You May Know That You Have Eternal Life

One of the criticisms sometimes made against members of the churches of Christ is that we tend to be uncertain about our salvation. This charge asserts that we typically hesitate to say with confidence that we are saved, bound for heaven, and in possession of eternal life. Those who offer this criticism find this attitude to be in contradiction to the teachings of the Scriptures as they understand them. This charge can be found on numerous websites that deride the churches of Christ.

As a member of a church of Christ, I must consider this charge carefully. Does it have any merit? If so, then I must consider what must be done to correct the error. If not, then I must prepare myself to give a defense against this criticism.

To resolve the issue, I must first consult the Scriptures. Does God's word teach me to have confidence in my salvation? By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle John gives me an answer, saying, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1John 5:13). Therefore, if I believe in the name of the Son of God, then I know that have eternal life.

With this, the issue shifts from whether I have confidence in my salvation to whether I believe in the name of the Son of God. The interpretation of this issue is the real source of the criticism made against members of the church. Those who offer this criticism typically view belief in Christ as simple mental acceptance of Him, but members of the church understand that belief is more than that according to the things written by John and other inspired men. Genuine, Scriptural, comprehensive belief in Jesus requires not only mental assent but also obedient compliance with His will. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, then we must do as He says. Jesus Himself said, "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46). Simply stated, one cannot believe in Jesus unless he believes what the Lord says and obeys His gospel. Not only that, but also belief in Jesus must be continual. Paul wrote that we must "continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard" (Col. 1:23). The Lord has promised salvation to those who persevere until death (Rev. 2:10) but not to those who abandon the faith and fall away (Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-31; 2Pet. 2:20-22). These factors comprise belief in Jesus as defined in the Scriptures. If I have such belief, then I have confidence in my salvation.

The problem with this explanation is that it is too complicated to express in detail whenever the issue of salvation arises. When members of the church are asked whether they are saved, they sometimes give an answer that is long and tedious, and this creates the appearance of uncertainty. They are afraid to make a simple, bold, direct statement of confidence in their salvation for fear of leaving the wrong impression. While they do not want to appear arrogant, self-righteous, or presumptuous about the judgment of God, they inadvertently cause themselves to appear doubtful, unbelieving, and distrustful.

To solve this problem, members of the church need to speak in clear, Scriptural terms. When speaking of his salvation, a faithful Christian should confidently assert his certainty in the Lord. He should be able to say, "I know I have eternal life because I believe in the Son of God." This statement is clear, unmistakable, and Scriptural. It is not presumptuous, but rather it is faithful in the promises of God. Furthermore, it is not self-confident, but instead it is reliant on the grace and mercy of God. It complies fully with the Scripture in Ephesians 2:8-10:

8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

If any Christian cannot express confidence in his salvation, then he has a problem. The problem is not with the Lord, for the grace of our Lord is more than abundant for the salvation of sinners (1Tim. 1:14-16). Instead, the problem is with his faith. If his problem is due to his unbelief and disobedience, then he needs to repent, receive forgiveness, and obtain the confidence of his salvation. If his problem is because he does not believe in God's power and promise to save through Christ, then he needs to cast aside his doubt and build up his faith in God. If he is simply afraid to leave the wrong impression on others, then he needs to heed the words of 1Peter 4:11: "Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God..." In this case, the utterance of God says that he who believes in the Son of God has eternal life. Let that be the decisive word on the matter.

Stacey E. Durham


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