29 Church Street, Hamilton, Bermuda HM CX

St. Mark’s

How can I be assured of my salvation?

By Rev Gav

Before I answer the title question, “How can I be assured of my salvation?” we need to set the scene, understand something about the context of the question, and also understand what the writers of the Bible had to say about the topic.

Christians talk a lot about salvation, and in some Christian and church traditions, the emphasis is on personal salvation, with pastors asking the question, “Are you saved?” Now, as I have written about previously, often, what they mean by this is, “Is your place in heaven assured?” or “Are you going to heaven when you die?” Despite the sincerity of the question, us pastors can severely limit the meaning or scope of salvation to a single decision made on one occasion in a person’s life, and such a narrow interpretation can be unhelpful as well as being unfaithful to the biblical texts. Let me explain why.

Firstly, salvation is a big word, a very big word. It does not just mean being saved, for example, from a fire, but means being brought to complete healing and wholeness, and salvation is not just for us but for all creation. For human beings, salvation means being restored into the image of God — to think like God, to feel like God, and to act like God, and by very definition, salvation is therefore a process. If you are in any doubt that salvation is a process, think about the world around us or your own life. For example, if you are a Christian, have you been perfectly restored and renewed? The answer is, probably, “Not yet but I’m working on it!”

The writers of the New Testament all refer to salvation in all three tenses, past, present, and future. They wrote about how we ‘were’ saved, how we are ‘being’ saved, and how we ‘will be’ saved. This points clearly to salvation being a process. The pastors who ask, “Are you saved?” are typically asking if you have been saved in the past tense, and although this is part of the picture, it is not the whole picture.

To be a Christian is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and a disciple is an apprentice, and an apprentice is someone learning to be like his or her mentor. Again, by definition, an apprentice is on the journey to becoming something and is going through the process of formation. Christians are in the process of becoming more Christlike, a process that may take more than a lifetime to achieve (well, at least at the rate I am progressing!) When I chose to become a Christian I started that process of salvation and therefore I ‘was’ saved. I am now in the current process of salvation and therefore I am ‘being’ saved, and one day I will complete the process of salvation and I ‘will be’ saved, and the measure of my progress is how Christlike I am.

For example, remember the dude called Zacchaeus in the Bible? He was a notorious tax collector, however, after encountering Jesus, he committed to giving half his possessions to the poor and to pay back four times as much to anyone he had defrauded. And what did Jesus say in response? “Today salvation has come to this house… for the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Jesus was not talking about Zacchaeus’ future in heaven but about his life being transformed in the present.

Therefore, coming back to the original question, “How can we be assured of our salvation?” or to put it another way, “Can our salvation be lost?” Let me assure you that if you have put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, then your salvation has begun and it will never be taken away. You have been ‘saved’ in the past tense, however, if no inner transformation is taking place, then in what way can you say you are being saved? You should moving in the direction of becoming — in at least one of these areas — a tiny bit more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle, or self-controlled. Do not worry or feel guilt or shame if the progress is slow — you are not alone! And finally, we have the hope that one day God will complete the work God started in us and we will be like Jesus and fully saved.

Will you mess up? Will you keep sinning and making mistakes? Will you put yourself first, before God, others, and the world around you? I am afraid the answer is yes, either consciously, unconsciously, or through negligence (i.e. not doing something you know you should). Some of those mess ups will feel big, and some will feel small, but remember that you are an apprentice and not the finished article! And the good news is that God does not weigh you on some kind of cosmic scales to decide whether you are good enough or not, or whether you are in or out. God loves you, chose you, and gave his Son for you. As we recite in our Anglican words, “while we were still far off God came to meet us in his Son.” You belong to God and nothing can ever separate you from the love that is in Christ Jesus.

We are all works in progress. You. Me. All of us. We will wobble and we will fall, but we hope the overall trajectory is in the right direction! Therefore, no, you will never lose your salvation. When you gave your life to Christ you did a deal with God — and God will always hold to God’s side of the deal. No matter what you do or where you are, God knows about your brokenness, for God knows you, God loves you, and God will never let you go.