesus Christ [Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14].

Forgiveness is:

God setting us free – removing the barrier between us and God (Leviticus 25; Matthew 27:51).
God covering over our sins (Psalm 32:1).
God cleansing us from our sin [that is he wipes our slate clean] (Psalm 51:1, 21; John 1:9).
God hiding his face from our sins (Psalm 51:9).
God removing my sins as far from me as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
God tossing our sins behind his back (Isaiah 38:17).
God throwing my sins in the depths of the sea Micah 7:19
God stamping my sins under his foot (Micah 7:19)
God gracing over my sins (Colossians 2:13)
God cancelling the debt of my sins (Colossians 2:14; see also Matthew 18:22ff).
God nailing my sins to the cross of Christ (Colossians 2:14).

All of these images speak of a comprehensive, permanently effectively forgiveness in which our whole relationship with God has been changed forever. Forgiveness means that sin and sins have been taken out of the way, never again to have the power to come between me and God. They have all been laid on Jesus Christ; they have all been paid for completely by Jesus Christ. It’s a completed thing – a once for all thing, as Hebrews emphasizes. Those who have received Jesus Christ have also received forgiveness. It cannot be undone. God chose to forgive us because of his Son – while we were still sinners. He continues to forgive us because of his Son – now that we are his children and, at the same time, still sinners. At every moment, every nano-second, of our lives we are sinners who, by the grace of God in Christ, have forgiveness. There is never even a moment when this is not true.