“Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine, Oh what a foretaste of glory divine, Heir of salvation…”
Baptists have resounded this refrain for many years. It brings comfort to their souls and reflects their confidence that this is God’s promise.
The answers to two questions help explain this belief: When I become a Christian, how do I have the assurance that I will always be a Christian; and what is the way of life that demonstrates I am a Christian?
Most Baptists have held to what is called the doctrine of “eternal security” or “once saved always saved.” Historically, it has been referred to as the “perseverance of the saints.”
Assurance of salvation begins with God’s promise in the Scriptures (John 5:24; 10:28; 1 John 5:13). Perseverance of the saints speaks to a continuing faith throughout the Christian life. How then can someone know that he or she is and will remain a Christian?
First, there is the promise of God. Second, there is the demonstration of the Christian Faith throughout his or her life until the end.
“All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by his Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end . . . yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” (BF&M Article V) Therefore, those who have fallen away from the faith were never Christians in the first place.
Assurance of salvation begins with God. The Bible states that we are “kept” or “guarded” (1 Peter 1:5) by God, but He does this by His power through our faith.
When we receive salvation, Paul states that we are “in Christ” (Rom 8:1). Once we are “in Christ” we begin a life of “abiding in Christ” (John 15:4).
Assurance of salvation is experienced by living out a life of faith, the Christian life (Gal 2:20; Eph. 3:17). Heb. 3:14 states, “For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.”
Jesus asserts, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). Paul exhorts us that, “If you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the Gospel that you have heard…” (Col. 1:22-23; Rom. 8:31-39).
The Christian life means becoming more and more like Christ, being renewed in the “image of Christ,” or being progressively sanctified. One of the most important ways to describe this life is “holiness” (Heb. 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15).
Holiness is both being “set apart” by and for God and being made morally and spiritually pure or as the BF&M describes “mature” (BF&M IV. C.). It is a life of growing spiritual maturity, more like Christ and more free from sin and its power (Rom. 6:11-18).
A major calling in the Christian life is to be and to make disciples, and that requires a radical change in people’s lives (Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 9:23). Yet we still go to the grave with the vestiges of sin in our lives, unfinished (Col. 3:10; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3: 10-14).
Assurance of salvation and the Christian life then are related to one another. We have received God’s promise, and we are experiencing His transforming power in our lives.
They testify to us of our salvation. We began with the refrain, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine” and we end with one from a wonderful song that echoes both the perseverance of the saints and the Christian life, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back!”