A reader of our blog, K, cited one of my blogs in which I said that you know you are believing in Jesus to save you if you have assurance of everlasting life. K responded with this cry for help:
I do not have assurance of everlasting life.
I want to be saved. I’m terrified I’m not.
I believe Jesus died for the sins of the world, but I have trouble believing He died for me.
Please help me. I do not want to go to hell. Please help me. My fear is debilitating.
Please reply soon. I’m desperate.
Emails like this one bother me. A lot. Here is a person who wants to be sure she is born again, who believes in ECT (eternal, conscious torment), is afraid of eternal condemnation, and yet who is not convinced that Jesus died for her.
Of course, if you don’t know whether or not Jesus died for you, then you cannot be sure you have everlasting life.
Five-point Calvinists teach that Jesus died only for the sins of the elect. And they teach that no one can be certain he is elect. Their idea is that you can gain some measure of confidence that you are elect depending on your works, which they say are the works that God does in and through you. The better your works are, the more likely it is that you are one of the people God has chosen to have everlasting life. Of course, five-pointers also say assurance is found in the objective promises in the Bible to the believer and in the inner witness of the Spirit, which is understood to be a feeling that backs up the promises and the works you see in your life. All three elements are needed to gain what they call full assurance. But full assurance is not certainty. It is just being as confident as you can be. According to five-point Calvinism, you won’t be certain of your eternal destiny until the Great White Throne Judgment.
Four-point Calvinists and Arminians say that Jesus Christ died for everyone, but that it only counts for those who believe that He is God, that He died for their sins, and that He rose bodily from the dead. Until you believe those things, you do not gain the benefit of Christ dying for your sins. In this view, Christ’s death is potentially for all, but is actually only for those who believe in the atonement. According to most who hold this view, you need not believe in the promise of everlasting life that can never be lost. Arminians believe that you cannot have such assurance prior to death. Four-point Calvinists—including some in the Free Grace camp who do not identify as Calvinists—believe that you might gain such assurance, but that it is not necessary to be born again.
Here is what I wrote K:
Jesus died for everyone. See John 1:29; 3:16; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:2.
The issue is not whether He died for you.
The issue is whether you have come to believe in Him for everlasting life.
To gain assurance, here are some simple steps:
- Pray and ask God to give you assurance. I suggest daily prayer.
- Read a chapter a day of John’s Gospel, looking for what the Lord says we must do to be assured.
- If you suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), make sure to take your meds, get plenty of sleep, exercise, etc. OCD can make it hard to think straight.
- If you get through John in 21 days and are still not sure, start again.
- Avoid listening to or reading Calvinists. It sounds like they are confusing you.
- Check out blogs, articles, and podcasts on our website (faithalone.org). Just click on the magnifying class to search for information about assurance. We have a free E-book on assurance by Shawn Lazar. See here. We also offer a free E-book by me on What Is Saving Faith? See here. You might also check out this 5-minute YouTube video by Shawn and me on Calvinism, predestination, and assurance, and this 4-minute video “Can Christians Be Sure of Their Salvation?” by Shawn and me. There are also books on assurance by Shawn Lazar (see here) and me (see here).
I should add that the verses I mentioned are crystal clear that Jesus removed the sin barrier for everyone. “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The world in these verses refers to all the people of the earth of all time.
Some wrongly think that if Jesus removed the sin barrier for all, then all would be born again. But that is not the teaching of the Lord Jesus and His Apostles. He and they taught that one must believe in Jesus for everlasting life in order to have it (John 1:12-13; 3:16; 5:24; 6:35, 47; 11:25-27; Acts 16:31; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; 1 Tim 1:16; Rev 22:17). It is sadly possible to believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and yet not believe that simply by faith in Him you have everlasting life that can never be lost.
While the teaching that Jesus only died for the sins of the elect is surely well intentioned, it is one of the most terrible false teachings of all time. It hinders people from believing in Jesus for everlasting life.
The related teaching that Jesus died for all, but it only counts when you believe in His deity, substitutionary atonement, and bodily resurrection, is likewise well intentioned but terribly wrong. It too hinders people from believing in Jesus for irrevocable salvation.
God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6; see also Matt 7:7-11). People like K who lack assurance of everlasting life can and will find it if they seek Him.