Eternally Secure (part 2)
In my last article, we explored what it means to be eternally secure by objective faith in God's word alone. God's word is filled with promises to those redeemed by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. The only sticking point in objective faith as a means of security is whether the promises are for the one reading.
Not every believer is given assurance at the moment they believe. The Apostle John wrote his first letter so that believers might know they had eternal life and thereby, assurance. "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) He stated that his writing was for those who believe.
So whether it is objective faith in God's written promises in the Bible or the personal work that God does in the believer's heart, there must be a knowing to accompany faith. In John's gospel, when the people were abandoning Jesus because of the demands of discipleship, he turned to the twelve and said, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" Peter first believed, and then he came to know that it was so. He said, "We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." (John 6:69) They did not only believe in Jesus; they also knew Him personally.
The Benefit of Objective Faith
Conversion means repentance and faith. Repentance is the act of turning from sin or the old manner of life that hates and rebels against God. Objective faith reckons the sins of the past washed away in the blood and sacrifices of Christ. Joy accompanies forgiveness. The Holy Spirit testifies to believers about their identity. "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God." (Romans 8:16) In this way, Peter could say they had come to know Jesus was the Messiah.
The New Covenant and Subjective Faith
The second means of assurance is subjective faith, which looks within and sees changes accomplished by God. This faith is two-fold as it first observes an unfolding transformation of the sinner to the saint, and second the New Covenant of God that makes it happen. This assurance is the weakest of the three means of security because it is partly subjective.
At the giving of the law, just before God appeared, the people's initial response was, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do!" (Exodus 19:4-7) When God appeared on the holy mount, their response was unbearable fright. What our mind tells us is not always in sync with our hearts. Regarding assurance, this reality can cause doubts and fears.
It is necessary, therefore, to understand the nature of our obedience. Some have tried to silence their conscience by believing that requirements do not accompany salvation. However, the New Testament testifies against such folly; not only are there requirements but the power of God to obey them. "But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:17, 18) Paul does not promote perfectionism here, but a work of transformation must accompany judicial forgiveness in a believer for it to be genuine salvation.
Under the first covenant, God said to Israel, "But if your heart turns away and you will not obey but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish." (Deuteronomy 30:17, 18) Under the New Covenant, the writer to the Hebrews says this, "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God..." (Hebrews 10:26-29). The words "How much more..." mean that accountability is more significant under the New Covenant and not less.
In the Old Testament or the New, going into salvation is by faith in grace alone; coming out is the work of sanctification by God, who transforms the recipient into a holier person. Every coin has two sides; sometimes, the truth is just that simple. There can be no truth without balance.
Assurance and the New Covenant
It is one thing to consider our conduct before God and still, another to trust Him to make it better. In sanctification, it is necessary to do both. Paul tells us, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5) What Paul means by "...see if you are in the faith" is to question your belief in what the Bible says about salvation. In time, God changes people who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ by conforming them to a lifestyle consistent with the Bible's admonitions on how to live.
Observing the transformation is the subjective side of faith as a means of security. Trusting God to do the work of transformation is the objective side of faith. To obtain objective faith in sanctification, we must understand the New Covenant in Hebrews eight and ten. It was written with the house of Israel in mind; however, it also applies to the Church during this present time.
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, says the LORD." I will put my laws into their mind, And on their heart also will I write them: And I will be to them a God, And they shall be to me a people:" (Hebrews 8:10). The prominent words in God's New Covenant are "I will." God places His law in the mind of the person forgiven by His Son's substitutionary death; He writes His law on the heart of those covered by His righteous life. God places the law; we do not. To those purchased with the price of Jesus' suffering, He becomes God (Elohim: the all-powerful, faithful, covenant-keeping, trinity). After the first three 'I wills,' God's work is complete, and the recipients become His people. Out of appreciation and love, God's people obey Him from their minds and the fulness of their hearts.
Absolute assurance can never come from what we do for God, but from what God does with us. God transforms us from the inside out and does within us what we could never do. "Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so." (Romans 8:7) In the New Covenant, God does all the work; we are called to believe it with God-given faith.
Faith and Genuine Transformation
People who have received from God the gift of the Holy Spirit are being transformed into His likeness. Transformation is the act of sanctification by the Holy Spirit. "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life." (Romans 6:22) Sanctification occurs when faith is applied to the realities described in God's word. The person who believes he is free because Jesus says so is free indeed. (John 8:36)
When a person by faith receives the truth about God's work in sanctification, it results in freedom from sin and the ability to walk by the Spirit in newness of life. For this reason, a sound doctrine with depth is vitally essential to good spiritual health. Profoundness in learning is never for seminary students alone but the whole body of Christ. Good homiletics (The art of preaching) is no substitute for a prayerfully orchestrated and profound theological sermon.
My dear readers, if you have not experienced assurance of salvation, I am writing this serious so that you may know you have eternal life.
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