Eternal Assurance: Trusting in Christ Alone

Young Man Reading BibleBack in the early 90’s I faced a crisis as I held to a works-based salvation and constantly lived in fear of my eternal destiny. I had no assurance of my salvation because I never knew if I’d performed enough good works to validate my salvation. It was a terrible place to be. The solution came when I began to study the Scriptures carefully, stopped looking at myself, and fixed my “eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb 12:2). I trusted Jesus at His word when He said, “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). And the apostle John, who wrote, “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” (1 John 5:13). And when I sinned, I trusted that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1), turned to the Lord in confession (1 John 1:9), and resumed my Bible study (2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:2) and walk of faith (2 Cor 5:7; Heb 10:38). As I began to live by faith in God and His Word, my fear disappeared, the burden lifted, and my heart was filled with joy. That’s the blessing of learning God’s Word and trusting the Lord moment by moment. It’s the walk of faith.

Jesus Christ Saves

The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone (Eph 2:8-9), in Christ alone (Acts 4:12), totally apart from any human works whatsoever (Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5). The teaching is that the lost sinner is “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24), for “to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom 4:5). The Scripture is clear, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). For God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim 1:9). Our salvation was accomplished in full by the Lord Jesus Christ who, while on the cross, bore all our sins and paid our sin debt in full, for “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8), and He “died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18). Just before Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Our salvation was finished at the cross. Jesus paid it all. God has “forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col 2:13-14). Our salvation was finished at the cross, and we bring absolutely nothing to God for salvation. No good works are required of those who would be saved; none before, during, or after salvation. Salvation a gift. If we have to pay for it, in any way or to any degree, then it ceases to be a gift and becomes something we’ve purchased.

Now, the Bible teaches that good works should follow salvation (Eph 2:10; Gal 6:10), but they are never the condition of it. Those who learn and live God’s Word (2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:2), and walk by faith (2 Cor 5:7; Heb 10:38), will honor the Lord as they “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which [they] have been called” (Eph 4:1). Their performance in life will match their position in Christ. Furthermore, these obedient-to the-word believers will “live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Tit 2:12), and “through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13), and earn rewards for eternity (1 Cor 3:10-15).

To be born again (1 Pet 1:3, 23), we need to come to Christ, for He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). And Peter said, “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We need only Christ to be saved. Believing in Christ means we trust Him to do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves; to save us. If would save ourselves, then it would not have been necessary for Christ to die; but He did die, and the benefits of His death, burial, and resurrection are available to those who come with the empty hands of faith, trusting in Christ alone to save. If you’ve not trusted in Christ as your Savior, then I “beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). Your reconciliation with God occurs at the moment of faith in Christ. The matter is simple, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Dr. Steven R. Cook

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Restoring Fellowship with God

Confession of SinWhat person can say, “I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin”? (Prov 20:9). No one is ever free from sin in this life, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (Eccl 7:20). Sin (from the Hebrew חָטָא chata or the Greek ἁμαρτία hamartia) means to fall away or miss the mark of God’s intended will. Sin is failure to do God’s will, and both unbelievers and believers commit sin. According to Unger, “The sinfulness of sin lies in the fact that it is against God, even when the wrong we do is to others or ourselves (Gen 39:9; Psa 51:4).”[1] The Bible teaches everyone is a sinner (Rom. 3:9). We are sinners because of our relationship to Adam (Rom 5:12, 19; 1 Cor 15:21-22), we are sinners by nature, born with a rebellious heart (Rom 7:14-25; Gal 5:17), and we are sinners by choice every time we yield to temptation (Jam 1:14-15).

At the moment of faith in Christ, all sins (past, present, and future) are forgiven (Eph 1:7; Col. 2:13), and the believer’s relationship to Adam is terminated as the Christian begins a new identity in Christ (Eph 2:5-6). At the moment of the new birth, the believer is completely justified in God’s sight, and this is by grace, because Christ died in our place and bore the penalty that rightfully belongs to us (Mark 10:45; Rom 5:6-10; 1 Cor 15:3-4; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 3:18). Believers stand acceptable before God, not because of any righteousness of our own based on good works (Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5), but because of the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed to us by faith (Rom 4:1-5), “the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil 3:9). As Christians, we are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). God made Christ “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21). Christ died a death He did not deserve, that we might have a life and enjoy spiritual riches we could never earn (Rom 5:5-10; Eph 2:1-6). Salvation is truly a gift from God.

From the moment of my spiritual birth until I leave this world for heaven, I am in Christ and all my sins are forgiven (Eph 2:5-6; Col 2:13). In addition, I have a new spiritual nature (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15), and the power to live righteously in God’s will (Rom 6:11-14). However, during my time in this world, I still possess my sin nature (Rom 7:14-25; Gal 5:17), and occasionally yield to temptation (both internal and external) and commit sin. According to MacDonald, “Conversion does not mean the eradication of the sin nature. Rather it means the implanting of the new, divine nature, with power to live victoriously over indwelling sin.”[2] My acts of sin do not jeopardize my eternal salvation which was secured by the Lord Jesus Christ (John 10:28), but is does hurt my walk with the Lord (1 John 1:5-10), and stifles the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells within me (1 Cor 3:16; Eph 4:30; 1 Th 5:19). I sin every day, and some days more than others. As I grow spiritually in my knowledge of God’s Word, I will pursue righteousness more and more and sin will diminish, but sin will never completely disappear from my life. Living in the reality of God’s Word, I know three things are true when I sin:

  1. There is no condemnation (Rom 8:1). Though I have sinned against God, my eternal security and righteous standing before Him is never jeopardized. I am eternally secure (John 10:28), and keep on possessing the righteousness of God that was imputed to me at the moment of salvation (Rom 4:1-5; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9).
  2. I am walking in darkness and have broken fellowship with God (1 John 1:5-6). When I sin, as a Christian, I have broken fellowship with God and stifled the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells within me (1 John 1:5-6; Eph 4:30; 1 Th 5:19). If I continue in sin, or leave my sin unconfessed, I am in real danger of divine discipline from God (Psa 32:3-4; Heb 12:5-11; 1 John 5:16-17; cf. Dan 4:37), which can eventuate in death (1 John 5:16; cf., Lev 10:1-2; Acts 5:3-5).
  3. If I confess my sin directly to God, He will immediately forgive my sin and restore me to fellowship (1 John 1:9; cf. Psa 32:5). Being in fellowship with God means walking in the sphere of His light (1 John 1:5-7), being honest with Him about my sin (1 John 1:8, 10), and coming before His throne of grace in transparent humility and confessing my sin in order to be forgiven (1 John 1:9; cf. Heb. 4:16). God is faithful and just to forgive my sins every time I confess them because of the atoning work of Christ who shed His blood on the cross for me (1 John 1:9; 2:1-2).

Concerning 1 John 1:9, William MacDonald states:

The forgiveness John speaks about here [i.e. 1 John 1:9] is parental, not judicial. Judicial forgiveness means forgiveness from the penalty of sins, which the sinner receives when he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is called judicial because it is granted by God acting as Judge. But what about sins which a person commits after conversion? As far as the penalty is concerned, the price has already been paid by the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. But as far as fellowship in the family of God is concerned, the sinning saint needs parental forgiveness, that is, the forgiveness of His Father. He obtains it by confessing his sin. We need judicial forgiveness only once; that takes care of the penalty of all our sins—past, present, and future. But we need parental forgiveness throughout our Christian life.[3]

God’s grace compels me to pursue righteousness and good works (Tit 2:11-14). But since I still have a sinful nature and live in a fallen world with temptation all around, I occasionally fall into sin. When I sin, I agree with God that I have done wrong and I confess it to Him seeking His forgiveness. When I sin against others and wrongly hurt them, I confess my sin to them and ask for their forgiveness. Because my sin hurts others (and their sin hurts me), there is a need for love, patience, humility, and ongoing forgiveness among the saints. The apostle Paul wrote, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Col. 3:12-15)

God’s grace is wonderful to me. By grace he saves, and by grace he forgives and restores me to fellowship. It is very simple. Daily I confess my sins directly to God, and He faithfully forgives me and restores me to fellowship with Him. It is all His goodness, and I am the fortunate recipient of His mercy and love.

Dr. Steven R. Cook

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[1] Merrill F. Unger and E. McChesney, “Sin” In , in The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, ed. R.K. Harrison, Rev. and updated ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988).

[2] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 2310.

[3] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 2310-11.