How Can We Have Assurance of Salvation?
By Yang Xin, Shandong Province
The sun sank into the west, and the last light of the sinking sun spread across the world as I walked back home after a meeting, thinking of what the pastor had said: “Once saved, then we are always saved, for the Bible says, ‘That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation’ (Romans 10:9-10). As we believe in the Lord Jesus, as long as we believe in our hearts and acknowledge Him with our mouths, then we are saved, and if we are saved once then we are always saved. As long as we keep working and expending ourselves for the Lord and endure till the very end, then when the Lord returns, we will immediately be raptured up into the kingdom of heaven!” I gave an Amen to the pastor’s words: “Yes! The Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross so that we could be redeemed, so as long as we call upon the Lord’s name, confess our sins and repent to the Lord, then our sins will be absolved and we will be saved by His grace—once saved, always saved, and afterward we will surely be raptured up into the kingdom of heaven.” Over the years of my belief in the Lord, I had always firmly believed that this view was correct, and never once doubted it.
One day, however, as I was consulting the scriptures, I read these words spoken by the Lord Jesus: “Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). I contemplated these words carefully, and I saw that the Lord Jesus was saying that only people who carry out God’s will and who practice the Lord’s words are qualified to enter into the kingdom of heaven; He was not saying that people could be saved simply by having faith, or that just because people were saved once then they are always saved, or that people would immediately be raptured up into the kingdom of heaven once the Lord returned. It began to look as though my views did not accord with the Lord’s words! Could it be that the views I’d held on to all these years were wrong? Over all the years I’d spent believing in the Lord, although I believed without a shadow of a doubt that the Lord Jesus had redeemed us, I often didn’t practice the Lord’s teachings in my life; as I wasn’t someone who carried out God’s will, how then could I enter into the kingdom of heaven? Thinking of this, I couldn’t help feeling anxious, but then I thought: “Since the Lord Jesus became a sin offering for our sake and absolved all our sins, we are already saved by His grace, so why wouldn’t we be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven? Doesn’t being saved by His grace mean eternal salvation?” I was really baffled, and so I took this bewilderment and sought and prayed often to the Lord, and I also consulted many spiritual books, but the answer could not be found.
Later, at a co-workers meeting, I bumped into Brother Zhang whom I hadn’t seen for ages. He is a preacher and has a very pure understanding of the Bible. In every meeting, he is able to fellowship some new light, and I am greatly benefited by it. When I saw him this time, I greeted him happily, and as we chatted, I mentioned the problem that had been vexing me for quite some time. Smiling, Brother Zhang said: “Brother Yang, this problem you mention is related to the important issue of whether or not we can enter into the kingdom of heaven. I have also been vexed by this in the past, but thanks to the Lord’s guidance and having sought for a time, I now have some simple understanding about what true salvation is.” I hurriedly said to him, “So hurry up and tell me!” He laughed, and said, “As we all know, chapter 2 verse 32 in the Book of Joel in the Bible says: ‘Whoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be delivered.’ In those early days, Jehovah God proclaimed His laws and commanded that the people of Israel follow them. The people believed that as long as they kept the laws and were not condemned, then they would be saved. But at the end of the Age of Law, because mankind was being corrupted more and more deeply by Satan, the people of Israel could not keep the laws and they committed more and more sins; there was no longer any sin offering they could make that could sufficiently expiate their sins, and so they were faced with the danger of being condemned and sentenced to death by those laws. God took mercy on mankind, however, and so that mankind could be saved and escape the condemnation of the laws, God became flesh with the name of Jesus and performed the work of redemption, was crucified as a flesh without sin, and freely redeemed us humans from the laws. From that point on, so long as we accepted and called on the Lord Jesus’ name, came before Him to repent and confess our sins, then our sins would be absolved, and we would no longer be condemned or punished by those laws—we gained salvation because the Lord Jesus redeemed us.”
After hearing Brother Zhang say this, I felt suddenly enlightened, and I said in amazement: “So you mean, in the Age of Law, as long as people kept the laws of Jehovah God, then they were saved, and in the Age of Grace, as long as people trusted in the Lord Jesus, confessed their sins and repented to the Lord, then they were saved too.”
Brother Zhang said, “Yes. Whenever God does a new stage of work, we are able to keep up with the pace of God’s work, abide by God’s requirements in the new age, practice in accordance with God’s words, and therefore be saved and no longer condemned by God. In fact, being saved by the Lord Jesus’ grace in our belief in Him means only that our sins are absolved, and that we won’t be condemned or sentenced to death by the laws; it does not mean, however, that we are following God’s way and that we have cast off all sin, much less does it mean that having been saved once then we are always saved. Although we believe in the Lord Jesus, and we have been redeemed by Him and our sins have been absolved, we are still capable of frequently committing sins and defying God, and we live in a vicious spiral of committing sins in the daytime and then confessing them in the evening, unable to free ourselves from the bonds and constraints of sin. For example, when we encounter an issue, in order to protect our appearance and status, and so that people look highly upon us and look up to us, we often wear disguises, tell lies and engage in deception, we love showing off when we do things, and we can also scheme against others and vie with them for position; when we see our brothers and sisters becoming negative and weak, and losing their faith, several times we go to help and support them but we see it have no effect, and so we ourselves lose our compassion and patience, and we start to try to avoid our brothers and sisters, and we become unable to love others as we love ourselves. Especially when trials come upon us, we complain and we can blame and judge the Lord, so much so that we begin to harbor thoughts and ideas about betraying the Lord; we are simply unable to practice the Lord’s words, and we have no true faith in the Lord and are not truly obedient to Him. There are also many brothers and sisters who follow worldly trends, who covet sinful pleasures, and who live lives of eating, drinking and cavorting, just as the unbelievers do. God said: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin. And the servant stays not in the house for ever: but the Son stays ever’ (John 8:34-35). ‘You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy’ (Leviticus 11:45). God’s words are very clear: God is holy and God’s disposition is righteous and inviolable, and if one wants to enter into the kingdom of heaven, then they must rid themselves of their sinful nature and be cleansed, and no longer sin or defy God; only people like this are qualified to inherit God’s promise. How could we, who sin in the daytime and confess our sins in the evening, and who live in inescapable sin, ever be qualified to enter into the kingdom of heaven? If we don’t solve our sins at the source, even if we could have our sins absolved a thousand times, ten thousand times, we would still belong to Satan and be opposed to God. Just think—if God allowed people like us, who are filled with our satanic, corrupt dispositions, and who are capable of defying and betraying God, into the kingdom of heaven, then how could God’s kingdom still be called the holy kingdom? This would be impossible!”
I very much agreed with Brother Zhang’s fellowship. Yes, how could we, who live in sin every day and who know clearly that we sin yet cannot help but commit sin, be qualified to enter into the kingdom of heaven? At that moment, I felt that my own belief in God was such a muddled belief; the Lord’s words were spoken so clearly, and yet I didn’t make any effort to seek in His words. On the contrary, I lived within my own conceptions and imaginings, completely misunderstanding God’s will and harboring the absurd belief that as long as I believed with my heart and acknowledged the Lord with my mouth, then I would be saved, and would be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven when the Lord returned. What a fool I was! I was simply daydreaming! If I didn’t remedy this absurd view and carried on believing in God relying on my own conceptions and imagination, then ultimately I would surely be detested, rejected and eliminated by the Lord. Therefore, I asked Brother Zhang: “What exactly is true salvation?”
Brother Zhang took from his bag a book, and said that the words within this book could resolve my problem. He then went on to read: “When people cast off the filthy, corrupt things of Satan, they gain God’s salvation. But if they still do not divest themselves of filth and corruption, then they are still living under the domain of Satan. People’s conniving, deceitfulness, and crookedness are all things of Satan. God’s salvation of you is to extricate you from these things of Satan. God’s work cannot be wrong; it is all done in order to save people from darkness. When you have believed to a certain point and can divest yourself of the corruption of the flesh, and are no longer shackled by this corruption, will you not have been saved? When you live under Satan’s domain you are incapable of manifesting God, you are something filthy, and cannot receive God’s inheritance. Once you have been cleansed and made perfect, you will be holy, you will be a normal person, and you will be blessed by God and delightful to God” (“Practice (2)”). “The sins of man could be forgiven through the sin offering, but as for just how man can be made to sin no more, and how his sinful nature may be extirpated completely and transformed, he has no way of solving this problem. The sins of man were forgiven, and this is because of the work of God’s crucifixion, but man continued to live within the corrupt satanic disposition of old. This being so, man must be completely saved from his corrupt satanic disposition, so that his sinful nature may be completely extirpated, never to develop again, thus enabling the disposition of man to be transformed. This would require man to grasp the path of growth in life, to grasp the way of life, and to grasp the way to change his disposition. Furthermore, it would require man to act in accordance with this path, so that his disposition may gradually be changed and he may live under the shining of the light, so that all that he does may be in accord with the will of God, so that he may cast away his corrupt satanic disposition, and so that he may break free from Satan’s influence of darkness, thereby emerging fully from sin. Only then will man receive complete salvation” (“The Mystery of the Incarnation (4)”).
Brother Zhang then gave fellowship, saying: “Thank the Lord, these words have made it crystal clear as to what true salvation is! True salvation means that, once someone has gained the truth and been cleansed and perfected by God, they cast off sin completely and cast off the dark influence of Satan, and they no longer commit sin or defy God. The work the Lord Jesus did was actually the work of redemption, and we merely no longer belonged to sin. But the satanic nature within us was deeply rooted, and even though our sins received the Lord’s absolution, when we encounter issues, we are still capable of coming under the domination of the satanic dispositions, such as arrogance and conceit, crookedness and deceit, selfishness and meanness, and insidiousness and maliciousness, and we often can’t help but sin and defy God, and are simply unable to put the Lord’s words into practice. This is like being a thief who is caught by the police for stealing other people’s things. His parents can’t stand the thought of their son languishing in detention, and so they pay a king’s ransom to keep their son out of jail. But the thief’s nature is still within him, and when a suitable opportunity comes along, he will again be dominated by his nature and will continue to steal things. Therefore, if we understand all aspects of the truth, being completely freed from Satan’s domain, having our satanic, corrupt dispositions cleansed, casting off the binds of sin, and seeking God’s will, practicing God’s words and truly revering and obeying God no matter the environment, then we are always saved, and only then are we people who are completely gained by God.”
I said happily, “Thank God’s enlightenment and guidance for enabling me to understand that the view of ‘once saved, always saved, and then one can enter into the kingdom of heaven’ is wrong. I also understand that eternal salvation means ridding ourselves of our sinful nature and being cleansed, and that this is entirely different from being saved once and having our sins absolved. This book really makes it clear what true salvation is, so is there a way within its pages that can allow us to rid ourselves of sin and be saved? If we could find a way to rid ourselves of sin, and practice in accordance with that way, wouldn’t we then be able to of attain true salvation and enter into the kingdom of heaven?”
Brother Zhang said with joy, “Brother Yang, you are so right! Thank the Lord, if we could only find the way to rid ourselves of sin and resolve the problem of our sinful nature, we could then attain true salvation and enter into the kingdom of heaven. This book talks very clearly about this aspect of the truth, so let’s keep reading …”
Editor’s Note: Thank God for His enlightenment and guidance. The conditions of every one of us who believes in the Lord are indeed as it mentions in this article: Committing sins in the daytime and then confessing them in the evening, and sinking so deeply into sin that we are unable to get free. If our belief in the Lord is a justification by faith and we believe that, as we were saved once, then we are always saved, how then can God’s righteous, holy and inviolable disposition be expressed? If we want to earn God’s praise and enter into the kingdom of heaven, then we should actively seek the way to rid ourselves of sin—only this is the smart choice of the wise virgins! This Editor would like to recommend you watch gospel movie "Stinging Memories" (7) - The Way of Removing Sin, so that we may seek the way to enter into the kingdom of heaven together!