According to John 10:10, Jesus came that we might have life (salvation), know it (assurance), and live it abundantly (revival). Salvation is about receiving, and therefore, having eternal life (having Jesus, with all He brings: forgiveness, credited righteousness, and so much more). Assurance is about knowing you have eternal life. The previous article discussed salvation by answering the question, How can you have eternal life? Moving forward to assurance, the question changes slightly: How can you know that you have eternal life?
What Jesus implied in John 10:10 regarding assurance is explicitly stated in 1 John 5: “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:11-13).
Salvation involves the choice of faith and the promise of having eternal life. The key to assurance is the focus of faith (“this is the record” of what God says) and the promise of knowing what you have (“that you may know you have eternal life”).
The access of salvation is through the choice of faith. The access of assurance is through the focus of faith, which allows faith to continue by maintaining focus on the object of faith. If salvation is by faith and not works, then assurance must also be by faith and not works. The good news of the gospel is Jesus accessed by faith. The good news of assurance is knowing you have Jesus based on the sure words of God. Infallible assurance must come from the sure Word of God.
Is it possible to have eternal life and not know it? Whenever I have asked this of an audience, the vast majority has responded with no while a few individuals indicated yes and some remained uncommitted sensing a trick question.
Let’s review the sense of the text:
This is the record [this is the testimony of what God says] that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has [the] life [the eternal life because Jesus is that eternal life]; and he who does not have the Son of God does not have [the eternal] life…
And now, the crux of the matter:
These things have I written to you…
…you who believe on the name of the Son of God,
Have these people believed merely about Jesus or on Him? The text plainly says, on the name of the Son of God. On this basis then, what these believers have is eternal life for when you believe on Jesus you have eternal life (John 6:47).
And why did John write to these who had believed on Jesus, and therefore, had eternal life?
…that you may know that you [already] have eternal life.
So is it possible to have eternal life and not know it? Yes! That’s why John was writing. He wrote that these people who had eternal life would know what they already had. And yes, this was a trick question because when you believe in Jesus you must understand the basic truths of the gospel, agree, and depend. Therefore, you would know what’s going on. However, it is possible to doubt at a later time, and the cure for such doubt is the focus of faith.
How would those who doubt know what they already have? By focusing on the record. The written Word of God says that when you believe on Jesus you have eternal life, and this focus of faith is the remedy for doubt. Infallible assurance comes through the infallible Word.
Man’s responsibility is the focus of faith. God’s promise is that when you focus on what God says, you know what you have. Focus on the record…that you may know you have eternal life.
A young man in his twenties was plagued with doubt and had gone through the motions of getting saved multiple times. His pastor mentioned that every time a guest speaker came to town he would get “saved again.” Speaking to the young man about this, I showed him the words of Jesus in John 6:47 that when you believe on Jesus you have eternal life.
To accurately diagnose his situation, I asked if he correctly understood, was affected by and decided to act on the Gospel. “Has there ever been a time when you understood that sin is the problem, judgment is the consequence, and Jesus is the answer because He died for you and rose again, and because of these facts, you made a choice to depend on Jesus to save you?” He answered, “Yes.”
I asked him, “So what do you have?” He returned a blank stare. I pointed to the words in John 6:47 and said, “eternal life.” I continued, “You can depend on it, you can count on it, you can know it . . . why?” The stare persisted, so I answered, “Because it says so!” His face slowly lit up with hope as he exclaimed, “Because it says so!” and he went away rejoicing in what he already had. Assurance of salvation came to him through focusing on the sure word of God.
Infallible assurance comes through the infallible Word!
John Van Gelderen