Ask Not About Assurance: Know the Son (Thoughts on 1st John)

“God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son… this is the testimony He has given us concerning His Son: whoever has the Son has eternal life. Whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. Little children, I am writing these things to you who believe in the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

It is all about the Son. It is all in the Son, the Son who is the All in All. There is not and never shall nor can be any assurance of salvation that is separable from assurance of Christ: assurance that God’s testimony is truth, that His Son is who He claimed to be, the Savior of the world.

When the Apostle John wrote that he wanted us to know that we have eternal life, this is what he meant: not some test to determine whether we are in fact “saved” and evidencing the fruits of that “salvation,” but that the Man Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life. His Epistle is about this: about how and who we know Jesus to be, about what knowing and having Jesus means. In fact, wondering, “Am I saved?” or “Does my life provide evidence that I am saved – or not?” or “Can I lose my salvation or is that impossible?” is foolishness. Look to the Son – and have life. Accept the Father and the Son and live forever. Love God and keep His commandments (for His commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is born of God has overcome the world – and this is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith, for the one who overcomes the world is the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God).

To focus on assurance of salvation as such, to focus on questions such as, “Am I saved?” or “Can I lose my salvation?” or so forth is to maintain a destructive self-focus instead of focusing on Him who is the Life. We are not made to think about whether or not we are saved in such a self-centered way; we are made for Him who is Salvation. The Epistle is not, thus, about the question of how determine whether or not one is saved or other related questions, but about knowing the Son of God. It is about knowing who Jesus is. He writes to us that we may know that we have eternal life not to suggest something about determining whether or not we meet the test of being finally saved, but to tell us that he writes to us so that we may be confident in the truth of who Jesus is. The only ‘assurance of salvation’ with which the Apostle is concerned is the assurance that Jesus is the Savior of the world, the Life.

To try to make his Epistle into a set of rules or measurements or tests to determine whether or not someone is saved is to force it into something it was never meant to be. That is not the purpose of such lines as this, “If anyone says he has no sin, the truth is not in him,” or this, “Whoever sins does not know God.” That is just not the purpose. In fact, it is absurd, and it is no less absurd when people talk about how when it says, “Whoever is born of God does not sin,” it means “not live in commitment to sin,” or “sins less.” If that was all that was meant, why was it not what was said (or, in this case, written)? It is only by considerable twisting that the Epistle can even be made to resemble what might be the requirements of a test to help one know whether or not one is “saved.” No, instead it is about looking to Jesus, trusting that He is God come in the flesh, and measuring all things, all teaching and all living, by Him who is Love and the propitiation for the sins of all men, the One who loved us first. As long as we have Him, we have eternal life.

“This is our confidence: that in this world we are like Him.” Now, who is to determine whether or not he is enough like Jesus to pass the test of being like Him in this world and thus to be assured of his salvation? We are to be with Him and to grow into His likeness! And who would try to make this – whatever requirements he has set, by who knows what reasoning, to determine what constitutes being like Jesus in this world – into a test to determine the authenticity of his salvation? Such a thought detracts from attention on Jesus Himself who is the Salvation of the world.

Or again this: “Whoever fears is not yet perfected in love, but perfect love drives out fear, for fear has to do with punishment.” The way through which we are to come out of fear is not some confidence based on external (yes, yes, internal because the evidence is inside of one, one’s personality, one’s spirit, one’s inclinations, whatever) evidence that one will not fall into the fires of hell, but through knowing the Love of God in one’s soul and loving Him in return with the Love which He Himself is. While we have Christ, we have eternal life. While we love God, we receive Salvation (it is not possible to receive God’s love and not to love Him). Why think about anything except knowing, loving, adoring, obeying God? To worry and think and try to determine whether one is or is not saved is to not be perfected in love, but instead to fear – if not in actuality, then in possibility. Instead, love! We are to come out of fear by coming into love, for pure and perfect love cannot fear but drives out all fear: love’s contemplation is the bane of fear.

It’s all nonsense to ask questions about “Am I saved? Can I lose it? How can I know if I’m saved?” Such questions ignore the very nature of salvation. Eternal life is to know the Son! So why not know Him, seek Him, love Him? It’s absurd to be asking a question that effectively means, “Do I know Jesus? Can I lose my relationship with Him?” instead of just developing that relationship with Him!

(Besides, “Am I saved?” is such a strange question. It is very strange the way some speak about having been saved, as if being saved were some event in the past that is now done! How can that be if to be saved is to know eternal life – to know God’s love – to love God – to be like Jesus. I cannot even imagine saying, as some say, “I was saved at such-and-such time, or on such-and-such date, or at such-and-such place.” As if my salvation were done! This does not mean I in any way take credit for my salvation – it is the work of God, and I don’t know how anyone could think that such an understanding might mean I take credit for my salvation. I may be saved, in the sense that I am in the state of salvation. I may be being saved, in the sense that I am receiving the salvation of my soul, am being made more and more not the lawless sin-practicing work of the devil whose works Christ came to destroy, but the child born of God, the seed of the Father, in whom there is no unrighteousness. But, I was saved? When was I saved? What do those questions even mean?! I don’t think even in Heaven they will have a meaning. Instead, we may say I am saved.)


Copyright 2019 Raina Nightingale

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