It was the question that sparked debate between myself and my family members when I first became a follower of Jesus. It was the question that sparked debate between various church members when I was in college. It was the question that sparked debate between denominations when I was in Seminary.
Can you know for sure that you are saved? Adopted in to God’s Family? Guaranteed a spot in heaven? Your sins are completely and irrevocably washed away and you are forgiven? Can you really have that kind of assurance.
I thought the answer was pretty clear early on in my Christian walk but others certainly did not. When I was in Seminary and Youth Pastoring in Springfield, MO I recall attending funerals of teenagers every quarter for one and a half years straight. Most of the teens claimed to be Christian. At least one was a pastor’s kid. More than one committed suicide if my memory serves me correct. Tragedies! For all involved.
One of the beauties of Biblical Theology is how it answers questions without having to rely upon proof texts. In my early days as a Christian I would banter back and forth with others and we would simply sling proof texts at each other. Unfortunately, I still occasionally revert to this tactic (that is rarely beneficial).
One of the things I’ve learned from Scripture is that this question is really more about the character of God than anything else (and the reliability of Scripture I guess!). The other thing I’ve tried to help people understand is that you must use the clear teachings of Scripture to help you understand those that are not so clear – not the other way around.
From beginning to end, God’s desire for His Presence to be with His People has been of paramount importance. Adam and Eve lost this presence when they were kicked out of the garden. Saul lost this Presence when he turned from God. Sampson lost this Presence when he turned from God. BUT God brought His Presence back to mankind in the Person of Jesus Christ. And then God bestowed His Presence inside mankind in the Person of the Holy Spirit. The same power that Jesus was bestowed with at His baptism was then distributed to His followers at Pentecost and ever after!
The Presence of God – indwelling mankind. Not simply the Presence that could be visited at the Tabernacle or the Presence that came ‘upon’ people and they prophecies (like Saul in the Old Testament) or the Presence that came upon people for power but could leave them (like Sampson). No, this Presence indwells, seals, is a down payment. This Presence is a Comforter that teaches, guides, instructs, leads – all the way to where Jesus is – with the Father. That we too may call Him Father, that Jesus may have many brothers in the Kingdom (His followers).
Oh, the Perfect One and His Presence – the Present you don’t want to be without – the One you cant’ be without if you are a genuine follower of Jesus (Romans 8). The internal sign of being permanently adopted and joined into the family of God (Ephesians 1). The one held steadfastly in the Father’s hand (John 10). The One of whom John the Apostle and Beloved of Jesus wrote of (Gospel of John) and the One whom John claimed to have fellowship with and said we could too (1 John).
Oh, you can know for sure because God is not a man that He should lie. God is not fickle, changing His mind. God is steadfast and sure with a covenant love for thousands of generations.
Oh, you can know for sure because God has remained faithful even when mankind has not (be it Abraham, Moses, David or any other ‘hero’ of the Bible). It’s not your actions alone that demonstrate the surety, it’s God’s character that makes it sure.
Oh, you can know for sure because God has said it and the Scriptures are literally God-breathed (1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). It’s not your word (or prayer) that makes is sure, it’s God’s Word that makes it sure.
Oh, you can know for sure because Jesus didn’t die to halfway purchase our freedom. He completely purchased our freedom and once it’s applied to us we are white as snow, clean as clean can be!
Oh, you can know for sure because God is for sure!