There are people who lack the confident assurance that they possess eternal life. Some lack assurance of salvation because they flatly deny that it is a possibility. It is arrogant, they say, to presume to know what will happen after death.
Others have doubts because of religious confusion. They question the validity of their religious experience or the teachings of a preacher. Have I done the right things? have I prayed the right prayers? Have I joined the right church?
Some people cannot recall a specific time when they received salvation, so they doubt its reality. Though believing happens at a specific time in a person’s life, some people may not know when that time was for them.
Some people lose assurance when certain sins come into their lives. They imagine that if they really had salvation, they would not have committed such sins. The normal Christian experience never includes perfection. “We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). But sin may lead to doubt and uncertainty.
John is the apostle of certainty. He uses the word “know” scores of times in his writings, and 39 times in the little book of 1 John alone. He wrote with certainty about his own experience because he had been with Jesus in person (1 John 1:1-3). He was an eyewitness of the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord. He wants his readers to have the same certainty even though they had not known Jesus in person.
This certainty is based upon the reliability of John’s eyewitness testimony about Jesus. John wants us to know that it is possible to have assurance of eternal life. Inspired by the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:6), he said, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
So, it is not presumptuous to say that you know you have eternal life if you believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. It is a matter of trust, trust in the written word of one who was sent by Jesus to offer salvation to us in the name of God.
The salvation he wrote about is a gift of God himself. John said, “We accept human testimony, but the testimony of God is greater because it is the testimony of God which he has given about his Son. . . . And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:9-12).
John appeals to our common sense. We rely on the testimony of other people all the time. We put our faith in neighbors, doctors, pharmacists, airline pilots, restaurant owners, and bankers. John says if we trust people with our lives and possessions, it certainly makes sense to trust the promises of God.
He says that eternal life is what “God has given” to those who put their faith in his Son. It is a gift to us. It was purchased by the death of Christ at Calvary. God loves to be gracious. He loves to give freely. He loves his Son so much that he welcomes all those who come to him through their relationship to his Son.
When my youngest son was in high school sometimes his buddies would end up at our house for the evening, sometimes all night, sleeping on the beds, on the floor, on the living room couch. When Connie and I got up early there would be times when we never knew who would be there. I can recall stepping over sleeping, snoring football players in the darkness before dawn.
Here’s the thing. My sweet wife never failed to make those young men feel like family. She joyfully welcomed them to our table with heaping mounds of blueberry pancakes and bacon. They always knew they were accepted in our home because of their relationship to our son.
John is telling us we can be sure of our acceptance with God if we have a relationship to his Son. Assurance of salvation is possible because eternal life is in Jesus Christ alone. “This life is in his Son.” Entrust yourself to Jesus the Savior. Trade your doubts for assurance of eternal life in him. “Whoever has the Son has life.”
Pastor Randy Faulkner