Salvation is a work of God.1 More than that, salvation is solely a work of God. Assurance of salvation is possible only if salvation is a work of God alone. If salvation depended upon man’s ability, assurance of salvation would require answering two questions:
- What works are necessary to meet God’s approval for righteousness?
- How many works are necessary?
No one can answer the above questions. We have no information that will answer them. Therefore, assurance of salvation is impossible if salvation depends in any part on a person’s works or good deeds. However, if salvation depends on the work of God, one can have assurance of salvation.
The Scriptures make it clear it is impossible for man to gain the approval of God and attain His righteousness by doing good works. Isaiah wrote, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). This is the Old Testament witness of man’s righteousness before God. Paul summed up the problem when he wrote, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Only one righteous man has ever lived–Jesus Christ. Only His works satisfied God. The proof of Jesus’ righteousness and the approval of His work on the cross for our sins was His resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4).
Because of Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection we can have assurance of salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Paul declared this fact in Romans:
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:21-28).
Continuing a few verses later, Paul wrote,
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:1-5).
Surely this Scripture is the greatest statement of hope and comfort EVER WRITTEN. It declares divine righteousness is a gift–we cannot work for it. It is for the one who does not work. It is for the one who BELIEVES.
To the Galatians, Paul wrote,
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21).
The implications are clear from these Scriptures: Salvation and God’s righteousness is available through trusting Christ–by believing He died for you and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Each of us has sinned and is unrighteous before God. Only by exercising faith in Christ’s work (His death and resurrection) can one be justified before God. No amount of good works can achieve this. It does not matter if you have all the good deeds of a Mother Teresa. None of these works merit God’s approval for salvation. The only way to God is through trusting the work of His Son, Jesus Christ.
God desires that all who have put their faith in Christ KNOW that they have eternal life. The Bible declares that “no condemnation” exists for the believer in Christ (Romans 8:1). Some have said the most important thing is to be saved and the second most important thing is to know it. The one who has trusted in Christ can be as certain he will be in heaven as Christ is. Is this arrogance? No. It is obeying God. It is BELIEVING what He has said. Is it presumptuous to depend on Christ’s righteousness? Is is arrogant to believe Christ’s work satisfied the just demands of a holy God to pay the penalty for our sins?
Paul wrote the Ephesians,
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
Notice his wording. “we HAVE redemption.” God’s redemption and forgiveness of our sins is not something in the future or something hoped for. It is a present possession of the believer. Salvation does not begin when one dies. Salvation begins when one believes the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Paul wrote similar words to the Colossians:
“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
Again, notice the past tense. Rescued from the domain of darkness, transferred to the kingdom of His Son, redemption, and forgiveness are past actions which become present possessions of the believer. They are not future hopes but actions God did in the past when one believed the gospel.
In the same way, eternal life is a present possession for the believer (Romans 5:21, 6:22-23; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Timothy 1:16; Titus 1:2, 3:7). Eternal life does not begin when a believer dies. It begins when he believes. Those who put their trust in Christ have–not will have, but have–eternal life.
Further testimony to these truths are found in the following Scriptures:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:8-9).
Some confuse the simple matter of trusting in Christ with unscriptural appeals to “invite Christ into your heart” or “accept Christ as your Savior.” Such appeals, while well-intentioned, are not the gospel. One is saved by trusting in the person and work of Jesus on the cross for us and in his resurrection–not by simply “inviting Christ into one’s heart.”
A common question on this topic is this: Can eternal life be lost? And it is imperative to understand that salvation is not something that can be “lost” because you sin. What can be lost is fellowship with the Lord, blessings in this life on earth, and crowns/rewards in the next. The only possible way one can “lose” salvation is to reject the work of Christ. In those cases and individuals, it’s likely (according to all of the aforementioned verses and those related) that true, Scripture-based belief in Jesus’ death AND resurrection, and the resulting salvation, never took place.
Is your trust in the Christ who died for you and was raised for you? Do you trust in Christ’s death and resurrection on your behalf? If the answer is “yes”, then you have God’s own word and faithfulness that you have eternal life and will spend eternity with Christ. Furthermore, salvation is not something that can be “lost” because you sin. Jesus’ death solved the sin problem forever. What you do or do not do has no effect on your salvation because it is Christ’s work that is sufficient before God. To believe that you can commit some sin and “lose” your salvation is to believe that your sin is greater than Christ’s work on the cross and the power of his resurrection. Such belief strikes at the very heart of Christ’s work and insults the integrity of God. The only possible way one can “lose” salvation is to reject the work of Christ.
“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13).
1 Salvation is the deliverance from the penalty, power, and presence of sin. This work is both immediate, ongoing, and future. These three aspects of salvation are expressed by theologians as justification, sanctification, and glorification. The moment one believes the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) one is delivered from the penalty of sin. God imputes his own righteousness and judicially declares the believer to be righteous in his sight (Romans 3:26, 28, 30, 4:5, 5:1). The believer is given a new nature which is alive to God. When one believes he is immediately baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13) and God gives him the Holy Spirit as a deposit or down payment (ἀρραβών), 2 Corinthians 1:22, 5.5; Ephesians 1:14) for the hopeful expectation of being delivered from the power and presence of sin. The process of being delivered from the power of sin while we live on this earth is known as sanctification. The final stage of salvation is being delivered from the presence of sin and is known as glorification. This occurs when the believer receives a new, resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15:50-56). source