April 18, 2024

Can I Have Assurance of My Salvation If I Regularly Doubt That I’m Saved?

Nathan W. Bingham & Burk Parsons
Can I Have Assurance of My Salvation If I Regularly Doubt That I’m Saved?

When we struggle with the same sin repeatedly, it can lead us to question our relationship with Christ. Today, Burk Parsons outlines several questions we can ask ourselves to consider whether our lives are bearing spiritual fruit.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: We’re joined this week on the Ask Ligonier podcast by Dr. Burk Parsons. He’s the senior pastor at Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida, and also the editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Parsons, if a Christian often doubts that they are saved, can they truly have assurance of their salvation?

DR. BURK PARSONS: That is a good question, and I believe it is a question that many Christians have asked, both younger Christians and older Christians. Because the question is one wherein we are really wrestling with the realities of our own sin.

And when we sin, especially if we are sinning in a regular, routine way, we worry if the Spirit of God is really in us and at work within us. We worry if we are really sanctified by the Spirit of God because if we continue to sin and we continue to struggle with sin, whether it’s the same sin or different sins, they all have the same root and are from the same place. And as we wrestle with sins, and as we struggle with sins, and as we strive to fight against sin, as we strive to run from sin, many Christians find themselves wondering: “Am I really a Christian? Do I really have the Spirit of God within me?”

Now, the question needs to be answered really in twofold way because some Christians, or professing Christians who sometimes doubt their salvation because of ongoing continued sin, do need to question whether or not they’re truly saved. Just take, for instance, someone who is regularly physically abusive towards his or her spouse. And they say that they’re repentant but they never change, they never get help. Someone who is a professing Christian but is regularly not bearing fruit of the Spirit in his or her life. Or someone who is constantly divisive, constantly mean-spirited, angry, not loving, not forgiving, not gracious. Is that person a believer? The Bible gives us the impression that such a person is probably not a believer. And so whatever the sins are that we wrestle with as Christians, there are some professing Christians that do need to question whether or not they really know the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether or not they really do have the Spirit of God within them. They need to seriously take inventory of their lives and of their heart and of their faith to say: “am I really a Christian? Am I truly trusting Jesus Christ alone because my life doesn’t seem to reflect that of Jesus Christ. My life doesn’t seem to reflect the fruit of the Spirit.” And if that is the case, someone should question his salvation.

Dr. Sproul used to deal with this question all the time because one of the biggest problems among Christians is not just a lack of assurance but false assurance. People who come to church regularly think: “I’m good with God. I’m a Christian. You know, I made a profession of faith years ago.” Well, let us see that profession of faith lived out by your fruit and by the works of righteousness. Are you a man or woman growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you growing in your love for your neighbor and for your brother or sister in Christ? Or are you growing in stubbornness and hardheartedness and divisiveness? Are you growing in pride, or are you growing in humility? Because that’s what we see the pattern of the Christian life is to be as true Christians.

And so, there are some people who really should question their salvation, but they need to examine their faith and if their faith is genuinely resting in Jesus Christ, trusting Him not just with a mere intellectual assent but a true trusting with all of life, a fiduciary trust of giving one’s life to Jesus Christ and truly repenting of our sins as the fruit of righteousness.

The second part of this answer that we need to consider is a question for most of us, as we sometimes might doubt. Now, not every Christian doubts. Some Christians doubt far more than others simply because of their internal makeup and their personalities, because of what they’ve experienced in life, even from childhood. They’re more prone to question and doubt and worry and be fearful about their relationship with God, their relationship with Jesus Christ. They’re down on themselves constantly. They too often will just wallow in the mire and shame and guilt of their sin rather than looking at the cross of Christ.

And we need to understand that the Bible addresses this everywhere, not just in the New Testament but throughout the Old Testament. What is true faith? What does it mean to be a true man of God or a true woman of God who truly knows God? It’s not just the outward appearances; it is a broken and contrite heart. It is a heart that truly believes and truly trusts. And when we sin, we repent.

And that’s what John writes in 1 John 2: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin,” because we as Christians, we know we ought to strive against sin, right? We know that God gives us that conviction to fight against sin and to hate sin as He hates sin. But then John writes: “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the world” (1 John 2:1–2).

And that word “propitiation” is a very important word because in that word is found our eternal assurance of our salvation, because when Christ lived and died His sacrificial death on the cross, He actually accomplished something. He accomplished the appeasing and the satisfying and the assuaging of the wrath and condemnation of God against us in Himself. He took God’s wrath for us. And as the New Testament teaches us throughout, Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us, and our sin imputed to Him. And this is all because of the propitiatory work of Jesus Christ in assuaging God’s wrath against us—and not just against us who are currently believers but for the whole world, those who throughout the world come to Jesus Christ and trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.

And so, we can have assurance even when we doubt. I love the passage in Jude 22 where Jude writes, “Be merciful to those who doubt,” or, “Have mercy on those who doubt,” because there will be doubters. Jude knew this, the early church knew this. We see this throughout the New Testament that there will be Christians who will doubt. But what we must do in our doubts and in our struggle against sin, as the author of Hebrews addresses this very same subject in many ways in Hebrews 12, let us not grow weary or faint of heart. Let us look not at our circumstances. Let us look at the cross. Let us not base our assurance on our feelings that are constantly changing. Let us base our assurance on the finished work of Christ. And that’s why John can say in 1 John, “I am writing these things to you who believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

Dear doubting Christian, as you struggle, as we all struggle, no matter how old or young we are in our faith, as we all struggle in our fight against sin, within our hearts and within our flesh, let us never doubt that which God has accomplished, that which God has declared, and that which God has guaranteed through Christ and by the Spirit of God who works within us, both convicting us of our sin, but also comforting us in Jesus Christ.