True Assurance

“Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

- 2 Timothy 4:8

Having a false assurance of salvation—believing that you are in the right with God and yet being outside of the kingdom—is a real problem in our world. It probably would not be an overreach to state that most people go about their lives thinking that all will be OK because they are “good people.” After all, they might surmise, they take care of their families and have never killed anyone, so why would they not be saved?

Although measuring the state of our lives and our good works is one aspect of finding true assurance of salvation, by itself the presence of good works does not prove anything. One does not have to be saved in order to refrain from murder, to love one’s family, or to be a productive citizen. In fact, Paul tells us that although nonbelievers suppress the knowledge of God, they still have the law of God on their consciences and live up to many of its standards in an external fashion (Rom. 2:14–16). That is, external conformity to the law is possible for people who do not know Christ, although nonbelievers cannot do what is fully pleasing to God. This is because apart from grace, people are dead in sin and thus cannot be motivated to do their good works by true love for God (Eph. 2:1–10). If good works are to be in any way evidence that we are truly saved, we must couple them with right doctrine, knowing that believing in the biblical Christ alone saves us (John 3:16). Good works are evidence of the true faith that alone can justify us only if we believe in the Christ revealed in Scripture.

Those who are saved fall into two classes. First, there are those who are truly saved and know that they are saved. They are assured of their salvation because they believe in the biblical Christ and see evidence of that faith in works of service to God and neighbor (James 2:14–26). Yet, personal experience shows us that the combination of right belief and right action does not always give people assurance of salvation. It is possible for someone to be truly saved and yet to believe that he is not saved. Satan accuses us, encouraging us to call into question the state of our salvation, and our sin can make it hard to believe that Christ really loves us and has redeemed us.

So, the second class of saved people consists of those who are saved but have no personal assurance of their salvation. But such Christians do not have to languish forever in uncertainty. They can know that they are truly saved if they have love for the biblical Christ. We will discuss how that factors into assurance in our next study.

Coram Deo

Revelation 12:10 calls Satan “the accuser of our brothers” because he loves to bring up our sin and use it to make us doubt our salvation. The Holy Spirit will convict us of sin, but He does not do so in a way that makes us despair of ever finding assurance. Satan, on the other hand, will try to convince us that true assurance is impossible, so when we hear such a charge, we can know that it comes from the devil, not from the Lord.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 56:9
Galatians 5:6
Ephesians 2:8–10
1 John 4:2–3

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.