Certainty: The Definition
by Bob Wilkin
Life today, more than ever, is uncertain. Terrorist attacks that were only distant threats a few short years ago are now the subject of the daily news. The economic climate of the world is in constant flux and increasingly tenuous. Political regimes come and go with frightening regularity. Indeed nothing seems certain these days.
The Prevalence of Uncertainty
in Christian Thinking
This element of uncertainty permeates our Christian thinking as well. Many Christians are not sure where they are going when they die. Worse yet, they don’t believe that possessing such certainty is possible.
When I came to faith in Christ in college, it was such a joy and relief to know that Jesus promised me everlasting life simply on the basis of believing in Him. When I believed that, I was absolutely sure I was eternally secure. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to find out that there are those who say that we can’t be sure that we are eternally secure. And they try to use the Scriptures to prove that we can’t be sure!
But why is it, do you think, that God would want us to be in doubt about the most crucial issue of our lives—the certainty of our eternal standing? It is especially puzzling when you consider that the profound sense of gratitude that certainty produces may be the single strongest motivator for the Christian to live for God. Obviously one can’t be grateful for something about which he is uncertain.
Biblical Assurance Is Certainty
The Bible is our source of truth and thus defines assurance for us. And what it says is clear. Believers can and should be absolutely certain that they have everlasting life. Works play no role in a person knowing he is eternally secure. The following verses present eternal life as the certain possession of all who simply believe in Jesus—an idea we will develop more fully in the next installment in this three part series on assurance.1
Let’s first consider John 6:35. “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’” After Jesus fed the 5,000 that day, the crowd came to Him saying, “Lord, give us this bread always” (John 6:34). They were hoping for the type of provision supplied to the Israelites for the forty years they wandered in the wilderness. But Jesus was referring to a miraculous type of bread and water. One who eats this bread or drinks this water will never hunger or thirst again!
Coming to Jesus is a metaphor for believing in Him. So, too, the symbolic drinking of living water and eating of the bread of life are figures of speech for believing in Him for eternal life. Note what Jesus promises to the one who believes in Him: that they will never hunger or thirst again. Clearly these are promises of eternal security to all who simply believe in Jesus.
Another verse that presents eternal life as the certain possession of all who simply believe in Jesus is John 11:25-27. “Jesus said to her [Martha], ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’”
Jesus makes two assertions about Himself in these great “I am” statements. He is the resurrection. And He is the life. At the end of v 25 Jesus explains the first declaration, “He who believes in Me, though he may die [physically], yet he shall live [physically].” Most people think He is speaking of spiritual life there. No. The One who is “the resurrection” raises people from the dead! The promise here is that the one who simply believes in Jesus is guaranteed to be raised from the dead and given a glorified body. Clearly the resurrection Jesus speaks of here is the resurrection of believers. Elsewhere in Scripture it is called the first resurrection (see Rev 20:5). The only condition necessary to be part of this resurrection is to believe in Jesus.
Jesus explains in v 26 His second assertion: “Whoever lives [physically] and believes in Me shall never die [spiritually].” That is a powerful promise, is it not? If true, then the one who merely believes in Jesus is eternally secure. Stop and think about it. What else could Jesus mean by “shall never die” other than such a person will never die? Never means never. If any believer in Jesus ever died spiritually, then Jesus lied. God’s Word would not be true. That all who simply believe in Jesus are eternally secure is the unavoidable conclusion of this verse. The only question that remains is “Do you believe this?”
Martha’s response to that question was “Yes, Lord, I believe…” (John 11:27). Note that Martha does not hesitate to confess her faith in Jesus. She doesn’t think it presumptuous. Martha was convinced that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God who was prophesied to come into the world. And therefore, when He promised resurrection and eternal life to all who simply believe in Him, He was telling the truth. There was no doubt about it.
I realize some people who read these verses will say, “But how do I know that I have really believed?” Generally when someone asks this question it is because he or she has been taught that while we can be sure that we believe in some things like the deity of Christ and the trustworthiness of the Bible, we cannot be sure whether or not we believe in Jesus. But what they need to realize is that when they question whether they have really believed, it is Jesus that they doubt, not themselves. You see the issue is whether the Lord is trustworthy, not whether we are trustworthy. Here’s a news flash. We aren’t. Only God and His Word are completely and always worthy of our trust.
I am passionate about assurance as certainty because that is what the Scriptures teach. But I must admit there is another reason for my passion. It is because I’ve seen the power of that certainty in my own life. It produces love and gratitude in me toward God. In addition, it unlocks the Bible so that it fits together and makes sense. It should come as no surprise that when we believe what God says, especially something this important, that it has powerful repercussions in our lives.
1 This is an excerpt from Bob’s upcoming book on Assurance entitled Secure and Sure.