Many people struggle with assurance that they are secure in Christ’s salvation.
There are many reasons why that may be (Don Whitney has an excellent chapter detailing some of those reasons in How Can I Be Sure I’m a Christian?). But as we near the end of our study of 1 John, there is one sure thing to know about our assurance — God wants us to know we are saved. In numerous places throughout the book, John has pointed to the reality of the believer’s salvation:
- but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him (2:5)
- I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. (2:13)
- But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. (2:20-21)
- Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. (3:2)
- We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. (3:14)
- We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him (3:19)
- The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (3:24)
- You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (4:4)
- By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. (4:13)
- By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. (5:2)
- We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. (5:18)
So as John reaches the end of his first epistle, his thesis statement for the book might have been anticipated by the astute reader: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13). You can know that you have been saved and redeemed by God. In fact, in the following verses, John demonstrates that not only can the believer be confident of his salvation, but because he has been saved, he can also be confident that the Lord hears his prayers (v. 14), the Lord answers his prayers (v. 15), the Lord regenerates believers by giving them new life (v. 18), and He gives understanding to believers so they can know Him (v. 20). The believer should be confident and sure of all these realities.
But on what basis is the believer secure? Are we secure and kept in our salvation because of our obedience to God? Can we be sure only when we follow God’s commands? No. As John states in 5:13, the basis of the believer’s salvation is the work of the eternal God-Man, Jesus Christ. So John says that (only) those who believe in the name of the Son of God can be confident in their salvation. That is, the believer believes in the reality of who Jesus Christ was as the eternal Son of God — we believe in all that He is and all He has done. And throughout the book, John has been reminding his readers of the wonderous work of the infinite Christ:
- The blood of Christ is what cleanses men from sin — 1:7, 9
- He is the Advocate before God for the believer — 2:1; 5:14-15
- He is righteous — 2:1; 3:7
- He is the propitiation for sin — 2:2; 4:10
- He forgives for the sake of His name — 2:12
- He appeared to take away sin — 3:5
- He appeared to destroy the works of the devil — 3:8
- He laid down His life for us — 3:16
- He is coming again — 2:28; 3:2
- He is the source of eternal life — 5:11
John’s point is clear — the believer is sure of his salvation not on the basis of what he does to keep himself in Christ. The believer is sure of his salvation because of Christ’s work to redeem and keep those whom the Father gave to Him (Jn. 6:37-40).
Are you sure of your salvation? If not, is it possible that your uncertainty is because you are not really trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross (Jn. 19:30)? If you are sure, give thanks for the Savior who saved and keeps you.