Assurance of salvation is plainly taught in Scripture. God declares that we can have full confidence and bold assurance when we are in Christ.1
Consider the following texts: “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you’” (Isa. 35:4).2 “Dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28). “This is how love is made complete among us so we will have confidence on the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17).
The apostle Paul underlines that when we are in Christ, we are His, and no one can stand against or separate the believers from the love of God: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1; see also verses 31-39; Eph. 2:4-7).
The apostle John proclaims: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 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 5:12, 13; see also John 1:12; 3:16, 17, 36; 5:24; 6:47; 10:28, 29; Rom. 5:1-5; Eph. 2:1-14; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:1; 3:1).
Some Christians have little or no assurance of salvation. They tend to experience internal struggles, doubts, frustrations, and fears. Others have too much assurance, sleeping on the pillow of self-assurance and self-deception.3 What is the balance?
Socrates famously asserted, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”4 The apostle Paul encouraged healthy introspection: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5; cf. 1 Cor. 11:28).
Ellen White colorfully described the assurance of salvation for Christ’s followers: “If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your personal Savior, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ’s character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.”5
Yet she stressed that one should not live in false assurance, claiming to be saved but disobeying God’s explicit commandments. “God’s holy law is the only thing by which we can determine whether we are keeping His way or not. If we are disobedient, our characters are out of harmony with God’s moral rule of government, and it is stating a falsehood to say, ‘I am saved.’”6
She warned against cheap grace:7 “All those who say, ‘I am saved!’ . . . but do not obey God’s commandments, are resting their salvation on a false hope, a false foundation. No one who has an intelligent knowledge of the requirements of God can be saved in disobedience.”8
She also explained: “The gospel does not weaken the claims of the law; it exalts the law and makes it honorable. Under the New Testament, no less is required than was required under the Old Testament. Let no one take up with the delusion so pleasant to the natural heart, that God will accept of sincerity. . . . God requires of His child perfect obedience.”9
She further explained that in the matter of salvation we cannot rely on our feelings. We are saved because God said so, not because we feel good. She wrote: “There are many who conclude that they are saved simply because they have good impressions; but this is not enough. The entire affection must be renovated.”10
On the other hand, Ellen White also stated that Christ’s followers must have an assurance of salvation: “It is essential to have faith in Jesus, and to believe you are saved through Him.”11 She described the Gentiles’ joy when they responded to the preaching of the gospel by the early church: “The Spirit of God accompanied the words that were spoken, and hearts were touched. . . . And the speaker’s words of assurance that the ‘glad tidings’ of salvation were for Jew and Gentile alike brought hope and joy to those who had not been numbered among the children of Abraham according to the flesh.”12
A Healthy Tension
As followers of Christ, we have to live in this healthy tension: full confidence in Christ, and complete mistrust in ourselves. We need to persistently focus on Jesus (John 15:5; Phil. 4:13; Heb. 12:2), not on ourselves, bearing fruit that is the natural result of cultivating a close fellowship with Him. As Ellen White described it: “Connected with Jesus Christ, they will be wise unto salvation. They will be fruit-bearing trees.”13
Unfortunately, many are not sure if they are saved in Christ. We must know how to live consciously in a steady reality of “already” but “not yet.” We have eternal life, but not yet; we are saved, but not yet; we are perfect in Christ, but not yet; we sit with Christ by the right side of the heavenly Father, but not yet. Thus we experience the true joy of salvation.
We need to wait for the second coming of Christ, when we will
see Him face to face. Then our present hope of redemption will become
tangible reality. n
1For details, see my article “The Gospel According to
God’s Judgment: Judgment as Salvation,” Journal of the
Adventist Theological Society 22, no. 1 (2011): 28-49.
2 Bible texts in this article are from the New International Version.
3 Gregg A. Ten Elshof, I Told Me So: Self-Deception and the Christian Life (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009).
4 Thomas C. Brickhouse and Nicholas D. Smith, Plato’s Socrates (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 201, 202.
5Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 62.
6Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980), book 1, p. 315.
7God’s grace is never cheap, since Christ gave Himself for it. But some treat grace cheaply. See Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Macmillan, 1959), pp. 43-49.
8 Ellen G. White, in Signs of the Times, Dec. 28, 1891.
9E. G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 373, 374.
10 Ellen G. White, in Signs of the Times, Aug. 18, 1890.
11 E. G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 373.
12 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), pp. 172, 173.
13 Ellen G. White, Daughters of God (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1998), p. 16. See also Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), pp. 674-680.
Jirˇí Moskala is dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.