For the next several blogs I will be posting excerpts from my book, Assurance of Heaven; God’s Promise to Anyone Who Believes the Gospel. In some posts I may add some additional comments to the chapter excerpt. The following excerpt is from the introduction which frames the purpose for the book.
“Do you lack assurance of salvation? Are you one
hundred percent sure you will go to heaven? Many believers do not have this
assurance for a number of reasons. Some begin to doubt God’s word after they
are saved. Others may be ignorant of their position as a child of God, due to a
lack of personal study. Many begin to
question their salvation because they are subtly taught to look at their
performance. Often teachers confuse
passages that speak to Christian living [walking by faith] with those that
address deliverance from sin’s penalty [hell].
you can listen to a variety of teachers on radio and television. Some stations
broadcast Christian teaching around the clock. The internet adds to this
dimension of Christian broadcasting, also. But because a person is popular
doesn’t mean that all of their teachings are correct. Most of those who preach
via modern day media do so because they are financed by people who agree with
their doctrine. Study Bibles and commentaries add to the confusion as well.
These things deceived me for a time along the way.
If you are not grounded in the gospel, you may be misled. Wrong teaching concerning the gospel will cause you to lack assurance of heaven; something that God wants you to have (John 6:47; I John 5:13). There are those who teach you can lose your salvation. Others believe that baptism is necessary. Still, others think that religious sacraments are needed to get to heaven. Confusion about salvation abounds in the church, and it usually affects most everyone at some point. Many teach that you won’t go to heaven if you don’t persevere. I bought into that without even realizing what it actually meant. In addition, you may be told that a “true” believer will produce good works and be committed to serving the Lord. All this stuff was making me doubt. Had I done enough? Was I good enough? Eventually, I realized there was something askew.”
Perseverance in anything is not
automatic. It certainly does not come automatically in the Christian faith.
That’s why there are so many instructions in the Bible about persevering in
trials, enduing difficulties, being patient in suffering, running the race, and
abiding in Christ. Assurance is not gained by persevering. Persevering in
trials by faith is often the result of having assurance. It’s the result of
knowing that in Christ I am totally accepted by God (Eph. 1:6).
A lack of assurance is often caused by a misunderstanding of one’s position in Christ. When a person trusts in Christ to save them, he or she receives everlasting life. They have passed from death to life (John 5:24). The very perfect righteousness of Christ is credited to the sinner (II Cor. 5:21). The Holy Spirit immediately seals the believer until the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30). The new believer belongs to God. He has become a child of God (John 1:12). And he or she is kept safe in their new position in Christ (I Peter 1:5; John 10:28). Even a lack of perseverance in faith cannot affect their position as a child of God. Lot, Saul, Solomon, and Demas are examples of saved men who failed to persevere.
Assurance and perseverance are both rooted in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although you can suck it up and persevere in the old nature (even unbelievers persevere some immense difficulties), Biblical perseverance is a result of dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit for the strength to endure in faith. It’s not a result of you or me trying to do something for God. If you or I are anxious or fearful or bitter about life’s circumstance, we may be persevering, but we are not persevering in faith. Persevering in faith comes by resting in Him and His word, trusting Him in the moments of time and the circumstances of life. It’s resting in the Lord, trusting in Him for the outcome. It’s learning to be content in whatever state I am (Phil. 4:11). Therefore, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).
A person who believes the gospel is immediately delivered from the penalty of sin. He is justified by faith; declared righteous in his positional standing with God. But justification never guarantees that a believer will persevere to the end of life in faith and good works. People teach that; the Bible doesn’t.
The Bible does encourage believers to
persevere so that they won’t be barren and unfruitful (II Peter 1:5-8). The
writer of Hebrews encouraged them to “not cast away your confidence which has
great reward” (Heb. 10:35). They needed to endure the trial which would result
in a great reward.
Reward is distinct from a gift. Everlasting life is a gift (Rom 3:23). A gift is not earned. It is freely offered with no strings attached. If there are qualifiers to a gift, it is no longer a gift but an exchange. For example, if I gave you a car and in return required you to give me a ride whenever I need it, the car would not be a gift but an exchange for a service. Gifts cost nothing. However, reward is earned by faithfully following the Lord. Reward is only possible for believers. Unbelievers cannot earn reward because they do not have a relationship with God.
The Hebrew Christians already had “an enduring possession in heaven” that could not be lost (Heb. 10:34). They needed to hang in there to receive a great reward. It would glorify God and be good for them. Since they were already citizens of heaven, they were not being encouraged to persevere so they would go to heaven.
Everlasting life is not a reward for faithfulness.
It’s a gift offered freely by God to anyone who believes the gospel. It’s
received by faith and last forever. If everlasting life could be taken away, it
wouldn’t be everlasting, would it? It would be temporary until you did
something that caused God to remove it. And it also wouldn’t be a gift then, if
it could be taken away.
As Christians we should encourage one another to hang in there. Life is difficult. God allows trials in our life. We can never grow to spiritual maturity if we give up and quit. You and I can never lose everlasting life, but in the end we will have failed to glorify God if we fail to persevere in the trials of life by faith.
Many well-meaning teachers proclaim that a true believer will persevere in faith and good works to the end of life. But if one must persevere in faith and good works, then it would be impossible to know that we will end up in heaven. You could never know until the day you died, if you did enough or was faithful enough. And that violates Scripture that tells us we can know (I John 5:13).
teaching often comes from incorrectly understanding the distinction between
justification and sanctification. A
person who understands the gospel and believes it is saved immediately from the
penalty of sin (Eternal separation from God). Their destiny has changed. They
are now destined for heaven. Justification occurs in the court room of God
where He pronounces a guilty sinner not guilty. Once you’re saved you can never
perish, and no one can snatch you out of God’s hand (John 10:28).
numerous examples of people in the Bible who believed and were saved immediately.
Someone heard the gospel, they believed it, and they immediately became a citizen
of heaven. The Philippian jailer is one example (Acts 16:30, 31). Cornelius, a Gentile, is another example
(Acts 10:34-48). At the preaching of Peter, “The Lord added to the church daily
those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
Sanctification requires perseverance; not justification. If one is to grow spiritually, it will require perseverance. Believers should persevere and not give up. But that is different for every believer. And there are consequences for failing to persevere in faith and good works. But a lack of perseverance will never prevent a born again believer from entering into God’s presence. Learn to discern the distinction and rest completely in the assurance of your salvation by faith alone in Christ alone!
In the last post Abel was identified as the very first prophet. He prophesied of a coming Messiah (Christ) that would die for sin and rise from the dead. The purpose was to fulfill God’s promise to Adam and Eve of a Deliverer who would crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3).
immediately taught Adam and Eve that an innocent victim would have to die for
the guilty. That was a consequence of disobedience, often referred to as sin. The result of Adam’s sin was death. Death in
the Bible refers to separation. In Adam and Eve’s case, they immediately experienced
relational death with God. Their disobedience resulted in fear, guilt, and
shame causing them to hide from Him. They had lost their relationship with God.
They were no longer righteous in their standing with Him.
But God in His infinite mercy and grace came looking for them. They had sewn fig leaves together to cover themselves. It was the works of their hands. But God offered to them skins of an animal, picturing a future substitutionary sacrificial Victim. The ultimate substitutionary Victim would be the Lord Jesus Christ, the sinless Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). It would be His work on their behalf because He is the only acceptable covering – His robe of righteousness (Is. 61:10).
the beginning of time could be restored to fellowship with God by faith in His provision.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus), that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
In the third chapter of Assurance of Heaven, I demonstrate from Scripture how simple God made it to be restored to fellowship with Himself. Its people that make it complicated and convoluted by adding to the gospel. In following posts we’ll look at some wrong gospels that cause Christians to lack assurance.
The very first prophet mentioned in the Bible was Abel the son of our first parents, Adam and Eve (Luke 11:50, 51). And according to the same writer, Luke, all the prophets foretold of the future suffering of the Messiah [Christ] (Acts 3:18). In a conversation with King Agrippa, the apostle Paul said that he testified of the same things that the prophets foretold. The prophets said that the Christ would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead (Acts 26:23).
It seems as though the Old Testament saints knew more than we give them credit. The grace of our God was there communicating the truth of restoration and salvation from the very beginning. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The Old Testament saints look forward by faith to the coming of the Christ, understanding that He would die for sin and rise again. New Testament saints look backward to the death and resurrection of Christ by faith. Salvation is the same for all people. It’s always been by God’s grace through faith in the substitutionary sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Many are subtly taught that you must be good to go to heaven. Assurance of Heaven shows how incorrect Biblical teaching causes people to doubt their salvation because they are trusting in their performance rather than in Christ.
Must one persevere to the end to be saved?
Can a true believer fall away?
Can one fail miserably and still go to heaven?
How many good works are necessary?
Assurance of Heaven makes the Biblical gospel clear so as a believer you can know you have everlasting life.
The author, George Mains, has served in church leadership for over 35 years. Currently he serves as an elder, teacher, and usher at Calvary Baptist Church in Irwin, PA. He and his wife, Carol, have two sons and seven grandkids.
The book is available through Xulon Press, on Amazon, and in local bookstores.