Assurance of Faith
We all long for certainty. We want our perception of life—of ourselves and our circumstances—to be accurate. The five-year old wondering what’s inside his Christmas presents and the pregnant mother wondering the gender of her baby both desire the same thing—assurance of reality.
This longing for certainty afflicts many believers who ask an honest question: “Am I really saved?” Many believers, even those who have professed Christ for years, struggle with having total assurance of their salvation. Though they may openly agree that salvation is found by grace through faith in Jesus alone, they still feel an unspoken uneasiness behind closed doors. The promises of the doctrines of grace are often drowned out by the chilling waves of human doubt.
Sovereignly, God gave us the book of 1 John to address our lingering reservations about our faith in Christ. According to the Apostle John, he wrote this pivotal letter “to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). In other words, the epistle was written to give believers certainty in their salvation. By examining one’s life against the backdrop of John’s various litmus tests, Christians can have confidence in their eternal state.
First John’s roadmap to assurance can be depicted as the ABC’s of Christian assurance. If your life is characteristically marked by these three attributes, then John is saying that you should have assurance of eternal life:
A – Affection
Firstly, saving faith manifests itself in genuine love for God and other people: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7-8). Because God is the source of love, true believers will be marked by love for others, and especially for fellow Christians in the church. A person who has genuinely experienced God’s love will inevitably seek to love others selflessly and sacrificially. Biblical love is tangible and practical.
Secondly, saving faith manifests itself in a proper understanding of Jesus’ identity: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22-23). Jesus is the Christ; He is the Messiah King prophesied throughout the Old Testament who incarnated in order to pay for the sins of the world (John 3:16). According to the Apostle John, having a proper understanding of Jesus as the Christ—and consequently, as the Son of God—is the doctrinal truth which undergirds salvation certainty. True believers have a confident answer to Jesus’ question to Peter in Mark 8:29: “But who do you say that I am?”
C – Conduct
Thirdly, saving faith manifests itself in a holy lifestyle: “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:6-7). As God is light (holy), true believers will pursue holiness. Though saints will struggle with sin, the genuine believer is marked by a progressive striving towards obedience to God’s commands (1 Jn 2:15-16). Christians who have been spiritually united with Christ will inevitably look and live like Christ.
Ultimately, we know that eternal life is received as a free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8-9). However, saving faith will tangibly influence a believer’s life and lifestyle. If you are marked by these three characteristics—a sacrificial love for the church community, an accurate understanding of Christ’s Messianic deity, and an active pursuit of godliness—the Apostle John wants you to have assurance of your salvation. And this blessed assurance is very much necessary. For it is confidence in our eternal life which motivates joy and urgency in our present life.