by Billy Otten
1 John 5:13 – “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”
The great theme of First John is assurance of salvation. What is assurance of salvation and why is it important?
Assurance of salvation is full confidence that we are indeed saved, we know Jesus, we have eternal life, we are holy and blameless, and we have victory over Satan, sin, and death. There are certainly many differences between salvation and assurance of salvation. Let’s look at two:
1. Salvation, once received, can never be damaged or lost.Assurance of salvation can certainly be damaged and temporarily lost. Many people are confused in this area. Can our sin as Christians damage our salvation? Can we commit mortal sin that causes us to fall away from a state of grace? When we lack clarity on these questions our sin can drive us into confusion and despair. The scriptures emphatically maintain that the only sin that can possibly damage our salvation is the sin of Jesus and the good news is that he is totally without sin. Our own sin cannot damage our salvation because our salvation depends totally on the work of Christ. Yet sin does seem to negatively affect us. This is because sin damages our awareness of and assurance of our salvation. Sin causes us to take our eyes off Jesus. We lose sight of our salvation and begin to doubt that we truly have any hope or any forgiveness of sins. Our salvation remains intact, but our awareness of it is damaged.
2. Salvation is given once for all but assurance of salvation is often received over a period of time.Once we place our faith in Christ we are truly saved, but many Christians have to diligently strive and seek after full confidence by using the means of grace faithfully (God’s word, prayer, and sacrament).
Assurance of salvation is important because it produces joy. When we are fully convinced that we are saved and all the promises of God belong to us we are filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy. When we are filled with joy we truly have the resources for obedience. We are filled with genuine love for God and neighbor. This joy causes us to flee from sin and to be fruitful in the world.
So what should you do when you find yourself tangled up in sin as a Christian? First confess your sin. Confess sinful behavior, thinking, and desiring. Recognize the wickedness of sin. Confess to God and to a brother or sister in Christ. We do not do this to receive absolution or to return to a state of grace. We do this to be reminded that all of our sins are forgiven and to return to an awareness of grace.
Next flee from temptation. Remove yourself from tempting situations and remove tempting things from your life. Because you are truly saved these things will only confuse you and distract you by making provision for behavior that is totally out of character.
Finally return to the means of grace – the word, prayer, and the sacraments – to be reminded and restored to an awareness of grace.
Assurance of salvation is a great gift from God. As Christians we must understand that our salvation itself is totally out of our reach to harm it in any way. We must diligently seek after assurance of this salvation by hearing God’s word, praying, and celebrating the sacraments. We must also help others reach assurance of salvation by preaching the gospel, reading the scriptures with them, and praying with them.