Pastor Fred Lybrand of Northeast Bible Church in San Antonio pointed out to me several years ago that our Affirmations did not accurately reflect what we believed on assurance (i.e., what we had strongly held and taught for years on assurance). I thanked him for calling that inconsistency to my attention and as a result we changed our Affirmations at that time.
We notified our readership of this clarification in several ways. First, we posted our new Affirmations online and indicated that they were revised. Second, we sent a copy of the revised Affirmations to all of the churches, over 300 at the time, on our Grace Church Tracker list. Third, we published a number of articles in our journal and in this newsletter which clearly explained the major point of clarification on assurance. Fourth, we spoke on this clarification in our regional and national conferences.
However, Fred has recently expressed concerns to the GES Board that in spite of what we did to publicize the refinements, some of our readers are unaware of the changes, particularly on assurance. If you have not looked at our revised Affirmations, please go to our website and check them out. Just click on “About GES” and then “Affirmations.”
Here is the key clarification we made: “Assurance is of the essence of believing in Jesus for everlasting life. That is, as long as a person believes in Jesus for everlasting life, he knows he has everlasting life (John 5:24 ; 6:35 , 47; 11:27 ; 1 John 5:9-13).”
In other words, until a person believes that what he has received from the Lord Jesus is permanent and cannot be lost, whether he understands that as eternal life, salvation, or living forever with Him in His kingdom, he is not yet born again. A person cannot believe in Christ alone for his eternal destiny and also believe that he must do something to keep it.
Let’s say that you are witnessing to someone and he indicates that he has come to faith in Christ as a result of what you’ve said. To make sure he really got it, you ask him this diagnostic question: “What if you leave here and you fail to live your life for Christ; you don’t join and attend a church; you don’t read the Bible; and instead you become an alcoholic and a womanizer and then next year you commit suicide? What would your eternal destiny be then?” If the person said, “Oh, well then I’d go to hell,” you would know that the person didn’t understand. By His death on the cross the Lord Jesus took away the sins of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). Sin is no longer the issue. Life and death is the issue. Once a person believes in Jesus for eternal life (John 3:16; 1 Tim 1:16), they know that they have eternal life.
Of course, this is, in some ways, a radical doctrine today. It means that there are lots of very religious “Christians” who are unregenerate and who need to be born again. It means that we should be witnessing to people who are active church members. We ought to even be witnessing to seminary students, missionaries, pastors, and seminary professors. Anyone who doesn’t believe that their eternal destiny is secure simply by faith in Christ doesn’t believe Jesus’ promise, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).
This wasn’t a radical thought in the early 70s when I came to faith. At that time everyone I knew who was involved in Campus Crusade was concerned for and witnessed to Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and all flavors of Protestants. We never assumed that because someone was religious or a member of a church that they were born again.
It should be noted that someone may have believed Jesus’ promise of eternal life at some point earlier in their life and then become confused. So when I hear a person give an answer that indicates they feel they must live a good life to stay saved, I conclude there are either unregenerate or they are a born-again person who has become confused. Either way, I share the saving message with them.
A friend of mine, Pastor Hugh Crowder of Washington State likes to put it this way: “Temporary Salvation? Not on Your Eternal Life!” I like that. That is what the Lord Jesus promised, eternal life.