In these bulletin articles, we’ve been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. We’ve previously learnt that a Christian cannot fall away from faith. But can Christians have assurance that they are saved?
The Bible teaches that those who truly believe in Christ and who endeavor to walk in all good conscience before him may be assured that they are saved.
The apostle John teaches about such assurance in one of his letters. He tells his readers that one of the purposes of his letter was so that they would know that they are saved. We read: ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life’ (1 John 5:13).
But how do Christians know that they are saved? Do they need an extraordinary revelation from God? For example, Jesus audibly told the thief on the cross that he was saved. Do Christians need something similar to be assured of their salvation?
No. The Bible teaches us that there are a number of ways a Christian can be assured of their salvation, apart from extraordinary revelation from God.
Firstly the Holy Spirit can give assurance to our spirits that we are saved. The apostle Paul says: ‘The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children’ (Romans 8:16).
Secondly, the Spirit helps Christians to see the grace of God in their lives. The apostle John writes: ‘14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us’ (1 John 3:14-24).
Notice what John strongly emphasises: Love for others assures Christians that they are saved. If you don’t love other people, you cannot be a child of God.
So do you trust in Christ and have assurance from the Holy Spirit that you are saved?