The Assurance of Salvation
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realmswith every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Back in the 1970s there was a new method of evangelism which swept much of the world. It was called ‘Evangelism Explosion.’ Central to it was one question: “If you were to die today, why should the Lord admit you to heaven?”
Some might say: “I was born in a Christian country”, but that would not be enough. Some would say, “I did many good works that helped people”. Wonderful but not enough.
Some ,“I’ve tried to live a good life”. That’s fine but it won’t get us into heaven. “I’ve tried to live by the Golden Rule”. That’s promising. “I grew up in a Christian home”. That’s a great start. “There were many people worse than me”, true but that won’t do. “I went to a Christian school; I attended Sunday school as a child; I went to youth group, I was baptized.” All not enough.
“I once attended Synod for five days”. That’s getting close.
The basic question was, ‘How certain are you of your salvation?’ Do you have assurance that you will be with the Lord forever? Do you believe it when Philippians 1:6 says, ‘Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’?
A couple of weeks ago, our Women’s Fellowship group invited a Muslim woman to come to our house and speak to them about her faith and I had the opportunity to meet her husband. I expected he would say he was Ahmed or Mohammed but instead he ‘G’day I’m Tony’. In the discussion over supper it was quiet apparent that the woman had no certainty that she was going to heaven. Her hope was that by good works, she may possibly, somehow get in, but she had no certainty of that.
Until one knows Jesus Christ as a Saviour that uncertainty will remain.
But what about you? Are you certain that you will be admitted to heaven?
Of course the purpose of believing is not just to get to heaven. We don’t love the Lord for what we can get from him. Heaven is a by-product, or an outcome of knowing our Savior and Lord.
So how can we have assurance of salvation?
Paul is writing to groups of people in towns located in modern Turkey:
Ephesians, Colossians and more. In those churches something had happened that had never happened before. Enemies have become friends. Jews and Gentiles have come together through Christ. Yet they needed assurance of their salvation. And the good news is that it depends on the Lord not you.
Think of a little baby. They are completely dependent. They can’t organise their feeding needs, though are happy to communicate them as they arise! They can’t go anywhere or say anything but they are quite capable of organizing adults and have them running in every direction without a word.
Paul says we are spiritual babies. We can do nothing to save ourselves. Our good works and intentions, as important as they are, will not save us because there is a disorder inherited from the Garden of Eden that has made God an enemy.
We are by nature enemies of the Lord; unbelievers; hostile to his claims; disobedient to his will.
But the Lord did three things that make it certain that we are saved.
- He chose us.
In verse four it says, ‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.’ Then in verse five it says he predestined us to be adopted. God took the initiative to call you from unbelief into faith, from alienation to meaning, from solitude to community.
That’s the first point of assurance. He chose you, he has you, and you are his. When a little baby wants to cross a major intersection, it will not be a child’s grasp of their parents fingers that matter, it will the parent’s firm clasp of the children’s hands that matter.
He chose you, he has you, and he will not let you go.
When the Adelaide Crows play a big match, there are debates over who should be chosen to play. Would Ricciuto, Burton, McGregor, McLeod be available?
The selection was important. The right choices needed to be made. In a similar way, God chose you in Christ to be on his team, his team for eternity.
We have done nothing to deserve this choice but it has happened anyway. Why has He done this? It says in verse five because it gives him pleasure. God rather likes you. Have you ever known that before, that the Lord takes pleasure in you. In your personality, your creativity, your gifts, your way of doing things, your interests, your faith.
We don’t develop healthy self-esteem through self-talk mantras and pop psychology, but through knowing we are a pleasure to God. He wants you with him forever through Christ. You have been chosen even when you did not believe. And the Bible never teaches that being chosen, predestined or adopted can be reversed.
2. He gave His Son for us.
So how has this all come about? God has made an offer of friendship. In verse 6 it says he sent the one he loves. Through his own blood, God opened up a door that said, ‘Come on in my repentant one, all is forgiven and forgotten.’ He sent you an invitation, written in the blood of his Son and displayed before all people on a Cross.
There was no other way. God had to honour his justice and his holiness. He couldn’t just let bygones be bygones, his justice had to be satisfied. His Son paid that price for us on His Cross. Your assurance of salvation is based upon what someone did for you; a Son becomes a Saviour.
3. He has given us a beautiful gift.
The best gifts are always personal. Many a husband or child has learnt early on that no matter how nice saucepans are, they are not the best gifts you can give a wife or mother. Personal gifts matter most. Perfume over pans.
One of our congregation members has discovered this. She has a wonderful ministry through cards, that is greeting cards not poker ones. She looks closely at the wording, picks out the right one, no matter the price, and sends them to the sick and needy people. What a beautiful ministry she has.
It is personal.
The Lord has given us gifts through the creation. Just have a look at down certain streets in Adelaide to see a wall of beautiful colour. But our Creator has gone one better.
He has given us more than the Creation, he has given us his Holy Spirit. Verse 13 says, ‘You were marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance…’
In Paul’s day important letters had a wax or hot ink seal on them. It showed the authority and importance of the sender, and provided security for the letter. The Holy Spirit is your security. The fact that he has given you the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity shows not only your value but whose you are.
This is also a deposit. You know when you put down a deposit on something it means there is more to come. It secures a house or car until final settlement can be arranged. The Lord says, “Here is my Spirit to remind you that there is more to come.”
Verse 14 also shows that it is also an inheritance. We leave our valuables and assets to the most precious people in our lives, not some random name from a telephone book. The Lord has chosen to give his inheritance, his Holy Spirit as a gift to us.
He helps us to believe and to grow in certainty of our standing in Christ and assurance of eternal life.
But there is another side. The Lord does not want us to be like spoiled brats who have had everything done for them and so do not appreciate the value of what is given. You are expected to do something with all this. In verse four it says we are to be holy and blameless, and in verse 12 we are to praise his glory. There is a cost to being among the chosen. But being chosen can make life a lot tougher as well as better.
In the book Mao’s Last Dancer, Madame Mao’s ballet team was selecting children from provinces to come and train. As the group was leaving, someone pointed out Li Cunxin.
He was called out and with no training or stretching, on a freezing day the officials lifted his leg higher and higher asking if it hurt. It was excruciating but he knew his future depended on his response. He said, “No it doesn’t hurt”. The officials tore both his hamstrings, and he pretended to walk out normally. He was chosen.
The cost of being chosen can be great.
What is the cost to you of being chosen? This might mean that you take stewardship seriously. In faith you tithe your money and put God’s promises to the test. We will always have more when we tithe than when we keep all we have. We can’t afford not to tithe.
I had to keep reminding myself of this. When interest rates went up, utilities bills soared, council rates took off, fuel prices soared and supermarket prices followed, I had to remind myself that God does not exempt me from tithing because my lifestyle is suddenly more costly.
Giving frees us from an obsession with the material and financial. It opens up our hearts to Philippino children and even church budgets. The most blessed people amongst us will be those who give.
Good works and sacrificial giving are signs we are among the chosen and have responded with faith and love.
Know that we are assured that we have been chosen by grace, that we have been redeemed through the Savior’s death, have been given the precious deposit and inheritance of the Holy Spirit, and your good works and loving attitudes through faith give evidence. These are our assurances of eternal life.
By George Robert Iles
Preached at Golden Grove Uniting Church on 24th of September, 2006.