Many people today believe in what I call agnostic assurance. According to this understanding, no one can know for sure that he or she is saved prior to death. They believe this because they think that election is a secret activity by God that is unknown by man prior to death.
Some pastors and theologians who hold this view actually conclude that even the apostles didn’t know for sure that they, or the people to whom they wrote, were saved. A few years back at a meeting of Bible scholars I heard a famous seminary professor say, in light of his (mis)understanding of 1 Cor 9:24-27, that the apostle Paul was not sure that he was eternally saved! Philippians 4:3 destroys this sort of theology. It proves that each and every believer can know that he has eternal life and that his name is permanently inscribed in the Book of Life!
Paul Knew That the Names of His Fellow
Workers Were Written in the Book of Life
Philippians 4:3 is an amazing verse. It says:
And I urge you also, true companion, help these women [Euodia and Syntyche] who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.
Election really isn’t a secret. It is really quite easy to know for sure that you are eternally secure. Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement all had the word of the apostle Paul, who wrote under inspiration, that their names were in the Book of Life. There could be no doubt about it. Their election was no secret to Paul or to themselves. And surely the apostle Paul knew that what he said was true of his fellow workers was true of himself as well (compare Gal 2:16-20; 2 Tim 1:12).
God Wants All Believers to Know That Their
Names Are Written in the Book of Life
If Euodia, Syntyche, Clement, and Paul could be sure they were saved, why not all believers? Why would God want only a select group of believers to be sure of their salvation?
Paul gives no hint here that assurance is only for the apostles or those who work with them. Indeed, his other writings make it clear that all believers can and should know with certainty that they have eternal life.
In 1 Cor 6:19 Paul challenges believers not to indulge in immorality with temple prostitutes, saying: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” He doesn’t tell them that no true Christian could fall into such terrible sin. Rather, he says that since they are saved, such behavior makes no sense for them. He affirms, rather than questions, their salvation.
Similarly, Paul tells the believers in Galatia, “If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:9, italics added). The Galatian believers were beginning to desert the gospel (1:6-7). Yet Paul didn’t suggest that maybe they weren’t really believers at all. Rather, he affirms that they had received the gospel which Paul preached. Because they had come to believe the gospel, it makes no sense for them to desert it for a false gospel.
Examples could be multiplied. In fact, every NT book, with the exception of the Gospel of John, was written exclusively to believers. Assurance was not some special gift from God which only rare saints possessed. Even the carnal believers of Corinth were certain they had eternal life.
In 1991 I debated a seminary professor at a leading evangelical seminary on the issues of saving faith and assurance. During the course of the debate my opponent admitted he wasn’t certain he was regenerate. He said that no one could be certain, prior to death, unless his or her specific name was recorded in Scripture (like Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement). What a strange way of viewing Scripture this is! And what does this say of one’s view of God? We would be left with God being a less loving Father than we are. At least we give our children 100% certainty that they are in our family. That God would wish us to be in doubt of our spiritual condition is inconceivable, and is clearly unbiblical as we have seen.
God Wants All Believers to Rejoice That Their
Names Are Written in the Book of Life
There are many things which happen at the moment a person believes in Christ. He is born again. He receives the Holy Spirit. He is placed into the Body of Christ. He is part of a new creation. He is eternally secure. He has a guaranteed future in God’s kingdom. He is guaranteed he will never be eternally condemned and that he will not be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment. His sins are forgiven. And his name is recorded in the Book of Life.
The disciples were overjoyed when they returned from a ministry trip, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name” (Luke 10:17). Yet Jesus commanded them to rejoice in something much more important: “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20, italics added).
I realize that I have been remiss in rejoicing in that specific fact. Before writing this article and reflecting on this truth, I hadn’t thanked God for this wonderful reality. If you believe the gospel, then you know your name is written in heaven in the Book of Life. Why not thank Him for that right now? After all, the greatest thing that can ever happen to anyone is to believe in Christ and have his name inscribed in the Book of Life!