Letters to a Christian

Question 8

The Correlation between Behavior
and Assurance of Salvation

when I was saved at 19, I cried, I felt changed.  I desired to read the Bible.  I cried when I read it.  I desired to change.  I felt filled with God's love.  I didn't get discipled though.  For years, I walked with the Lord on and off.  I joined Bible Studies, went to churches, got baptized, told people about the Lord and desired Him.

I also sinned greatly.  Part of the time, when I wasn't walking with the Lord, I had sex with different men (for a period of a few years).  I lived in the world.  My best friends were in the world.  I am ashamed of what I did and wish it never took place, but I can't imagine denying that my salvation took place when it did.  I know the change that took place in my live.  Even when I lived in the world, I felt ashamed.  I would ask God for forgiveness and strength to do the right thing and then a few months later, I did it again.  Sometimes I just shut God out.  Finally, I stopped and gave my life back to the Lord and cannot imagine going back to that place I was in.  I claim the parable of the prodigal son as my story.  I just know God never stopped loving me or pursuing me as He does all of us.

My boyfriend says that I am prideful and incorrect about the prodigal son.  That parable is for the lost.  "Where was my fruit?" is his question.  He is as positive that I was not saved during this time as I am that I was.  He states that there is no defense for my position in the Bible and that I have no reverence for the Word of God.

We did talk to our pastor.  He suggested that we pray and fast.  He also suggested that it would be good to submit to the man that I love and am considering marrying and study the Bible together.  He also said that communication is foremost in a relationship.  I agree, but I am confused.  Will any amount of studying take away the assurance and conviction of my salvation?  I do not think so.

BCBSR Response

Thanks for asking. I deal extensively with the issue of assurance of salvation. Simply stated, once saved always saved, but how does one know whether that "once saved" event has actually occurred in their life? While many simply presume they were saved at some point in time, perhaps when they prayed to receive Christ or when they went through some spiritual experience, it doesn't really matter what they presume or how confident they are that they were saved at such and such a time. What matters is what the Bible teaches on the subject. Isn't it a bit arrogant to say, "Will any amount of studying take away the assurance and conviction of my salvation?  I do not think so." It's like saying to God - "I don't care what You say in the Bible, I'm going to believe whatever I damn well please." Though such an attitude I find to be not uncommon in the Christian community.

What does the Bible teach about Assurance of Salvation? Is it appropriate for Christians to question our salvation status. Yes indeed. Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians, "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?" 2Cor 13:5

But what does the Bible teach as to what evidences are indicators that we have been saved? The entire book of 1st John is all about that subject. See the studies guides of 1st John at http://www.bcbsr.com/books/1jn.html

There are many places in 1st John which tell us how to distinguish children of God from children of the devil, such as 1John 3:9,10 "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother."

Many Christians today have many misconceptions about the Christian life because they just don't listen to what the Bible says. One such misconception deals with the discerning of one's salvation status. YES the Bible does teach that under certain conditions you can discern whether a person is a child of God or a child of the devil. For there is an inevitable correlation between one's behavior and one's salvation status. Was not John teaching to discern the salvation of others from the verse above and didn't he also do so in 1John 2:19 "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."

What does the Apostle Paul say on this matter of the correlation between one's behavior and one's salvation status? What does he teach about the discerning of a Christian's salvation status? He says, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1Cor 6:9,10 Take yourself for example. How was your sexually immoral Christian lifestyle any different than those whom Paul categorized here as those who would not inherit the kingdom of God?

Paul teaches that even at that time there were Christians deceived in this matter, and so also does John in 1John 3:7,8 "Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning."

Jesus Himself said, "By their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Matt 7:20,21

And so also in many of Jesus' parables he speaks of the issue of nominalism among those identifying themselves with Him.

There's the parable of the sower in which some seed feel on the rock which sprouted up quickly but withered and died, being representative of those who at first believe and joyfully so, but are religiously shallow, their faith not being a conviction, not being of the quality of faith which saves.But today due to the false teaching of "Free Grace Theology" many Christians have been deceived on this point. (See also http://www.bcbsr.com/topics/freegrace.html)

So also there is the parable of the Wheat and the Weeds in which Jesus indicates that not all "Christians" are really Christians. Matt 13:24-30; 36-43 And so also for the parable of the Dragnet. Matt 13:47-50 In fact even of the parable of the Prodigal Son which you mentioned, didn't the Father characterize his son as having been "dead"? Can those who have been born of God be spoken of as being dead to God? Quite the contrary. So the prodigal son's dead behavior was characteristic of those born of God, but rather indicative that he was "dead" to his father, who represents God.

Furthermore many put their faith in Revelation 3:20 as the basis of their assurance of salvation. Jesus said, "I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." Having dinner with Jesus doesn't make Him your Lord and Savior. It just provides and opportunity to get to know Him better. (Notice also the context of this verse. It was directed to Christians - nominal Christians) When Jesus becomes Lord of a person's life, he is no longer a guest. He takes over the house and you become the servant in His house. Many have prayed to receive Jesus as guest in their house. They've been "trying out" Christiantity. If after getting to know Jesus they decide to accept Him as Lord and Savior with conviction, they will be saved. But not until that point.

The Bible indicates that the object of saving faith is not our own faith. Our assurance of salvation is not to be the object of our faith. The object of our faith is the Lord Jesus Christ who died and rose to satisfy God's demand for justice so that He might be able to graciously forgive the sins of those who put their faith in Him.

The Bible indicates that Christians should fear God and question their salvation status. We are to evaluate the quality of our faith and to develop it to be a kind which is acceptable to God. And our assurance of salvation is only to be considered relative to the degree to which we behave as children of God.

For details see:
"How Can You Be Sure of Your Salvation Status?"

Steve Amato
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jul 29,2015